“I think he’s dead!” cried little Johnny as he pointed to the man in the rabbit costume sprawled on the kitchen floor.
“Get the gurney,” said the lead paramedic to his assistant after a quick evaluation of the unresponsive victim. “…and he needs oxygen right away.”
“He wasn’t a very good Easter Bunny anyway. He was making us do stupid tricks with…Oww Owwww!” cried little Johnny as his mother pulled him by the ear clear across the room.
“Why’d you do that for? That hurt!”
With sirens blaring, the ambulance raced to the hospital while the paramedics unzipped the rabbit costume and hooked the patient up to a monitor.
“Something’s not right here,” said the lead paramedic. “Switch out the monitor.”
“Monitor 2 is up,” said the assistant a moment later.
The lead paramedic glanced at his assistant. “It’s still not working. Get the defib ready.”
They arrived at the hospital and rolled the gurney in.
People in the waiting area and the staff behind the service desk looked on as the man in the rabbit costume was rushed through the doors and down the corridor. The paramedics cautioned people standing in their path. “Emergency! Coming through!” At once, people stood to the side and let them pass.
One little girl in the lobby looked on with an expression of concern. She glanced up at her mother as she noticed the large bunny feet sticking out and the set of rabbit ears.
The large man-rabbit disappeared through the set of double doors and into the operating room. As soon as they were inside, one of the doctors stepped up. “OK, let's get him on the table and see what's going on.”
The lead paramedic looked puzzled. “We have him hooked to the portable monitor. His heart seems to be beating, and he seems to be breathing, but according to these other readings, he should be dead. We’re getting no other vitals. We thought one of the monitors was malfunctioning, so we tried the spare and got the same results. This is the third monitor we’ve tried, but it isn't picking up much. They can’t all be malfunctioning.”
“He’s going into synaptic shock,” yelled one of the doctors.”
“This doesn’t look good,” said the other.
“This makes no sense, but there must be a way to stabilize him. Why is his pulse getting weaker?” asked the nurse.
“I think we’re going to lose him,” cried another nurse.
“C’mon people, let’s figure this out!” shouted the lead doctor.
The intense blurriness began to fade as Juan tried to focus his eyes and lift his groggy head. Within a few moments he was able to make out the two faces looking down at him. He didn't recognize either of them. He cleared his throat. “What happened?”
One of the nurses turned to the other. “He seems OK.”
“Good, here's his wife,” said the other nurse as Leigh came into the room. “We'll leave you alone now. The doctor will be here shortly.”
Leigh went to the side of the bed as the two nurses exited the room. “Ray called me and said you had a serious accident. What happened? How do you feel?”
“I feel fine. The last thing I remember is trying to get my keys out of the toaster. Suddenly, I got a wallop of a shock.”
Leigh looked at Juan. “So, you’re not dead or anything. You look ridiculous in that dumb costume, but otherwise you’re OK?”
“Yeah, I'm OK. I felt a little groggy before, but there's nothing wrong with me.”
Leigh rolled her eyes. “Great, Juan, I get a call telling me that you could be dead. I have to leave the wine tasting party, which was going so well. I was in the middle of my story about the time I picked up the wrong case of chardonnay. I rush down here like a lunatic to find that you're really all right? I mean, I'm glad you're OK, but the timing could not have been worse. It won't be our turn to host a party for another year.”
Just as Leigh finished her whining, there was a polite knock on the hospital room door. A man opened it slowly and poked his head in. “May I come in?”
Leigh turned around to look at the man. “Yeah, come in, doc.”
He stepped into the room, and one of the nurses that had been there earlier was also with him. “Hello, I'm Doctor Rashad, and this is Nurse Betty.” He turned to the nurse. “Will you take Mrs. Arias to the waiting room while I speak with Mr. Arias?”
“That's not necessary, doc. You don't have to be so concerned about privacy. After all, Leigh is my wife, and I’m sure my insurance card is valid. Leigh can stay.”
The doctor looked at Juan with a polite smile. “Mr. Arias, I really think it would be best to have your wife wait in the other room while we talk.”
Juan gulped. “The only reason to have a private conversation, is to tell me I’m going to die or have cancer or something.” “What's going on, doc? Why do you want her to leave? Is something wrong?”
Dr. Rashad smiled and then gave a polite little wave. “I just thought it might be best, but never mind. Your wife can stay if you'd like. I don't want this to be any more stressful than it already is. You’re both going to have to work through this together, anyway.”
Leigh's ears perked up. “Work through what? I feel fine. He’s the one that got electrocuted.”
“And I feel fine,” Juan added.
Dr. Rashad pulled up his stool and sat by the side of the bed where he could address both of them. “Mr. Arias, you’ve had an incredibly bizarre accident. I have never seen anything like it.”
