Cat health fail
This is my 10.5-year-old kitty, Brie (being pursued by Meghan in her Santa costume):
On the afternoon of January 2, while I was taking a nap with Meghan in the living room, I heard Brie vomiting upstairs. (Those of you who have cats know exactly the sound I'm talking about. The noise itself is nauseating.) Barfing isn't unusual for Brie; she often vomits up splashes of water and hairballs. But later, when I went upstairs to find the mess so I could clean it, I discovered three small circles of fine white foam -- as in, that's what she had vomited up. That struck me as really out of the ordinary, so I went ahead and called my vet, who was about to close for the day and told me to go to an emergency vet instead, or else wait for business hours the next day.
I am so glad I didn't wait. I spent most of that night, after we had gotten Brie assessed and left her overnight in the care of the vet, trying to prepare myself for her death. She had gone down from a high of 12 pounds to not much above 7 pounds -- a weight loss I had noticed, but kept dismissing, figuring that she just felt lighter in comparison to Meghan, who of course was getting heavier. The vet gave her a preliminary diagnosis, which turned out to be accurate, of an acute spike of chronic renal failure, and while cats can recover from it and live for a while after that, Brie was not looking good at all. It was also possible that she had a heart condition and some sort of cancer on top of it all. Luckily, that turned out not to be the case.
She spent four nights in the ICU and had to have a central line (an IV through her jugular vein, in her neck), a blood transfusion, hydration therapy, and all sorts of other interventions. They had visiting hours twice a day, and I showed up faithfully to every set of them while she was there, because it killed me to know that she was in a cage, feeling like utter crap. During some of the visits, she really looked like she was at death's door. She was all huddled up, her head in the corner, and she was just so tired and depressed.
And the treatments weren't easy on her. The big therapy for the renal failure is to hydrate the cat as much as possible via IV. However, too much hydration and the heart starts to fail -- and when we brought her in, she had a heart murmur, which further complicated matters. So the vets had to do a balancing act between the two, kidneys vs. heart. She got the blood transfusion because she was horribly anemic; after that, she perked up quite a bit.
I seriously didn't think she was going to make it through all this. She was expected to stay in the ICU for at least a week, but on day 5, she went home, because her heart was reacting too much to the hydration therapy for them to continue it any further. By then, she was much more herself, though, and I was grateful to be bringing her home in her carrier rather than in an urn.
We took her to a cardiologist a couple of days later and got a (surprisingly) clean bill of health on her heart. She still has chronic renal failure, but we're treating it by giving her subcutaneous IV infusions every other day. It's hard for me to do them by myself (which I did manage to do for the first week, because Jack was away), but Jack's an anesthesiologist, and the two of us combined -- me holding her and him doing the needle stuff -- get it done in no time at all.
So all's well that ends well, at least for now. Brie is back to her normal self, so aside from the shaved patch on her neck from when she was in the ICU and the fact that she still has some weight to gain back, she's pretty much her normal self. Here's a freaky-looking picture of her shaved neck:
As I said, thank GOODNESS I didn't wait to take her to the vet. I don't know how much longer she would have lasted. I only wish I had put two and two together earlier. I had noticed a lot of her symptoms (such as weight loss, vomiting splashes of water, increased levels of urination in the litterbox, and loss of interest in food), but in my mommyhead haze (and general ignorance about feline chronic renal failure, because I had never encountered it before), I hadn't put them together or had found reasons to dismiss them or think I had noticed incorrectly. In particular, with respect to her loss of interest in food -- which is a key symptom of major illness in any animal -- I had just thought Jack had finally started filling her food bowl. I was usually the one who did it, but when I noticed that it continued to be full for a week or two without my needing to refill it, I just figured Jack had finally started paying attention and refilling it. Definitely a bad assumption on my part.
So it was a horrible, horrible roller coaster ride for that first week of January. I'm not ready to lose her yet. "Brie" was Meghan's first word, and she often wakes up going, "Brie! Brie!" She loves that kitty, and so do I. I'm incredibly thankful she's still with us.
Oh yeah, and the vet bill, including followup visits, is about $6,000. OUCH. I'm just grateful that we are lucky enough to be able to afford it, because it would have KILLED me to say, "Well, I don't have the money, so we're going to have to put Brie to sleep." Even if we didn't have the money, I would have put it all on credit cards, sold off my entire BPAL collection...ANYTHING to be able to pay for it. But some people don't even have that sort of option, and I'm thankful that I did. You can't put a price on life, you know?
Grandma health fail
Three days after Brie came home, my family came to my house for dinner. Right before we started to eat, my 92-year-old grandmother tripped over Meghan's highchair tray and broke her hip (technically, her femur). It wasn't catastrophic as far as emergency situations go; there was no crying or screaming -- which is an even more remarkable fact if you know my grandmother, who, despite being extremely spry and healthy for her age, is a terrible hypochondriac and will moan and groan about small bruises and other minor injuries in order to seek sympathy. It's a phenomenon I call "Jaj, szegény-kem," which means "Oh, you poor thing" in Hungarian, which is what my grandmother speaks. She's basically looking for people to say that phrase to her.
