I love Autumn. It’s my favorite season of the year, and October is right in the middle of it. Granted, here in California we really have to look closely to see any signs of leaves turning, cooler weather, grayer skies, or any kind of precipitation. We just have to deal with it and enjoy pictures and videos from the east. This year, however, I am experiencing autumn differently. My right hand is in a splint.
The reason for this began on a warm day in August. It was a Friday about 8:30 in the morning. We had contracted a man to come and clean our windows and carpets, an annual and sometimes bi-annual task. Nothing unusual, almost routine. Ahead of time we clear the spaces around the windows for easy access, and clear the carpets of furniture, tables, chairs, etc, to make the steam cleaning easy. The key word here is “easy.” Routine. But this year there was a slight wrinkle in our routine. Unforeseen and life-changing.
We have two cats, a male named Rusty and a female named Riley. They are normally docile and flexible to some extent, but Riley can get cranky at times, like when her front claws need to be trimmed. She can get upset during the brief process and has to be held tightly by the scruff with the paw to be trimmed accessible. This is the normal extent of her crankiness. In the past few years, when the cleaning is to be done, both cats are put in the bathroom with their toys, food, water, and litterbox. When the cleaning is finished and things are starting to get dry enough, the cats are let out and everyone is happy again. But this day was different.
The bathroom was prepared for the cats. The only other task was to insert the cats themselves into the upstairs bathroom. Rusty is always curious so, seeing him downstairs, I took a package of cat treats and shook some out on the carpet. He came right over and started munching, so I picked him up and took him upstairs to the bathroom, opened the door, set him inside, closed the door and left to find Riley. Back downstairs I found the treats, shook the package to get her attention, and shook some out on the carpet. Nothing. No sign of Riley so I started looking around and under things and finally found her behind the couch. I’ve done this before, just move the couch out from the wall and the cat comes out. Easy. But instead, she bolted out in a flash and ran upstairs. All of the doors are closed. She is cornered, so I gently pick her up and walk over to the bathroom, and, as I release my hold slightly to insert her, she gains her footing by scraping her claws into my skin and takes off. I am now bleeding in various places on my hands and arms.
I’m now realizing that this is not going to be so easy. Downstairs I again start looking around and under things. It’s now after nine o’clock and I’m getting a tad frustrated. Finally I find her behind the fridge. Extraction is not going to be easy. So I shake the (seemingly giant) fridge from side to side. Nothing. I push and pull it back and forth. Nothing. So my only option is to do this more strenuously, and in the process, the water line behind the fridge breaks. Water is spraying at an alarming rate. The cat is out but I have bigger problems. By the time I get the water turned off the floor is covered with water. I find towels, dishrags, anything that will absorb water.
So then back to the cat. She is not downstairs. I find her upstairs in the utility room behind the washer and dryer. Same problem as with fridge, but stronger water line and machines not so heavy. The cleaning man comes in and closes the door. Being helpful, he shakes, and I grab the cat who, also being upset, rakes me with her claws while biting my right hand. I toss and she jumps to the counter where the cleaning man tosses me a small carpet so I can wrap her and put her into the bathroom. It’s now 9:30. The whole process took an hour. The two incidents with Riley took about 4 or 5 seconds each. I am now bleeding from both hands, but mostly from my right hand. Aftermath:
Later that day I go to my GP doctor and get a tetanus shot and antibiotics. See him again on Sunday and right hands is swollen and looks bad. He sends me to an infection specialist who after seeing me twice, sends me to a surgeon, who takes one look at my hand and says: “Surgery. Tomorrow.” That was September 2. I have been in therapy ever since, trying to get control of my right hand so I can play piano again. I have basically been “shut down” as far as the piano is concerned. The take-a-way:
Get a dog. Cat viruses are the worst. Never corner an animal. Wear gloves when near anything with claws. Hindsight is invaluable after the fact. And, remember that your life can change in an instant. Be prepared!