Cat Bite - A Cautionary Tale

Another setback in Maxie's agility training came in May, 2009.  Here's the story I wrote about this horiffic experience.

John and Lucky Lucy
Last Thursday night around 10:30 pm, sitting on my porch petting Gray, my 10 year old cat, John came out with our new puppy, Lucky Lucy, bounding behind him. Lucky rushed up to greet me, startling Gray who hissed and tried to get away. Stupidly, I tried to restrain Gray so the two could get better acquainted, but he panicked so badly he scratched my left arm good and sunk his teeth into my right knuckles and leapt away. This took about 2 seconds. I moved quickly to cleanse my wounds (warm water and soap, HP, and Neosporin), and shortly thereafter forgot about it. Minor inconvenience, didn't hurt.

The next day my scratches were scabbing over, my bitten hand was just 2 little punctures barely visible, a little swollen, a little sore, so I went about my day. By 6 p.m. the hand was more sore and swollen and I remembered my last tetanus shot had been 9 years ago, so John and I both went to OLOL After Hours to get one. The doc became very alarmed, said we must "treat this bite aggressively". He gave me 2 antibiotic shots, one in each hip plus a tetanus shot and put my whole hand in a splint, with orders to keep my fingers absolutely still and return early the next morning. An over-reaction, I felt sure.

The next morning John went on to work, my friend Judy was available to drive me there because with my splint I couldn't hold a steering wheel. He took one look and sent us both packing to the OLOL emergency room for further evaluation, x-rays, etc.--do not pass GO, do not collect $200, do not go home and pack a bag--or risk losing a finger, a, hand, or a life. I didn't see home again for 4 days, and didn't practice agility again for 4 months!

The hand surgeon didn't show up in the ER 'til 3 p.m. so my dear friend Judy and I spent 3-4 hours joking with the nurses and aides, then sent out for lunch. I was starving. So here's me in an ER for the first time in my life, taking it all in stride. 

Naturally, within minutes after we ate, the doc shows up and says I need surgery immediately, but since I've just eaten I have to wait 8 hours because they have to put me completely under! Local anesthetics won't be strong enough! This situation is snow-balling very fast!

So they check me in as an overnight patient with chart instructions "DO NOT FEED", put me in a lovely private room which quickly filled with friends, and didn't wheel me into surgery until 12:45 a.m. I got out of recovery around 3:30 a.m, with John waiting in my room. I slept awhile but woke up HUNGRY around 7 a.m. They didn't bring breakfast. I pushed the CALL button asking for food but they didn't bring lunch. The doctor showed up at 3:30 and I was shaking with hunger. I actually cried and begged him for food. I don't think I've ever been really hungry before, and it's an awful feeling. Turns out, he hadn't removed the 'DO NOT FEED" instructions from my chart and no one dared challenge the order! My dinner arrived around 5, but by then my friends Laura, Schuyler and Alex had already brought me a seafood platter from Copelands, and believe me if I ever go to a doctor again I will have snacks stuffed in my purse, I would have gladly eaten dog treats.  And I really missed my dogs.

Back to my wee little puncture wounds, the surgeon cut a sizable gash in my hand to "let out the puss" and stuffed gauze in it to hold it open for several days to drain. He reports that the cartilage could already be damaged. Can this be???????

So here I am, posing with Dr. Peterson, an Ortho-Hand surgeon, who visits my room daily to rip the gauze out of my wound (ouch) and repack it. I spend time on ball and chain, i.e., pushing my IV stand up and down the halls for exercise, and across the room and in and out of the bathroom, (and up to the roof parking lot to sneak a smoke), between his daily visits, for I am on 24-7 intravenous pain meds, plus anti-inflamatories and saline solution in addition to 3 kinds of antibiotics in rotation because it takes 3 days for the cultures to tell him which kind of bacteria he is doing battle with. I'm just a helpless, humble invalid trying to exercise and maintain some dignity in my hospital gown and unwashed hair.

I must say, the 6th floor rooms at Our Lady Of The Lake are more like hotel rooms than hospital rooms of old -- roomy, very comfortable bed, refrigerator, wonderful windows and expansive shelving, wood paneling, designer colors, LCD TV, site wide wireless internet. Very clean, very human. The food has all been good home cooking, soul food, delicious and plentiful. Here's my makeshift office, where I can also stream all the Netflix movies I want.

To sum up, I had no idea bites could be so dangerous! I've had multiple cats for most of my life and never feared them, never hesitated to restrain them for nail clippings, shots or any other thing. I'm not afraid to boss my dogs, either. They are all up to date on their shots and well tamed, sweet and trained, so what's to fear? But I have a brand new respect for the bacteria they carry in their mouths! Don't let any dog, cat, nor even any human bite you, if they do seek medical attention immediately, and be sure to renew your tetanus shot every 5 years! You just can't always predict what even a beloved friendly pet might do when frightened!

To help this lesson soak in thoroughly, let me review.  I was in OLOL hooked up to IV for 4 days, with nurses checking my blood pressure and temp every 4 hours, me constantly checking to make sure my hospital gown was properly tied in the back, asking my husband to give me sponge baths, followed by several days of home health visits, restricted activity, Occupational Therapy, antibiotics and observation, and eventually another surgery to close the wound. Then more Occupational Therapy and doctor visits every week for 6 more weeks to be sure I didn't need another surgery, and wouldn't lose the use of my index finger. And the bill was $12,000!

At the time of this writing 15 months later, my scar has almost disappeared, but my index knuckle is still swollen and the area feels stiff.  It feels like duct tape is stuck to my skin.  I'm not "back to normal" and maybe never will be.  But I am doing all things as normally as possible.  Between this and my knee injury, Maxie lost almost a year in his agility training progress.

The grizzly photo below is not for the faint-hearted. View at your discretion.