Friday was one of the most difficult days of my life! It became what we believed was ‘decision day’.
My partner, R walked out of the bedroom with Smudge and we both looked at him. It was clearly a question of ‘what quality of life?’ Amongst tears we talked about not letting him suffer any more. There was no real way to telling if the last two EPO injections were working; but it had become obvious that he couldn’t take in food any longer. We gave him his most foul-smelling mineral supplement and then his liquid breakfast. Minutes later he was ill! No breakfast then.
What to do! R had suggested earlier in the week that if we had to make the decision, then we would ask the Vet to come to the house. I was adamant that I was not going to put him back in a cat box – he gets so stressed out as soon as he sees it come out of the cupboard.
His breathing was laboured. He could hardly walk anywhere.
R picked up the phone and called the Vet. Thankfully the Vet himself answered the phone.
More learning – the first time you give a cat a blood transfusion, it can come from a dog. The advantage of this is that you don’t have to give a dog anesthetic to be able to take blood from them, whereas with a cat you do!
The Vet had one appointment and would phone around to see if any of the other Vets in the area had a dog. We had our appointment for 10:30am!
I sent skype messages to all those I had meetings with and then wrapped Smudge up in a towel and got into the car. “No cat box” I hear you ask. His breathing was so laboured that if I had put him in a cat box, the stress of the situation would not have helped.
We arrived at the Vet to hear that he couldn’t find a dog. It seems that all the Vets in our neighbourhood have cats! 🙂 Could we use one of our other cats? I stayed at the Vet while R came home to find the other two cats, who were happily roaming around in the garden unaware of their importance today!
Poor Smudge was ill again while we were waiting. I explained to Smudge that he was a cat who was using his nine lives, but he still had a couple left! (Born with only one eye, broken leg, abandoned, malnutritioned, gingivitus, cat flu, FeLV – most of which could have killed him.)
R arrived back with both cats – they had been sunning themselves by the pool!
The next question – were they compatible? As you will know from my previous article, cats don’t have the ‘O’ type blood group; so this is a very important question. The Vet explained that he could check quite quickly and easily. Z was taken out of the cat box and brought into the surgery. A sample of blood was taken. S in the meantime got very vocal at being left behind in the cat box.
I brought Smudge into the surgery – he looked at the Vet and growled! R looked at me as I had never heard Smudge growl before … it’s menacing! The Vet had to take blood from him to see if the bloods were compatible.
Z was a match! or at least, as it was described to me (back to holding Smudge in his towel outside the surgery) he was ‘compatible’.
Now we could anesthetise Z to be able to take his blood. Smudge would also need to be anesthetised. This means that the blood being given to Smudge would have anesthetic in it – he would then receive two lots. Was he strong enough?
Here we were going from so nearly having made the decision to having the decisions taken away from us by the Vet in ‘one last try’. Rather than feeling powerless, it was fabulous for someone else to take the decision – someone who had been fighting with us for nearly a year (well a year tomorrow) to save this little cat. Someone who knows a lot more about this than I do.
Z was given his anesthetic. I brought Smudge back into the surgery. He growled! OK fighting spirit still there. Kicking and scratching, it took both R and I to hold him down to get his anesthetic. For Smudge it was obviously ‘that horrible man with needles AGAIN’. He gradually calmed down.
They were both asleep – the operation could start. S was still moaning and kicking the cat box around – he really didn’t want to be left out. I left the Vet and R to comfort and work with Z and Smudge; while I went back to S in the cat box. He was lying on his back, kicking at the roof. He calmed down.
This was a slow painstaking operation. Blood was gradually taken from Z and placed into a drip bag with a little bit of plasma. Once all the blood was in the bag, the operation on Smudge started. R took Z out of the surgery to give the Vet space. S started up his complaining again – all he could now see was Z lying on the ground not moving! I took him out of the cat box to calm him down.
The Vet couldn’t find a vein. Eventually he found one in Smudge’s jugular. Replacing the blood was even more painstaking than taking it. The Vet looked at us a few minutes after he started and said ‘its ok’. Although the tests had shown that the two cats were compatible, there was still the risk that Smudge would reject Z’s blood. The Vet calmly explained that if Smudge had rejected it, he would no longer be alive – it would take seconds to react. Wow!
It felt like hours. The operation was over!
The Vet started to look at Smudge – his gums were pink! It took just the length of time of the operation for Smudge to go from white gums, translucent looking nose, white pads on all his paws – to pink! The operation had worked!
More injections – penicillin; anti-anesthetic; and an antacid. The reason for the anti-anesthetic was that now Smudge had two lots of anesthetic in his blood stream.
Both Smudge and Z showed signs to coming round! We put Z back into his cat box with S; and I wrapped Smudge back up in his towel. We thanked the Vet and his wife and got into the car.
It had taken just 1 1/2 hours from the time we arrived at the Vet to taking all 3 cats home.
Half-way home and Smudge started to be ill again! Poor cat, but it was no wonder. Anesthetic should only be given after a period of 12-hours with no food! True of Z as he hadn’t had anything after supper last night, but not true for Smudge. We got back to the house to discover his bowels has worked too!
R opened up the cat box and let S out. He took Z into the house and came back to collect Smudge so that I didn’t get anything over the car – thankfully it was all on the towel or me!
We cleaned Smudge up and then put both cats into a safe environment to let them come round in peace and quiet.
We’ve always found that cats who have had anesthetic wander around looking very ‘drunk’ for about 24-hours! Z was no different until we put him into his bed and he slept it off. Although we couldn’t watch him from here, it seemed to be the only place he felt ‘safe’ enough to calm down and sleep.
Later on Friday afternoon Smudge tried to get up! For us a huge sign that he was feeling a lot better. Like a drunk old man he staggered over to the water bowl. He drank, and drank, and drank, and drank, and drank … So weak he ended up putting his front paws into the water bowl to steady himself while he lay out and drank. 🙂
Saturday dawned bright and beautiful. Smudge has been with us for one year! What a year it’s been – challenges, battles, fun, mischief, laughter, and now the not knowing.
Smudge decided he wanted to get out of bed. We took him downstairs and he expressed an interest in breakfast; but back to refusing it when it was put down. We force fed him the Fortol and thought we would leave him to continue his recovery from the operation. No! He wanted to be comforted and would stagger across or try and go up the stairs to follow us around. Obviously feeling better but still very weak – I sat down on the sofa, Smudge on my lap and read!
Z was happy to get out of his bed – drink some water, nibble some biscuits (normal morning routine) and then took himself back to bed to carry on sleeping off the effects.
Early evening we decided that Smudge had to eat ‘solid’ food. This rollercoaster of emotions made us determined that Z would not have gone through his ordeal for Smudge to refuse food. We put three cat food bowls down – Z came! S came! but Smudge sniffed and walked away. So out came the blender – bowl of food scrapped in and blended. Little solid so we mixed a little bit of the Fortol in it. R arrived in the kitchen with the icing tube and a new nozzle from a silicon tube taped to the end! We had found a way of force feeding Smudge ‘solid’ food. He kicked and scratched, but eventually calmed down and took small quantities regularly. 🙂
This morning he got out of our bed very early and for this first time in several weeks did not ‘fall’ out of bed but elegantly jumped off. No staggering, but very slow walking across to the cat litter tray!
We still have a long way to go – EPO still needs to help the bone marrow/kidneys create red blood cells – Smudge still has to eat his first proper meal; but I would like to take a few moments to thank all those wonderful family members, friends, and colleagues for their incredible support and understanding.
Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.