Friday, 31 July 2009

A poke in the eye with a blunt stick

I had heard that an old friend of ours was back at the Koala Hospital, so I decided to pay him a visit. It wasn't the best decision I could have made. Read on and you'll see why.

Granite Murray, the old friend in question, is a handsome male koala who spent some time at the hospital about 18 months ago. Back then, Murray was placed in a recovery yard that contained a tree as well as the usual gunyah. A major branch of the tree had been severed to prevent recovering koalas from escaping (or "self-releasing", as it is euphemistically called) to nearby trees (they are wiley critters that way). This left a rather broad stump that Murray used climb upon and majestically survey the hospital grounds. You can read more about his last visit in the post, Who's the real king of the jungle?!. He's one of those lovely, easygoing "boofy" male koalas we fondly call "dudes", for their Zen-like placidity.

Murray came back into the Hospital recently, looking a bit run-down and with his wet bottom flaring up again. I noticed he was awake and enjoying a leaf snack on his gunyah, so I ventured into his yard to take some happy snaps.

That was my first mistake.

Now, I do call myself the "koalawrangler", which is something of an ironic overstatement of the job (it's more dustpans-and-brooms than chairs-and-whips), so you can take my pretensions of photojournalism (and the derring-do and adventure that implies) with an equally large grain of salt. Photographing koalas is a mostly riskfree activity without much chance of injury.

So there I was chatting away to Murray, and clicking away while he chomped on his leaf and took very little notice of me at all. Peter and Judy were also nearby talking to me about Murray's well-known laidback demeanour.

Then, suddenly, something hard and sharp came out of nowhere and hit me in the eye! Oh, don't worry, the "attack" was in no way koala-related, although I did wonder if there was some truth in those rumours of drop bears that I remember someone's older brother scaring me with as a child. That and Henny Penny's lament: "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!".

What had happened was nothing more than a dead stick falling from tree. It happens all the time. But even a spindly eucalyptus branch in freefall can pick up some speed and pack a punch. I felt like I'd been kicked in the face. The point of the stick had ricocheted off my eyebrow, scraped my lid and then dug into the soft skin under my eye - all in a split second. When I put my hands to my face, they came away with blood on them.

Murray was still chomping away, oblivious of me and my injury. Peter and Judy, meanwhile, were much more reactive and quickly ushered me into the koala treatment room where Cheyne, the Hospital Supervisor, was in consultation most conveniently with our visiting vet. I had nothing to worry about - I was placed in the best of koala care!

Chris the vet flashed a torch in my eye to check for bits of bark while Cheyne set about cleaning the wounds with Betadine. It stung a bit and I wondered if it would help if I bit or scratched her since that would be more like what she was used to. I whimpered, "it hurts!", and she said I was being a big wuss. Maybe I should wee on the treatment table, I thought, that'll fix her. Then she offered to give me an ultrasound like she does the koalas. That shut me up. I was reminded of the expression about something being better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick, and now I'm fairly sure that's true!

Chris the vet also put a drop of dye in my eye to check for scratches but I got the all clear. Some of the staff in the day room were muttering, "how did she get a tick in her eye?", which just goes to show how information can get corrupted in about two minutes' flat.

To be on the safe side, I paid a visit to a friend of mine who's a GP. He cleaned up the wounds a bit more, snipped off some skin and patched me up with some steri strip. Oh, I look quite a sight! My modelling days (not) might just be over!

But I'm not the only one "in the wars", as my Nan would say. One of our new patients, Cherrygum John, self-released yesterday and in the process of his recapture, lost his eartag. When I came in this morning he was just finishing his nutritional supplement after getting tagged in the right ear. This messes with the system slightly - males are tagged on the left and females on the right (because women are always right). It's been suggested that John might have something of a gender identity crisis on his hands, but he didn't look too bothered about the ramifications of arbitrary human symbolic systems to me. He just wanted more formula.

In other news, I saw a koala cross the road in the very street I live in the other day. He (there was a tag in his left ear) was ambling across the street in that ungainly way koalas have when they're on the ground. I slowed the car and waited for him to cross. His bottom was clear but he looked like he had a bit of spinal curvature to me. He headed straight up a tree by the road, so I couldn't stop and ask how or who he was...

I knew he wasn't Bowden Sam, a koala named after yours truly when he was brought in from a street just near our house last Summer. Unfortunately, I'd learned from Amanda that Sam had been brought back in DOA recently :(

There's hope for our Granite Murray though. My advice to him, though, is don't look up - a stick might just hit you in the eye.

Here are more photos of lovely Granite Murray.