Published DateBy Tom Eastman
EATON — An elderly and spirited 82-year-old female resident had an unusual and unpleasant Valentine's night when she was attacked by a rabid raccoon on the porch of her Eaton home the night of Feb. 14.
“I was putting the dog out at about 9 o'clock, but she didn't want to go, so I was pulling her. No sooner did I step out with my right foot on the porch, when I saw we were nose-to-nose with a raccoon! The raccoon came up and out of the blue grabbed my right ankle and sank in his teeth with a vengeance,” said Barbara Brackett in an interview with The Conway Daily Sun.
The retired nurse said the raccoon had a half dozen porcupine quills on either side of its face, a half an inch long each.
“I fell down, and tried to get hold of a broom,” said Brackett. “I started pummeling its stomach but nothing happened. I thought he would have bitten me and turned and run — wrong! It hung on a good three or four minutes.”
In addition to biting her ankle, the small dog-sized raccoon scratched her wrist with his claws.
“I was half in and half out of the door,” she said. “I was yelling for help, but it was a lesson in futility because nobody was around!”
Brackett says she finally got loose of the raccoon, who ran off the porch. She leaned into her the doorway of her A-framed house, slammed the door, and headed to the kitchen to wash off the blood.
“I figured it was rabid,” said the 26-year Eaton resident, who built her home with her late husband in 1973. “I took one look at my leg and knew that I wasn't going to be driving myself to the emergency room. So I called my Lifeline, and she said she would notify the paramedics. We're between Eaton and Freedom, so it's always a question of which will come. I think they both came along with the [Carroll County] Sheriff's Department,” said the Eaton grandmother.
Freedom police chief Josh Shackford said his department was not present at the incident, but said that Carroll County Sheriff's Department's Sgt. Timothy Thompson responded and shot the raccoon twice.
“The sheriff's department responded, not us,” said Shackford March 4. “The next day, Fish and Game picked it up to be tested at the state lab.”
Thompson said he shot the animal on the porch.
“The raccoon was on her deck. I shot it twice, and it was turned over to Fish and Game who turned it over to the state, which did the testing. I believe the results did come back as positive,” said Thompson March 6. “When I showed up, [Mrs. Brackett] was being treated by an EMS. She had gone through a lot — I mean, who expects to walk out of their door with a dog and get attacked? It was like something that the movies are made of.”
Ossipee Ambulance took Brackett to North Conway's Memorial Hospital the night of the attack. Surgeon Dr. Stuart W. Battle was called in. He cleaned the wound, which went down to Brackett's muscles, she said.
Brackett was given the standard rabies shot treatment, and kept overnight. “They used to give you shots in your abdomen, which was very painful, but not any more. Now they give you shots in your shoulder,” she said.
She was released Saturday, Feb. 16, but had to return to the hospital for the four additional shots.
At first she was given treatment at home for cleansing her wounds by the Visiting Nurses, but being a retired nurse, she figured she could cleanse her wounds herself.
“It was a mess,” she said, “but I told myself that I know a thing or two about medicine, I can do this myself. I clean it twice a day. It's pretty disgusting,” she said.
She stopped by the offices of The Sun to tell her story after completing her fifth and final shot at Memorial March 1.
After news of her attack got around the Hatch Pond neighborhood, she says she got word that her neighbor also had seen possibly the same raccoon earlier in the day on Feb. 14.
“She said it came to her generator,” said Brackett. “She opened her door and it came at her. She grabbed a shovel and shooed it away. Did she call me [to let me know what had happened]? No — but she should have!”
She said Dr. Battle told her her wound will heal better without plastic surgery.
“I told him at my age, I need plastic surgery for my face, not my ankle!” she laughed.
Asked if she had any advice for other rural residents, Brackett said she is at a loss.
“Quite honestly,” she aid, “you have to be aware. But other than that, I'm not sure if a stun gun, or pepper spray, would have helped.”
Rabies in NH
Chris Adamski, RN, MSN, bureau chief for infectious disease control for the N.H. Division of Public Health Services in Concord, said standard protocol was followed in the Brackett case.
“In general, when animals act aggressively, or when animals are seen in broad daylight that are normally nocturnal, there should be a level of concern,” said Adamski March 5.
Fish and Game, local law enforcement, health care officials and the bureau work in conjunction, she said.
She said according to the N.H. Division of Public Health Services Public Health Laboratories, there were 28 confirmed cases of rabies in the state in 2012, up from 25 in 2011.
Of those, four cases were in Carroll County.
They included an incident in December, when a female Public Service of New Hampshire employee near Leavitt's Bakery in Conway was attacked while attempting to do a meter reading at mid day.
Police located that animal in a tree and shot it.
In August, a rabid raccoon was confirmed in Ossipee. Also that month, local law enforcement reported that a gray fox in Freedom had to be shot and killed by police after it had attacked people walking their dog and later attacked the police.
On July 30, a rabid fox was discovered at Nordic Village in Bartlett where it tried to attack a pony. It represented the first positive case of fox rabies in Carroll County that year and in at least the prior four years, according to Division of Public Health Services statistics.