Sunday, June 5, 2011

First Impressions and Stupid People

I was recently bitten by a dog while volunteering at a my local shelter. It's earth-shattering for some people, but part of the territory for me. Not that I enjoy being bitten, don't get me wrong! I avoid it at all costs and it's only happened twice in seven years. But when it happens, it's not the end of the world for me. Life does go on.

Let me make it perfectly clear: I put this dog in a bad position, and he let me know it. It wasn't his fault, it was mine: In my rush to close down one night, I tried to be efficient, but I left logic behind and I paid the price.

Many people mistake fear aggression with other types of aggression, like dominance aggression. This poor dog is a fearful pooch, and we'll work with him to build his confidence until he's the best companion anyone could ever dream of having. We have amazing people at our shelter who are talented trainers and have done this type of behavioral work in the past. I know they're up to the challenge of doing the same for this beautiful dog.

But, that's not why I write this post. Oh, no. I write it because of first impressions and stupid people.

Immediately following the bite, I flushed the wound with Betadine (thank you, Purdue Pharma, for your generous donation to our shelter!), another volunteer bandaged me, and off to the emergency room I went.

Keep in mind that it was a hot, humid day, I had been at the shelter since 11 am that morning, and I'd been cleaning the kennel and walking dogs for the past three hours. It was 7 pm, I looked like a pig (no offense, pigs), my hair was a mess, I had no make-up on (I mean, why would I?), my clothes were filthy at this point, and I really looked the part of "slob." Oh, and earlier in the day, one of the dogs lifted his leg and peed on my pant leg. I was not a pretty sight. But who knew I had a side trip to the ER planned?

Unfortunately, I was wearing my t-shirt that said "My Best Friend Is A Pit Bull." I love this t-shirt, but on this day it was bad timing.

Sitting in the ER waiting room, everyone looked at my t-shirt, looked at the blood-soaked bandage on my arm, and just assumed that a pit bull did the damage. I spent most of the 3.5 hours in the waiting room telling people that no, I wasn't bitten by a pit bull, and in the seven years that I've been volunteering, I've NEVER been bitten by a pit bull, and the dogs at home that manage to bite me most are either my Border Collie or my Parson Russell, not my pit bull... Ugh. I mean, if you're in the ER, don't you have better things to do than question me?? If not, go home so I can move up on the waiting list, 'kay?

Now, it's 10:30 pm. I finally get into a room. YAY! I'm gonna get treated and released! I can go home soon! I'm tired, hungry, dreaming of a shower and my pillow. Dreaming of this wound being wrapped so it stops bleeding! That would be cool....

First, I see a PA who's complaining about how long he's been there. I joke "Overtime?" He grunts, "no, regular hours, half hour to go." This does not bode well.

I hear the doc outside saying "the patients are complaining, but they just don't understand that we get tired too." No, I really do understand. But... why are you an ER doc in the first place...? (I later looked him up in the hospital directory, and he IS an ER doc... full time. Scary. When you're in that position, you really should love - or at least like - your job, no?)

Here's what really burns me up: I finally see the ER doc. For a total of two minutes. This isn't an exaggeration. He took one look at my t-shirt (and probably the rest of my sweaty, smelly gear) and decided for himself that I was an idiot harboring a dangerous pit bull. Since it was after hours, he called the police - the POLICE - to force me to file a report on this dog. Wouldn't hear a word from me. Wouldn't listen to my story AT ALL. I could have been bitten by a yeti, but who would hear me out?

The policeman who came, bless his heart, actually listened to me and accepted the fact that 1) I didn't want to file a report as it wasn't the dog's fault; 2) the shelter would work with the dog (as I mentioned above); and 3) he understood what fear aggression was! Go figure! Snaps for the cop!

The difference: He didn't judge the book by the cover. He asked questions and listened. How can a physician NOT ask questions, NOT listen? I work with physicians all day long (for the past 22 years) and I was shocked at the treatment I received in the ER by this man. The physicians I know are compassionate and intelligent and work with the patient in mind.

By the way, two days later, I ended up in the hospital. Seems the doc and his PA didn't clean the wound adequately, I developed an infection, and it required IV antibiotics. What a surprise!
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