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Pandemic Lessons from a Cat Bite

Pandemic Lessons from a Cat Bite

My cat bit me last Saturday evening, and I’m using that event to explore parallels with the dangers – and resourcing – around the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Danger – Naïve – Resourcing

I happened to be on a Zoom call with several friends when my cat, sitting on my lap, bit my arm enough to puncture the skin and cause a bleed.  I’ve lived with cats for decades, knew to wash and bandage the wound, but had no idea dangerous a bite from a cat can be to a human.

A friend on the call did know. She knew a lot. She had been bitten by a cat two weeks ago and suffered terribly from infections and side effects of the medications.

She instructed me clearly and carefully what to do. I googled “cat bite” and learned a whole lot more from very reputable medical institutions about the potential danger. 90% of cats carry bacteria in their mouths dangerous to human beings; 75% of all cat bites (punctures) can insert that bacteria deeply below the skin; 50% of cat bites become infected; 1/3 of people infected require hospitalization; infection from cat bites can be fatal. That put the fear of God into me. Some of the instructions on how to disinfect a cat bite were contradictory, but I did it all. 

I think there’s a parallel with how naïve I was, even as a long-time cat owner, how naïve many of us were as human beings, when the news began to filter into our awareness about the impending dangers and deaths from the coronavirus. It took some time for the dramatic warnings from epidemiologists to pierce through our resistance and denial.

Resources of Health Care

I called my health care provider system early the next morning. To my surprise, 7:30am on a Sunday morning, medical staff were immediately available and responsive.  Which of course is what we need throughout the world during a global pandemic. Part of the larger questions about inequities in health care, here at home, all over the world.

Be Prepared

I grew up with the Cub Scout motto, “Be prepared.” (My mom was a Cub Scout den mother.) So I did have soap and Epsom salts and anti-biotic cream and band-aids at home late on a Saturday night. Even more relevant was that I’m doing all that I can these days to stay healthy and maintain a strong immune system. I had a better than average chance of not being infected.

We can bemoan the lack of preparation for the mutation of a virus like the novel coronavirus, even though scientists had been warning us of that inevitability for years. We know that hospitals and clinics have been mobilizing as fast as they can to meet the crisis now.  People are now sewing their own masks by the thousands, etc.

Part of preparing for any disaster, small like a cat bite or vast like a pandemic, is preparing ourselves to be resilient. The resilience mindset. To know that “bad things happen to good people” and strengthen our capacities for resilience before disaster strikes. [See Linda’s article: The Resilience Mindset: Transforming Any Adversity into Learning and Growth.]

Synchronicities and Blessings from the Universe

What are the odds of my being on a Zoom call with a friend who knew all about cat bites at the very moment my cat bit me?  What are the odds, even longer, that my cat had been receiving a daily anti-bacterial mouthwash for many months to deal with her own dental issues. When I told the doctor about the mouthwash, he said, “Oh, that could be helpful!” Less bacteria in my cat’s mouth, less risk of infection for me.  But that was not planned or even imagined way back when.

Carl Jung said, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”  Looking for the unexplainable coincidences of circumstances can support our resilience, even in a time of pandemic like COVID-19. 

My friend Terri is a successful executive coach; her beloved husband of 38 years was diagnosed with bone cancer just weeks before the shutdowns mandated in response to the coronavirus. Yes, sheltering in place made the necessary doctor’s appointments and tests more challenging, but Terri was required to work from home with a husband she wanted to spend as much time with as possible. We find the silver linings in the dark storms whenever we have the presence of mind to see them.

The practice here is using anything that happens in our own daily lives to open our mind’s view to what is happening right now in the larger world. To be grateful for the bad things that don’t happen – a week out I have no symptoms of infection and the prescription the doctor called into the pharmacy has not had to be used. To honor the sorrow and suffering that continues around the world because the coronavirus has not yet peaked. 

In every possible way, from every possible danger, may you stay healthy, stay well.

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