A night at Camp Beebe and more ringtails afoot

The recyclable Zio Patch attaches to your chest as shown in this illustration and records the heart's activity to try to sleuth out any strange rhythms that might cause problems.  You push the button if you feel anything unusual. BY DENNIS FORNEY
July 27, 2012

Talk about a place that never sleeps. I spent the night last Thursday and the better part of Friday on the main campus of Beebe Medical Center. After a brief blackout session at the end of an evening of eating crabs and drinking beer with friends in Rehoboth, I decided I better let the medical community give me a once-over. But first the background.

It's a freaky feeling - Felliniesque - to be one moment sitting up in your chair and the next moment coming to on the floor of a screened porch with several concerned faces staring down at you calling your name. But it was comforting too to see the familiar face of Rehoboth Police Officer Victor Letonoff joining the party as well as a team of Sussex County's first-class paramedics.
They went about their business in a professional and friendly manner, checking out all my vital signs, declaring I was still among the living, placing me in the care of Molly, who raised her hand to say she was pregnant and sober, and heading back out into the night like a band of Lone Rangers - Hi Ho Silver - to await their next call. God bless the men and women of our emergency infrastructure.

When I went down, my friend Ashley pounced on me like a cat on a mouse and started pumping my chest to the beat of “Boom, boom, boom - and another one bites the dust.”

“That's the way I was taught,” she said later, all of us happy to be able to laugh. The subsequent tests showed no heart attack, but I'm not sure Ashley's chest dancing didn't get my heart rhythm where it needed to be. Ringo sang it best: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

I told the paramedics I may have had too much to drink on that 95-degree day. But looking back, one vodka tonic and three beers over four and half hours doesn't seem like too much. Maybe not enough - water?

A couple days later, when I finally decided to give the pros a chance and quit my internet diagnosing, I dove into the nighttime scene at Beebe. The culture there - from emergency room to the fifth floor - is, just like the paramedics, friendly, attentive and professional. I also noticed that the staff is a lot younger than it was 30 years ago when they birthed my daughters.

After a whole battery of stress tests, EKGs, echocardiograms and blood tests turned up nothing, the medical crew glued a heart monitor to my chest. Not much bigger than a large Band-Aid. This high-tech Zio Patch device is recording my heart's activity.  If I feel anything suspicious, I push a button on the monitor and write a couple notes about the episode. After 14 days I send the monitor off to a diagnostic center in Lincolnshire, Ill., and the doctors take a look to determine whether some weird rhythm situation caused the blackout.

I'm starting to wonder if it was too much Old Bay. This whole life thing gets complicated at times.

More ringtail sightings

Ringtails, cat-like, fox-like relatives of raccoons with long and distinctive striped tails, traditionally live in the southwestern part of the country. But, as noted in this column last week, one or more of the creatures seem to have made their way to the east coast.

Richard Martin, who lives on Lewes Beach, wrote: “Approximately two weeks ago, I had just gotten out of bed at approximately 4:30 in the morning. I looked out of my bedroom window to see if deer were eating my recently transplanted shrubs. I was pleased to not see deer, however, in the low light of just-breaking dawn, I saw this small animal, and I thought perhaps a small cat, baby raccoon, or an immature fox. When this animal saw me, it was very quick to run away. It ran under some of the construction equipment that was parked in the roadway next to the house (the equipment being used for the renovation of Bay Avenue.) The animal was too fast for a raccoon or cat, and much too small for a fox. I told my wife about it then forgot about it until I saw your article, I now believe it was a ringtail. Thanks for the article.” Martin went on to say: “I keep water available for numerous animals during these dry spells; I believe that's where it was heading for."

Joe Gottchall rides his bicycle to work every day, from Rehoboth Beach to Savannah Road in Lewes. Much of his 6:30 to 7 a.m. morning ride is on the Junction and Breakwater Trail. “That's my commute,” said Gottchall. “Me and the squirrels.” Gottchall said he saw a strange creature recently that looked like a small gray fox. “But it was more like a raccoon, but didn't run like a raccoon.” Gottchall said he saw the animal cross the trail just west of the Holland Glade trestle bridge. “I've seen plenty of raccoons along the trail, but this wasn't a raccoon. But it definitely had the striped tail. So maybe it was a ringtail.”

Finally, Tony DiIenna, who has a place in Rehoboth Beach Yacht and Country Club, had a similar experience. “It was 8:30 last Friday night right near the intersection of Blackpool Road and Cambridge Way,” said DiIenna. “At first I thought it was a hurt animal. But the way it loped, it was more like a fox than it was a raccoon. Kind of like between the two. But I had it in the headlights, and it just stood in the middle of Blackpool Road like it owned the place. I got to within five or seven feet of it. It was very unusual. The face. I never saw anything like it. And it had the same exact ears as a hyena or a jackal. I think it must have been a ringtail.”

What can I say? In these parts we've seen bobcats, cougars, coyotes, sand hill cranes, green parrots and other unusual birds and animals.

Now it looks like we can add ringtails to the list.

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