- Shayla Racquel is a 31-year old writer, director, and creative based in Washington, DC.
- On January 7 around 6 p.m., Racquel was attacked by a dog in her apartment building and her arm began bleeding profusely.
- Although paramedics quickly responded to her 911 call, they struggled to find an ER that could admit her as all nearby hospitals were filled with COVID-19 patients.
- She ended up not leaving the hospital until almost 8 hours later, and now has to see a hand specialist for repairs.
- “Think about emergency victims who aren’t suffering from COVID-19 but … can’t receive access to the emergency care they need. Please start thinking of others,” she pleads of those not taking the pandemic seriously.
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Last week I was severely mauled by a dog. I have deep and long puncture wounds, a crushing injury, muscle injury, and my arm has to be repaired by a hand specialist. I want to talk about what it’s like to sustain a major trauma injury in the midst of COVID-19.
On January 7 around 6 p.m., I walked out of my apartment into the indoor hallway, heading to get Amazon boxes out of my car in the parking garage. On the opposite end of the hall, a man was standing with his two big dogs without a leash. I barely noticed.
As I walked, I heard one of the dogs barking and charging at me. I’m not afraid of big dogs â€” my family has two â€” so thinking nothing of it, I just backed up against the wall thinking it was OK. The owner was also running towards me with his other dog in tow.
The dog jumped up on me and scratched up my legs, which I’m used to because of my family’s dogs, so when the owner grabbed him to pull him away I thought I was safe to leave. Instead, the dog bit down on my forearm and I started screaming. He started tearing into my arm.
The owner couldn’t get him to stop biting me.
The owner began to punch the dog over and over. This made the dog bite down harder. I kept screaming and eventually I just pulled as hard as I could and ran into my apartment.
I dropped my phone in the altercation so the owner (while still struggling to handle two dogs) dropped my phone in front of my apartment door and yelled, “Call the police!”
I called 911. I told them what happened and that blood was gushing through my sweatshirt. I told them that I have sickle cell disease, which is another reason it was so hard to get the blood to stop. They told me to wrap the arm in towels and put as much pressure on it as possible. I was screaming because the blood was seeping through the towels.
It took the police and paramedics less than 10 minutes to get to me, which felt like a lifetime.
I couldn’t look at the wounds. The paramedics tightly bandaged and applied pressure on my arm and said, “We need to get you to a hospital,” and asked which hospital I preferred.
I told them George Washington Hospital, and they said “We can’t take you into that area of DC right now and you don’t want to go into DC right now.” The police officer, the paramedics, and I just looked at each other and said…right. Absolutely not.
They started researching for nearby hospitals…every single one of them was on code red.
I was bleeding profusely, and there wasn’t a place for me to go because all the ERs were filled with COVID patients.
Finally they just decided to take me to a nearby community hospital. I got there and although ambulances take you straight in, I was standing in the nurse’s area waiting until someone saw I could barely stand and put me in a wheelchair. I had to wait, and wait, and wait. I was hysterical, in excruciating pain, and all I could do was sit and wait.
Finally someone took my vitals â€” my blood pressure was in the stroke zone. They wanted to admit me, but there were no beds. I sat and I waited. Everyone tried to laugh and crack jokes with me which helped ease things a bit, but still I was scared out of my mind.
I was completely alone. They wouldn’t let my boyfriend, Yavniel, come back with me because of COVID restrictions. I went on FaceTime with my mum and Dad all the way in South Carolina, and started trying to text friends just so I wouldn’t feel so alone.
Finally, someone came back and said, “We have a room, they just cleaned it for you.” It was almost 10 p.m. at this point. I’d gone almost four hours with no pain meds.
I got to my room, and learned that one of the paramedics made a mistake and said the bite was dime size (I think he only saw one of the puncture wounds because of my towel). Because of this, the nurse told me, “We’re going to dress you up better and get you some ibuprofen and be on your way.”
Knowing my own body and pain tolerance, I advocated for myself.
I said “Ma’am, I have sickle cell disease. For that I take oxycodone. This pain is ten times worse.” The nurse nodded and exited.
She came back to open up my bandages and dress my wounds and was shocked when she saw how bad the damage really was.
“Change of plans. We’re going to start you on percocet, anxiety medicine to calm you, we gotta get X-rays, stitches, and you need vaccinations.”
At this point, I began crying again, overwhelmed and with my mum on FaceTime trying to talk me through the pain.
It turned out the bite was so severe it damaged my muscles. I had to get stitches, and I now have to see a hand specialist for repairs.
I didn’t leave the hospital until around 1:30 a.m. that night. Everything happened so slowly because the hospitals were so overwhelmed. The responding police officer took a police report, and told the man to just quarantine his dog for 10 days. Animal control was never called.
I was so blessed and am so thankful to the paramedics and hospital staff who helped me. But to others I want to say, as you continue in your lives during the pandemic, think about emergency victims who aren’t suffering from COVID-19 but due to the influx of patients, can’t receive access to the emergency care they need.
Please be empathetic. Please start thinking of others. Please take care of yourselves and wear a mask.
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