I spent a long day at the vet office today. It’s a specialty hospital, meaning the regular cases don’t normally go there, only the stuff that everyday vets can’t treat. Icey’s condition – aplastic anemia – certainly qualifies.
I didn’t have a good feeling going in. Icey felt feverish and she was lethargic. In the carrier she was hiding, when normally she would be wanting to see out. Maybe that’s why, despite repeating “1:30” to myself all morning as a reminder of the appointment time, I ended up thinking at the last minute that the appointment was for 2. I ended up getting there at 1:45 – not really late, huh?
But I waited a long time. And waited some more, my dread building. I knew the test results were going to suck. When I brought her home on Monday, her PCV (packed cell volume) was 25% (normal is at least 35%) and had been stable overnight. I thought to myself, as long as it was over 20%, things would be okay. Deep down, I didn’t think it would be.
A woman came in, holding her limp Shih-Tzu. Screaming that it was an emergency. They rushed the dog to the back. The woman was in hysterics, sobbing, stomping her feet, begging her son over the phone not to tell her husband. She’d left the dog outside in the sun in the 100+ degree heat for almost an hour, and it had heatstroke. I was still waiting to see the doctor, over an hour past the original appointment time.
They walked out a yellow lab, his front legs shaved where they had had IVs and blood drawn, his side shaved where there was a wound. What a similarity there was to Cuervo, when he was sick and got attacked by a deer. The vet spoke with the dog’s owner in a hushed voice in the corner of the room. The woman quietly cried. My head pounded. Someone was calling my name, once, twice. Finally I heard. It was the doctor.
She took Icey back to draw blood. I waited again. I was getting good at this, the waiting. The sick, sour feeling in my stomach almost felt normal. I didn’t think it would take this long for a simple blood draw. Managed to play a game on my phone. Did a couple of laps around the room. Developed supernatural hearing skills to listen for steps coming down the hall. The doctor was quiet, but I heard her before she opened the door. “I can’t get any blood out of your cat,” she told me. Icey was fighting them at every turn, biting and scratching. Totally uncharacteristic of her. She was running a fever. The best thing to do would be to put her in a tank with gas for sedation. While they were at it, they could do the bone marrow aspiration we thought about doing over the weekend and get an IV catheter ready in case she needed another blood transfusion. Transfusion number three. I agreed. Left her there.
The call came when I was playing Guitar Hero with my daughter. Two different doctors tried six times to get bone marrow. She had no marrow to get. Her body had attacked it all, killed it all. Her PCV was down to 14%. Her chance of survival, even with several weeks of very aggressive treatment, is under 15%. The vet was very sorry.
They’re doing one last transfusion so Icey will feel better for a little while, and I’ll bring her home tomorrow. When she starts to feel bad again, it will be time to end her suffering.
The worst part is that I feel like I could have avoided all this if I had done more research about pet vaccination. Why didn’t I, after my dog died? The study is right there. Why do we only do one round of shots for our kids, but we vaccinate pets yearly? Studies have shown that pet vaccinations last for years. I thought that Icey just had a little granuloma from her Rabies vaccination, but that was the herald of something horrible for her and for my family. Not to mention the cost – well over $3000 so far (and over $5000 for Cuervo’s treatment).
Fighting the system in place that declares yearly vaccinations to be right and necessary is David vs. Goliath. So I’ll just comfort my kids and my other kitty and when Icey is gone, miss that funny cat who would always try to clean up messes and who would jump on the bed every night with a happy chirp.