Two years ago, on August 8, 2014, my youngest stepson came to get me to tell me one of our cats, Boe, was “acting weird”. “It’s like he can’t walk”, Andrew told me. I took a quick look at him, not having noticed anything wrong with him previously.
Almost instantly, I had a feeling of panic – he was definitely not right. I called our vet (having 5 pets, I don’t even say my name anymore – they are “hey Melissa, what’s up?”)
Me: “I need to bring Boe over ASAP, something is wrong with him. I don’t know what, but my gut is this is an emergency.” Vet tech: “the doctors are in surgery for 2 hours when they get back from lunch. If you really think it’s an emergency – take him to the Animal ER in Matthews. Or, if you want to wait, we are here – bring him over later around 3 pm”.
After about 8 seconds of deliberation – I said “I am going to Matthews”. And out the door we went – Andrew and I, with Boe.
I called Randy at work and said “If you can possibly come, please come – I think something is really wrong.”
I love this man because he left work for a cat. For many other reasons, too, including knowing me well enough to know how much I needed his support. But that day – I loved him to the moon for caring about a cat….
Post initial exam at the ER, the Doctor told us he needed emergency surgery to clear a urinary blockage that would be life threatening if not urgently treated. We kissed him and prayed over him, and left him with the Doctor and headed home. They said they’d call with an update as soon as they were out of surgery.
The last thing I remember at the clinic was being asked to elect DNR or resuscitation care in the case that he had any issues. It was an extra $500 to “revive” him in a life threatening situation. After a particularly costly pet year (our dog had his second cruciate replacement, and a different cat had several teeth pulled and was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism), I hesitated. I waved my pen over the DNR signature line, ready to sign. Boe was otherwise totally healthy and only 6 years old. Then, I remembered I had opted to cover Maeby (rotten teeth/thyroid cat) for her recent surgery. Given that I want to be fair, I signed to cover Boe’s resuscitation, shrugging it off to the Front Desk lady as largely unconcerning.
About an hour later, I was driving another cat (listen, we have a lot of animals and that is a story for another day) to the Vet for another albeit smaller trauma (when it rains it pours), and talking to my Mom on the phone. I noticed a call coming in from a number I didn’t recognize while we were talking, but I ignored it. Wasn’t thinking about Boe at that time. The same number tried me again, and then again. So I said – “Mom I gotta call you back”….
The Doctor on the line identified herself, and then described the steps taken in surgery — everything seemed calm and procedural. Normal. I remember feeling relief. She got all the way to, “the surgery was successful (honestly, I remember this very well – and it boiled me for a long while), we got him all stitched up, catheter in place (ok great, I am thinking!)….but unfortunately (the start of a new trigger word with her), just as we let go of him to place him in recovery, his heart stopped. We tried to revive him for almost 15 minutes. Because you signed the resuscitation, we gave him a shot of epinephrine (adrenaline) which restarted his heart, but he’s not responsive. He is unable to breathe on his own. Unfortunately what will happen from here is that the drug will wear off, and his heart will stop. I am sorry, but at this point, he is gone. The drug is just keeping his heart beating – for now. I want you to understand, this heartbeat does not equate to LIFE.”
“You should come as quickly as you can, to say goodbye.”
Stunned silence. “Ok”, I say. “I will be there as soon as I can.”
I hang up and call my Mom back, still driving. I start to cry. Bawl. “Mom I can’t do it, I don’t want to go down there!” Mom: “You need to do it – go tell him you love him and say goodbye. You CAN do it, and you need to.” Chokey sobs.
Other line rings, it’s Randy.
R: “Where are you? I am driving, and I am coming to get you.” (again, words to adequately capture my utter gratitude? no.) I really start crying now. Him: “Pull over and tell me where you are.” Me: “I’m on Monroeeeeeee”….and more slobbery directions.
It seems like seconds and he is there. He comes and opens my door, grabs my purse and walks me to his car. Then he gets Barrett (brother of Boe; have I mentioned I love animals?)
With Barrett starting to display similar issues, I say “we have to get Barrett to the vet, then we can go see Boe – we can’t save Boe, have to focus on Barrett.” Off we went. Randy all business, me, numb and stupid.
We get to our Vet – I burst in, swollen face and bellow out “Boe just died!” They are all so sad, listening to my story, nodding. They update his file. Deceased. “We are so sorry”, they say.
While handing Barrett to the nurse and explaining what was happening, I see Randy step out on his phone. I go back to checking Barrett in, while crying on the shoulders of all the Vet techs. Randy comes back in. And looks at me, wide-eyed.
“I don’t know what is going on. But, Boe is NOT dead.”
“That was the Doctor again, and basically she said the epinephrine has definitely wore off – -and his heart is still beating. We need to go down there. They have him on life support.” (remember the form I signed…)
We handed Barrett to the closest Tech, and headed back to Matthews. About 10 minutes later, we were led back to a table with a built-in hot bath with grates over the water, heating pads, tangled with wires all connected to a shriveled wet figure hidden largely by towels. Standing at the table, a Vet tech was counting and squeezing an air bag…..under all of this was little Boe. His tongue was clipped to his ear. He was almost unrecognizable from the soft and dry little fellow we left about 2 hours prior.
