Wednesday afternoon the Montgomery County Health Department called to tell me that the bat I caught tested positive for rabies (the second was negative). They thought our risk was negligible but suggested we talk to our primary care doctor. On Thursday our doctor talked to pediatric and adult infectious disease specialists, both locally and at the CDC, and they unilaterally said that we should all get the shots. Except Brynna, who was lucky enough to show up afterward. So, in “sentences I never thought I would say,” I had to skip out on band practice at church because, “The CDC said so.”
Ryan, Eli, and I drove down to the emergency room with Brynna (what a fun vacation, right?) to start on day zero of the rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. This consists of one rabies vaccine and then a whole bunch of immunoglobulin shots, the number of which depends on how much you weigh. So Eli got two IG shots and Ryan and I each got FOUR, two in each leg. The rabies vaccine itself is just a regular old vaccine, except the day zero dose is hot pink so that’s pretty awesome. The immunoglobulin shots didn’t bother Ryan at all, and only the second one really got Eli worked up. Me, on the other hand? Each one felt like someone was pushing a flexible hot poker through my veins r-e-a-l-l-y slowly. I sobbed and shook and went into shock and the PA offered Ativan… but I made it. And I never have to have those rabies immunoglobulin ones again. Oh, and p.s. we got to do this on our tenth wedding anniversary. Traditionally this is the aluminum or tin year; I suppose getting vaccinated to celebrate ten years of marriage is maybe the modern version? At least this really lowers expectations for all further anniversary celebrations…
As an aside, I would just like to offer a major tip of my hat to the scientists who developed a technique for post-rabies exposure vaccinations that don’t involve dozens of shots IN MY STOMACH ON A DAILY BASIS FOR MULTIPLE WEEKS. Seriously, I know none of them will ever see this; but in case you are one of those scientists, you have my eternal gratitude and I will bake you cookies any time you want.
Back to the story. So we left the emergency room at about 2:45 in the morning on Thursday. We came back home, did the now-familiar corner check to make sure there weren’t any bats hanging up there, and went to sleep. Thursday was a day of all of us walking around in a sleep-deprivation-induced fog. I truly have no idea what we did that day, although I know the pest control guys did seal all entry points into the attic that the bats were using on Thursday. And the same brain-haze on Friday. Did we go anywhere? Did we eat meals? I have no idea. I do know that I made it into the Washington Post (headline: “WOMAN FINDS RABID BAT IN KITCHEN SINK”), and the head of Montgomery County Animal Control called to chat with me about whether or not I wanted her to give my contact info out to the numerous media outlets who wanted it (“NO.”)
Another aside: some lady in the comments of that Post article called me an “ignorant moron” for calling animal control and killing that poor helpless bat instead of releasing it back into the wild when bats do so much good for society and there was no chance I could have gotten rabies. Hey, lady, guess what? I love bats. I think bats are wonderful creatures who eat the bugs that I hate. When I lived in Austin, we used to go have picnics while the Congress Avenue bat colony swarmed at night around us. I do not have a problem with bats. I do have a problem with rabid bats IN MY HOUSE WHERE MY CHILD AND MY HUSBAND AND I LIVE. I honestly wouldn’t have called animal control if the bat didn’t appear rabid. And you know how I know what the signs of a rabid bat are? I used to work at a zoo. Did you use to work at a zoo? Odds are slim to very slim. I did not want that bat to die. But it was dead already. And because I called animal control, I may have saved the rest of the colony from dying of rabies as it spread from bat to bat. YOU SHOULD BE THANKING ME FOR SAVING THE BATS. Rude. And now I, too, can state with authority: DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES EVER READ THE COMMENTS SECTION ON A NEWS ARTICLE.
Here’s what else happened on Friday, though. BAT NUMBER THREE.
I’d gone to sleep when I heard Ryan yelling, “A BAT! THERE’S ANOTHER BAT!” Now, Ryan experiences night terrors about every six months or so that involve screaming like he’s being killed and usually involve spiders or bats or snakes or something. He hasn’t had one since we moved to Maryland almost a year ago, so I just thought that he’d fallen asleep on the couch doing work and had a night terror. I came stumbling out of our room saying, “No, there’s not. It’s okay. You can wake up.” And a bat dive-bombed my head, while Ryan peeked out of the bathroom and said, “SEE?!”
The bat kept making the circuit through the kitchen, dining room, and living room, while Ryan and I sprinted back to our bedroom and closed the door. We had left both of our phones in the living room. Our only hope was my sister, who was sleeping in the guestroom. We ventured over to Brynna’s room where I woke her up and said, “Guess what? BAT NUMBER THREE. Stay in here so you don’t have to get rabies shots. P.S. Can I use your phone to call animal control?”
Ryan offered to take one for the team and stay up to wait for animal control. First they sent a cop out to help because all the animal control guys were otherwise occupied.
AND THE BAT WAS MISSING.
The cop said, “Well, maybe it just flew out when I opened the door?” He left because there were actual real problems happening that needed police presence more than an invisible bat. We mentioned the possibility that the bat had flown out with the cop to the animal control dude when he finally arrived and he said, “No way. That bat is still in here. SOMEWHERE.” He and Ryan looked for 45 minutes around our place: behind picture frames, under bookcases, behind furniture. Then he told Ryan, “Here’s what you need to do. Turn off all the lights and sit and wait for it to start flying around again. When it does, give me a call back.” With that, animal control left.
So Ryan sat in the corner. In the dark. And waited for A BAT TO START FLYING AROUND HIS HEAD.
Like a boss.
When it came out again, Ryan called animal control. He came back out and trapped it in the ever-helpful coffee can. This happened about 3:45 in the morning. My sister had fallen asleep but I was still awake and terrified. At some point I actually went to sleep but definitely not for long enough because Eli woke up right at 6. The child has a pretty finely tuned internal clock, which is why he’s such a good natural percussionist. And thank goodness catching this last bat meant the whole debacle was finally over.