Today is Friday, the 13th – Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, a day shrouded in mystery and superstition. What dreaded awful thing will happen today? It’s something that lurks in our innards, as we ponder and joke about it.
2013 has two such unlucky days. Sept. 13, 2013 will not be a day that Paws’ will forget for a very long time. As a matter of fact his mom, will likely recall the events of the end of that week to eternity – because they were surrounded by the fear of the immediate death of Paws (Little Yellow) and her mom, who continues to fall into the abyss of advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Hospice was called back to scene that week. On Wednesday, the call came. It was imperative to sign her up for the program ASAP. Rather than a pleasant day off, the day revolved around discussions of death – the how’s, why’s, and wherefore’s.
On Friday, the 13th Paws was not his usual self. Having been diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) in June, he still played and romped with the other kitties. However, he had a persistent cough – one the vet had said was not typical of a cat with HCM. I guess I kept thinking about humans and heart disease – they often cough.
This morning was different. Paws was lethargic. He was lying on the floor gasping for breath. He hardly moved. He ignored the other cats who came see if he’d get up and romp for a bit. He just laid on the floor. His eyes almost had a glaze – but when he could he would gaze into the depths of my soul trying to tell me something was very wrong. He finally got up, walked a few feet, and sat – staring blankly into space. I burst into tears fearing the worst – was he dying? I thought so.
I had just stumbled down the stairs ready to tackle an endless to-do list after a couple of cups of coffee, giving the cats breakfast, and giving Paws his heart pill (one-quarter of a 25-mg atenolol in a piece of a pill pocket). Another quarter with a baby aspirin (every three days) were administered every night.
The to-do list went out the window? Was Paws, my Little Yellow going to only live a little over three months after having been diagnosed with the HCM? The veterinarian had not given him a good prognosis – “the biggest heart I have ever seen”. Seeing this cat suffer, what was I going to do? I picked up the phone, and called the vets’ office, thinking that I would be taking Paws for his last ride – the one where we would make the decision to have him ‘put out of his misery, and end his short life.’ I was so choked up with tears, I could hardly speak. I felt sorry for the receptionist – having to weave through my disconnected sentences that were broken with tears, angst, and grief.
I cried and cried. These 20 miles seemed endless. I wanted to be at the vets’ office, and yet, I wanted to spend more time with my Little Yellow, who some four years ago, had nibbled on an Easter Lilly. Memories of that fear-filled 70-mile trip to the emergency clinic flooded my mind. We survived that…to this.
It was a short wait. The vet listened to him breath. He hated to ride and was hyper-ventilating even more than at home.
He suggested x-rays. He believed with the HCM diagnosis, he was in congestive heart failure.
It was 12:30 pm. They would keep him until they closed at 4 pm. I would call back at 3 to see how he was doing. More x-rays were in order.
When I heard congestive heart failure, it gave me hope – hope there would be a treatment to keep Little Yellow healthy for a bit longer. Maybe we had dodged a bullet today? Maybe there would be a few more days, weeks, months??
I went home, distraught. I felt like I was surrounded by the Valley of Death. I could picture both my Mom and Little Yellow, being gone from this life forever. I could feel my heart breaking, the numbness, emptiness and the hole that goes through the heart when we lose those we love the most.
The hours dragged. I was incapable of doing anything but thinking about death. I finally called the vet. He wasn’t available and would get back me. More waiting…
The phone finally rang. The Lasix had no effect. The x-ray showed no fluid. However, they did show white specs in the lungs. The prognosis was that Little Yellow has some type of respiratory issue. He reiterated the coughing would not be typical of HCM.
We could talk more when I picked him up in about an hour.
The x-rays confirmed what the vet was saying. He said there was a very limited possibility that it could be heartworm, albeit very uncommon in cats. However, with the size of the heart, he stood by the HCM diagnosis, with an additional complication of bronchitis. The vet had given him prednisone and theophylline to help his breathing. With a guarded diagnosis, they said to take him home and call with an update in the morning. Chances are he would just sleep most of the night from the medicine.
As I reflected back that night, I realized Little Yellow had an asthma attack. And with cats, like humans, they cannot breathe, gasp for breath, and it is terrifying for them and for you.
Fast forward to Dec. 13, 2013. Little Yellow is taking prednisone every other day. He very seldom lies on the floor coughing. He has developed a small cough, but it is not persistent nor is it long-lasting. Most days he romps and plays. He doesn’t give his mom too hard a time about the pill regimen. At times, it’s almost like he’s asking for his medicine to make him feel better. Rather than lie down and be meek, he now thinks he’s Alpha Cat, putting the other four in their place, while he rules the Cat Hierarchy.
Meanwhile her mom has her better and worse days. She’s comfortable and. at peace with where she’s at. I’ve become more accepting of what is, is
As we progress through this Friday, the 13th, I hope that the second one will be less eventful, surrounded by peace, and a bit of joy to be celebrated with both of them.
Paws for Reflection would be remiss, if we did not share where the superstition came from? Superstition has it that Friday, the 13th a very unlucky day. If you’re counting on lady luck, chances are she won’t come knocking on your door. While Friday may mark the end of the work week for many, it’s not historically designated as luck. Add to that, 13 is an unlucky number. We’ll talk about the reasons, ones that date back to a Nordic myth and to Biblical in a later blog post today.
Have you had some unlucky experiences on Friday, the 13th, or perhaps, even some lucky ones?. Even if they don’t involve one of your special feline friends, please share.