Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Of Dog Bites And A Boy Named Kelly - Chapter 1

This is a story about dogs and a little boy named Kelly.

First, the dogs.

As far as I remember, I've always had dogs for pets. My last pet dog, Jasper, passed away last February 14, Valentines Day. I used to play around with him a lot when he was younger, but when he got older, his thin coat of sharp fur caused an allergic reaction on my skin. For a dog who loves to stand on his two rear legs and wrap the other two around me, I needed to keep my distance. I generally get along very well with dogs, except for those that roam the streets and who would bark at and threaten everyone who would pass by. With these dogs around, I would call on the intercession of San Roque for protection.

Over the weekend, Sunday to be exact, I got invited to a birthday dinner for a friend. I was pleasantly surprised to see many dogs in the house. One dog in particular, a Japanese Spitz, freely mixed with the guests. We sat around in the living room, munching on finger foods and birthday noodles. I did not notice the dog beside me and had carelessly dropped my right arm by the side of the sofa chair I was sitting at. My arms must have startled the dog and he let out a sharp yelp and then snapped at my hands. In one instant, my hand became the finger food.

It was not painful at all, or maybe my hand just got numbed as blood flowed freely from the deep wound on my palm. I washed the wound with flowing water and let it bleed, alternately washing it with soap. Betadine completed the first-aid routine, and in no time at all, I was enjoying the party again. It somehow eased my apprehensions knowing that the dog had it's anti-rabies vaccination just six months before. But at the back of my mind, I knew I could never be sure. Visions of dogs roaming aimlessly, with mouth foaming and eyes bloodshot red kept my mind off the conversations. Worse, what if i get infected?

The morning after, the wound was visibly swollen. When my brother, who is a doctor, saw it he immediately sent me to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang. The doctor who examined me was relieved that the dog was vaccinated, but she was worried about the swelling. I had not started howling, but what she just said sounded like bad news for me. My worst fear came true when she started scribbling not just one, but several prescriptions. And as if adding insult to injury, I was told that the dosage is based on my weight. How cruel can this world be?

We started with two shots on the right arm for skin tests against allergies. Though the needles were relatively smaller, the serum definitely had a bite! After a few minutes, when they were sure I will have no allergic reactions, we started with the real thing.

Watching the nurse prepare the syringes, I tried convincing myself that they were not all for me. I am to receive a total of seven shots in different parts of the body in one session. Tough luck. They were all for me. All seven of them. With most of the patients being kids, I needed to put up a brave front. I can't have my screams drown out the cries of the little kids in the injection room. So for a few moments of glory, I steeled myself and prepared to take on the shots one after the other.

We started with the left arm, then on the right. By the time she went for the left leg, then the right, and then lunged into my left buttock before giving the coup de grace in the wounds on both sides of my right hand, my body had somehow responded with a rush of adrenalin to help me cope with the pain. It was all over in less than ten minutes.

But the pain was not on the needles pricking deep into my body parts. It was more of the what ifs that have been playing on my mind on that fateful night of the bite. What if I had not gone to the party? What if I had not sat down on that chair? What if I just stuck to singing out of tune on the karaoke box instead of munching on the foods on the table? What if they just kept the dogs out of the house? What if I just took antibiotics and observed the dog before going through all these needle-pricking business? So many what ifs!

But the truth is, life is simply too precious to take for granted. Boring as it may be most of the time, it still feels wonderful to wake up each morning. And so, I am not about to take any chances when it comes to making sure life will be always beautiful for me and those around me. I do not want any of my families or friends worrying about a crazy old fat man getting out of his mind. No way, I will not leave this world in such ignomous exit.

Allow me then to stop my what ifs and do my civic duty instead. Part of the treatment is educating people on the dangers of rabies infection. First, some basic facts that we need to be aware of:
  1. Rabies are not the exclusive domain of dogs. Most animals, including cats and most mammals, have rabies.
  2. Rabies are not transmitted by bites only. An animal infected with the rabies virus can also infect a person through scratches or if saliva gets in contact with an open wound.
  3. Rabies can remain dormant, or in latent state, for months or years. If you do not show signs of infection right after a suspected transmission, it does not mean you did not get the rabies.
  4. When bitten or attacked by an animal, let the wound bleed by itself. Wash the would with soap on clean running water. When the bleeding had subsided, apply Betadine on the wound and proceed to the nearest Animal Bite Center in your area. Better yet, go to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang. They have excellent facilities and great doctors and nurses.
  5. DO NOT put garlic on the wound, as old people will ask you to do. Garlic will stunt the healing of the wound.
  6. DO NOT kill the animal that bit you. If the animal does not belong to you, make sure you make arrangements for the owner to observe the animal for at least 14 days. Things that you need to look out for:
    • sudden change in behavior
    • urge to bite into anything
    • frothing in the mouth due to excess saliva
    • restlessness and agressiveness
    • running without direction
    • loss of appetite for food and water due to difficulty in swallowing
  7. If the animal shows any of the above signs, it will be better to bring it to a veterinarian to be examined. If the animal dies, DO NOT eat or bury it. Chopped off the head and secure it in a plastic container with lots of ice to prevent decomposition. Bring it right away to RITM for examination.
  8. DO NOT take chances. There is no wound or scratch that is too small for an infection. If you get bitten or scratched, proceed to the nearest Animal Bite Clinic, or to the RITM where I went to, and get your anti-rabies and anti-tetanus shots.
  9. DO NOT drink any alcohol, or take steroids and medication for malaria while getting shots for anti-rabies. Be mindful of what you feel. Report any excessive itchiness of the skin, or fevers that would not go away.
  10. DO NOT be afraid of needles - all sizes! You will deal with them all throughout the treatment sessions. As your momma would tell you - it's just like a bite from a small ant...
There you go - the ten commandments of dealing with dog bites, from someone who learned it the hard way.

Now, you may ask me, "What about the little boy named Kelly?". That would be in Chapter 2.

Meantime, stay safe and healthy. Awwwwwwoooooooooooo!

No comments: