Metro-East Living

Local husband and wife both had to be treated for rabies within a year of each other

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Wayne and Melissa Winkeler, of Fairview Heights, have developed a Halloween tradition that they hope they can discontinue next year.

For the second time in October, one of the couple was bitten by a bat and required treatment to prevent rabies. Now both have undergone the ordeal.

“We’re the only married couple I know of to share extreme bat problems,” said Melissa, 56, activities coordinator for the Southwestern Illinois College Programs and Services for Older People in Belleville.

She said that when they got married three years ago they vowed to have a lot of adventures together but they never thought it would be so extreme.

Things started going off kilter in October of 2016 when the couple was visiting family in Eureka, Missouri. At a barn where they had all the family events, Melissa was racing upstairs in her flip-flops to see the little children. She saw what she thought was a stuffed toy on the steps. But when she neared it, it suddenly flew up and fluttered around her. She swatted at it and it flew away. Somewhere in their exchange, it bit the top of her bare foot.

“I had never had anything like that happen before,” she said. “It seemed harmless. It was barely a pinprick.”

But Wayne, 63, a retired nurse thought they better call about it and they were told to go to a hospital to have it looked at. So they went to the Memorial Hospital in Shiloh where Melissa was given treatment because the animal couldn’t be located so rabies was a real, though rare, possibility.

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Treatment turned out to be a series of 15 shots, given one after the other in a circle around the bitten area on top of her foot. Melissa said the top of the foot is a painful area to get even one shot in but she bore up.

“At one point they offered to leave for a while to give me a break between shots,” she said. “‘No, I’ll run,’ I said. You better keep going.”

Five days later she needed another shot. Then five days later still another. Then one more shot and she was done. She said the shots make you feel pretty lousy, sort of like the flu.

By then, she was scheduled to escort a group of 100 senior citizens to Myrtle Beach, Florida, which turned out well.

“It was a wonderful group of seniors and they kept me laughing with a lot of bat scarves, bat snack cakes and bat ears,” she said.

This year, about a month ago, it was Wayne’s turn at bat, so to speak. The couple was taking their twin daughters for their 11th birthday celebration to Fright Fest at Six Flags St. Louis in Eureka, Missouri. They were staying at a campground in their recreational vehicle. Wayne reached under the vehicle for something and a bat flew out and bit him on his bare arm as it flew past. What are the odds?

They knew what to do and where to go. Back in Shiloh at Memorial, Wayne took his shots in the arm. Melissa said he also suffers from Parkinson’s disease which made the shots a little more difficult for him.

They can only hope for a better holiday season, although Melissa’s history may make that doubtful. She is the only person I know who has knocked herself out with a frozen turkey. That involved a fall while flinging the turkey into the air and resulted in a concussion.

With Turkey Day approaching, the couple might want to be on the lookout not only for bats, but also for marauding birds, dead or alive.

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