Thursday, September 17, 2009

Never A Dull Moment ... Except In Faculty Meetings

I should have known yesterday was going to be an interesting day when I overheard this conversation in the hallway, before school began.

"Honey, where ARE your pants? Those are your underwear ... who dressed you today?"

The TMH (Trainable Mentally Handicapped) teacher was leaning over , gently questioning one of her charges about the undergarments he was wearing as outergarments. She wasn't scolding the Down's Syndrome child. Her tone was caring and motherly as she attempted to get to the bottom of the missing pants mystery.

She is an angel/mother/teacher combination to the kids in her class and a woman of great patience. The children in her class deal with extreme physical and mental challenges each day, but they are the sweetest group of kids on campus.

I wandered back to my room chuckling over that exchange and dove into a day of teaching.

Near the end of 5th period, the maintenance guy showed up requesting a net ... there was a bat in the gym.
I grabbed a nice insect collecting net with a cloth bag from my store room and warned him about touching the bat.

He took off for the gym, but reappeared in about ten minutes.

"That was quick", I said as I took the net from him.
"Oh some kid, grabbed the bat off the wall and took it outside." he replied.
I stopped in my tracks.
"What kid?
"Oh, John Doe"
"He held the bat in his hands?
"Yup, ... jumped up and scooped it off the gym wall and then took it outside."

I told the maintenance guy to stop by the nurse's office and give her the boy's name.

About 20 minutes later, the nurse showed up at my classroom door.

"If I watch your class, can you go catch that bat? The gym teacher knows where it is and we need to send if off for rabies testing"

I smiled ...
"Sure. Have fun with my most challenging class of the day."

"Challenging" sounds so much better than "worse".

I grabbed the bug net and stopped by the JEEP for a pair of work gloves. Then off to the gym.

When I got to the gym, the poor bat was clinging to the red brick exterior wall about a foot off the ground.

I gently nudged him into the net, shook him down to the bottom of the bag, gave it a twist, and ziptied the neck of the bag to keep him inside.
Then the bat and I rode over the health department.

At this point, the bat is toast.
It's not his fault of course. If the kid had just left it alone, it could have been netted after school and released.
Now it has a date with the lab to have it's brain examined for the rabies virus.
When I arived at the Environmental Services portion of the health department, the one employee on hand, an elderly lady, had a tupperware container ready for the bat.

"Oh, ... he's alive? Usually we receive dead animals for this testing."
"Yes maam, he's alive and we are not going to put him in that box and just let him slowly suffocate. Will it mess up the testing protocols if he is frozen?
There was an upright freezer in the workroom where we were standing.
"No, we freeze raccoon heads when they come in for testing on Friday and the lab is closed until Monday."

"Okay, I'm going to transfer him to your plastic container and then place him in the freezer. It's the most humane thing we can do right now. He'll just slow down, go to sleep, and pass away peacefully."

"Do you want me to help?"
"No, that's okay, I've got this."
She sighed a big sigh of relief and went off to her desk.

I undid the ziptie, untwisted the net bag, and placed the plastic container upside down over the bat, slipping the top under it to capture him.

"Sorry dude."
I placed the container in the freezer and shut the door.

The bat will be tested, but the health department says that almost every single suspect bat that comes in, is positive for rabies. The kid and his parents will be anxiously awaiting word of the test results, because that will determine if the boy gets the series of shots required after rabies exposure.
Had we not captured the bat, he would have had to begin the shots just to be sure.

Remember this story?

That one was heart breaking.

So, I'm doing some bat education around the school, getting teachers to remind kids to leave the campus wildlife alone, and to call me ... preferably during my most "challenging" class if something needs relocating.

Yup, I'd rather deal with a rabid bat any day of the week...


Anonymous said...


I heard that putting dry ice in a container is also humane. Am I wrong about this? I know it's still suffocation but it's pretty quick.


threecollie said...

That is a terribly sad story.

kathy a. said...

your EMH teacher is indeed an angel! i assume there are some spare items of clothing around for emergencies....

what an adventure with the bat. guess this is one of those teachable moment kinds of things.

TenMile said...

I know several thirty somethings that would fit right into your class.I can recommend them if you like?

Just kiddin'.

I've had those rabies shots. No fun.

Dani said...

Poor little thing. But, it had to be done.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Florida Health department has a different rabies test protocol, but freezing is not recommended for brains that are going to be tested. The freeze/thaw cycle can damage the inclusion bodies.

Anonymous said...

Was the student checked for bites?


Amy said...

I work at EH in Alachua and a couple of months ago our director took the bat out of the freezer, looked at it in the bag and packed it up on ice to be shipped overnight to the lab to be tested for rabies. He got a call the next morning from the women who work at the lab. They had a surprise when they opened the cooler and the bat was alive! Apparently the people who brought the bat in never killed it, just found it laying on their attic floor, not moving.

Kimberlee said...

That IS a sad story. It's so upsetting when animals suffer the consequences of human ignorance (even the innocent variety). We have a lot of trouble with rabies up here, too. Foxes carry the disease and pass it on to local dogs, etc. For the last few years we've had annual quarantines.

Hope it all works out for the student.

Floridacracker said...

That seems reasonable.

I think about the second guessing those poor parents must do late at night. Painful.

Kathy A,
Yes they do, they deal with cleanups that the rest of us never see in the normal classroom.
"normal" hah!

Ouch. I remember as a kid, we were more afraid of the shots for rabies than rabies itself.

I know, it was hard to snap the lid on that container.

It seems to be SOP here.

Yes, the nurse did that before coming to me. The thing about bat bites though is they can be tiny and almost invisible. Everyone is erring on the side of caution here.

Oh snap! I wouldn't have expected that. My bat may just flutter away when they open that container.

Down here it's raccoons that get the label as rabies vectors. They are so scrappy anyway.

Bill said...

Holy flying mammals, you really are Batman!

lisa said...

I am curious, you can get rabies just from touching the bat? I thought you would have to get bit? I am glad to know this!

robin andrea said...

Wow, FC, you are right, never a dull moment. Really a shame about the bat's fate. And that story of the high school in Texas is a heartbreak too.

Floridacracker said...

Yes, but it's our little secret.

A bite or scratch even, but both can be so small as to be practically invisible, so the protocol after handling is as stated in the story.

That Texas story just haunts me.
Too bad for this little bat also.

Ericka said...

poor little bat. i'd be inclined to make the kid go thru the shots as a learning experience, and let the bat live. yes, i know they hurt. that's the point.

Native Mom said...

I think I'd rather deal with a room full of rabid bats rather than be a teacher to middle & high school kids. God bless you.