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A day in the life of a patient suffering from Rabies

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I am passing through the most painful phase of my life. I cannot see my sister’s sufferings. She has rabies. Last month, she was bitten by a dog. As the bad luck would have been, the dog turned out to be infected with the rabies virus. My entire family is trying to cope with this sudden turn of events. My sister is suffering from the symptoms of rabies.

I am not sure whether she realizes what is happening with her because she has lost the ability to think rationally due to this disease. But, for us, it has become the worst experience of our life. Here is how our days have been since my sister was bitten by the dog.

Waking up in the morning

Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the central nervous system.  The symptoms of rabies started becoming evident a day or two after the dog bite. She feels very weak and seems to be in a lot of discomfort. Sometimes, she complains of severe headache and also gets fever. However, she cannot express her symptoms properly due to the confused state of mind.

She doesn’t sleep well and spends the days and nights being restless and agitated. So, even we have to stay awake so that someone is monitoring her all the time. This has affected our routine as even we have lost the track of days and nights!

Starting the day

When the dog had bitten my sister, we immediately rushed her to the hospital. We were aware that a bite of a rabid dog could transmit the infection to the bitten person. However, she soon started developing the signs and sympthoms of rabies like insomnia, severe anxiety, paralysis, confusion, and hallucinations. Our day begins with facing her suffering from these symptoms and seeing her being agitated. It has become very difficult for us to manage her symptoms.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

My sister has developed an excessive salivation and a difficulty swallowing. She refuses to drink water due to hydrophobic. She refuses to eat anything. We try to feed her; but, it’s almost impossible for us to get near her due to her restless and near-violent behavior.

We have taken help from a nurse who stays with us and takes care of her dietary needs. Most often she has to be administered IV fluids as she cannot swallow anything. On a few occasions, there was a sudden drop in her blood pressure and blood sugar levels due to the reduced intake of food.

Going to work and taking medications

We had to inform my sister’s employer about her condition. We had no other option but to put in the papers for resignation on her behalf. Given her condition, there is absolutely no possibility of her working in the office. The doctor has already confided in us that the survival rate of the rabies patients is almost negligible. The all we can do is try to ease her last days of life.

Unfortunately, there's no effective treatment for the rabies infection. The doctor had given her a fast-acting shot of the rabies immune globulin to prevent the virus from infecting her soon after she was bitten. However, we are not sure how effective this vaccine will be at controlling the symptoms and whether she will ever be able to recover from rabies.

Prevention of complications

The first thing we did when we came to know my sister had been bitten by a rabid dog was to clean the part with lots of water. We just let the water run over the part for a few minutes. I remember reading somewhere that doing so can help to wash away the saliva, which contains the rabies virus.The doctor told us this prompt act from our side might have limited the spread of the virus through her body and would help her to recover.

What are the daily limitations and what are the fears?

No fear can be greater than the fear of losing your dear ones. It is very disturbing for us to see my sister suffering from the symptoms of rabies like fever, unbearable headaches, hydrophobia, and vomiting. We find ourselves helpless when we see her anxious, agitated, and confused.

She also gets hallucinations and screams with some unknown fear, which disturbs us a lot. Sometimes, we are not able to control her behaviors, and actions. There is also the fear of any family member getting bitten by her in which case he or she might develop the same infection. 

How does the future look like?

We are not able to cope with the difficult times my sister has to face due to the symptoms of rabies. It breaks my heart to see her lying immobile as this infection has affected her nervous system also. The only ray of hope we have is we took immediate action and cleaned the bitten area properly after the incident. However, we cannot ignore the fact that a very small percentage of patients have survived from the rabies infection.

What are the risk factors?

We are currently at a high risk of developing rabies due to having a patient infected with it staying with us. However, we are taking care to avoid being too close to her. We have also taken prophylactic shots of rabies. Luckily, the dog had bitten my sister on her leg. If it had bitten her on the head or neck, the symptoms would have been worse. The doctor told me that the rabies viruses can travel to the brain quickly if the bite is near these regions. 

The causes and evolution of Rabies

The first symptoms of rabies that my sister developed were similar to the flu. She complained of weakness, discomfort, fever, and headache. However, within 2 to 10 days, the symptoms became worse. She started developing the signs of cerebral dysfunction like anxiety, confusion, and agitation. The doctor has told us that if the disease progresses, she may experience an uncontrollable abnormal behavior with delirium, and severe insomnia.

What are the psychological effects when you have Rabies?

I don’t know what my sister feels. She doesn’t even realize what is happening with her. She seems to be living in a different world. She doesn’t show her love and affection to me anymore. She doesn’t talk to me the way she used to. I miss my sister. Will I ever get back my loving, caring sister? 

Topics: Rabies

Dr. Jyothi Shenoy

Written by Dr. Jyothi Shenoy

Dr. Jyothi Shenoy is a doctor having a clinical experience of more than 15 years. She has an expertise in treating acute and chronic diseases like obesity, IBS, asthma, arthritis, Autism, ADHD, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, allergies, cancer, infections, and skin diseases. She believes in treating the patients in a holistic manner. She aims at educating the patients about the illness and providing tips related to their lifestyle and diet to ensure a long-term relief from the disease and preventing its recurrence.