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WARNING: THERE ARE GRAPHIC PHOTOS OF BOBETTE'S SURGERY IN PART TWO OF THIS POST. WHILE THEY ARE NOT CLOSE UP OR VERY GORY, PLEASE VIEW WITH DISCRETION.
THIS IS PART ONE SO YOU'RE SAFE.
It's rather ironic that there's so much going on in my life to write about, yet I don't have time to write any of it down. Meanwhile the days slip by and the details become a bit fuzzy around the edges.
Last week marked the first time I'd ever witnessed anything more than a spay surgery. It was time for Bobette to have surgery to (hopefully) correct her luxated patella. The poor girl couldn't walk without limping. Her kneecap was so far out of place it was a wonder she could run or jump at all. She mostly used her other legs for jumping and if she got really inspired to go after a toy, her back end would slip out from under her when she ran. Clearly, she needed help, but there was no guarantee she would ever walk normally again. Getting a kneecap back in place is one thing, but to get it to STAY in place is another.
There was much to do to prep for Bobette's life after surgery. Dr. Mixon, her Vet, wanted her to have cage rest for three weeks, so I got out my biggest dog crate and set it up, not realizing I was making a big mistake. I'd never had a cat with an invasive surgery on a limb to recover from-of course I'd cared for Bob after 1/2 of his liver was removed just a year ago, but all I had to do for him was make sure he was eating and staying quiet on his heated bed. With Bobette, I'd have to keep her from moving at all costs. I hated to lock her up in a cage, and force her to wear the “cone of shame,” but she had to rest.
In the first week, should Bobette be able to bend her leg at all, she would ruin the surgery and her kneecap would pop back out. We had to give it time to set in it's new position and that meant a lot of sitting around. For a year old cat, who wants to play, that was a lot to ask for.
The morning of the surgery I was feeling hopeful, but scared. I thought I'd be sitting in the waiting room until they finished up, but Dr. Mixon came out and asked me, or was it told me?, I should come back and see the surgery. My heart dropped into my pants. ME? Watch? Even though I watch all those ER “reality” shows on TV, I ALWAYS look away when they get into the gory surgery scenes. There was no looking away from this, but could I handle it without throwing up or fainting?
I didn't realize I'd have to help out, which is not a problem at all, especially considering Dr. Mixon was doing the surgery for about $2000.00 less than an Orthopedic surgeon would have charged. Dr. Mixon is a General Practitioner, not a specialist, but he admittedly enjoys doing orthopedic procedures and another friend said her dog did well after Dr. M. did a similar surgery on him.
Bobette was sitting in her cat carrier, her pupils dilated. She hadn't had breakfast-of course-because anesthesia can cause the cat to vomit and you don't want her to aspirate anything into her lungs and get pneumonia. It's better not to have a full tummy (but you tell that to the cat!). Two days before we'd been in this same waiting room together, but only to get Bobette's pre-operative blood work done so we could make sure she'd be healthy enough for surgery. With three people holding her down, there was no way to get her blood, so we had to hope that being so young she'd be fine under anesthesia-this is not something I'm happy to report. I'm sure as we sat together, Bobette was getting very tense, probably reliving what happened those few days prior and I wondered if she'd become so fractious that we'd be able to do the surgery at all.
I brought her into the back of the Practice and sat her on an exam table. The Vet tech was getting supplies ready and I asked her to walk me through what was going to happen next and what she'd want me to do. Mostly I had to just hold Bobette down and not lose any fingers in the process but I kept thinking' “I'm a Graphic Designer! I'm a Graphic Designer. I'm NOT A VET TECH! WHAT AM I DOING HERE?!”.
I took the lead and spoke very calmly to Bobette. I didn't restrain her very tightly. We were very quiet as we worked on her. It wasn't difficult at all to give Bobette a few shots. One was to relax her so we could insert the IV, which would be in place during surgery and provide her with fluids. The other was the dreaded Metacam, which I challenged Dr. M. on giving her because it's known to cause renal failure. He quickly pushed back and said it was safe if she was kept hydrated. I was really tweaked that he gave it to her after all I'd heard about it killing cats more than helping them, but what could I do? Now I'm thinking we'll have to do a post op-blood test to see if she's ok.
I held Bobette down so the Tech could insert an IV into her leg. I was really feeling like a traitor. Here is this sweet cat. I don't know her very well, but I still care about her. She's scared, drugged up and only at the beginning of what is going to be a very awful day. I couldn't blame Bobette as she pitched a fit and shrieked as the Tech tried to shave her front leg. Try as we might, we couldn't get her to settle down so it was decided she needed to be gassed so she would just konk out.
