Today Dear Reader I have one word for you: Bats.
I sense your confusion. Is this another political commentary, an observation on 2020, or am I giving an insight into my general mental health? Well, no, it’s about the mammal: Myotis lucifugus, the common brown bat found here in large numbers in the summer. It’s odd that there are so many bats now. I grew up in a house built in 1860 near Oswego and we never had a bat in the house. Today I see have seen them in church quite often flying high in the sanctuary and my wife Bonnie has even found one in the ladies room when she lifted the lid. Yes it’s about good old Myotis and more: rabies shots.
First: the bats. In the past our bat encounters have been generally benign. Bonnie would tell me we have a bat in the house. Armed with the throw or a blanket I would swing it at him, knock him down and release him outdoors. In the past nearly 27 years that we have lived in this house we have removed about six or seven bats with this technique.
Now Part II: The Rabies Shots. August 20, 2019 dawned clear, hot and bright: it was our 47th Wedding Anniversary. I got up earlier than Bonnie and went down to watch the news and suck up my first cup of coffee for the day. Sitting there in bliss, I heard her calling me. She had discovered a bat taking a nap, near the window air conditioner. As in the past I scooped him up and let him go. Just as he groggily flew away, a voice in my head said: “Perhaps you should have called the health department.” Sadly this thought did not go away like a bat, it gnawed at me all morning. So I did just what you would expect I posted my encounter on Face Book. Why call the doctor when social media is right at hand? Really. As one might imagine there were several opinions about our actions, most said: Forgeddaboutit!
But one reinforced that gnawing thought in my brain. Our good friend commented that her daughter’s family had found a bat in their bedroom one morning and they all had to get rabies shots (even the dog). Ah yes, rabies shots. Rabies shots. Rabies shots. Well you get the picture of how this news landed on me. So armed with a new and increasing sense of dread we called our family doctor who told us that since we did not know where the bat had been while we were sleeping, it could have bitten us or scratched us, we should immediately go to the ER and get vaccinated.
This was a Dirty Harry moment if there ever were one: Did I feel lucky today?
Well no I didn’t, so off we went to the ER. When we got there the head nurse asked “Did we call Ontario County Public Health?” No. “Then did the doctor call public health?” We didn’t know, so I called the doctor’s office and was told no. By now it was late in the day, we had been at the ER for more than an hour and I was concerned that the public health office might be closed soon. We called public health and my wife and I both had to tell what happened. After about 25 minutes we got the go ahead for the shots.
Well it was not that bad. Our first visit I had four shots: two Immunoglobulin, a tetanus shot, and the first rabies shot. Bonnie being smaller had only one Immunoglobulin. We then had to come back in ten days for another rabies, followed by two more rabies a week apart. We learned that in the ER the best time to come for our shots was about 6 a.m., when there were few folks there. This worked really well until the last shot which fell the day after Labor Day when the ER was overflowing with folks who it seemed celebrated a bit too much. Would I recommend this if you have a similar experience? Yes: any bite or scratch could be infected and basically it’s a roll of the dice.
If nothing else remember this to get a Rabies Shot you have to get Public Health approval. The good news was that any associated bills that insurance did not cover, Public Health paid. Our first visit alone was more than $22,000, with several other visits still to come and in the end we did not pay a cent.
This August marks our 48th anniversary. Perhaps to celebrate, I will arrange for Bonnie and me to get stuck in an elevator between floors. It sounds like fun, but I guess I will stay home and remember that golden afternoon on August 20, 2019 when I could blissfully sit in the ER for hours on end – without a care in the world, right.
A version of this story appeared the the Finger Lakes Times, Geneva NY August 15, 2020