The Time I Fainted In A Rat Room

May 20, 2015

Yup, you read that title correctly. After reading the title, you may have pictured me passed out in a locked room with rats running all over the place. I think if there was actually a room with rats on the loose, I wouldn't even step into it. Just to clarify, yes, the room was full of rats, but they were in cages. Nonetheless, it was still a rat room.

This summer, I'm volunteering as a research assistant/helper/you name it in a lab at my school. I have to go through many training sessions and rat handling training is one of them. The day of training arrived and I was emailed to meet in a room outside the vivarium (the room where they keep the live animals). When the time came, I went to the specified floor in the building but the room was no where to be found.

The floor I needed to get to is half the size compared to the ones below it so you can only access it through specified stairwells. I ran across the building many times but I still couldn't find the room. Eventually I asked someone and they told me it was in one of the "no-numbered" doors which is why I missed it. I found the room but it was locked with an access pass. I knocked multiple times and to my disappointment, no one answered. I then ran all the way back down the building to find my lab coordinator whose office is located on the opposite side of the building. Luckily, she came with me upstairs and helped me gain access.

Once inside, I was so ashamed that I was almost half an hour late but the lab technician was very kind about it. I put on the lab coat and mask she provided. At this point, I'm still huffing and puffing from running around but I was late so I put the mask on anyways and went to another room with the other students to start training. The rats were squeaking all around me and the lab technician took some rats out to explain things to me. Let me tell you, that mask was the hardest thing to breathe through. It wasn't the paper, rectangular-shaped masks but the type that are a thicker, cup-like shaped. I was already breathing heavily and my lungs weren't getting the oxygen demand I needed since that mask barely let air in.

After about 20-30 minutes into training, I started noticing myself feeling weaker but I pushed it to the back of my mind. Then moments later, my vision became extremely blurred and I could feel my legs about to collapse. I blinked several times to try to see if I could reduce the blurriness. Right when I was thinking of asking the lab tech to rest, the next memory I remember having was that I was lying on the floor. My head was hurting and someone was trying to wake me up. It felt like I skipped a whole time period; I have no recollection of ever falling or being unconscious, even if it was for a few seconds.

The floor was extremely dirty because that was where all the rat droppings and urine fall. The lab tech took me out and gave me a cold, water-soaked paper towel to help ease the pain because there was no ice. I hit my right temple and honestly, the pain wasn't that bad. It got worse once I went home because the throbbing sensation began. It wasn't too serious in my opinion so I refused medical treatment. I also didn't realize how hard I hit my shoulder until the next day when the bruising started showing.

I was embarrassed and shameful just because I felt like I took up training time for others by coming in late and on top of that, I fainted. I felt like a hassle, or as I would say it in Cantonese, 麻煩 ("ma faan"). I'm not a person who likes a lot of attention. It's the first time I fainted and hopefully it's also my last.

I insisted on continuing training because the next available sessions were weeks from then and I needed it done as soon as possible. I felt better after some rest and water and it was off to more rat handling. It was fun though- I learned how to hold the rats, how to handle them, how to restrain, and how to inject. After training though, I still had to file an accident report which I thought was a bit unnecessary but it was protocol. After my "wonderful" day, I ate more food, hydrated myself and I was off to the bus stop to head home.


  1. Well, I don't think it's that embarrassing. 1, you were in a new setting and 2. you did push yourself a bit too hard. Sometimes you cant ignore those kinds of feelings. Those are warning signs. At least you were able to get back into training and are able to handle the rats now. What is your uni major btw?

    1. Yea, I definitely could have prevented it if I wasn't so persistent on continuing the training. It was my first time experiencing something like this so I didn't think the symptoms would end up like that. I'm doing a double major in human biology and psychology!