The Tech grabbed a plastic storage tub with holes cut into either end. One end was taped up and the other was open. She attached a hose to the open end, then had me place Bobette inside the bin. She barely fit. I started to realize maybe this is what they do to kill cats at shelters? I wanted to grab the box, get Bobette out and RUN for it. This just seemed inhumane, but what do I know about this---nothing other than it really bothered me to see this happening.
The Tech snapped down the lid and turned a dial allowing the gas to enter the box. Bobette didn't fuss at all and in a few minutes was slumped down, oblivious to the world around her. It's VERY UNNERVING to see an unconscious cat. They might as well be dead, because it's not much different. I kept wondering how anyone could do this to animals every day and not have nightmares each night.The Tech told me she was going to remove the lid FAST. I had to get Bobette out of the box, then run with the box into a back room and NOT BREATHE ANYTHING IN OR I WOULD PASS OUT, TOO.
I told her to do a countdown and on…“1” we jumped into action. I couldn't be distracted by Bobette being so limp. I put her down, grabbed the box and ran off, making sure the lid didn't come back off. I was weirdly tempted to open the lid and take a big sniff so I had a reason not to see the surgery, but I figured I would hit my head when I passed out, too. Probably not the best idea.
Then began a very long process of preparing Bobette's leg for surgery. I kept wondering how long she could be unconscious without it doing her harm. The Tech asked me to adjust a light or hold something or get this or that. She began to shave Bobette and we discovered she has very odd fur. It grows in different directions and was difficult to trim down close to her skin. I noticed that Bobette has a tuft of fur on her neck that reminds me of Alfalfa from the Our Gang show (It's probably before your time, so here's a link )
Poor Bobette. I just wanted to take her home, but the surgery hadn't even begun. She looked so helpless laying on the table. I whispered to her that it was going to be okay. I hoped it wasn't a lie. A monitor nearby beeped every time her heart beat. As long as we heard the beep, she was okay.
Bobette's leg was wiped down a few times. Dr. Mixon saw what the Tech was doing and stopped her. She missed a spot on Bobett's leg right under the tape that held her leg in place. She had to shave it down and re-do all the antiseptic wipes, which again, Dr. Mixon corrected, making certain that the area where the sugary was being done was NOT getting wiped over twice. Even though it took a lot of time, I was glad he was a stickler for keeping things clean.
Then Dr. Mixon began draping Bobette with layers of cloth that would allow him to focus only on her leg and also to keep the surgical area cleaner. I kept thinking that surely he was done, but he'd add another layer. Then he slipped a small sock over Bobette's leg and cut a hole into it which was over the area where he'd be making the incision. After he created the opening, he quickly sutured around the edges of the opening so the fabric would stay in place. This was the final task he had before he could get started.
He was very focused and there was little talking. The only sound was the beeping of the monitor. Dr. Mixon looked up for a moment and said; “Now you know why these surgeries cost so much money.” And even before he made one cut, I understood. The prep work took at least an hour if not more. When he was done, Bobette the cat was gone and in her place was an alien leg sprouting from a field of pale green sterile sheets.
As I drove to the Vet to pick up some ungodly expensive cat food for Cara, all of a sudden, I got this really bad “feeling.” It was a dark sense of dread, like I knew something very bad was going to happen. I tried to focus on the feeling. Would it further guide me? I felt like I needed to drive home on the backroads instead of taking the highway. I felt like it was a very big, but I didn't get a sense of exactly what it was.
Am I flakey? I don't think so. Sometimes I just get a gut feeling about something and I try to just go with it. Usually it does make sense some time later, OR I find a way to make it make sense. I get that, but I believe there's more going on in our minds, that we have more capability than scientists can prove with a test or wires tapped to someone's head.
Haven't you ever just got a feeling about someone or something that turned out to be correct?
I got home safely. Driving the backroad reminded me that a new Ice Cream shop, called Ice Cream Heaven, just opened. That certainly wasn't bad news!
At 1pm, we packed Bob into his carrier to take him for his 11th (!) chemotherapy treatment. The drive to Wappingers Falls, NY takes about an hour. It was bloody awful hot and humid. I was determined to sit in the back seat and keep Bob company, but it was very uncomfortable in the car. I reflected on that sense of dread I had, but I was too hot to think deeply.