But this time, she really rose to the occasion. In fact, we had thought she had probably just bruised herself badly because of how well she was taking it. After my mom and dad helped her back into her chair, she managed to eat dinner, and while she definitely was saying she was in pain, it didn't seem all that bad. But she couldn't get up from the chair, so we had to call the paramedics to take her to the hospital, where they did X-rays and found out that she had indeed broken a bone. A day later, she had surgery to put a rod in the leg, and several days after that, she was transferred to a rehab facility for the elderly, where she is right now. She'll probably be there for another week or two.
So far, she's doing really really well. She already is able to get herself into a wheelchair and out of it, use the bathroom and dress on her own, and use a walker to cruise the halls of the facility. Within a couple of weeks, she should be rid of the walker and able to go back to the things she was doing before, including climbing stairs. I'm just so impressed at how well she's taken all of this. She faithfully does her rehab exercises; on the first day, she even did 50 reps of some exercise when the therapist had told her to do just 20! That's motivation for ya! She's probably the oldest person in that facility, but she looks way younger and is far more with it than anyone else there. Go Grandma! Here's a picture of the four generations of women in my family (Grandma, my mom, me, and Meghan -- and remember, Grandma is 92 years old!!!):
So yeah, visiting her nearly every day has also kept me very busy and preoccupied.
Man, props to all the single moms out there. Jack went off to work at a hospital a couple of hours away for 10 days during his vacation from his regular job so that he could pull in extra money, which turned out to be a really good thing given our monstrous vet bill from Brie's health crisis. It wasn't as though we actually had an extra $6,000 sitting around, so it was really good that he was able to earn extra money during his vacation. And I constantly reminded myself of this while he was gone, because DAMN, it sucks to be on your own with a very demanding, very active child. It was just tiring. There was no Jack to deal with Meghan in the morning while I tried to get a couple of hours of sleep to make up for all of the nightly wakeups. (I'm still dealing with at least one, and often three, wakeups per night. *sigh*) There was no Jack to clean up after dinner while I nursed Meghan to sleep; I had to do all the cleaning, the trash taking out, the subcutaneous infusing (for Brie), etc., after Meghan went to bed -- and it wasn't as though I could let it wait until the next day, because I often have literally ZERO Meghan-free time during the day to do things that require the use of both of my hands. Meghan often doesn't nap at all (one day, she went from 9 am to I think it was 8 pm with just two 10-minute naps, and that was because we had two 10-minute car trips!!!), and she hates being put down in anything enclosed like a playpen when she is awake. Of course, there is a decent amount of time during which she plays by herself on the floor, but it's not like I can leave the room for more than a few seconds when she's doing that; it's just not safe.
I did see a lot of my parents that week, since we were visiting my grandmother in the hospital, and then the rehab facility, every single day, so I wasn't ALONE alone, and being that busy also made the time pass quickly, but it was still very rough.
Now things are finally relatively back to normal, and so it is catch-up-on-LJ time. The good news, however, is that I managed to finish my Harry Potter reread during those crazy weeks. (Obviously, I did have some free time, but between the health crises and dealing with Meghan on my own, I often was way too braindead to open up my laptop; it was a lot easier just to pick up a book and read.) I even read Beedle the Bard, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Quidditch Through the Ages. I plan to do another reread sometime much later in the year so that I can note down all the things that kept occurring to me as I made my way through the books, but one thing I have to say now is that I liked Deathly Hallows MUCH more the second time around. Maybe it was because I read the other six books right before it (whereas the first time around, a good year and a half had elapsed between my reading of the first six and my reading of DH), or maybe it was because this time around, I savored the prose and thought about the concepts rather than rushing through to the end so as to finish before getting spoiled accidentally.... I don't know, but I just really thought it worked much better this time, and the details clicked much better. Even the epilogue bothered me less, although I still maintain that it was sort of lame. Actually, I think the biggest problem with the epilogue also plagued the interactions from Snape's memories a few chapters before -- namely, stilted kiddie dialogue. It's so strange: JKR wrote amazing dialogue between children in the entire series, but utterly failed at writing kid!Lily, kid!Petunia, and all of the next-genners in the epilogue. I didn't have a problem with the concepts she was putting forward, but the execution just didn't work at all.
Anyway, so now I am recanonified, which is a relief. Names and events are once again fresh in my mind, and I feel ready to get back to ficcing. I'm also going back and reading old theory essays (like over at Red Hen) on my iPhone while I'm nursing Meghan, because those keep me thinking about all of the intricate plot points and help inspire some of my fic.
I'm also reading Harry, A History (you know, the book by Melissa Anelli, webmistress of The Leaky Cauldron). I think fandom itself fascinates me almost as much as canon. I only wish I had discovered fandom earlier, like during the three-year summer, and that the forums over at The Sugar Quill weren't dead.
Well, enough blabbery for now. I've got tons of e-mail to catch up on, as well as weeks worth of flist. Thank goodness you can now backread your flist by date (if you're a paid member). *takes a deep breath and plunges in*