I knew the run on Saturday was going to be hard but I got a surprise I didn't expect. I ran with Allen, our team director and fitness fanatic, and another friend. Both these guys are in training for a marathon in Lima. About half way into the run a little dog chased us, along with a bunch of other street dogs. Normally they get close but not too close but this one bit my ankle. I stopped and shouted at it and it scuttled away. It was a small bite which hardly broke the skin. We stopped and washed the bite area and then we continued our run - another 6 km home.
Later we decided that even though the risk of rabies from such a superficial bite was incredibly low it would be safest to get the rabies vaccines. My cousin Deepa also pointed out that the consequences of rabies are so severe that it is never worth the risk. Someone in her family had a horrible death 30 years ago when bitten by a someone's pet dog.
6am on Sunday morning I headed to a hospital nearby to get the vaccine. At first they wanted a referral from a doctor but eventually agreed to let me see a doctor. The doctor told me that here they had only limited amount of the anti-rabies vaccine and this was reserved for people who had been bitten on the face or on the arms where the risk of contracting the disease was high. He said that there was a private clinic I could go to but this was open only Monday to Friday. I began to explain that I really needed my first injection within 24 hours of getting bitten but I could see that was not going to get me anywhere. With the limited resources they had, I was a very low risk case and was not a priority.
This was my first experience in a large Peruvian hospital and the place made me uncomfortable. The bed that I saw had dried blood stains on the foam where the plastic cover had worn off. I was glad I wasn't sick. As I walked out a nurse ran out after me. She explained that there was another hospital at Goyeneche, not too far away, that could probably help. She spoke to reception and they made a phone call for me. The reply was that they couldn't help me today. The lady at reception suggested that I just turn up in person at the hospital and see what they say. So I hopped on a bus to Goyeneche hospital.
This was a beautiful 100 year old hospital. It was a bit run down on the outside but was a clean and friendly hospital. I found the anti-rabial centre and had a great chat with the doctor here. Apart from rabies he also has a specialisation in venomous bites. We talked how dangerous it is to live in Australia with so many venomous snakes and spiders.
Back on the topic of my bite we discussed the 8 injections I would need. Ideally if we could find the dog that bit me, they could check if it had rabies and save me a lot of pain. In my case that was not possible. The doctor warned me of possibly allergic reactions and side effects of the injection. He said I had to abstain from alcohol and smoking - not hard for me to do. He continued with a list of other things I had to avoid for the week:
getting too hot or cold
eating too much cold stuff eg. ice-cream
Allen, our team director and doctor, found this list was quite amusing and has had fun suggesting ways I could break many of these rules at the same time. I've tried to be a good patient and I've only broken two rules. No they're not the ones you're thinking!
So everyday I go in for an injection and it's all free thanks to the Peruvian government. Apart from an aching arm I have had no adverse side-effects. Thank God that we've got good medical help in Arequipa. Also, thank you for those who have prayed for me.
What have I learnt from this?
Several people have suggested I stay away from stray dogs. Running seems to attract dogs that want to bite so requires caution. I normally carry a couple of stones to scare these dogs.
As for keeping away from stray dogs generally... Some of them are just so cute and they're happy to come up say "Hi!" (actually "Hola!" because they're Peruvian). Here are two pictures of dogs on the street that did just that.
Do I really need to keep away from the friendly stray dogs?