It being a bright, glorious day, in contrast to the snow and then rain we had yesterday, Demetrios and I decided to get out into it and enjoy. So we took a drive into the country, and we ended up at Chris’ house.
Chris is a fellow wildlife rehabilitator, and a co-founder of ARK, the Area Rehabbers Klub. As I haven’t been able to do any rehabbing for a couple of seasons now, it had been a long time since we had seen her. So we sat around her kitchen table and shared memories of times good and bad.
Mostly about the time, five or six years ago, she lost her right eye. She was tired that evening, and had neglected to put on her goggles before attempting to transport a Great Blue Heron to the vet. While she was carrying the bird, one arm around its body, the other hand controlling its head, her knee buckled and she fell. The Great Blue, executing its classic, instinctual defense, jabbed her in the eye with its huge beak.
Chris lives far out in the country, so as soon as this happened, she came to live with us for a while, so we could get her to and from her many doctor appointments. I remember the other rehabbers descended upon both her house and mine, and took every wild animal away, distributing them among themselves. They told me, “You’re rehabbing Chris now.”
At first the doctors thought they could save Chris’ eye, providing massive infection didn’t set in. Massive infection did set in, though; after all, the Great Blue Heron had been eating raw, dead fish just before it gouged her eye.
Today we remembered some of our visits to the ophthalmologist. “Like the time he gave me that shot right in the eyeball!” Chris said.
“And you told him, when he had drawn the needle out, ‘You are very lucky not to be singing soprano right now!’”
"And he said he hadn’t wanted to tell me, but he pretty much knew the anesthetic he had given me wasn’t going to work, on account of the infection.”
“And then he said, ‘So the only thing to do is to get the second shot over as quickly as possible!’ And we thought he was joking, but he wasn’t.”
“And I had been bragging on us,” said Chris, "telling the doctor how we were used to gruesome things and could pick maggots out of an animal’s wound without flinching and all that –”
“—which wasn’t even true, in my case! You are the Maggot Queen…”
“…so then because of that he asked you to help him with the second shot…”
“…and I had to hold your eyelid wide open while he put that needle straight into your eyeball!”
Then we remembered a follow-up visit, a month after her eye had been removed, when a nurse asked Chris, “Has anything happened?” and I thought that was such a stupid question. Lots of things happen to everybody in a month! So I told the nurse, “She’s frightened several more children…!”
Chris was laughing so hard she couldn’t even eat. “And then they told me my new eye should be ready by about October 29th, and you asked them couldn’t they at least wait until after Halloween!”
“And that poor nurse was so scandalized.”
“Yeah, she didn’t know our sense of humor was warped. She asked me, ‘Is that a friend of yours?’ And you remember that marble you bought me, painted like an eyeball?”
“You used to pull it out of your jeans pocket and freak people out.”
“I still have it. But it gets better; you wanna know what happened at the pharmacy the other day?" (By now we were laughing so much it was hard even to talk.) "I was in there with Colleen looking at heating pads for ARK, and well, my eye got too dry and the glass eye fell out! You should’ve seen it, that thing rolling down an aisle, and me crawling around after it, and Colleen hiding her face…she who does taxidermy, all grossed out over my eye!”
It was actually a terrible, terrible time, when Chris lost her eye (and with it, her job), but the good grace and humor with which she bore it, and still bears it, is an inspiration.
Lord, have mercy!
It is the largest North American heron, with a head-to-tail length of 91–137 cm (36-54 in), a wingspan of 180 cm (71 in), and a weight of 2.2–3.6 kg (4.8-8 lbs).
Photo and description from Wikipedia.
Friday, January 18, 2008