Sam was driving. He kept spacing out. I had to remind him not to exit, then later, TO exit the highway. He was hot and tired and had driven one too many trips to New York City to see his Mother the past eight weeks since her suicide attempt and his “auto-pilot” kept making him want to head south, instead of west.
As we were finally getting off the highway, I noticed a helicopter flying very low. No sooner than we got off the ramp, I saw the road was blocked in both directions. The helicopter was a rescue chopper that was heading to the scene of a very serious car crash. There were all sorts of emergency vehicles blocking the road. Maybe that was what gave me the sense of doom I had earlier?
We were late getting Bob to his chemo. All I could think about was the poor people whose lives were changed forever.
As always, we have to wait about two hours for Bob to get his chemo so we left for our favorite hangout, Panera Bread, to get some lunch. I knew that the weather was going to pick up due to the incredible heat wave we were suffering under. I looked at the weather radar and sure enough there was a line of very strong storms headed towards us and one small rogue cell about to dump some rain.
It poured. You could barely see it rained so hard. It was time to go get Bob. We debated going outside, but we figured it would let up soon. Two seconds after we got into the car, it started to hail, hard. Sam's car was getting pelted. It was so hot outside the hail melted quickly. I did my part and used my brand new NOAA Official Weather Spotter card to call the National Weather Service to report the hail. A very nice lady told me to call back if the hail was larger than a pea. As she said that, we saw hail that was about quarter sized hit the ground. As I told her it was getting larger, she laughed and agreed with me, saying she could hear it hitting the car. I ran out and got a quick photo, which left me drenched, but my heart was pounding with excitement.
The Vet called. The storm took out some of their equipment and they were re-booting the systems. They needed us to kill another hour. We decided to play tornado chaser. The sky looked very foreboding. The weather radar showed a distinct hook in the shape of the storm.
We drove around watching the sky churn. I noticed that the radar indicated the storm was moving to Connecticut and was going to hit our house square on. I wanted to get Bob and go home. I was really feeling anxious and rightly so. A funnel cloud was spotted very close to where we were driving and my nephew, Ryan called me to say that the power just went out and the weather picked up. Ryan lives 2 miles from my house. I suddenly wished he had a key so he could go check on the cats.
We weren't able to pick up Bob until nearly 6pm. The GOOD NEWS was that he had GAINED 5 ounces in four weeks. On a person, that would have been about a 5 POUND weight gain. This was the first weight Bob's gained since he was diagnosed with small t-cell lymphoma in January! We were delighted.
The storm passed as we left New York and headed home. I still felt that sense of dread. We couldn't get home fast enough, but traffic was slow. Why they call it “Rush Hour” is beyond me. No one ever rushes anywhere. It should be called “Slow, Frustrating & Annoying HOURS.”
As we got into town, every so often I'd see a big tree limb snapped off, lying in someone's yard. There was a lot of debris on the road, but nothing too serious. I looked at the homes in our neighborhood. Their lights were on, so that was a good sign. As we pulled into the driveway, we quickly realized a big tree had fallen, just missing the house. If Sam had left his car outside the garage, which is does most days, it would have been smashed. My side of the garage was blocked so I could not get my car out.
We got Bob inside and started to check around the house. I went out on the deck and surveyed the property. No more fallen trees, but the flowers in my planters were stomped on. We focused on getting the cats fed, then we had to see what we could do about the tree.
I began chopping off as many branches as I could, but we don't have a working chain saw. I guess buying one 20 years ago and having it still be in the box, never used, is not going to help us. I chopped and Sam cleared. It rained on us, but I hoped we wouldn't get hit by lightning. I just wanted to get done. It was almost 9pm. We were both soaked, sweaty and wiped out.
The temperature had dropped over twenty degrees, but even in the 70's it was still too humid. We dragged ourselves inside to shower and take a break. I sent out emails to friends who had working chainsaws, to see if anyone could help. By then I was ready to fall over.
We have a joke about many TV shows that are documentary-ish in nature. Often, at the end of the show, the narrator says; "We'll never really know for sure...” regarding how the story ends.
And I say, we'll never really know for sure if I had ESP yesterday or if what happened was just coincidence. All I do know is we found something out about Bob last night, in addition to the happy news he gained weight, there was something more troubling on the horizon. The results of his blood test were very sobering, indeed.
I think I'm getting that bad feeling again and I know, for sure, how this is going to end.