DEATH BY RABIES
GIAN CARLO’S STORY
Gian Carlo “Poypoy” Tomen was a precocious kid with a cherubic face. He was a young boy in a hurry. He was in a hurry to grow up, to learn and to do things by himself. At age 4, he would volunteer to wash the dishes, scrub the toilet bowl and wipe the table after dinner. He also learned to bathe and groom himself, trim his nails and prepare his favorite juice drink without adult supervision.
A few months after his fifth birthday, Poypoy would repeatedly ask when he would turn six. That was after he got scratched at the back of his left shoulder by a neighbor's cocker spaniel. sometime in October 2008. The cream-colored, long-eared dog had just given birth and Poy, who had always been wary of dogs, was amply warned to stay away from her. Somehow, Poypoy earned the ire of the dog as he was playing in the garden with the child of the dog's owner. The attack left three long scratches on Poypoy's back - scratches that appeared nasty at first but with the first aid treatment applied by the dog's owner who was an emergency room nurse, these appeared harmless. In a few days, the wounds healed completely and all that was left of these were white marks where the skin had broken.
The child, who was doomed from this day on, did not show symptoms of any illness after the attack. Except for poor appetite and bouts with coughs and colds (which the whole family contracted with the onset of the cold season), everything appeared to be normal until that fateful day in December 21, 2008 when, after a shopping trip, the child began complaining of severe itch at the back of his shoulders. The itching intensified throughout the night and persisted the next day despite anti-allergy drugs administered to him. His condition deteriorated continuously, stomach aching and vomiting intermittently towards the afternoon. He was rushed to a hospital where he stayed awake the whole night, restless and seemingly afraid of an invisible being that he kept staring at despite two doses of diphenhydramine administered through IV drip. "I see a black mumo (ghost)", he told his mom, "But it moves away when you are near me."
Poypoy endured several needle pricks in different areas of his arms as blood was drawn out for various laboratory tests. His blood sugar level was shooting up and his blood pressure was fluctuating. The following morning, his IV drip was removed as the needle was bent out of shape because of constant motion. Mid-day of December 23, 2008, after planting a kiss on his mom's cheek, Poypoy turned violent before he began to drool. His pediatrician recommended his transfer to San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.
Aboard the ambulance, as his body was wracked by waves of convulsions, Poypoy kept speaking to his parents and the people who accompanied him, answering their questions clearly. "Thank you, my friends!" he said loudly when asked how he was doing.
Nobody knew the end was very near for the little boy who began reciting lines from his favorite cartoon show while waiting for the doctors to attend to him. His pupils had dilated and his gaze was fixed. "Teenage mutant ninja turtles...My melody," he uttered weakly with a smile on his lips. Less than an hour after admission at San Lazaro Hospital's isolation room, paralysis set in and Poypoy breathed his last as the priest began performing the sacrament of extreme unction.
Christmas was a day away and people everywhere were busy preparing a feast for family and friends. In that cold and dreary blue-colored isolation room at San Lazaro Hospital, Poypoy succumbed to rabies at the age of five years and seven months. He never got his wish to celebrate his 6th birthday. Instead, he was granted his wish to be an angel.
Imagine your own child, or the child of a friend or a loved one experiencing a horrible death by rabies. Imagine him/her writhing and screaming in pain – pupils dilated, body convoluted, mouth dry but unable to drink. Imagine him/her turning ferocious, behaving like a mad dog, foam-like saliva dripping, head bathed in sweat while the rest of the body is cold and clammy. Imagine his/her blood vessels surfacing in the last hours of struggle, almost to the point of bursting out of extreme stress. As these things happen, you are expected to leave the child alone in an isolation room to protect yourself. Rabies is a highly infectious disease and precautions are necessary to avoid infecting others.
Imagine yourselves standing helplessly as all of these things happen right before your eyes…
After Poypoy's death, his family discovered a few things that would have mattered in their son's lonely battle - first, the cocker spaniel had her last vaccination three years ago; second, the dog escaped but only after biting her owner while she was being tied to a leash; third, any wound caused by a canine attack has to be washed thoroughly before being administered antiseptic; and fourth, the smallest wound or break on the skin (be it a bite or a scratch or a lick on an open wound) caused by a canine attack merits serious and immediate professional attention, especially if the attacking animal escapes, dies or exhibits a change in behavior. These discoveries came too late for Poypoy's family. Fortunately, people can learn from their experience.
Poypoy was just one of the thousands who died of rabies last year. An estimated 55,000 patients die of rabies worldwide each year. The World Health Organization says that 31,000 of these come from Asia and the rest from Africa. Dog rabies is responsible for more than 14 million courses of post-exposure treatment to prevent the onset of the disease.
This website is dedicated to rabies fatalities (human and animal) who endured excruciating pain and died horrible deaths because of a deadly, yet oft misunderstood infectious disease. It is likewise dedicated to their families, friends and pet owners who have yet to fully understand how something that is easily preventable can kill their loved ones mercilessly.
This is a venue for everyone who cares to get involved in the fight to eradicate rabies – to exchange insights; to share views, news and updates; to learn from and contribute resources to. This is about people coming together to help make the world a better and safer place to live in, one that is free from rabies disease.