Checklists and Other Essentials   Leave a comment

Bonnie and Bubba by Lady Birchwood
Bonnie and Bubba, a photo by Lady Birchwood on Flickr.

This photo of Bubba and me was taken a few days before his 19th birthday in March. The day after his 19th birthday, he was diagnosed with diabetes and now receives insulin injections daily. This condition is most likely related to the chronic pancreatitis he has had over the last two-and-a-half years.

All in all, though, he’s been doing well. His appetite has been good, and he still weighs almost 15 pounds. (He was down to 11 pounds when he had his hyperthyroidism treated with I-131 in July 2011.) He sees and hears well. He hangs out with us and purrs. And he never misses the litterbox.

Last Sunday, he ate a normal breakfast, hung out with us, and then went to his heated, fleecy pet bed to snooze at midday. Then then leaned over the side and brought up everything he had eaten that morning. I was concerned but it’s not the first time he’s ever done this so I made a note to observe for further developments. I cleaned it up and we went out for lunch, which is what we were in the process of doing when this happened.

An hour later, we came home to find him lying on the kitchen floor, rapidly panting and crying out in pain. Dale immediately grabbed the pet carrier, and I called the emergency clinic to tell them we were coming. All this happened within a few minutes. We were out the door and to the hospital in 15 minutes where they whisked him to a treatment area and began evaluation and intervention.

A thorough workup was done over the course of the next two days while he remained hospitalized. X-rays and ultrasound failed to reveal any underlying issues such as internal bleeding, an embolus, tumors, or anything else we didn’t previously know about. The default diagnosis was a flare-up of pancreatitis and he was supported with IV fluids, pain management, and an antibiotic in case there was a pancreatic abscess that wasn’t visible. He came home Tuesday evening.

I’ve made many Facebook status updates this past week related to Bubba’s condition. The night before last, I got a private message on Facebook from a fellow MDH employee who works in our Newborn Screening division as a genetic counselor. She sent me a link to an article that presented a checklist for when you can judge that it’s time to euthanize your pet. I was familiar with this “checklist” since I saw it on a different animal-related website and posted it to my own FB page a month or so ago. She also gave me a link to a website for a group of vets who does at-home euthanasia. ( http://www.mnpets.com/ ) The take-home message I got from that was that she thinks this situation is dragging on far too long and I should put him to sleep.

I know that we’ve gone above and beyond what a lot of pet parents would do — or even could do, given their family’s resources — for Bubba. I could have paid cash for a very nice newer used car for the amount of money we’ve spent on his veterinary bills these past couple of years. And the emotional energy that has gone into trying to keep him as healthy as he can be and feeling good has been enormous for me. It’s been a huge commitment. Yet, if he told me that he was ready to go, I would hold him and enlist someone to ease his passage from this world, no question about it.

He hasn’t told me that. He still seems to enjoy being here with us, these recent few days of crisis excluded. We have our ups and downs, but he generally seems pretty content to be here hanging out with his family. He’s not normally in any significant discomfort. He’s not wasting away.

I will make that decision if and when he tells me he’s had enough and he’s ready to be eased out of this world. Not until. And I pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that he makes this decision on his own and checks out peacefully during a nap. But whatever. I won’t let him suffer when there is no hope for more good days.

The MDH person who sent me these links doesn’t know me that well. We work on different floors of the building in different divisions. We came to know each other a bit during the last election season when I became aware that we were on the same side of the fence on a lot of issues. We’re FB friends. If she really knew me, she’d know that I think about “checklists” and end-of-life planning all the time. I would never drag out a precious life for my own selfish interests. My husband and best friend know that more than anyone else. They witnessed me hold Katie-cat in my arms and let her go two years ago. That was an act of taking a meat mallet to my own heart for the goal of easing her misery. This isn’t just about me and my inability to let a pet go due to my own grief.

I just gave Bubba his morning dose of liquid antibiotic. The morning medication rounds have now been completed! Signed, Bonnie Koziol, R.N.

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