Adorámus te. Glorificámus te. Grátias ágimus tibi propter magnam glóriamtuam. Dómine Deus, Rex cæléstis, Deus Pater omnípotens. Dómine Fili unigénite, Jesu Christe.
All around Gabrielle, little feet banged the pews in boredom. She wondered why the priest here in Texas wanted to say Easter Mass using words nobody could understand. Father John at Saint Cecilia’s was boring. This one was even worse.
Why did Mom make her sit there and listen to crying babies? It wasn’t just her own brother, Patrick. In the pew behind her, a little girl in a red dress was wet-faced with tears. Wiggling in her Dad’s arms with her legs flapping, saying No, No, No, she was crying so hard that her face was almost as red as her dress. Her two brothers in their Easter best little blue jackets and ties looked at each other and mimed her sucked-in lips to say they didn’t know why.
The benches on the pews were too big for her little legs. She couldn’t lean back, and it made her back hurt. She tried hiding from the noise under Mom’s nursing blanket, but her mother took it away and told her to sit up.
All around her, adults played Facebook or Candy Crush. Dad let her take her tablet to church. Mom said no. She was a big girl who was about to have her first communion and should be reverent. Gabrielle knew the real reason Mom was mad was that they had to move to Fort Hood when the Army sent Daddy to Afghanistan. Her Mom hated Texas. Gabrielle hated Texas too. She hated the dull, flat land, the food, and the chigger bites. Most of all, she hated the way everyone at school teased her by only talking Spanish around her.
“I want to get some water,” she finally whispered and slid out of the pew.
“Hurry,” her mother replied.
She walked around the old building, glad to be out of the chapel. Anything was better than being in there. As she looked around the Parish hall, she saw the angel hiding in the shadows on the floor. It was small and cute, like a little brown kitten with fuzzy wings that had silver snow on it. Gabrielle loved kittens and puppies. When she knelt next to it, the angel sat on her finger. She stroked it, amazed at how soft it was, knowing it had to be her guardian angel watching over her.
Suddenly, the door slammed open, and the bright lights turned on. She felt a stabbing pain in her finger. Then her angel flew away. Two boys came in, bouncing a ball. “You chased my guardian angel away,” she angrily said.
“I didn’t see any angel,” said one, dribbling the ball on the floor.
“It was here,” Gabrielle said.
“Sure, it was,” said the second, stealing the ball from the first and then bouncing it off the wall by Gabrielle’s head. “Along with Jesus, Joseph, and Mary.”
She got up and walked away, knowing when it was to leave. “You’re mean,” she said over her shoulder, wiping the blood on her finger on the wall as she walked out.
Noreen, her mother handed her Patrick. “Now I have to go.”
Gabrielle sat quietly. Mother yelled at her when she stopped to pet kitties or puppies, so she didn’t tell her Mom about the angel or how her finger hurt. Her mother was mad about everything, and she didn't want to be punished.
Patrick started fussing again. Gabrielle tried giving him a bottle, but he pushed it away, so she pulled out the tube of Nuby All Natural Teething Gel. She generously slathered it on her finger and rubbed it on his bleeding gums. It was such a relief that Gabrielle gave him more.
The teething gel soothed Patrick. He soaked it up greedily. What Patrick and Gabrielle didn’t know was that it wasn’t only teething gel that she was rubbing in. It was the bat saliva too.
In time, Patrick’s symptoms became visible. Noreen knew he had developed a fever and a cough, but Patrick couldn’t tell her of the agony he felt. She didn’t worry about it. Children came down sick all the time. Patrick cried, but that wasn’t surprising. She checked his diaper, but it would be dry. She offered him a bottle, but just the sight of it drove his throat into a thousand tortures.
What Noreen couldn’t understand was why he cried so when she tried to feed him. She couldn’t understand that just the sight of a bottle or her breast brought unimaginable suffering. Light and noise exploded inside his head. Even a breath of air across his face tormented him.
Soon she started coughing too, then became nauseated and vomited. Noreen had also been in tremendous pain. It began in her shoulder and spread to her hand. She ignored the pain as she cared for Patrick as she ignored the twisted nightmares that merged with her hallucinations.
When Patrick had a seizure and lost consciousness, it was Gabrielle who called 9-1-1. Noreen cursed and tried to chase away the paramedics in fear. She was a failure as a wife and a mother, and the paramedics were Child Protective Services workers in disguise. CPS falsified records and lied so they could take children away. When Gabrielle screamed “No, Mommy, No,” the paramedics called the police.
Within minutes, two of Killian’s finest arrived. They tried to talk her into opening the door, but she refused to open it. They kicked the door in, not knowing what to expect. The officers were horrified by what they saw. The house reeked of vomit and filth. Noreen looked frail, and her skin sagged. The officers told her to sit on the couch, but she pounced on them like a wild animal, scratching and sinking her teeth into both of them. They defended themselves with their batons and cuffed her. She called the officers every curse word in the English language as she rocked back and forth, unable to stay still.
When the officers examined her, they noticed the horribly infected sores on her left arm. Meth Mites. Both thought Noreen had tried to gouge out insects under her skin because she was a hallucinating methamphetamine addict.
The officers half dragged, half carried Noreen out. Despite being cuffed, she thrashed violently with insane fury. In the back of the car, she continued the battle, kicking and bashing head against the partition.
Patrick drifted in and out of consciousness as the ambulance took him to Darnall Army Community Hospital. Frothy spit flowed from his lips, and he struggled to draw breath. The constant barrage of lights and sounds became one with his feverish nightmares.
