Sunday, October 05, 2008

It's Bleeding, er, Breeding Time Again, v2008

I've been having pain and mobility problems with my right shoulder/arm/hand, so I haven't been able to do much in the way of blogging, photographing or knitting. Mike's breeding season is late this year due, I believe, to the altered natural photoperiod conditions caused by months of heavy smoke from the dozens of wildfires north and east of us that blazed away during the summer. He is also shedding again (just starting his third shed in 2 months), the days really are getting shorter (my fault), and the nights have gotten cool enough (also my fault) that I won't let him sleep under my bed any more. Overall he has gotten a bit, shall we say, cranky, and he's taken to pooping in places I don't want him to poop

So, like many times before, I gently slide him back into the kitchen and block his passage into the den, either by holding paper towels down as a visual barrier, or with my feet as a rather more substantial barrier. Usually, after a couple of minutes, he either sighs and lifts his hips and starts going, or I pick him up and take him into the tiled front foyer, where he will generally start to poop after being put down.

With my arm really hurting, and at 22 lbs and the maneuvering required to put him down safely without shredding the skin off of both arms and hands, I decided he could darn well stay and poop in the kitchen.
After five minutes of him trying to get past the paper towel and foot barricades, he took matters into his own hands. Well, mouth.

Having been to the ER several times during the years for iguana bites, the last couple I have dealt with on my own - they were not down into tendons or bone, there were no flaps of skin waving in the breeze, and I was able to get the bleeding stopped in a reasonable period of time after cleaning out the wounds.

It is a great idea for pet owners (and gardeners, for that matter) to keep their tetanus shots up to date (authorities dither about whether you should get your boosters every 5, 7 or 10 years; I do 5-7, as in case I do get infected, I'd rather have more immune response (boosters closer together) than less (10 yrs apart).

For those who live with other adults who don't get freaked out at the sight of blood, getting bitten like this means help is right there. If one lives alone, as I do, you need to have back-up plans: friends or family you can call who aren't going to be freaked out by the sight of blood all over the place, who have keys to get into your house, and know a modicum of first aid so they can either deal with the wound themselves (if appropriate) or get your wounded appendage secured for the trip to the ER.

Which brings up the matter of first aid kits. First aid kits need more than small box of band aids in assorted sizes and a tube of antibiotic ointment, and a small bottle of Betadine or hydrogen peroxide stashed in the medicine cabinet or under the sink. Keep first aid kits and things like large bottles of antiseptics (chlorhexadine gluconate [Hibiclens is one of the human equivalents of the veterinary Nolvasan, which is chlorhexadine diacetate] or povidone-iodine [brand name Betadine, which is available for both humans and animals, both of which require dilution]) in several places--kitchen, bathroom
s and iguana room (if it is more than a few steps away from the other locations) as well as in your car.

That lesson didn't sink in after Mike bit my ear in
August 2007. Then, it was easy enough to keep one hand clamping paper towels around my ear as I went out to my car to get my excellently stocked FA backpack. So, there I was, a week ago Saturday, with my foot bleeding a lot, stuck in the kitchen, with my FA backpack in the car and the gallon of Betadine in the guest bathroom - both across the house, across lots of carpeting.

I did hop into the guest/iguana bathroom to get my jug of Betadine, but knew I couldn't hop out to the garage to get the FA kit, back into and across the house to the kitchen.
I hopped as far as my desk, propped my foot over the wastebasket, realized that the two neighbors I would have called had moved away, and I didn't know the new ones well enough to know their blood exposure limits, so, I called Karen. Not only does she have first aid training, the only thing that grosses her out is squid tentacles (which I adore, especially crispily fried), and she has keys to my house, seeing as how she is my power of health care attorney and empowered to take care of and rehome my animals if I die or become incapacitated. (For those of you who still have not made such arrangements, what the heck are you waiting for! Go read my Advance Care Directives page. Now. This blog will be here when you get back.)

Karen arrived, set up a bowl of hot water and Betadine for me to soak in, got my FA backpack out of my car, got a towel for me to use as a sort of blood soaker-upper and sling so I could make my way into the kitchen, and grabbed my camera to memorialize the event.

