Felix with toy and shaved paw
I expected that I would have more time to post here when the semester ended. And I will. But life has taken me on a short (?) detour through Pain-in-the-ass Land. I hope you will bear with me while I try to navigate my way back to some semblance of normalcy.
Things have changed here and I'm not sure how we will find a new equilibrium. But I believe we will. I have to, so I can continue putting one foot in front of the other.
If Monday hadn't been so tragic, it would have made a good comedy plot line, complete with broken eye glasses, broken fingernail trying to fix glasses, broken door handle on route to vet, etc. Last week was all about studying for my last finals and paying my summer tuition bill. The weekend was all about taking those finals and preparing for an unavoidable whirlwind trip to NYC on Tuesday. And Monday was all about Felix.
When we moved into this house two years ago, we adopted Felix and his sister, Hatchi. They are cats. They came from the local shelter, which is always overworked and underfunded. When we brought them home, they were so tiny. Too small to be on their own, really, but the shelter was happy to transfer their care to us and we were happy to bring them home. They were sick when we got them. But we nursed them to health and they became full members of our little family. Over the weekend, I realized that Felix had shrunk.
I made a Monday morning vet appointment. Even though Felix was behaving normally, I knew that a weight loss that significant was not good news. The vet confirmed Felix had lost 2.5 pounds, which was a quarter of his previous weight. Then the vet discovered that Felix's gums were yellow. She suspected liver failure and did not offer an even remotely positive prognosis. I spent several hours begging the universe for a different answer and when I returned to get Felix later the universe threw me a bone.
The blood tests were not consistent with liver failure. But they did show that something was destroying Felix's red blood cells. The vet explained that a normal kitty hematocrit was 30%. If it dropped to 18%, it was generally accepted that an immediate blood transfusion was in order. Felix's level was 10%.
The vet had called several counties looking for a donor. Ultimately, the one confirmed donor was right here in our own town. We went straight from our vet to the emergency vet clinic. Felix was tested again. He had dropped to 9% and the vet was honest that this was a really dire situation and that there was a pretty good chance Felix would not be able to bounce back.
We left Felix in the care of the wonderful folks at the emergency clinic. I can't even begin to describe how conflicted I was about leaving town the next morning, even though it was only one night. But, I can wait by the cell phone just as easily as by the house phone and I had an obligation to make the trip, so off I went at 6:30am.
I got the call with results from the first transfusion while I was still on the bus. It was not great news. He was back up to 10%, but it wasn't enough. The vets had drawn more blood than they had used, so they gave Felix a second transfusion without charging me- a real blessing considering the enormous bill I was facing. And we waited some more. We got updates every twelve hours. At first, there was not much to report. And then, miraculously, the number started to climb. When I left NYC, he was up to 18%.
I arrived home very late Wednesday night. I walked in the door and the phone rang. It was the clinic. Felix's latest results showed he'd slipped to 14.5%. They wanted to start him on another medicine, but they didn't have any. Would I go to the 24-hour pharmacy and pick it up? Of course. I turned around and went back out the door. I started making my way across town and the phone rang. Never mind; there had been a miscommunication with the pharmacy tech. The meds wouldn't be available until morning.
And so the rest of the week went by- his number climbing, then dropping, then climbing. Yesterday, he had been holding steady long enough to come home. He is not out of the woods. As of yesterday, his hematocrit had not climbed into the "safe" range. He is on three meds that suppress his immune system because the theory is that this is some sort of auto-immune problem. At this point, we realize that anything could happen. But we are so relieved to have our little buddy home.
I understand that not everyone would be willing to decimate their already tenuous budget they way I have just done in order to save a cat. But I adopted him and take my obligation to care for him seriously. He is a member of our family and while I worry about paying the bills, I have no regrets about spreading myself thin in order to try to save another living creature, and especially one who has so thoroughly enriched my life. There will be no summer camp, no vacation, no frills. But in the grand scheme of things, that's really okay. If we can stay afloat, it's all golden.
I think my changed circumstances will shift the focus of my blogging a little bit, at least until I am back on an even keel. The garden just became a huge priority. We will have to expand it significantly and try to pull as much of our food as possible out of it for the summer and fall. I will almost certainly chronicle that process here. We have already significantly reduced our meat consumption due to the cost of sustainably and ethically produced meat. But I will have to reevaluate that portion of our food budget again and reduce it even further. Brown rice has already become a big part of our diet; but I expect it will become even more important for a while. The list of necessary adjustments goes on.
Our food journey just took on far more urgency. Thankfully, my lighter summer academic load will allow me more time and energy to address these challenges. I hope you will stick around and continue to offer your suggestions. I may not always explicitly say so, but I consider each comment and find each one meaningful. And I thank you for taking the time to offer them.