Thursday, Nov. 04, 2021 @ 11:32 pm
Little Brown Bat
I lean back and close my eyes. The steady beeping from the man’s heart monitor beside me. A phone ringing in the distance. The clatter of a cart being pushed through the unit. Time moves differently in the early morning hours in the emergency room.
I arrived hours prior, rain sheeting down in great heavy swaths. Russell dropped me off a block away, and I walked past a ragged group of addicts who glanced at me through a haze of smoke. I entered the emergency room and pulled off the wet hood of my raincoat. The reception clerk waves me forward. She takes my health card and begins to enter information.
“What happened?” she asks.
“I ran into a bat. I mean, a bat hit my head.”
She looks up at me, peers closely at me. I’m sitting there calmly, no blood, no terror.
“You were hit on the head with a bat?” she asks.
“Oh! God. No. I mean… a bat. A little brown bat. Rabies. The forest. I was running.”
She nods, prints off a label for a band which she affixes to my wrist.
I have a hard time explaining what happened. I don’t have the words to describe the sensation.
I was running through the forest at dusk. Alone. Of course, because that’s what I do. I had already seen bats, as I do on most every evening run. I was running along a trail out near Prospect Point when out of nowhere there’s a sack of needles clawing into my scalp. I scream. I turn around. Who did that? My scalp burns with a dozen pin pricks. There’s nobody there. I know immediately that it was a bat. A bat flew into my head. I ran into a bat’s flight path. A bat slammed into my head and scrabbled to gain purchase to resume flight.
I don’t stop running. I’m shocked and adrenaline is pumping through my body.
I run the remaining four kilometers home. My scalp continues to burn with the pricks from the bat’s tiny claws.
At home, I shower. A long, hot shower, soaping my hair and scalp, following the directions listed on the health authority’s info sheet.
Out of the shower, I systematically part my hair in series across my head. Row upon row, inspecting for lesions. I find one, and then another, near the area where I felt the bat make impact. Fuck.
And so there I am, at one in the morning, sliding slowly sideways on a vinyl chair. A young woman beside me in a karate outfit, her ring finger skewed on an angle. A young man in soccer attire, his right achilles ruptured during tonight’s practice. A heavy, older man with a foot fractured in three places. A middle aged man dressed in expensive Gore-tex with a fractured wrist. A young man with a separated shoulder from falling from his e-scooter.
A doctor walks by, and I glance at him and then suddenly perk up, realizing that it’s David, with whom I went to grade school. I watch him take care of a woman, study his bedside manner. I can see that his body has aged, but that his soul is still the same.
I sit in one area, then am moved to another area, then to another. A nurse comes to ask me questions. I overhear the doctor reviewing my case on the phone. Time passes. A half hour, forty five minutes. They’re calling the medical health officer for authorization for the treatment, and the officer is not answering their phone. More time passes. A nurse comes with a scale to weigh me so that they can get started on the calculations.
I read my book at first, but as the hours pass I begin to flag. There’s nobody left awake to text. I no longer want to focus on my book. The beep beep beep of the heart monitor and the whoosh of the automatic sliding glass door.
I hear my doctor being called over the PA system to pick up the phone. I hear him getting permission to give the treatment. I hear him calling the pharmacy for the drugs. More time passes. A half hour, forty five minutes.
The drugs arrive. I watch as two nurses and the doctor open the package and begin to organize the vials and dosage directions. They debate the treatment plan. They’ve never done this before.
“I’m so sorry,” the nurse says to me, “it’s going to be a lot of shots.”
They arrange me on a stretcher in a paediatric room. I stare at a mural of monkeys dressed in children’s clothing while they organize the needles and swabs.
The first two go into my scalp at the lesions. The second two go into my arms, one into my left arm, one into my right arm.
Four more to go.
The nurse reaches over to pull the curtain across. I roll over onto my stomach and pull my pants down to expose my rump.
One shot, two shots. I start to panic. I can’t do this. My breathing is fast, and I’m pressing my face into my hands and am starting to cry. Three shots, four shots.
“You did great. That was a lot of shots.”
I can’t respond. I am shaking and my teeth are chattering, and I can feel a trickle of blood running down from where they injected in my scalp.
They leave me alone, and I sit in the corner and pull on my jacket and put my head between my legs and wait. My body shivers and shakes violently. I can’t stop my teeth from chattering.
The nurse sticks his head into the room, passes me a cup of water. I have to set it down because my hand is shaking so badly. I breathe and wait, the fear and panic somehow being released through all of the violent shaking. It’s something primal, this reaction, and I let it run its course.
Fifteen minutes later, the nurse pulls the curtain aside and says that I can go home. The shaking has subsided, and I get up slowly, holding on the counter just in case.
“You will get a call about your follow up shots. You’ll be getting three more over the next two weeks.”
I walk out of the ER and out into the rain, feeling tender and vulnerable.
Time passed oddly in there, like in a dream. Long stretches of waiting, doing nothing, talking to no one. And then the chaotic trauma of injection after injection and my tears and bare rump and the shaking and teeth chattering.
I have always accepted the risks of running in the forest at night.
I never expected an attack to come from above.