Juan was anxious and wanted this polite man, whom he guessed was from India because of his accent and complexion, to get to the point. “That's just great, doc, but just tell me what's going on so I can get out of this stupid outfit and go home.” Juan sat up and started to unzip the costume.
Dr. Rashad, quickly but gently, stopped Juan's hand from undoing the zipper. “Please, Mr. Arias, you don’t want to do that.” He paused for a moment and then continued. “Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Let me explain. We removed the costume when you were admitted, but we had to put it back on.” The doctor searched for the right words.
“You see, Mr. Arias, not only were you electrocuted, which affected your body's neural pathways, but you also ingested an experimental substance. I think Mr. Cromwell referred to it as ‘a bonding agent,’ which has altered your body’s chemistry. I'm afraid the shock your body suffered, along with your ingestion of the bonding agent, has somehow produced a state of neural pathway displacement.”
Juan looked at Leigh, then back at Dr. Rashad. “What does all that mumbo jumbo mean, doc?”
“When you were admitted, we removed the rabbit suit in order to do some scans and monitor your vitals. Soon afterwards, your body went into synaptic shock. We ran several tests, but the results were always the same. If you are out of that rabbit outfit for more than a three-minute period, you will go into synaptic shock and die. It took us a while to figure it out, and, fortunately, we did manage to figure it out just in time. We thought we were going to lose you there for a while. The scans reveal the synaptic pathways in your body have somehow been turned off. The fabric pathways in your costume are functioning as neural transmission pathways. In other words, Mr. Arias, that rabbit costume is keeping you alive. Without it, your body cannot send the necessary signals throughout your body.”
Juan sneered. “Come on, Doc, you've got to be kidding me. I mean, that's good, and you kept a straight face as you told that story. It sounds like something on Star Trek. Did Ray put you up to this? What a sick sense of humor. That's the last time I let him talk me into one of his crazy favors.”
Dr. Rashad looked down for a moment, then at Leigh and back at Juan. “No, Mr. Arias, this is not a joke, and your brother-in-law did not put me up to this. I can assure you, what I am telling you is fact.” He paused for a moment and then continued. “You are fortunate in one respect.”
Juan forced a chuckle. “Has Dr Rashad turned into Pollyanna? There is nothing fortunate about this if what he is telling me is true.” “How am I fortunate?”
“My theory, Mr. Arias, is that when you ingested the chemical agent, which you thought was food coloring for your lemonade, it created a kind of alternate electrical pathway outside your body through the fabric in the costume. From my conversation with your brother-in-law, he explained that dermal regeneration utilizing one’s skin, or a piece of fabric is what the chemical is designed to do.”
Dr. Rashad turned to Nurse Betty. “Please bring me the game from the children's examining room.” The nurse quickly ran out.
“This is ridiculous, Doc,” said Leigh. “How could something like this really happen?” Just then, the nurse returned with what the doctor had requested.
Dr. Rashad held up the Operation board game to demonstrate his theory. “The game is relatively simple. It consists of a game board with a drawing of the patient lying on an operation table. There are little cavities where organs are located. For example, there is a little cavity for a funny bone, appendix, heart, et cetera. They are all located in their correct anatomical position. The object of the game is to remove one of the organs with a small pair of tweezers. If you are not careful, and the tweezers touch the sides of the cavity containing the organ, the red lightbulb located on the patient's nose, lights up and there is a loud buzzing sound. Besides scaring the player to death, it signifies that the organ was not removed successfully. The player who is able to remove the most organs without triggering the red nose buzzer is the winner.”
“OK, Mr. Arias, say this is you.” The doctor motioned at the game board. “Normally, your neuro-pathways conduct the electrical signals your body sends to communicate like this.” He demonstrated by inserting the game tweezers into the little organ cavity on the game board and let them touch the sides. The red nose lit up, and there was a loud buzzing sound. “See, his nose light up? The signals are normally sent without you having to be concerned about how they are being transmitted. It's a great game,” the doctor said in a bit of nostalgia. “Have you ever played it?” Then he looked at Leigh and held the game out. “Here, do you want to try it?” There was no response from Juan.
Leigh chewed her gum. “No thanks, Doc. I don't want to play your little game. You don't still play with it, do you?”
The doctor smiled. “No, Mrs. Arias. I used to play it all the time as a boy. I was really good at it. We use it here as an instructional aid when speaking to children about certain medical conditions. Occasionally, Dr. Peabody and I have a match or two. He is not happy with me because I keep winning.” The doctor caught himself from further rambling about his favorite childhood board game and turned back to Juan.
“When you were electrocuted, your body’s neuro-pathways were fried.” He removed the battery from the game board. Then he inserted the tweezers into the same small organ cavity. Nothing happened.
