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Bird Watching Stories
(Go Back to Wild Bird Page Contents)
»  Aransas in the Fog:
Whooping Cranes
» No Barbeque this Summer 
» Just How Does a Bird Eat Bees?  
» My Birdwatching Adventures in Costa Rica
 » Just Another Golden Eagle  
 » Four Birds in One Tree: 
A Few Days of Birdwatching in England
» Four Calling Birds??? 
» A Very Unique Cardinal 
» Narcissism or Territorial
Defense: Macho Cardinal
» The Last Companion Carolina Paroquet 
» The Ever-Popular Chickadee  
» Convergent Evolution: Meadowlark and Longclaw 
» Barrel Cactus Confrontation 
» Galahs Playing Around and Around and Around ...  
» Who Made Up This Stuff?
Bird Call Mnemonics
» Mesmerizing a Goldfinch 
» The Best Mimic?  
» Prairie Chickens and Woodcocks:
Missouri Ornithology
» Mob Mentality: Who is Really in Control of the Skies?
» The Owl Who Sat Down Beside Me 
» Meeting Hot Shot: The Toddler Peregrine Falcon  
» Seeing 'Sea Parrots'
in Alaska
» A Rare and Unusual Bird 
Meeting Roger Tory Peterson
» Raven Showoffs 
» Reddish Egrets a nd Canopy Feeding 
 »  Robins and Worms 
Hear, See, Smell, or Feel?
» Hospital Hallucinations 
» What Are You Doing Here? Scissortail Flycatcher 
» Wild Bird "Attacks": Just Misunderstandings? 
» Drunken Waxwings and an Unusual Hummingbird Feeder
 » Acorn Woodpecker Defending its Stash
» Why Woodpeckers Don't Get Headaches: Built in Shock Absorber 

by Sally Blanchard

   In the fall of 2008 I went to Sarasota, Florida to give a program for the Florida West Coast Avian Society, which has a rescue facility. Three days before I left, I was stung by a bee on middle toe on my right foot. I thought "no big deal" since I had no immediate problem with the sting. I didn't feel that great the next day and the day after I flew to Florida and I felt OK. I was tired the night before the conference but I figured it was most likely the fact that I had traveled for a whole day before. I barely woke up on Saturday, the day the conference started and felt incredibly tired and like I was coming down with a bad flu. When I tried to give my program, I couldn't remember anything I was trying to say. People who didn't know me probably thought I was drunk. I had never fallen asleep during my own program before but I could barely stay awake. I had so much trouble giving my program and then I rudely fell asleep during the other speaker's program. 
   At one point, I went in search of a coke machine in hopes that the caffeine would wake me up. I got lost and wandered around for some time before I found my way back to the conference. As the day progressed, I felt a lot worse. There was a dinner and entertainment that evening but I passed out in someone's hotel room for the evening. Awhile before the evening's event was over Lynda, one of the hosts came in to see if I wanted anything to eat. Evidently I looked up to the side of where she was standing and said, "Oh, that's a really big bear and I think he's been swimming."  
   From the time I was quite young, I became aware of the fact that high temperatures and post-surgical drugs usually gave me hallucinations and I usually remember them. After I ate a little bit of food, we went back to Karen's house where I was staying during the trip. Karen had given up her bedroom with a large very comfortable bed for me. I was really out of it and I was ready for bed when she knocked on the door and came in to get something. It was at that point that I noticed that just about my whole right leg was swollen, bright red and hot to the touch. I said, "Look at my leg." I was oblivious to the idea that I might be really sick but she could see that I had a big problem.

    To this day, I am very grateful that she had forgotten something and came into the room. The other speaker, Robin, was also staying at Karen's house so she called her in to look at my leg. Robin knew then what was actually wrong with me. Within a few minutes, Lynda and her husband Herb swept me up and I was on my way to the emergency room. Evidently I had a 104 degree temperature and I was put in a private room in the hospital. I guess I said a few more weird things to Lynda while I was waiting in the emergency room. It turned out that I had a MRSA cellulitis infection and was very sick. I was immediately put on heavy-duty IV antibiotics and pain killers. I was later told that if I hadn't come in that night, I could have lost my toe, or part of my foot/leg and if I had developed sepsis, I could have died. Luckily, most of the time I was barely aware of what was happening.  
    I was really out of it and I only remember a few things from the next few days. Probably on Sunday, I looked out the window and saw a row of trees with dozens (maybe hundreds) of black vultures in them. I actually chalked this up to a hallucination. Nevertheless, I became somewhat paranoid about their presence ... drugs can also cause paranoia. It just seemed that it would be a hospital related hallucination? The day before the conference, there had been a lot on the news about a hurricane that might come up the west coast of Florida or travel into the gulf of Mexico. Probably on Monday, I noticed a torrential downpour on the window of my room. I became terrified that the hurricane was there and that the hospital would have to be evacuated and evidently I babbled on about the vultures getting me.. I guess a nurse heard my panicked jabber and came into the room. Evidently, I asked her where they would take me where I would be out of the hurricane and where the vultures wouldn't get me. I must have puzzled her with my intense fear of the hurricane until she checked the window and told me, "Honey, they're just washing the windows." 
    I had been in the hospital for a couple of days before I realized that my vulture hallucinations were actually real ... there were actually dozens and dozens of them in the trees not too far from my window. As my sanity returned, I knew that they weren't there waiting for me to die and the big bear I had seen at the hotel never did show up at the hospital.
    I spent several extra days in Sarasota because the doctors didn't want me to fly. One day Karen took me to Myakka State Park so I could do some bird watching from her car. I had to keep my leg us so we arranged a bucket with a pillow on it. I loved this park and took a lot of photographs. When I got home I painted one of the scenes ... it was something I could do with my leg up. It was the first painting I had done in many, many years.. 

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