And I thought that there was only going to be one case of a crazy rabid squirrel. Boy was I wrong. A previous post on the subject a year ago had a lively discussion.
This visit started by a mother bringing in her six-year-old son because her son got bitten by a squirrel.
Actually, the event started before the patient arrived in the emergency department. The patient found two young squirrels whose parent had apparently made a nest inside of an old coffee can. The patient attempted to reach in and pet the squirrels and one of the squirrels, apparently mistaking his finger for an acorn, bit him in the finger.
After the bite occurred, the mother called a veterinarian who stated that squirrels could have rabies and that she should call the state immediately. That freaked the mother out. The mother then called state Department of Health. The medical professional with whom she spoke stated that she must observe the squirrel for at least a week to make sure that the squirrel is acting normal. If the squirrel was acting OK, then they did not need to test the child or the squirrel for rabies.
The mother then called the police who brought the squirrels and the patient to the emergency department for evaluation. So in walk the police, the patient, and the mother carrying a box with Alvin and Theodore inside. Of course, there were holes poked in the top of the box to provide the squirrels with air. Without those holes the squirrels surely would have turned into suffocation zombies.
Of course, if you talk about any baby animals – especially cute little squirrel zombies – several members of the staff will instantly become interested. One of the nurses and one of the techs both tried to open the box to pet the squirrels as well. Several other staff members then chimed in … “Hellllooooo! They bit someone. You want to be next?”
The patient was put in a room. Then the doctor walks out of another room and sees everyone looking at a cardboard box.
“What’s in the box?”
“A couple of squirrels that bit one of our patients.”
“WHAAAAT? This is a hospital, not a vet clinic. What if they get out of the box? Get them outside NOW!” With that, the police took the squirrels from the emergency department to either release them into the wild or to execute them. No one ever asked which.
The mother relayed her story of what happened. She wanted the doctor to call the state Department of Health. Reluctantly, he did so. The medical professional on the line repeated the sage advice to observe the squirrel over the next 7 days for abnormal activity. First of all, who is going to keep the squirrels? If they can chew off some kid’s finger, they sure as heck can burrow their way out of a cardboard box. You want them to wait until everyone’s sleeping and go get a bunch of their zombie squirrel friends? Second of all, who in tarnation knows what “abnormal” activity for a squirrel is? Hasn’t anyone in this town watched this clip from Over the Hedge?
An infectious disease expert was then contacted. He wanted to know if everyone in the emergency department had gone stark raving mad. Squirrels and other rodents do not transmit rabies to humans. Besides, a documented case of rabies has not occurred in this county for more than 20 years.
So the patient was discharged home.
The story doesn’t end there though.
On the way out the door, the mom wanted to know where the squirrels were. When she was informed that the police had taken squirrels from the department she became very upset.
“Why did you let them take the squirrels away? My son wanted to say goodbye to them.”
The boy then began crying because he was unable to say goodbye to the squirrels that viciously attacked his finger.
So the patient and his mother both left the emergency department very upset. Straight “fives” on the Press Ganey scores, I’m sure.
The story doesn’t end there, though.
The following Monday, the hospital gets a call from the state Medical Licensing Board. The patient’s grandfather decided to get into the act by calling them and complaining that the patient did not receive proper medical care from the emergency department physician. First of all, the patient was not officially tested for rabies, so they didn’t know whether he should get rabies shots [after all, blood testing for rabies turns positive instantaneously, you know]. Second of all, the grandfather stated that the squirrels should have been decapitated in the emergency department and their heads should have been put on ice and sent to a zoo for analysis. Because the staff in the emergency department allowed the police to confiscate the squirrels, they could no longer be tested and now his grandson would unnecessarily have to go through 17 painful rabies injections into his stomach.
Apparently following the “guilty until proven innocent” meme, the state Medical Licensing Board did no research into the matter before calling to demand that the hospital justify the medical care of the medical practitioner. Kind of like calling to demand that the hospital justify giving antibiotics to pneumonia patients or sending MI patients to the cath lab, but that’s another story.
So one of the hospital administrative staff is now being paid a salary to spend time interviewing physicians and looking through textbooks in order to justify appropriate medical care to the state agency that is supposed to protect the public from unsafe medical practitioners.
As for me, I think I’ve discovered what happens to all of those medical practitioners who lose their licenses due to mental illness.
This and all posts about patients may be fictional, may be my experiences, may be submitted by readers for publication here, or may be any combination of the above. Factual statements may or may not be accurate. If you would like to have a patient story published on WhiteCoat’s Call Room, please e-mail me.