When I was able to see the wound on top of my foot more clearly, I sent her into my back room to get a new (still wrapped in its blister pack) 60cc syringe from my yarn dyeing supplies. I didn't have any sterile water, so I used a dilute solution of Betadine to flush the one deep part of the wound, which can be seen in the lower right quadrant of the following photograph (you knew there would be photos, didn't you? Rest assured - I have not posted to gorier ones. :)

Bite Day - Top

Bite Day - Bottom

While I was thus engaged, Karen went through my FA backpack and pulled out the triple antibiotic ointment, a pack of 4x4 gauze sponges, a roll of gauze bandaging, and Coban (the human equivalent of Vetwrap, though not so colorful), a stretch water-resistant over-wrap that sticks to itself. About the only time Karen gets to practice her first aid is at home or in the class she has to take every couple of years to keep her certification current, so I was happy to let her get some practice.

Karen's stellar bandaging:

I have been soaking daily in hot water to which I've added grapefruit seed extract. I used Betadine the first couple of days, but between the reddening of my skin due to the heat and the Betadine, I couldn't really tell how the wounds actually looked.

Day 5 Bottom

Day 5 Top:

Yes, that is redder than I would like. And you can see the yellowish bruising that is hovering just beneath the surface of the skin between and outside of the bite ring I did, on day 1, put myself on 100 mg doxycycline BID for 10 days, which I keep on hand in quantity in case of tick bites and for when my chronic neuroborreliosis decides to get acute again. So, I did the same this time, bumping the dose up to 200 mg BID (because I've been trying to igore the fact that my LD is getting acute again). I happen to have an appointment tomorrow with my osteopath for my shoulder/arm, so I will show her my pretty bite and see about getting a more appropriate antibiotic for it.

As some of you may know, I've been doing a lot of thinking 'n stuff about emergency preparedness, especially as the process relates to those who are not able-bodied and not always able-minded. Vulnerable populations, be they frail seniors, people with severe physical impairments who have been marginalized due to our deteriorating health care and social services infrastructure, and those of us who are impaired physically and cognitively by chronic illness, are so overwhelmed at even the thought of what it takes to get prepared to survive in the days and weeks following a disaster, or just don't have the wherewithal to do anything for themselves.

I was in the overwhelmed category. But I took some classes, did some reading, did lots of thinking.
Slowly, both due to my functional and financial limitations, I have been building my FA and disaster preparedness (DP) stashes (the latter including food, water, clothing, bedding, toiletries, lanterns, radio, cell phone & ham radio, alternate power sources for recharging these devices, etc.).

The various disaster preparedness checklists are there are too generic for those of us in many of the vulnerable populations category, and the disability-enhanced ones focus more on hearing, sight, and chairbound disableds. So, I put together a checklist for people like me, with rather more explanation then the shorter lists, and breaking out some areas that most people don't think about. I've uploaded it in PDF format and linked it to my
Emergency Preparedness page: Melissa Kaplan's Personal Emergency Planning Checklist for People & Pets.

I also created a one-sided page of all my critical information that I or someone would need if I couldn't access my computer, external hard drive, or backups on my thumb drive. (Ya'll are backing up your own computer and critical files regularly on multiple devices, at least one stored somewhere else, aren't you?) If someone gets their hands on it, it won't do them any good if they are looking for my birth date or social security number (and Medicare number, which is the primary insured's social security number with an alpha suffix). If I am incapacitated and can't give that information myself, that's why I have a POA for health care - she has that info and can give it to the appropriate party.

Whether you live alone, or with a partner, or have kids, this type of preparedness is something that must be done. Katrina illustrated all too keenly how important it is to keep this kind of essential information quickly accessible so you can grab (if it isn't already on you) and go. People didn't learn - with Gustav and Ike, shelter workers and all the agencies who are trying to help those who lost everything are hampered by the fact that once again, huge numbers of people fled without essential information, or even essential needs (like the mother who remembered her cigarettes, lighter and cell phone, but not her child's insulin and supply kit).

The lesson I learned from this bite is that I will be putting together large ziplock bags (the 2.5 gallon bags are a knitter's best friend) of the sponges, wraps, ointments, and antiseptics in each of my bathrooms, the kitchen and at my desk.

And buying a bigger microwave for Mike.

(Just kidding!!)

People who do not keep large, potentially dangerous, reptiles are horrified by Mike's having bitten me, and don't understand why I don't get rid of him. I don't because I accept and understand that fact that I am living with what is, not matter how tamed and socialized he is, a wild animal--and intelligent wild animal--whose actions and reactions will at times be stripped of the civilizing influences brought about by living in captivity. This is just as true for Mike, who is the captive bred offspring of generations of captive bred progenators as it is for the imported wildcaught and "farmed" animals sold in the pet trade.

