Wednesday, December 30, 2009
My Little Pea
My little cat Pea died at 4:45 this morning. It feels like a dream. About a week ago she started vomiting every time she ate. At first I thought it was a stomach virus, or maybe the flu. But after three days, I was really worried so I took her to a vet who diagnosed her with a foreign object in her intestines. They wanted to perform surgery but I didn't really know this vet, and to be honest, didn't have the money to pay the astronomical estimate, and they wouldn't allow payments. I took Pea home. I wondered if the problem had something to do with her food. Maybe it was a bad bag. So I went to the store and got new food. In the next day and a half, like a miracle, she didn't vomit. But, there was a significant shift in her behavior. She was looking me dead in the eye, something she hadn't done before. She has always been very cuddly but in those 36 hours, she wanted to be in my arms every minute. I had never felt more connected and bonded with her. I thought I had saved her life by a simple change in diet and that she was expressing her gratitude. I was wrong. By that evening, she fell violently ill and vomited three times. Then a few more times in the middle of the night. She was worse than before. By morning, I started making calls to see if there was a vet who would be willing to do the surgery and accept payments. No one would. Then my friend told me her father offered to loan me the money. Other friends suggested I ask for donations, so I did and we were set. At the direction of a very trusted friend, I called Dr. Schwartz to perform Pea's surgery. He was worried about taking her on because it was December 29th and not only did his clinic not provide overnight care (which she would most likely need), but he was scheduled to go out of town first thing the next morning (today). Still, he told me to bring her in. He confirmed the lump in her intestines but did not think it was a foreign object. I hadn't thought it was either, because in eight years of living with this precious little animal, she hadn't ever been interested in eating anything other than her dry cat food. Dr. Schwartz was worried the lump was a tumor. He asked me how I felt about chemotherapy. I didn't want to put my little nine-pound Pea through chemo. He didn't want to do surgery without first trying a new diet and medicine to help eliminate her urge to vomit. That sounded like a good option but I was worried that, if it was indeed cancer, the tumor would continue to grow. And, how in good conscious, could I take her home thinking she had cancer while doing nothing for her except hoping the medication would stop her vomiting. It didn't make sense. I asked for another option. He suggested we do an ultrasound and we agreed it was the safest approach for vital information. The ultrasound showed her kidneys and liver looked healthy but he saw a dark spot on her spleen and thought the "tumor" was on the spleen. He said this was encouraging because she could survive without her spleen, and felt confident that, by removing it, she could have a speedy recovery. I agreed to do the surgery. I waited in a tiny room that felt more like a memorial site. On tables and on the walls, were framed pictures of people's beloved pets who had died with notes of gratitude to the doctor. I cried. After a couple of very long hours, Dr. Schwartz came out to tell me that he was wrong. He did not find a tumor on her spleen. There was a nodule under her spleen and another nodule over her stomach, so he removed those for biopsy. He did see inflammation but no evidence of cancer. I was devastated. We just opened up my poor little Pea for what seemed unnecessary. He told me to go home while Pea rested and recovered, and that he would call me when she woke. I drove home in a daze. After a couple hours, Dr. Schwartz called me to say he had good news. He said she was doing remarkably well, and that he felt comfortable sending her home with me, and to come pick her up. Feeling cautiously optimistic, I drove right back to take my baby home. An assistant handed her to me, in her carrying case, and wished me good luck. He didn't say or do anything else. I thought that was odd considering the trauma she'd just been through, and because they hadn't provided me with any protocol as to what I should be looking for, should there be any complications, much less how I should care for her at all. But the doctor couldn't see me because he was with another patient. So I put her in my car and started home. I live across town from this vet. Thirty minutes later, I was just a few blocks from my house when Pea started thrashing in her case. She was yelping in pain, panting heavily and drooling pools of saliva. I kept telling her we were almost home and tried to soothe her with my voice but she was just staring at me in a daze while crying and putting her little paw through the cage as if to say, "Momma, please help me." I pulled over to the side of the road and called the clinic. I told the receptionist Pea's symptoms and that I didn't think the doctor would want her out of his care if he could see what I was seeing. They told me to bring her back. Another thirty minutes later (and a total of an hour she had to be in my car without proper care), I arrived back at the clinic. I brought her in and they promptly took her back to the doctor. When they pulled her out of her case and onto the table I noticed her stomach was bleeding everywhere. This was more terrifying than her sounds of suffering. I asked the doctor if it was normal to send a post-op pet home who was still bleeding. He said most definitely not and, that when he had called me two hours prior, she was in much better shape. He also looked me right in the eye and said he wished he hadn't done the surgery. He was concerned about two things. He suspected she was having an allergic reaction to the penicillin and that her blood was clotting. He said the only solution was to open her back up to stop the clotting. Oh my God. I couldn't imagine putting her through another surgery just a few hours later, not to mention, his clinic didn't offer overnight care. What was I to do. He told me he we didn't have much time because he was very worried about her rapid decline and that we either do the surgery or I should put her down. Oh my God. How was I supposed to make that decision. I said I needed a moment and stepped outside and called my Mom. Finally, I had the privacy to feel my pain and started sobbing. My Mom listened as I told her that Pea was suffering severe complications, that the first surgery hadn't proved she did, in fact, have a tumor on her