Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Traumatic Week Brings Me Back to the Blog

By definition, a blog is a "regularly" updated online journal. Clearly, doing anything on a regular basis is not my strong suit. My life is full of short-lived obsessions that disappear from my routine just as quickly and randomly as they appeared. Commitment has never ranked as one of my redeeming qualities.

However, after an exceedingly traumatic week, I find myself back, wishing to unleash a torrent of emotions. Anger, frustration, sadness, confusion, remorse...all have been tormenting me in the last week. And it all started with a cat's bad breath.

I'll confess that we have not always been the best at following up on our cats' medical needs. Shots are not always received on time, ailments are sometimes left to see if they'll clear up on their own over time. But when Kitty's breath started smelling worse than the year-old milk at the back of the fridge, it was time to make the rare pilgrimage to the vet.

Prognosis? Three rotting teeth. Plan of action? An $1,100 dental surgery on May 11 to remove the offending teeth. Degree of risk? Not so much. Drop him off in the morning, pick him up before 6:00 that evening, feed him soft food for about a week, and he should be back to normal in no time. Sounded easy enough.

When I picked him on Tuesday evening, he was completely limp and unresponsive. The vet tech who brought him out didn't seem concerned, though, and just said that "some cats take longer than others to come out of the anesthesia." I was shocked but trusted that the professionals would know best. When I asked how long it would take for him to come out of it, they weren't sure...they simply said to call them if he wasn't better in 24 hours.

I brought him home, left him in the carrier with the door open, and put a towel over him. He moaned a couple times but never really tried to move. When I went to bed, I took him with and laid him next to me on the bed. In the morning he was in the same spot in the same position. It hadn't been 24 hours yet, but I called the vet anyway and insisted that something wasn't right. They seemed to think I was overreacting, but said to bring him in.

That afternoon I got a call saying they were going to keep him overnight so they could keep him on an IV in an attempt to make sure all the drugs were washed out of his system. I felt somewhat vindicated in that clearly I had not been overreacting to his lack of improvement. But I was worried sick that they wanted to keep him overnight.

The next morning I called for an update and got the shock of my life. He was finally standing up and moving around a little bit, but there was something else...he was blind.

What?? Blind?? My healthy, happy cat of a week earlier is now BLIND? How on earth does this happen?

The hypothesis that the vet offered was that he had a stroke while under anesthesia. How they didn't know this for sure is beyond me. They tried to caution me that it might not be permanent; there's a chance the sight might come back. But I could read through their "cautious optimism"...they really weren't feeling optimistic at all.

They of course wanted to keep him another night, so I stopped by after work to visit him. I thought I was prepared, but what I saw was absolutely heartbreaking. As soon as I reached out to touch him and speak to him, he started howling in a way that I have never heard before. This wasn't his normal polite mew, but instead a howl laced with fear, confusion, and apprehension. How do you explain to a cat that it's going to be OK? Not only could he not see me, but he also could barely stand up. It destroyed me to see him that way. I'm glad they brought me a box of tissues because I used them all.

On Friday we brought him home. We weren't sure if we were bringing him permanently or just for the night...but we needed to see how he would do outside the cage. We shut him in the office so that he had a smaller space to explore. I'll give him credit - it didn't take long at all for him to start wandering about, "mapping" the room through his various run-ins and mishaps. We've even started calling him Magellan because of his aggressive exploring. (Probably a much more appropriate name than Kitty!)

All is not rosy, however. He'll get caught up on the rungs of a chair, run head first into the wall, step in his water dish again and again, get stuck in a corner without an idea of how to turn around. He's also having a hard time figuring out the litter box. If his front paws are in the box, he seems to think his whole body is. Not a good thing, for sure.

Overall, though, he's adjusting much more quickly to his blindness than I could have ever hoped for. He's still having some cognitive issues that I hope get worked out soon, but right now I'm a hundred times more optimistic than I was just two days ago. At first people kept telling me, "a cat can have a very happy, normal life without its eyesight." I completely blew that advice off, thinking, "what the hell do they know?" But now I have hope. It's been amazing to watch him barge forward, without the "why me?" feelings that a human would be experiencing right now. Perhaps there is something to be learned from his ordeal. Sitting around feeling sorry for yourself won't accomplish anything. Instead, reckless abandon will set you free.

A sightless Kitty sits contentedly on the sofa.

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