Thursday, August 11, 2011

Luke Hospitalized

Remember my recent post about our cat, Luke?  He's been struggling with his health for a few weeks now.  Yesterday he took a turn for the worse. 

When he came in yesterday morning, his meow was a more like a wail and he could barely walk.  I knew immediately something was terribly wrong.  Whatever was bothering him the last couple weeks had just gotten worse.

The kids and I rushed him to a local veterinary clinic, I didn't go back to Dr. Bang (Bong) and Dr. Kang (Kong).  Their office is quite far away, and I wanted a fresh, second opinion given to our Luke.

After checking in and filling out our necessary forms, we sat in the veterinary office room decorated with yellow Labrador photos and cat pictures.  This office was much cleaner and welcoming than our previous vet visit, and it smelled much better!

When the vet and veterinary assistant entered the room, she felt Luke's abdomen and immediately said he had a blockage and was in great pain.  I knew he was in great pain just by the look on his face and the disappearance of his constant purr.  Lukey purrs if you just look at him.  No purring...serious problem.

She then said they'd need to sedate him right away, catheterize him, drain his bladder, give him IV fluids and other medications, and keep him for a few days to monitor if he'd make it.

What?  If he'd make it?  I've since read about this condition and apparently urinary tract blockage can be fatal to a male cat if not treated in 24-72 hours!  According to Dr. Ronald Hines:

It is a medical emergency when your male cat can not urinate. Urination is how the body cleanses itself of toxic waste products. Urination is also critical for the cat to keep the proper balance of minerals and water in its body. It doesn't take long (24hrs) for cats that can not urinate to become depressed and for systems in their body to begin to fail. If you suspect blockage in your male cat during the day, take it to your veterinarian immediately. If their office is closed, take the pet to a 24-hr emergency veterinary center.
He continues,
"When urine backs up into the pet's kidneys, the pressure within the kidneys goes up. This will cause irreversible kidney damage if the pressure is not relieved. Three days in this condition is often fatal."

After the brief examination, the veterinarian left the room with Luke to get started on the treatment.  She said she'd send someone in to discuss the fee.  Yikes, I hate fee discussions.

She instructed me to go up to the front counter to speak with fee lady.  I left the examination room and headed up front.  There sat hard, merciless bookkeeper lady.  I know she has a job to do and obviously she's a good little collection agent, but show a little compassion.  She presented me with the $900 treatment program!  I love my cat.  I do!  But, $900?  Furthermore, she said 75% of the $900 was due now.  I was shell shocked.  A couple months ago our son broke his collar bone.  We had to make an emergency room visit.  That was $1200, but thankfully we do have insurance.  Our cat visit was almost as much as our ER human visit, but we don't have pet insurance!  My heart quickly sank.ow

In high school, I worked at a veterinary clinic in a small Midwest town.  My official title was "Veterinarian's Assistant."  I received a great deal of veterinary experience while at this job.  I did everything from reception work to cleaning cages to caring for animals to assisting in surgery.  I remember small town folk bringing their cats in with blockage.  None of them had $900 to dish out for a cat with a blockage.  We'd take the cat.  I don't even remember much sedation going on.  The vet would take the animal to the back, place it in a large tub, catheterize it right there and you could see the relief on the cat's face.  He'd drain the bladder and all would be back to normal.

Ma or Pa would pick their cat up and all was well in the world again.

Looking at an itemized list of procedures adding up to $900 did not give me the "All is well in the world" feeling. 

I told bookkeeper lady I'd need a few minutes.

I went back into the exam room.  The kids were sitting there looking at me with big eyes.  I told them of the bill.  They were as stressed as I was.  What could we do?  We've recently had a number of large bills come up and there's just not an extra $700 sitting in the cookie jar for cat care.

Next, I called my hub.  Surely he'd know what to do, but how do you know what to do when you're faced with a bill you can't pay for and a cat you love close to death?  He was as shocked as I was.  Is this the going rate for the treatment?  I called a friend.  I called another vet.  No one had an answer.  What do you do when no one can tell you what to do?  I should have stopped and prayed.  Instead, I stood and cried.

We didn't know how to proceed.  I looked at our kids, one was tearing up.  Another had pulled his baseball hat over his eyes and was crying.  Dang!  I hate being in these predicaments when you have to make a decision on the spot.

I called the vet back in and explained our situation.  I asked her, what NEEDS to be done, and what is just the bonus fluff?  She told us what we could opt to have done and what was critical.  We were able to get the bill down to $500.  It still seems like a lot, but I love my Luke.

We then met again with bookkeeper lady.  She figured my 75% owed on the high side.  The remainder is due tomorrow when we pick up the bud.

We received an update call yesterday.  They had sedated and catheterized him draining the bladder.  There was blood in the urine.  When the sedation wore off he had dinner and seemed to be doing pretty well.  The fact that he was eating is a good thing.  I asked if he was purring, but the lady didn't know.  

I called today and he has one more day of observation.  He'll forever probably need to be on a special diet.  The bummer thing is he's always had the best of food, mostly organic, but for whatever reason he grew the crystals that caused the blockage.  From what I've read there's not a definitive answer as to why a cat gets the blockage, but for whatever reason his pH was off causing the crystal formation.

According to Cornell University if you see these signs in your cat make the trip to the vet.

Signs of Lower Urinary Tract Disease
Straining to urinate.
Frequent and/or prolonged attempts to urinate.

Crying out while urinating.

Excessive licking of the genital area.

Urinating outside the litter box.

Blood in the urine.
***Cats with a urethral obstruction will show the above signs but will pass little or no urine and will become increasingly distressed. A urethral obstruction is an absolute emergency, requiring immediate veterinary treatment.***

Some days I wake up optimistic of the wonderful events the day holds.  Sometimes the events are tough, but we learn from them.  Maybe it's time to start stashing away in the cookie jar.

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