Sunday, December 21, 2008

the horrible timings of things

Two weeks ago my cat Princess Henry became deathly ill. She was repeatedly trying to vomit without success and looking distraught. On the day one, I thought this was a pesky hairball and decided to pick up a tube of that tuna-flavored hairball medicine. The next day I realized, "This is no hairball" and got her down to the vet's. At the vet, Henry was sedated and x-rayed on the theory she ate something inappropriate, possibly a small, plastic object belonging to a child. The vet called me on my celphone to tell me that Henry's stomach was fine, but that her intestines were, if I may paraphrase, all fucked-up. The vet wanted my permission to do an ultrasound on Henry's intestines to determine whether surgery was necessary. The ultrasound showed nothing blocking those angry, angry intestines. Eight hundred dollars later, I took Henry home with a prescription for an anti-emetic and for a soothing medication to calm and coat her intestines. Henry recovered without further incident.

I told my husband repeatedly, "Don't get me anything for Christmas." I felt terrible about spending so much at the vet's.

The next week Al, the skeletal orange cat who is allergic to his own teeth, came down with an epic upper respiratory infection and epic diarrhea, which caused him to have many, many disgusting accidents. I had finally cleared Al up of his chronic flea problem (Advantage does NOT work for Al), only to have him burst out into multiple health crises. The Sober Husband helped me give Al a bath, and cradling him in a towel, I took him down to the vet, having first procured a particularly noxious sample of his diarrhea. "How's Henry? Nice to see you again," everyone said. "Can I give this to you now, rather than waiting for the vet?" I asked, handing over gingerly a sealed ziplock bag which was reeking horrendously. The vet tech who accepted it handed it off with alacrity to another vet tech who was presumably lower on the food chain.

Poor Al had lost over a pound and a half, dropping from seven pounds to just five and a half. (We'd taken to calling the poor thing "the Cat of the Damned"). Even though I'd been holding him wrapped in a towel to warm him up, his body temperature was so low that the tech took it twice disbelievingly. "I had to bathe him," I said. "It was an emergency situation." Al's bloodwork showed that he was anemic and had elevated white blood cell counts. About four hundred dollars later, Al was sent home with antibiotics for his respiratory infection and a stern admonishment that he was never going to be healthy until we got his teeth pulled. I set the appointment for the tooth-pulling for the 29th.

The next day, the vet called. The disgusting, reeking sample revealed the presence of giardia (where is he getting giardia from??? He rarely goes outside, and the tapwater hasn't given any of the rest of us parasites). I went back and paid for some Panacur.

Tomorrow Al goes back down to the vet for more bloodwork, to see if he's improved enough to be ready for surgery next week.

Of course the cats chose December to acquire life-threatening illnesses. After the nobility of insisting, "Don't get me a thing for Christmas --- those vet bills are crazy", I'm now childishly depressed that I won't have any presents to open on Christmas. My parents very generously gave me an embroidery machine earlier in the year as a combination birthday-Christmas present, so really I should wrap that up and put it under the tree for myself to remind myself not to be such a whiny loser. I keep telling myself that it was my idea to get those cats in the first place.

Meanwhile the stresses of the season have taken a toll. The children's school had three events on one morning for which I was supposed to cook: a third grade holiday breakfast, a kindergarten "homes" event, and the faculty holiday breakfast. This was complicated by the fact that I wouldn't be able to cook the day before, as I was volunteering at the school right in the middle of the day to assist at the kindergarten holiday party (where I was assigned to do an insanely complicated paper craft with the children. The first group to come to our crafts station did only about a third of the project and left frustrated and disgruntled. I unilaterally decided to simplify the project, which drew coos of praise from the other chaperones. "You're so smart!" "I would never have thought of that!" "You're so smart!" It was the most praise I'd had all year). I decided to blow off the third grade breakfast as it sounded like many of the third grade parents were participating(sorry, Iris Uber Alles), buy a quiche for the faculty party instead of baking one personally (sorry, teachers, I would have baked it but then I would have had to get up to drive it over to the school by six frigging thirty in the morning, whereas by taking the easy way out, I was able to drive to a yuppie market after the kindergarten Christmas party, purchase a $12.99 fresh quiche, drive back to the school, and drop off the quiche at the same time as I picked up Lola after school), and focus on making Lola's beloved broccoli pasta for the kindergarten event. That turned out to be the right decision, as almost no kindergarten parents cooked anything. Almost to a woman they decided to take the easy option and bring a drink, so there was still lemonade, sparkling lemonade, sweet tea, apple cider, and apple juice, but only one savory food, my broccoli pasta.

Now the children are home for winter break, alternately fighting viciously for hours at a time and playing delightfully in the "Lola Club" or pretending to be puppies who attend "Dogwarts." I've got hundreds of loads of laundry to do and I've fallen behind on my novel. I missed the registration deadline to sign Iris up for the after-school jewelry making class she wanted, and I forgot to take Lola to ballet on Friday afternoon (in my defense, it was the same Friday of the three cooking conflicts and a "Holiday Sing" at the girl's school). It was time to move my IRA fund to a better home, and the bank involved didn't send me the form they said I needed in a timely way, although we'd sent all the forms the new IRA bank said were required (a bank representative invited me to drop by and pick up the form in person, which I thought was a swell idea given that the bank is in St. Louis and I am in San Francisco). I myself have had a pounding headache for days which never goes away. I'm on medication for my insomnia which means I feel drowsy and hung-over every morning and have a sleepy spell in the late afternoon (supposedly these side effects will go away by mid-January). Head aching terribly, I'm sleepily lurching through the season, hoping I don't forget anything really important.


Anonymous said...

Aren't there organizations to help you pay the vet bills, considering you're a foster-cat family? There certainly should be!! Also, I'm surprised your vet didn't give you a break on the bill, some kind of "save one, save the next one for 20% off" or something.

We have an organization called "Friends of Felines" who work with local vets to spay and neuter for $25. Most vets around here give big discounts for people bringing strays in for vaccinations, sterilization, etc. I'm surprised your vet doesn't do that.

You do a good thing. It makes me sad that it costs you so much. I hope that your girls go nuts over their gifts and you get that warm fuzzy "this is what life's all about" feeling Christmas morning!

Anonymous said...

I think I've commented before about my cat Maggie who also has stomatitis. She does great between infections, and has had most of her teeth pulled 1, 2 or 3 at a time. I'd never heard until recently about having all the teeth pulled at once. In any case, Maggie is 9 or 10 years old, not sure which, so we'll just continue having her teeth pulled as needed. I am very interested though in reading about your cat. I hope he's able to have his teeth pulled as scheduled, or soon, anyway. And please keep us updated on his health. Oh, you won't believe this, but Maggie is a fat cat! All I can figure is she must have a mild case of stomatitis.

the Drunken Housewife said...

The vet is going to leave in some of the teeth (notably the canines). He'll keep a few of the better teeth, so he'll have a limited biting capacity. Supposedly he'll eat better after this is done, gumming down his food with a healthier, albeit untoothy, mouth. I will update! It's happening tomw.

Anonymous said...

Now that Maggie is down to just a few teeth, her infections are infrequent. But I do keep a very close eye on her eating habits. If she slows down too much on her eating, I haul her to her vet and he takes a look in her mouth. And it's always a new infection. Quite often, after a run of antibiotics, it's come down to pulling another tooth or 2 or 3. She also had an infected salivary gland, which had to be stitched open by a specialist.