The vet, my Dad, Shannon, and I have spoken a lot since 5pm yesterday, when the vet let me know that Maggie needed to have surgery to address the Calcium Oxalate stones, or be euthanized. No treatment was not an option given all the details of her current physical condition. The decision was to move forward with Ureteral Stent surgery. This has been done on only 30 cats so far (although it is a common procedure in humans). Only one cat has died from the surgery, and unfortunately, that was the one cat that had surgery at the NC State Vet Teaching Hospital. There were extenuating circumstances, though. That cat went into surgery with a Urinary Tract Infection, so it was known that the surgery was very risky in advance. That said, there were many other reasons to choose this surgery over the more common Ureterotomy:
- Because it is a teaching procedure (as in, cutting edge), the cost was lower – $2,000-$4,000 vs. $4,000-$6,000.
- The chance of complications is much, much lower.
- It is less invasive.
- I’m an academic, so I like the idea of students having an opportunity to learn from watching the surgeon do this “teaching procedure,” adding to the body of knowledge, etc. That is groovy to me.
So I went to see Maggie today before her surgery at 2pm. They warned me that while she had seemed quite spunky for the first full day she was there, she was starting to seem somewhat depressed and less feisty than usual. (They all really like her there, and I know they weren’t just saying that!) When they first brought her in, she wasn’t that interested in me, but I told them that I know my Maggie, and she HATES being cooped up (much like me in that way), and I suggested we let her walk around the exam room. After a few minutes, her tail was back up in the “upright and happy position.” Then she came over and was really affectionate with me, purred, etc. They left me with her for about 15 minutes, and she ended up sitting in my lap as I sat against the wall on the floor. She fell asleep and purred. It was really nice. If you didn’t know how sick she was, you (you know) wouldn’t know how sick she was.
I was told that the surgery prep would start around 2pm, and that I should hear something by 4pm. At 5:30pm, I called the hospital to find out what was going on. The vet said that the surgery had been “quite complicated” and that she was still anesthetized and in the operating room. The idea was that they would use a wire to go in through the bladder to the ureter, where they would implant the stent, but there was something obstructing the passage (either a stricture of some sort of inflammation). She said they had been trying for a long time, but it wasn’t working. They also tried going in through the kidney, even repositioning the kidney to try and get the stent in. At the point I spoke with the vet, Maggie had been under anesthesia for 2.5 hours and was still doing well (glad we chose to do the surgery quickly before more toxins made her sicker). In short, the surgery was “not going well.” Another surgeon had been called in, and I was asked on the phone to decide whether I wanted to go ahead with the other type of surgery (the Ureterotomy) or have her euthanized right there on the table. They said that to wake her up when they had been unable to repair any of the stones was inhumane because she was going to go rapidly downhill. This other surgery was going to bring the total surgery cost to $4000-$8,000. This is over and above the $1,500 for medical costs incurred so far at the vet hospital over the past few days. If you’d like more information about a Ureterotomy, look about halfway down this page.
Here’s where I mention how awesome my people are. I have REALLY good people. I have this feeling about the world, that we are all here for each other. It’s not me for me, or you for you. If you need help, and I have it to offer, I give it to you. And then when I am in need, I have always found the help I need, too. I would not have expected that anyone would step forward to help me with such costs. Despite working very hard for years, I have not exactly been a money making machine. Far from it. I’ve been lucky that I have had generous parents who could help me. So far, this summer has been about getting in a position where I could begin to take over full reigns of my life financially. Starting my business has been tons of work, but I’ve been excited for the school year to start again, because things are definitely in place for me to succeed. But on that path, I’ve sunk credit into office startup costs. This wasn’t the BEST time for Maggie to get sick, but it’s when it happened. I expected that I would have to choose the hard option – the “time to say goodbye” option. And I didn’t feel it was time for that. If Maggie survives this surgery, she has many more years left in her – healthy happy years. She is not lame, not blind, nor deaf. Her energy is good. She is happy. And she is my companion. I recently wrote about my cats, not knowing Maggie was about to get sick.
In the past 5 years, I’ve lived in four cities, had 6-9 jobs (depending on how you count my predoc internship), and dated 5 people. There’s one little pair who have been with me the whole time. They provide the consistency. They have been with me every step of the way. I love them so much. Jeep and Maggie are what make home, HOME.
So the amazing thing is that not only have my parents have offered to cover the high costs related to this surgery, a close friend has as well. I don’t even have words to express how floored I am by their generosity. Of course I feel guilt that I can not cover this on my own, and it’s more motivation to do all I can to grow my practice so I can be in an increasingly stable financial position.
My head is spinning with all the anatomy I’ve learned in the past 24 hours, and the rollercoaster ride I’ve been on emotionally. In fact, while I was writing this just now, I got another call from the vet. She says Maggie’s tissues are “angry” so the surgeon has suggested bypassing something or another with a catheter to keep her stable for 4-5 days so she can get strong again before they go in and do the second surgery.
I’ve set up a donations page. Hope you don’t feel it’s too tacky, but this is one of those times in life when help is needed – real financial help. If you are able, please take a minute to donate a little for Maggie. It’s been a long road, and it still isn’t over. While I know that the costs will be covered, they are obviously getting higher and higher, and anything I can do right now to offset them feels of the utmost importance.