Can I tell you of the fun I’ve had recently? Okay, okay, so “fun” is actually dripping with sarcasm and said with the violent rolling of my eyes. I’ve had a rough week. Part of me doesn’t want to even write about my saga, but I felt it my duty to share in case my circumstance could help inform someone else in a similar situation.
Let me begin with our patio. It was going to be a long day with the kiddos – they were up at their usual early hour, and Brad (that’s my husband for those of you just joining) was set to go mountain biking with buddies after work. That meant I’d be with kids from sun-up to sun-down. I handled the day pretty well, and planned on finishing off the night with a kiddie pool swim, dinner, bath time, and kid bedtime. I was cranking open the patio umbrella to give some shade to where the baby and I would be sitting near the kiddie pool when something popped out from beneath the umbrella’s folds and brushed my hand. I thought it was a bird, given how soft the contact was (as if from feathers), but as the little creature darted away, I saw its grey and pink belly, its black flapping wings… and it dawned on me: THAT WAS A BAT. A BAT JUST TOUCHED ME. EW EW EW EW EWWWWWWWW.
I ran inside to wash my hands, then texted Brad. Then freaked out. Because, again, EW EW EW EW IT WAS A BAT.
I’m going to step to the side a moment and tell you that I am not a trained medical professional. My husband is, but his specialty is neurology – strokes, MS, seizures, etc. – so bat contact isn’t his gig, but he knows who to talk to in those instances. For those of you reading this who have been exposed to a bat in any way, don’t use this post as some Magical Medical Answer to Everything. I implore you to seek out the professionals – seek emergent care if you have been bitten or scratched, talk to your primary care doctor about any kind of encounter you have had, and speak with your area health department to be well informed of what to do.
Back to the story: So I’m freaking out, and Brad knew the general guidelines for bats is to seek medical attention with a bite, scratch, or if your mucous membranes came into contact with a bat (which would be your nose or mouth). Also, if you were sleeping before discovering the bat (as you could have gotten bitten while asleep), or a non-verbal child was exposed (who couldn’t explain the circumstances on their own). I had none of these occurrences, so I could theoretically skip treatment. Yay me! But wait – there is a caveat that a bat bite can be “imperceptible.”
And then there’s the HUGE implication of rabies. It’s fatal in all cases. You get it, you don’t treat, you die. As a mother of three, there are a lot of people that depend on me. And, you know, I don’t feel like dying from rabies – maybe that’s kind of obvious. The trick is, I’m still breastfeeding. Would a treatment get passed through my milk to the baby? Would I have to stop breastfeeding? Was my baby already exposed to rabies because I had nursed him after my brush with the bat? *Cue More Freak Outs Here*
…Here is the breakdown of what we found out from the experts:
THE NUMBERS: Per our contact with the Ottawa County Health Department, less than 1% of bats in the state have rabies. Of the bats they capture each year, about 6% have rabies, but that increase in infected cases is because bats that are captured are usually acting more erratically, due to a rabies infection. So far, they have had zero cases of infected bats of the ones captured in Ottawa County in 2016.
THE RISK: I was fully awake when exposed to the bat, I had my eyes on it at all times, I did not feel a bite or scratch, I had no mark on my hand where contact was made, and the bat wasn’t necessarily behaving erratically. It was just trying to get the heck away from me since I had exposed its nocturnal eyes to broad daylight. In talking with a doctor from Infectious Disease at our hospital, he said my risk of contracting rabies was “impercetably low” based on all these factors. But, death by rabies is 100% guaranteed if you contract it and do not get the treatment. The Michigan Health Department and the Infectious Disease doctor therefore recommended treatment because I had contact, albeit minimal. Better safe than dead.
BREASTFEEDING: At first, it was really hard to find information on whether it was safe to have rabies preventative treatment while breastfeeding. The Anti-Rabies Prophylaxis treatment (in my own terms, A Crap-Ton Of Shots) that are given are all “Category C” medications, which means there isn’t research done on humans to test whether it’s harmful or not for breastfeeding mothers and their babies. We then called our local hospital’s lactation office, and they referred us to the Infant Risk Center Hotline (1-806-352-2519). Despite not being able to find much written material before we made the call, the director at the IRC hotline said they had numerous cases of breastfeeding mothers receiving the rabies treatment and there was no issue. It was fine to proceed with the treatment without it affecting my milk or baby.
After weighing all the information from the experts, I had to decide: Tiniest Risk of Death by Rabies? Or get A Crap-Ton of Shots?
I opted for the treatment. That meant a trip to the Emergency Department (we could not get it arranged through the Health Department or to start at our family doctor’s office) for a not-so-bad rabies vaccine in my arm, and three immune globulin shots of the ass-and-thigh-burning variety. Yes, friends, I said ass. Because sometimes things hurt like hell and words like “buns” or “bottom” don’t fit the circumstances when fiery serum is coursing into the meat of your muscle.
Semantics aside, I had an additional vaccine 3 days out from my first round of shots, and will have three more vaccines that will be administered in the coming weeks. So for me and my specific body weight and the brand of rabies vaccine they used, I will have a total of eight shots. This earns me treats, yes? You feel bad for me? Good.
One other thing of note is that the vaccines knock me out. Like, total-crying-hot-mess-tired. Add in juggling a 4.5 year old, near 3 year old, and an almost 6 month old who doesn’t like to sleep, I met a new level of profound exhaustion. Wow. Have I ever been this worn out in my life? I’m not certain.
But I am alive. I don’t have rabies. I don’t have to cut out breastfeeding. Everyone is safe and healthy, and I have decided I can buy myself a latte for each shot I have to get.
“Fun” week, eh? I hope yours wasn’t quite as ass-burning and profoundly exhausting as mine.
Hoping for some boring weeks ahead,