spleen, and that I didn't know what to do. We talked about letting her go. I didn't want my little cat to suffer any more and I couldn't imagine putting her through anther surgery. Yet, if I didn't try to do everything I could to save her life, I knew I would regret it. My mind was swirling. The unbearable raging thought was, "This morning, the doctor suggested I give her medication for her vomiting and see how that goes, but just a few hours later, I've put my darling baby through unnecessary hell only to end her life without proven cause. How did we get here?" I decided to let her go because she was simply too weak and had been through enough. My grief was beyond measure. I slowly walked back into the clinic to tell Dr. Schwartz we should put her down. But when I saw her, she looked a little more stable and he said he would like to try the surgery, if I was willing. I had never been in this type of situation. I was completely torn so I turned to him, a vet with twenty years experience, and asked him what he would do if she was his cat. He didn't hesitate and said he would do everything to try and save her life. His words hit my heavy heart and, despite my intuition that the surgery was going to be too much for Pea's little body, I told him to save her. An hour later, she was out of the operation and laying on the table. But, more bad news. Dr. Schwartz said that upon opening her up, he did not find any clotting. That may sound like good news but it meant the fucking surgery was pointless. I looked at my little Pea and stroked her head and told her how deeply sorry I was. My God, I was so sorry. I told her how very much I loved her, and that she was strong and needed to fight. She was really drugged up. They had her hooked up to IV's and breathing through an oxygen cup, but her eyes were open, and I want to believe she heard me. My darling Pea. That's when her entire body twisted in half as she began to vomit. That put me over the edge because after her first surgery, Dr. Schwartz pumped her full of the medication that would reduce, if not eliminate, her urge to get sick. It didn't work. In fact, nothing worked and now there were absolutely no answers. Only a gravely ill little Pea who had just endured more trauma than any living thing should ever have to endure for, again, what appeared to be without justified cause, except for my desperate hope and reliance of her doctor's care. The clinic was closing so we had to arrange for her transport to the ICU in a nearby animal hospital. We wrapped her up and I drove her to the emergency center. They quickly admitted her and had me sign paperwork authorizing them to do whatever necessary to save her life through the night. By this time, it was almost ten p.m. I spoke with the ER doctor on duty and she assured me she would do her very best to keep Pea stabilized and would call me if anything changed. I cried with her, this perfect stranger, but to whom I was trusting to save Pea's life. I asked if I could say please goodnight to Pea but she said I couldn't enter the ICU because there were several emergency surgeries happening and it wouldn't be safe. My heart was broken. I drove away but don't remember the drive home. I have never felt a house so empty. I asked everyone I know to pray for her. The messages of love poured in and I knew that Pea was divinely supported. I meditated for what seemed like hours but it might have been minutes because I was so emotionally exhausted. I prayed for peace of mind. No matter what was going to happen, I wanted Pea to feel calm. At 4am the emergency doctor called to say she was rapidly declining and would I authorize a plasma transfusion. I said yes and we hung up. A few minutes later, Dr. Schwartz called me to say that he was on his way to the hospital to see Pea. He feared for the worst but wanted to see for himself before any more decisions were made. I asked if I should come but he told me to stay home and assured me he would call the moment he got to her. I'll never know why this man got out of his warm bed at 4:30 in the morning to rush to Pea. I want to believe it's because he is a doctor who cared deeply and felt he made the best decisions he knows how to make, but my breaking heart is full of questions I'll never have the answers to. Forty-five minutes later, he called to tell me it was worse than he imagined. Her body had gone into shock and she wasn't going to make it. He expressed his sincerest condolences and asked if he could please put her down. I told him I wanted to come and hold her in my arms as she passed, but he said it was a sight I didn't want to see and that we didn't have time. The world stood still. How do I tell this man to put my little Pea to sleep. And how did we get here? Less than 24 hours ago she was happily purring at my feet wondering where her breakfast was. Two surgeries later with no foreign object in her intestines, no evidence of cancer, no tumor on her spleen, no blood clotting, and worse, no answers as to why she was vomiting in the first place. Someone please tell me, how did we get here? Quietly I sobbed in the pitch black of the night as I heard these words come of out my mouth, "Please ... end her suffering." I hung up the phone and couldn't move. My bed was cold and empty, and my heart was broken. I knew I had done everything I could to save my little Pea, but the pain was intolerable. All that was left to do was pray. A few minutes later the ER doctor called to say it was done and Pea had been laid to rest. I woke up this morning crying. I am mute. Pea is gone and never, ever coming back. She has been with me for eight years. I rescued her when she was ten weeks old. She knew her name when I called. She loved to play hide and seek. She loved to be picked up and be held like a baby. She liked to chase her image in the mirror, even though I'm certain she had no clue whom she was chasing. She liked to sleep under the covers when it was cold. She slept with me, every single night. She was sweet and friendly. She loved it when I'd have people over where she would lay in the middle of the room to be part of the group. She would stretch out in the morning sunlight, every single morning. She loved to go onto the terrace and gaze into the sunshine. She was happy and healthy and had never been sick a day in her life. She brought me so much love and opened my heart to a place unknown before. And, she was always, always there. Now I sit here in silence, alone. I am truly grateful for every moment, every kiss and every cuddle I shared with her, but there are no words to express my grief. I'm a Momma without her little Pea and I will miss her deeply.