I was remarkably calm. Fear is such a powerful thing. Facing it is almost never as hard as the fear (at least for me). I have no idea why I am like this.
I prayed over him, we prayed over him, stroked his forehead, petted him and kissed him. I told him I loved him, and what a good boy he was. And we just looked at him. No sign of life. At all.
Doctor: “Unfortunately (I am still triggered by this word….), I am very confident he is brain-dead. We need your permission to stop the life support, so when you are ready, we will remove the breathing tube.
After another 5 or so min, I said I was ready. I could see the state he was in. Randy nodded. Lots of kisses and pets. Goodbye, sweet boy….love you so much…..
Slowly and carefully, out came the tube. To everyone’s awe (I mean, I watched the Doctor and I saw her face)…Boe swallowed. She said “woah” softly. Then he breathed. After a few minutes of the four of us staring at him, waiting to see what was happening, the Doctor said “This is extremely unexpected, but an incredible hurdle.”
We watched him breathe for probably an hour. I really thought he would stop at any moment. The Doctor played with his ears and whiskers and tried to get some response. Nothing.
Now we had heart and lungs back, but literally nothing else. After about 2 hours of almost total silence other than praying, the Doctor again said “I don’t think he can recover. If he doesn’t wake up very soon. We should probably talk about euthanasia.”
I say: ” I need to go outside.”
I went by myself. I looked straight up and I said, “Lord, we need to talk. Big time. I have really hoped all these years of you knowing me, that I would not be in this spot. You know me, how i feel about the death penalty, you know we (ok me, but I live with a patient, loving family) have a catch and release policy about every single living thing in our house. I just can’t take a life. That’s not for your little daughter to decide, God. Please. I don’t want it to be my choice. PLEASE. If he needs to go, YOU take him. Please God. Please don’t make me do this, I don’t want to make this decision.” Lots of other blathering and small talk / begging, and I headed back inside. (PLEASE!)
I sit down back next to Boe.
How much is this costing? Never mind. No one tell me.
((I want to just take him home in the worst way, but the bladder surgery required him to stay in the hospital for 3 days due to having a catheter))
Randy says: “Can we give him the night? We will come back in the morning and if he’s the same, we will talk then.” (Bless this Angel Man).
“Ok” I say.
We head back to get my car. It was down a dead-end side street I have never been down before, off Monroe Road in Charlotte. When we get there, I put my head down and walk to my car from his.
Randy says – “Hey look. You parked right next to this. Did you see that?”
Right. Next. To. MY. Car.
GASP. “No, I didn’t.”
((Oh thank you Jesus. You are with me. Literally you are standing right here, right next to me.))
Holy buckets, there are no words other than a flood of grateful and hopeful tears. When you know this without any doubt, with every part of your soul– these are the best moments in life. When every single bit of you feels that you are RIGHT THERE in the presence of our incomprehensibly loving and faithful God of the Universe. That He cares for you and your little feral cat.
I remember nothing else that night. Other than Randy got Barrett, and I went home. Out like a light. Likely some muttery begging while passing out.
9 am the next morning, we arrive back in Matthews. We go back to see him. No change. The Vet tech is still playing with his ears and whiskers trying to get some reflex or response. We spend some time with him, kissing on him, loving on him. He’s still on the water table under a hot lamp. They are trying to keep his body temperature up.
Nothing is happening. No change. I am calm. Nobody is asking anything about next steps. We are just hanging out.
“Can we take him in to a room?”, I want to lay down next to him on the floor (him in his mess of blankets, me on the cold tile).
Randy and Boe on the floor I will never forget. We brought his blue blanket from home – the pink thing belonged to the ER.
After loads of pets, prayers and love heaped on Boe, I stepped outside again.
“Jesus I need your help. I don’t want to keep him if he can’t recover. I BEG you to take him if it’s his time. PLEASE don’t make me do it. Please please please. Only you know what he can do. If he can recover, I ask you to bring him back for us. If he can’t, please dear Lord, please take him.”
I had the sense of that cross standing there next to me. Though there was still no change, I felt God saying, “I am right here next to you. And I am showing you a miracle.”
When the Doctor said a bit later – “He needs to eat and drink. So if we are going forward, we need to insert a food tube. It’s a little risky but it’s a must if he’s to have any chance at all. He’s incredibly weak.”
“Do it” we said.
At the point of the food tube, we had very slight (you had to really want to see it) ear and whisker reflexes. Not consistent. Just barely.
We left and let him sleep. We went to eat. Totally numb.
We came back several hours later. “He’s trying to wake up!!” they tell us as soon as we get there.
What?? GIVE HIM TO ME! And back to the tile floor we go….
….to be continued