My family was vacationing in Estes Park, Colorado. It was summertime and it was beautiful up there. We stayed in a little hotel with a swimming pool and that’s where my youngest son learned to swim. His older brother taught him.
We drove up to the top of one of the mountains. I think the elevation was at least 8,500 feet. At the top was a restaurant and gift shop and most importantly, a bathroom. The restaurant was very crowded. It was the destination of all who traveled up the mountain. It was beautiful at the top. We looked down into the valley and there were caribou grazing on the grass at a much lower elevation. You really needed binoculars to see them. Up high on the mountain, above the tree line was the tundra. There was snow and mosses and other vegetation that was thousands of years old. The Rangers had asked that we not walk on the tundra because it was delicate and walking on it could destroy the vegetation.
We went to one of the State Parks in the town of Estes. There was a sign saying not to touch the chipmunks because they were carriers of the Bubonic Plague. We arrived and immediately set off for parts unknown. There was a Rangers station right at the front of the park. After just a few minutes, my son saw a chipmunk that came up really close to him. He bent down to pet the chipmunk and it bit him. We immediately went to the Rangers Station and told them that our youngest son had been bitten by a chipmunk. They said to get to the Emergency Room quickly and told us where it was.
Once at the Emergency Room, we told the Receptionist what had happened. We waited for the Doctor and when he came in, we told him what had happened. He informed us that the chipmunks had Bubonic Plague and that our son may have contracted it. He said we’d have to do some blood work to determine if he was infected. I don’t know how they could tell so quickly, but they did the blood work and then all we could do was wait.
It was the longest wait of our lives. The Doctor said it would be a couple of hours before we would know anything and he told us to go get a bite to eat or check out the sights some more but not to touch anymore chipmunks. This seemed rather weird but it beat just sitting in the waiting room, wondering if our son was going to die. It was awful. Here, in the early 1990’s, our son could die of something that wiped out a quarter of the population in Europe in the 15th century. We were all terrified.
We left, and went to a little restaurant to get something to eat. When we returned to Emergency, we had to wait a while, but when the results came in, the Doctor said our son was fine. He had been bitten by a chipmunk who didn’t have the plague. Our relief was palpable. It’s unbelievable the pressure you’re under when something like this happens. You can’t really process it. All you do is wait for the results and figure you’ll deal with whatever comes down the pipe. In our case we were very lucky. We could continue on our merry way. Some people aren’t so lucky. It’s amazing how much your life can change in an instant.