And, speaking of our boy, Mike's 11th hatchday was on September 12. I measured him a week or so later, and discovered he's grown another inch SVL and VTL, making him 22" SVL and 52" STL. Happy birthday, brat!

I don't seeeee you

I've had this large crockery bowl down for 6 months or so, for the dogs when they come over. Mike discovered it one day, and now this is the only bowl from which he'll drink.

UPDATE October 23

As you can see, healing is progressing quite nicely. I stopped wearing any bandaging around the house, though I do wear one on the longest/deepest gouge when I wear shoes when I go out, as that helps protect the gouge from being gouged more by the shoe when I bend my foot.

HRCAS (His Royal, Cranky-Assed Self) taken a couple of hours ago, before he went around the house, climbing all over and behind things, toppling my box of to-be-recycled paper and plastic, and trying to force himself into the two rooms that I keep closed off to leezards. His face is starting to shed again, while his tail is still shedding from the last shed, and, yes, breeding season, while not as intense as last year, is still contributing to the wunderlust and crankiness.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ouch!!! Having a male green iguana makes me kindda nervous as you have illustrated. Mine hasn't gone through his first breeding season yet, but anytime now. This blog makes me think. It looks like I'm gonna have to stock up on first aid kid. Thanks for the info!

8:23 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Well, we should all have well stocked first aid kits all the time. And, females can (and do) bite, too. But males sure seem to have more reason to!

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aah, yes! Males of every species seems to be that way, don't they? LOL

4:59 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

Glad to see you're ok! Do iguanas give you signals that they're about to bite? Or is it always a complete surprise?

With our parrots, we know their body language so can pretty much avoid bites, but they can still surprise us occasionally. Hormones (parrot ones, though) are raging at our house also...poor guys.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Mary, like parrots, reptiles do signal, and the larger the reptile, the easier it is to see the signal, but sometimes ya just can't get out of the way fast enough. Whenever I am in close proximity (defined by the distance the animal in question can leap or otherwise extend itself [with snakes, it's about 2/3 their total body length]) to a cranky or untamed critter, I am fully aware that a bite may be in the offing.

When doing what I was doing with Mike that day, I at one point stopped doing the blocking with my hands, and did it with my feet, the thought being that if he does bite, I'd rather a foot be impaired for a while than one of my hands, especially since my right hand is already impaired, from my dear departed Wally's bite back in 1996 that severed one of the flexors in my index finger, and the unrelated musculoskeletal- & Bartonella-related functional impairments of my right middle, ring and pinky fingers. If I'd gone to the bedroom to get a pair of slippers, by the time I'd gotten back he'd have intentionally pooped where I didn't want him to poop, so I took a chance. Ah, well.

I have a few bird scars on my hands, scattered amongst the iguana bite and scratch scars. One is from our moluccan cockatoo's ripping off a silver bracelet, which gouged me nicely. He was ticked off at me because I'd been spending so much time away from home (meaning HE had to stay home, because The Mommey wasn't there to take him for walks, run errands, etc.). Where I'd been spending time was working on an oil spill bird recovery center, where I got gouged and pecked by a variety of wild sea birds who were unhappy to begin with, being oily and in forced proximity to humans; my sticking feeding tubes down their throats several times a day and restraining them while the vets and techs stuck needles in them didn't lighten their mood any...

Now that I reflect on it, I've been bitten more by my own very tame and highly socialized animals than I have by wild animals, likely a reflection of my not working with wild animals any more since I got too sick to do so. Just as we can learn to read our pets, they learn to read us, and reptiles are no different, especially lizards like iguanas.

Especially lizards like Mike. I just realized that he didn't come through the den where I am after I heard him get out of his second bath of the day (spoiled!), which can only mean he's snuck into my bedroom to slide under the bed. ::sigh::

5:02 PM  
Blogger Mary said...


Thank you so much for the detailed reply.

I just love hearing about Mike's antics. My own lizards are wild caught uros that prefer to not interact with humans, so it's fun to keep up with Mike, vicariously.

For whatever reason, he also often reminds me of my ornery severe macaw.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Knatolee said...

Ow, ow, owowowowowowowoow! When I first saw the pics, I thought it was another one of your "accident re-creation" days! Then I realized the bites were real. OW!!!

4:09 AM  

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