Two weeks ago, I was walking my dog Gretchen around our cul-de-sac at night. This is usually my favorite time of the day. Our street has no lights and it’s very quiet. I like to look up at the stars and think about things and relax. It is a very peaceful time.
Or it was a peaceful time. Until the attack.
My dog Gretchen is not that big, but she is very wiry and strong. While I was distracted and talking on the phone and gazing at the stars, she suddenly yanked me off the road and pulled me toward some dark bushes near a swampy area in the back of our cul-de-sac.
As Gretchen rushed into the bushes, the trees above started to shake and all of a sudden bats started flying wildly around my head – I staggered backward and felt a sharp bite on the back of my leg.
Now, yes, it could have been a mosquito or some other kind of bug. But it also could have been a BAT. They were everywhere.
At first, I wasn’t too worried. I told my friend on phone that I thought I had just been bitten by a bat. I dragged Gretchen out of the bushes and headed home. I decided to Google it later.
Google can you lead you down many dark roads, but Googling “bat bites” is especially freaky.
For one thing, I discovered that bats have razor sharp teeth and can bite people without them realizing it. What?!? Not only could I have been bitten that night, but I could have been bitten many times over the years. I mean, how would I know?!?
Even worse, bats can bite you during the night without waking you up. Therefore, if you wake up in a room with a bat, you are supposed to assume that you were bitten and capture the bat for rabies testing. If you can’t catch the bat, you need to get the rabies shots.
As a paranoid person, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t worried about this before. Suddenly all of those childhood Girl Scout camping trips in bat infested cabins flashed before my eyes. How was I even still alive?!?
For two days, I tried to convince myself that I was overreacting. I mean, it was more likely that I was bitten by a giant mosquito. I didn’t actually see a bat on my leg. There are only a few rabies deaths a year in the United States. What are the odds?
On the third day, I started to notice that I was very thirsty and seemed to be having trouble swallowing.
Scenes from Cujo started flashing before my eyes. My Google research did reassure me that rabies does not start that quickly. But it also taught me the most important thing about rabies: once the symptoms begin you are a goner.
After I started my 10th conversation with my husband about whether or not I should go to the ER, he refused to continue to debate the issue and insisted that I go at once.
I sheepishly walked into the ER and tried to quietly tell them that I had possibly been bitten by a bat.
“YOU WERE BITTEN BY A BAT?!?” Everyone looked freaked out and slowly moved away from me.
I was immediately led to a private room. My doctor walked in with a stack of papers about rabies and the vaccine. Then she leaned forward and picked up one of the pieces of paper.
“You can make your own decision about the shots, but I just keep coming back to the 100% fatal without treatment statistic,” she said.
Yeah, that was kind of bothering me too.
So I agreed to get the shots.
When I was a kid, I always heard that you needed to get 20 shots in your stomach. We used to scare each other talking about it. I braced myself for the worst, and was relieved to discover that they had stopped doing stomach shots years ago.
I got five shots in my arms and legs – with one in the front of my leg just to throw in a little of the old school torture. After that, I had to go back for shots on days 3, 7, and 14.
I had my last shot on Sunday night and now I’m officially vaccinated.
I have never felt so free. For the next few years, I can run with rabid dogs and sleep in bat-infested tents.
All I need now are for my super powers to kick in. I’m expecting them any day now.
Sarah Knight is co-founder of this site and the mother of two girls. The photo is of one her daughters dressed as Batgirl. It seemed much cuter before the attack. You can follow her on Twitter at @sarahsknight