“You see, just like the electrical pathways are turned off in this game, so have your pathways been turned off. When I say that you were fortunate, what I mean is that you would have most certainly died from the shock, but since these new pathways were available through your costume, which resulted from your ingesting the bonding agent, your body was able to continue to function and we were able to revive you. However, if you take the costume off, your body has no way of sending the signals that keep your body functioning. You would die in approximately three minutes.”
Juan sank into the bed, in disbelief. “Maybe I’m still unconscious and this is a hallucination.” He let out a long sigh. “This is insane. It’s not possible.”
Leigh looked at Dr. Rashad, the official bearer of this bad news and said, “Great! Now, what are we supposed to do?”
The doctor did not answer. He spoke to them in a conciliatory tone. “I would not have thought this possible myself until today. Your condition is new to us, Mr. Arias. It's probably going to be a while before we know how to treat you. Until then, you're perfectly fine as long as you remain in the rabbit suit. If you have to remove it, you must put it back on within three minutes. That's the time limit your body can sustain you without its ability to transmit signals throughout your body. I am sorry. I wish I had better news.”
Juan repeated Leigh's question. “Doc, what am I supposed to do? This can't be happening to me.”
Dr. Rashad looked at Leigh, then back at Juan. “I realize this is a lot to take in right now. We will explore every possible avenue until we find a way to treat you. Right now, you really should get some rest, Mr. Arias. We'll run a few more tests, then you will be free to go home and resume your normal life.”
“Normal life?” Juan snapped. “Aren't you forgetting something, doc? I'm in a rabbit costume, for crying out loud! How am I supposed to resume a normal life? How will I bathe, or go to work? Holy cannoli!” Juan paused and looked at Leigh.
Leigh gave Juan a sarcastic glance. “Three minutes was more than enough time for you, hon, but you’re not coming near me dressed like a rabbit.”
The gravity of the situation hit Juan like a punch in the stomach. He cringed. “I cannot believe this is happening to me! What are the chances? Just what are the chances of something so weird happening to anybody on this planet? I’ve heard of people having all sorts of strange accidents, but this is ridiculous. Stuck in a rabbit costume? Give me a break!”
Juan was angry now, and he wanted to wake up from this nightmare. “Why me? I just don't get it. Why did I let myself get talked into dressing up like the Easter Bunny? What do rabbits have to do with Easter anyway? I don't think they're cute. Do you think they're cute, Leigh? I don't. They're fuzzy, so what? I just don't see what people get all happy about.” Juan, now on the verge of hysteria, continued his rant, “Oh, look how cute with their little nose. Oh, look how cute their little tails are. Oh, look how they hop and frolic in the woods. Overgrown rodents make me wanna vomit. This whole Easter thing makes me sick. Why do we celebrate Easter, anyway? What is the big deal? Jesus dies and comes back to life? Give me a break. You expect me to believe that, too? I must be an idiot. If there were a God, why would he let something like this happen to me? Is this how He gets his kicks?”
Dr. Rashad took Juan's hand. “Mr. Arias, please calm down.” He held it for a moment. At once, Juan seemed to calm down. In fact, he seemed to go from being hysterical to calm in no time. Maybe it was Dr. Rashad's good bedside manner. Juan was quiet but seemed far away as the doctor spoke to him, “You will just have to plan your activities around your three-minute time limit. Aside from this, there is no reason why you can't function as you did before, as a perfectly normal human being. You may have to make special arrangements at work regarding dress code and get used to short showers. I'm sure you and your wife will work this out.”
Leigh rolled her eyes again and looked up as she murmured, “Why me?”
Dr. Rashad continued, “As far as Easter is concerned, I have no idea what a rabbit has to do with it. I'm not even sure what Easter is supposed to be about, aside from selling lots of candy and merchandise, that is. I’m not Christian, and I don’t celebrate Easter, except for indulging in candy-coated almonds. I'm an atheist. You might say that science is my religion. Things like this are unfortunate accidents. There is no divine power playing a joke on you, Mr. Arias. Our lives are filled with random events. Sometimes strange things occur, but science can eventually figure things out. I have many friends who practice different religions, from Buddhists to Jews and everything in between. That is fine. People sometimes need to think there is something greater than them. It makes no sense, but if it makes people feel good, then that's fine. I prefer scientific fact, and I assure you there is a scientific solution to your problem. You just need to be patient and carry on with your life.”
As Dr. Rashad finished his little ramble about science and religion, he noticed that Juan looked as if he had an upset stomach. “Mr. Arias are you feeling sick? You don't look well all of a sudden.”
Before he replied, Juan closed his eyes for a moment. “No, just a bit dizzy.” Then he asked, “Doc, did you check my labs for Tularemia caused by the bacterium, Francisella tularensis?”
Dr. Rashad raised an eyebrow at the unexpected question. “Why, yes, Mr. Arias, I did! Do you have a medical background?”
“No,” Juan replied.
“Then how do you know about all that medical stuff?”