This whole Caper thing has become a pain in the ass – literally. Today, I had the first instalment of 5 rabies treatments: one needle of vaccine in the arm and two needles stuffed full of Rabies Immune Globulin (RIG) in either side of my butt.
Last weekend, as I was trying to decide if I should get the shots or not, I made an attempt to locate Caper. I phoned the city and talked to a really helpful guy at the Call Centre. He suggested that I fill out a report of the incident, which we could do right then over the phone. He could then send the report over to Animal Control, who could search through the list of registered dogs to see if there was a match. It was a long shot, but what the hell.
I figured the earliest I would hear from Animal Control would be Monday, but I got a call from them only a couple of hours later. The woman who phoned said she’d searched the database of registered dogs for a dog named Caper. Doesn’t sound like a common name, does it? Well, she came up with 6 pages of dogs in the HRM named Caper. She didn’t say how many dogs were listed per page, but obviously it was way too many to track down, especially because I had no idea of the dog’s breed or if the dog was even registered.
After giving up on finding Caper easily and quickly, I gave Canadian Blood Services a call to see what was what. The thing about Blood Services is that they seem to conceptualize these types of medical eventualities in terms of deferrals. For a person bitten by a dog, the deferral is two weeks pending an investigation of the offending dog. For a person receiving a post-exposure treatment of vaccine and globulin, the deferral is one year. But what about a person bit by an unknown dog who has the choice whether or not to have the vaccine? My situation fell between the cracks. The nurse was very nice and very helpful, but she figured that my clinic would be wary about taking me as a donor if I didn’t fit into one of their categories. I may be an extremely low rabies risk, but extremely low isn’t the same as absolutely no.
So I decided to proceed with the rabies treatment. I have a rare platelet type, so I wanted to be available as a donor in case my platelets were needed again (that’s another story!).
After some back and forth with Public Health, they found me a doctor in Dartmouth to administer the shots while I’m here (the same guy who saw me at the walk-in). As they were setting up that end of things, I found a clinic near Julie-Ann’s place in Brampton that was willing to administer the shot (that was a weird phone conversation, let me tell you). Finally, the Public Health nurse arranged with the Peel Regional Public Health office to have some vaccine sent over to the Brampton clinic for the day I’m to receive my day 14 shot.
All the pieces of the rabies puzzle fell into place, and this morning I had the worst of it – and it wasn’t bad at all. On this first day of treatment (day 0), I received a shot of vaccine in the arm and two shots of RIG in the butt. The vaccine shot was no problem. I barely felt the needle and there’s no soreness in my arm. The RIG shots, however, were slightly uncomfortable. The needles weren’t bad, but there was a lot of fluid being shot into my muscle: I could feel it squirting through the interstices of my butt muscles.
After the shots, I felt a tiny bit lightheaded, but that sensation passed as I sat in the waiting room for the required 15 minutes. Apparently, after any vaccination these days, they keep you around for 15 minutes just to make sure you aren’t having a serious allergic reaction.
From this point on, I only have to get vaccine shots (no more RIG) on days 3, 7, 14, and 28. No sweat. The only interesting thing will be to see if the vaccine finds its way to the Brampton clinic for day 14.
So as we speak, my body is starting to create its own antibodies against the rabies virus. After all the shots, I’ll be free to get bit by any animal without worry. Perhaps I could work in a zoo or move into a bat-infested cave or join a wolf pack and run naked, chasing herds of caribou. Really, the possibilities are endless.
My only hope is that there are no hidden viruses in the RIG. The thing about RIG is that it’s made from the blood of people who have been vaccinated against rabies, so there are some minute risks. Fortunately, the blood has been screened, and it’s also been treated to destroy any potential traces of Hepatitis B or HIV. So I should be good.
So the caper has (hopefully) come to a close. As long as the series of vaccinations goes according to schedule, by mid January, I’ll be immune to rabies. Could be worse. Besides, everyone who has helped me along the way has been excellent. I’ve never had to access so many institutional services all at once before, but it all went well – in this case, modern civilization worked like it was supposed to against the dark, sharp-toothed forces that appear without warning out of the deep woods!