Three weeks have passed and DH is still alive. Hale and hearty even. We are all grateful and relieved.
Remember how DH helped break up a dog fight and had to get tetanus shots and I purposefully didn’t get the dog’s information because it was an intact pit bull and I didn’t want it to be put to death? (Turns out that is not a thing in this state– they would have just quarantined it for 10 days.)
A month later, DH came back from a business trip feeling nauseated off and on, with a headache off and on, and chills off and on. After reading on the internet about how the incubation period for rabies is 1-3 months but can last up to 6 years, and reading up on the symptoms of rabies, and how you die within 1-3 weeks once symptoms have started (so far only 10 people have survived after symptoms started, and 8 of them had been vaccinated prior to getting bitten), he also developed anxiety and insomnia. Which are also symptoms of rabies. On the fourth day he started getting muscle twitches.
Early on in this process, we’d looked for places to get first of four rabies shots. Walgreens has rabies vaccine, but not the first shot which has human blood in it and isn’t very shelf-stable. None of the urgent care places in town had it. No doctor we were recommended carried it. Everyone said it had to be gotten at the emergency room. DH’s insurance said they do not cover the rabies shot under any circumstances. So to the emergency room it is. This will be a minimum cost of 10K, and I would not be surprised if it tops out at 13K including the cost of the first shot.
At the emergency room they told DH he didn’t need to get the other three shots at the emergency room and recommended a couple of urgent care places or the department of public health. Neither of the urgent care places would give DH the second shot. The department of public health said the emergency room was smoking crack and they never give out rabies shots. They said their protocol was to get the first shot at the real emergency room and to get the remaining three doses at the emergency room place without actually going into the emergency room and seeing a doctor in order to save $.
So I told DH to call the emergency room to make sure that things could work that way. He called, but did not ask about the not seeing a doctor or the money stuff. He just basically confirmed that they had the second shot. Then he went and saw a doctor and had more unnecessary tests done. So… >$20K so far.
I was not annoyed about the first emergency room shot, as I figured that was an unavoidable (albeit expensive) way to decrease DH’s anxiety, but I’m not that happy about the second shot given that he didn’t actually ask about the protocol the department of public health suggested. He did talk to the emergency room billing again after, but they basically said they couldn’t talk to him about the bill until after it had been refused by his health insurance. So there’s some hope he might be able to negotiate it down. But who knows.
When he got his second shot, he got all the info about the shot (and the third and fourth shots) and it turns out those are exactly the same ones they give out at Walgreens as pre-rabies vaccines, so he could have just gone to Walgreens for the second shot and been done after paying $350. Which he did for the third and fourth (and final) shots. So $700 paid on credit card.
I don’t know when we’re going to get our actual insurance bill for the emergency room visits. If we do end up paying more than $20K, that puts a really big bite into my car fund in addition to cutting into the emergency fund. Which I guess makes the choice of cars easier as the options become much more limited.
So, you ask, why didn’t you just get the information for the pet owner? It takes at most 11 days for an unvaccinated dog to die of rabies. If the dog is still alive, then DH didn’t get rabies.
Well, we didn’t have the contact info for either of the dogs. We posted on nextdoor (the neighborhood social media site) and on day 3 an anonymous neighbor pointed us in the direction of the golden retriever owners. They were very nice about everything and gave us the contact information that night for the pitbull owner, but warned us that they thought the pitbull owner’s house was for sale. And indeed it was. For sale and empty of furniture. DH tracked down the facebook page of the dog owner’s son which was blank, and then to the son’s wife which had lots of oversharing posts. The posts mentioned the grandparents moving to the closest city (~2 hours) and it sounded like they were taking a dog with them, though no guarantee it was the dog in question. But also no mention of sad dog deaths in the previous month. The son’s wife did not respond to a FB friends request or any of DH’s queries.
We also called the agency that handles dog licensing in our county, since your rabies vaccines have to be up to date to be licensed. But of course the dog wasn’t licensed. So that, too, was a dead end.
On the morning of DH’s second shot, DC2 woke us up to let us know zie had thrown up in the night, the first of several throwing of ups. As I groggily listened to hir, I realized I too felt nausea. The nausea came and went. So did a headache. And chills. All three symptoms would come and go randomly, seemingly completely unrelated to each other. The chills were particularly disturbing. I can understand how DH thought something out of the ordinary was happening. (Though it turns out this weird virus has just been going around– it doesn’t last as long for most people because most people sleep instead of googling things that cause anxiety. DC2 was better in a day and I was completely better by day 3.)
And that is our expensive and exasperating story. My colleagues think it’s hilarious, and indeed, it is hilarious given that DH is still alive and we’re not going to have to go into major debt, just buy a cheaper car or sell some stocks. Most insurance companies don’t cover rabies vaccines for people because they’re expensive and usually they’re just being given as anti-anxiety shots. (Obviously if you’re bitten by a wild animal, you should get them if they can’t autopsy the animal in question. But for pet dogs who are behaving nicely towards humans, not as clear.)
Morals: If you’re breaking up a dog fight, use water, or lift the back legs of each animal. Do not mess with their mouths. If you get bitten by a pet dog, get the name and contact info for the @#$23ing dog so you can see if it dies in 11 days or not. If you do get the series of four shots post-bite, get the first one in an emergency room and the remaining 3 at Walgreens (using a different schedule than the one that Walgreens will want to use– talk to the emergency room doctor about the schedule for all four shots).