The police tried to question Noreen, but what few answers she gave didn’t make any sense. All they got were tears and slurred words they couldn’t understand. Her left arm twitched noticeably, and she shuddered in pain when one officer shined a flashlight on her.
They took Noreen to the emergency room of AdventHealth Central Texas hospital. After getting a warrant, a nurse drew two tubes of blood to identify what drugs she was on. Noreen bellowed like a tortured animal, writhing and frantic to escape.
Within hours, the drug test results came back. All were negative. Everyone was shocked.
Noreen knew the soldiers would crucify her at dawn. They had already scourged and whipped her. Despite her suffering, she rallied all her strength. She spat and snapped at them when they approached. With her last breath, she would fight for her children.
The viruses attacked the nerves near their point of entry. They burrowed inside and held the nerves as slaves, forcing them to reproduce more rabies virus cells until they would explode and die. The rabies cells had only one goal, to force nerve cells in their host body to make more rabies cells. In doing so, they marched at perhaps three millimeters an hour along the path that led to the most nerve cells, towards the brain.
Patrick was stricken first. In his tiny body, the infection didn’t have far to travel. The bat saliva entered Noreen’s cracked, sore nipples when she fed Patrick on Easter Sunday. She had no idea that as she nursed Patrick to give him life, he gave death to her. Although infected first, Gabrielle felt the effects least. The virus had furthest to travel.
Around Midnight, the police took her from the emergency foster home to Darnall Army Community Hospital. From there, she and Patrick flew to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. Strapped into the stretcher, Gabrielle was terrified. The air ambulance flight was sheer Hell for Patrick. Every jolt of the helicopter sent spasms through his spine, and the roar of the engine pummeled his brain. He was tied down with an oxygen mask on his face, unable to move or be comforted or even cry, just suffer. Mercifully his mind finally could take no more, and he lapsed into a coma. Noreen was sedated and taken to Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.
The doctors in both hospitals puzzled over the symptoms and between them ran tests for everything from Rocky Mountain spotted fever to syphilis. All were negative.
As Patrick faded, the doctors could do nothing but wait for his last heartbeat. While he was still warm, a technician in a biosafety suit peeled back his skull to remove his brain. They gave Patrick the same test they would have given a century ago to the head from a mad dog, but it gave results in minutes. The CDC’s tests would later identify that his rabies came from a bat, but it took them two days to give their answer.
Noreen walked by her neighborhood pet store. It had been closed down. All the cages and fish tanks were empty, and the doors were chained. A man standing outside said “I’m sorry. They came last night, shut it down and took everything away.”
Then she was in a church book and supply store. It too was going out of business. They had some beautiful crucifixes at half off. Her left arm became huge as she was turning into Hellboy. Her pants had been trampled into shreds. The crotch was already gone. “I can’t walk around like this.”
“What can we do about it,” the nun who ran the store asked. “This is just a book store.”
“Do you have lab coats,” she asked?
“Yes,” the Sister said and helped her put one on.
Noreen wasn’t dreaming, yet wasn’t awake. The remains of her brain could no longer distinguish between the two. The pain in her arm mixed with the nurses changing her into a hospital gown and her body telling her that it had begun the process of shutting down. Soon, she joined Patrick.
Three months into his deployment, Sergeant Ryan Murphy was recalled from leading his fireteam at a forward base in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. As the chopper flew him back to Bagram Airfield, he wondered what he had done wrong, but he couldn’t think of anything. He had been hoping to earn a promotion to Staff Sergeant.
Upon landing, they told him to report directly to his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Baldwin.
He stood at attention, but the colonel said “At ease, Murphy. Sit down.” Murphy saw pity in the old man’s eyes. “Son, I got no way of doing this but to lay it on you. Your son died of rabies two days ago. You’re booked on the next flight out of here.”
He sat in shock. “How could that happen? How could that happen at Fort Hood, Texas?” As a soldier, he knew his death was possible, but he left his family safely behind in the middle of America.
Colonel Baldwin shrugged. “I have no idea.”
It took him a moment to absorb it. “My wife and daughter?”
The colonel sighed. “Your wife is infected. I don’t know about your daughter.”
Ryan felt completely helpless. He had left his family to protect them, but now he was halfway around the world and was powerless. Rabies was a death sentence.
The flight took a day and a half. Ryan was in a complete daze of shock and sleep deprivation. He tried to call the hospitals from Bagram Airfield, but couldn’t get an answer. When he called from Qatar, he was told that his wife was dead.
When he reached Houston, he went directly to the hospital. “I want to see my daughter,” he told the doctor. “Can I speak with her?”
“I will take you there,” the doctor said. “She is in an isolation unit.”
“She’s going to make it, though. You’re going to save her.”
“Sergeant Murphy, in the history of medicine there are six documented human survivors of rabies. We are doing everything we can to make her the seventh. She is being very aggressively treated with human rabies immune globulin along strategic points of her nervous system and also with two forms of rabies vaccine. I wish I could promise that we can save her, but I am not going to make a promise I’m not sure I can keep.”
“I want to see her.”
They changed Ryan into a head to toe level three biosafety suit. When they took him in, Gabrielle was so tiny she was lost amid all the machines and tubes she was connected to.
“She is in a coma.”
“A coma?” Ryan winced. “I can’t let her go like this. I need to tell her I love her. You have to bring her out of it.”
“Soldier, we put your daughter in an artificial coma to help her body fight the war against rabies. The medicine we gave her made her fever spike. Keeping her in a coma allows us to treat that fever more efficiently, but she’s completely out of it. When I asked her about any animals she might have been exposed to, all she talked about was a fuzzy Easter angel.”
Written by DrBobSmith