“Ahhhhh!!!! Jeffrey!!!!! Help, there's a dead bat!!!” as I screamed and dropped the pitcher on the floor. It must have flown in when we were having the house painted and the door was ajar to access the plug. Cautiously, calming down, Jeff covered it and tossed the bat into the woods across the street from our house. It was kind of creepy, but we let it go until casually mentioning it on the phone with our son who is a physician. He didn't mince words as he emphatically stated to get ourselves to the ER that day and get treated for rabies! What; why, it was just a bat. People find bats all the time in their homes. Getting a second and third opinion, they all concurred. Don't mess around, as the alternative is a death sentence if you have contracted rabies. Even if you haven't been bitten, they can carry the rabies virus in their saliva, so who knew how much bat saliva was in our kitchen. Plus you don't always know if you've been bitten, because the bite is so small and closes up quickly, so if you were bitten while sleeping, you'd never know until it was too late. Not a pleasant thought.
Thinking we could have it tested at UMASS, we searched through the leaf litter, but that little creature was not to be found. It had either blended in so well that it disappeared or it hadn't been dead after all and it flew away. So off we went to the ER and five hours later completed our visit.
Historically, I have avoided injections like the plague, but that day in the ER I made the decision to be present for however long the wait would be and however many shots I'd need. I knew Jeff would get more than me the first day, but neither of us really knew how many that meant. The first round of shots goes by weight, as you are given not only the rabies vaccine, but immunoglobulin shots as well. Those they inject in the thighs or buttocks because of the volume needed to boost the vaccine. We'd heard all kinds of numbers, from a total of three to a total of ten, which didn't help with anticipating what was to come.
Somehow though I settled in, letting go of expectations, and deciding to make the best of it. I thought, how can I find the best in this situation and fully be present for what is? What can I do to surrender and accept what shows up at each moment, without frustration, projection or fear? My mantra became, “I am not my body. I am not my emotions. I am not my thoughts. I am much more and these are not who I am.” I actually felt joy through the decision to take it as an adventure. Staff at Cooley Dickinson couldn't have been kinder, nicer, and more supportive. We joked about bats and how Jeff and I were now officially, Batman and Robin. I flexed my muscles for the hot male nurse as he prepared to give me the vaccine, egged on by my husband.
Would I have chosen this day and this experience? No way...but life has a way of showing up on your doorstep with surprises. We never know what might appear, so why not try and make the best of a lousy situation. I never doubted that all the doctors, nurses, physician assistants and other staff we met were doing their best to serve us, even if that took most of the day.
I debated posting this on Facebook, but I'm glad I made the decision to share my experience. I learned from those who responded to our plight, that MA has a law that if a bat is in your bedroom, it's strongly recommended that you get treatment. In addition, the town you live in is required to help with payments because it's a public health hazard and no one should die because they can't afford treatment. When I called the health department in my town, the director couldn't have been more supportive. She did say there had never been a request before, but the town would help with whatever costs our insurance didn't cover. I wouldn't have known this without publicly putting myself out there.
Ultimately that first day in the ER, I ended up with two shots in my thighs and one in my arm. Jeff had a fourth thrown in because of his weight. For good measure and because we deserved it after such an ordeal, we treated ourselves and gorged on two scoops of ice cream as our dinner on the way home.
Once we completed our four visits to the ER, I figured that now I'm immunized I can begin a new career as a bat rescuer from people's homes (NOT!). When the final bill arrived, it was a whopping $23,000 for four visits to the ER, so we were incredibly grateful that insurance covered the bulk of it, the town covered the rest of it and that someone uninsured would still receive the vaccine too. Anyway, it's nice to live up to my name as part of the super hero team of Batman and Robin, but I hope to skip further escapades as the masked warrior.