True Story: I Was Bitten by a Rabid Raccoon

Last week we quoted a Daily News report that claimed that, though over a hundred rabid raccoons have been discovered in Central Park this year, the city had a handle on the situation and there had been no encounters in the past three (now four) weeks. A victory for the Parks Department’s program of trapping and vaccinating the wild(ish) animals! Well, not quite. Shortly after our post went up, reader Elly e-mailed to tell us her bite story, which happened after the park’s so-called dry spell began. It goes like this:

I live on the Upper East Side. I was doing a little shopping on the Upper West Side and when I was done, decided to walk back through the park. But it was so gorgeous out, I stopped to enjoy it and read my book. So I’m sitting on a bench right on the 72nd Street Transverse, near the Mall and Bethesda Fountain. I was sitting there maybe 30 minutes … and suddenly I felt something around my feet, and a sharp pang in my left ankle. I think I felt the presence of something first, because I remember thinking maybe it was a leaf or something, but then I felt the bite. My first thought was: Someone’s dog. I looked down at my ankle and it was dripping blood.

When I got bit, it startled me, obviously, so I jumped — which caused two ladies walking by to turn and look. (I still wish I would have gotten their numbers or e-mails or something to thank them for their kindness. They were the ones that made me call 911; I was ready to slap a Band-Aid on it and be on my merry way.) One of them turned as they walked past and said, “Oh, it was a raccoon.” She paused for a second and then said, “It didn’t bite you, did it?” I stood up and showed them my ankle. Then I turned back to the bench, and sure enough there was the raccoon — sitting behind the bench near a bush.

I had no food or anything with me. I was asked if I was trying to pet it. Um, no. I never even saw it or heard it come by me. It literally snuck up behind me, walked under the bench, and bit me from behind.

One of the ladies went over to a pedicab and the driver offered to take me to a first aid place. I was thinking, “What’s the big deal?” But as soon as one of the ladies mentioned the word rabies, I said, “Hell no” to the pedicab ride and called 911. At some point, the raccoon wandered off, and I sat back down on the bench. We saw it over by some other bushes but by the time the ambulance and a police officer got there later it was MIA.

Another passerby stopped and saw I was bleeding and mentioned he worked in first aid and told me to keep it elevated and some other stuff. I also wish I could remember his name, as he was really nice and offered me a large supply of napkins to put on the bite.

So then the two ladies walked me over to the steps near the Bethesda, one named JoAnn bought me a bottle of water and tried to flag down a police officer. The first aid guy said he couldn’t stay, he was in the park with his parents who were visiting from out of town, but did want to tell me if I started getting chills it meant I was going into shock. Which quite honestly made the tears that were brimming fall overboard. But the two ladies waited with me until the ambulance came. One of them said to me, “I’m a chemist, so I know a healthy raccoon wouldn’t be out during the day, and that’s what worries me. But I’m also a mom so I’m worried about you, and you definitely need to get it checked out.” She was awesome.

All I kept thinking was, “Am I going to die of rabies?” and “Will I have to pay for this stupid ambulance ride?”

Ambulance came. Had to find out if there was a special ER they had to take me to. Apparently some ERs are better equipped to handle animal bites, but it turns out that’s really for snakebites. So off we went to Lenox Hill.

I waited almost three hours in the ER. A doctor or PA explained to me I would have to get four rounds of rabies shots (Day 0, Day 3, Day 7, and Day 14), and also this Rabies Immune Globulin that he had to inject directly into and around the wound.

I got the rabies shot in my left arm. Next came the immune globulin: fucking painful. It was like five or six injections in my ankle. I was laying on my stomach in a hospital bed crying into the pillow. Not my most adult moment, but whatever. The doctor was good-looking, and he said, “You did good, love,” and I felt better.

Then I had to get a tetanus shot. And after that I never wanted to get another shot again. Except I had to come back for three more rabies shots.

My ankle was severely swollen the next day (Sunday), so I went back to the ER to make sure all was well. Monday I woke up, ankle swollen and sore, right arm immobile because of the damn tetanus shot, and headache from who knows what. That was the most interesting “I’m not coming to work today” call to a boss I’ve ever had to make. “Hi, Hilary, it’s Elly. Um, I know this sounds crazy, but I got bit by a raccoon and my ankle is swollen and I can’t move my arm. I think I’m gonna stay home today.”

True Story: I Was Bitten by a Rabid Raccoon