Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dog Bite

Last week, I was bitten by a dog.

To say that it was a devastating wound, or that I very nearly died, might lead you to believe something that isn't quite true.  So I won't outright tell you that I nearly lost my leg or that I had to kill the offending animal with my own two hands.  Nor will I suggest that I lost four gallons of blood or that I dug three teeth out of my crushed and broken tibia.  No, I won't say any of that, because that might be misleading.  Instead, I will let you know that I was simply "bitten".  And I will let your imagination do the rest.  

According to the rabies vaccine pamphlet, a bite of this magnitude
 is classified as a "Category II:  Nibble"

Although my situation was indeed quite dire, I am pleased to report that I have pulled through with the usual vigor and aplomb. After all, it is my nature to be stoic.  


But the fact does remain, regardless of the width and breadth of the details, that I was bitten by a dog.  And, according to Peace Corps proper medical procedure, I had to be tended to.  

So just thirty minutes after being bitten (and after showing all of my friends in the marketplace, of course), I sent Dr. Isadora a picture of the scratches.  I included the subject line- "Dog Bite (Superficial)."  Two minutes later, Dr. Isadora was on the phone.

"What's this?"  Asked Izzy.  "Dog bite?  What happened?"

"It's really not a big deal," I said. "I just got bitten in the back of the knee."

"What were you doing when it happened?"

"I was walking to the market with Bwino when another dog attacked him.  I threw a rock at the attacker, so the attacker turned around and bit me in the leg."

"Hmm.  Yes.  So you need rabies vaccine."

And that's how Dan and I ended up en route to Lilongwe.  

It was actually a very fortuitous time to be bitten.  Dan and I had been planning to go to Lilongwe anyway, to get our flu vaccines.  A quick flurry of emails between Izzy and Peace Corps Medical in Malawi confirmed an addendum to my original appointment.  I was now scheduled to receive a flu vaccine with a double-pick-me-up of rabies post-exposure treatment.  

Much, you might say, like a mini-vacation.  

I guess it's time to admit that I've always wanted to be taken away for "medical."  

Don't get me wrong.  I've never wanted a large and dangerous big health issue.  I'm not trying to tempt the Gods of Irony.  But I've always appreciated the thought that something small and manageable-- a bleeding eardrum, for instance, or a rather heartfelt yeast infection-- could land me in the capital city with free food for a week.  

I can't be the only volunteer that feels this way.  

Site is wonderful, and we all love our adopted homes.  But there comes a time when the allure of running water trumps a perfect bill of health.  When the thought of one large cheese pizza seems worthy of one measly headful of lice...

So I didn't particularly mind our medical trip to Lilongwe.  My vaccines were over quickly (though spaced three days apart) and my dog bite was small and tidy.   This was the dream medical vacation-- minimal physical suffering, minimal time away from work, plus a legitimate excuse-- and Dan and I were prepared to enjoy it.  

We were gone from Wednesday until Sunday.  Normally, I would feel guilty, but Wednesday was a holiday.  This meant that most of my students would also miss school on Thursday. Friday, of course, was my normal day off, which meant that I was missing very little, if not nothing, going on at the school.  It was, I'll repeat, a very fortuitous time in which to receive a superficial dog bite to the back of the knee.  

My first shots (rabies and flu) took place on Thursday morning.  Dan got his flu shot as well, and was then technically cleared and ready to go home.  He chose to stay with me, though, and wait out the 72 hours between the first and second post-exposure rabies vaccines.  This gave us a full 72 hours with which to explore and get to know the capital city of Lilongwe.  A city, which we'll soon learn, is known for being supremely un-explorable.  


  1. Haha, I definitely know what you mean with the kind-of-wishing-to-get-sick thing. I mean... I'm down for being healthy, but I wouldn't mind a free trip to Chimoio someday... :-D

  2. I know exactly what you mean about wishing you had some medical thing that wasn't serious, but that they still brought you in for. dengue fever sucked to be brought in for, but thankfully my husband broke his arm and I had some poo problems at the same time. It ended up being an entire week in the capitol! That dog bite looks nasty! I'm glad you don't have rabies though.

  3. You’ve been bitten by a dog? That’s very serious. I hope you reported this incident to the dog owner, for them to know the threat his/her dog caused you. And also, to prevent this from happening again to anyone. Anyway, I’m glad that you’ve been vaccinated of anti-rabies.
    Cheryl @

  4. Getting bitten by a dog, minor or severe, is always a big deal due to rabies, especially if you got bit by a stray dog. I wish that would be the last time you would get bitten by any animal. But just in case, it helps if you seek medical attention immediately. Or if it’s your neighbor’s pet, it’s best to tell them what happened so that you'd know if their pet has had it's rabies shots, and that they would know what measures they have to take to prevent their pets from harming passers-by.

    Richard Johnson

  5. I don’t think no one will ever believe you about the misfortune you got after being bitten by a dog. Dog bites, small or otherwise, can be very fatal. There are even some cases when the person attacked died after several days of confinement. It’s probably lucky that you got through it just fine. That, and you immediately contacted your doctor soon after. Anyway, was it a stray or was it someone's dog? If it wasn't a stray, you could've asked them if the dog was vaccinated, or have them pay for the anti-rabies shots that you would be needing if the dog wasn't vaccinated.

    Ann Taylor @ Hofmann Law Office