Fifteen minutes of Saturday morning still exist as I type this. Like yesterday, the temperature is seasonally warm, but I do not write this for polite conversation. Instead, I write this because we, me and Ella (and Nick, Ken’s son, who is a major part of the story) are living through a magical time. So, yes, the weather is temperate, but unlike yesterday, a perfect fall day with high-intensity fall colors at their peak, today is lacking color. It is an Andrew Wythe palette. But we are not outside in the rain. Ella and are back in bed. She lies beside me, all black fur on white sheets except for the shaved pink flesh and gray regrowth areas. Sometimes she purrs when I pet her and she is peaceful as she closes her eyes for a literal catnap.
Today is a vacation, maybe one of the most meaningful and restful – I am doing something I love, spending the day with my two muse cats. There is no wonder of the world any better or brighter.
This is a magical moment, granted like many other Saturday mornings, but different in one crucial way. I am awake. I am awake to the idea I need hold this moment close. At 1 a.m. yesterday, my heart broke and any moment like this seemed impossible.
Our Ella, the quietly happy little black cat, had a health crisis that at first looked as though she broke one of her front legs during a rousing game of wild-jungle-cat with her sister Lily. Finding her writhing in pain behind the television and realizing the meows were not those of Lily trying to get our attention, but howls from Ella, I lifted her out.
Now here is where the magic officially starts. No, this is not the story of miraculous moment where Ella jumps up in her normal way. This is a story of being in the right circumstances. Though we may live in a small, rural town, we are not far from Virginia Tech, which has an emanate veterinary school and small animal hospital.
As I looked at my watch and found that it was 9:30 p.m., I called the hospital and found them open. I spoke with the veterinarian on call and she recommended we come in at once. Nick and I threw ourselves together and grabbed the cat carrier. As Ella cried in pain, Lily sat beside her, administering comforting licks. I put Ella into the carrier and we went on our 45-minute ride to Virginia Tech, avoiding a collision with a young buck on the back roads.
The hospital staff was waiting for us and took Ella immediately in for an examination, attached her to an IV for fluids and painkillers, and did x-rays. The first pre-prognoses was that she broke her shoulder area. And here is the hard part – this would have been a better outcome then what followed.
The doctor came out to the waiting room around midnight. She told us what she believed had happened to my little girl – a blood clot (thromboembolism) was cutting off circulation to Ella’s limb, causing it to feel frigid and not very responsive. This could be a sign of heart disease they told us. Oh, and here is the other thing, Ella is just turning three.
The doctor gave us a choice.
Euthanasia. My heart stopped, nausea overcame me and the tears started. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.
The vet said most cats who have similar clots (usually in their back legs) are not long for this world. They go through an intense amount of pain.
Words flew by me and I could not process them. I heard amputate the limb. I heard euthanize. I heard the end of my world.
Then I focused on talk of painkillers overnight and transferring her to the cardio program where they would try to find the underlying cause. I heard Nick ask many questions.
The veterinarian said there was a high likelihood she would not survive, but we decided on a course of painkillers and to see what the cardiologist would find in the morning.
They let me hold Ella for a long time. The medications were doing their job, and she was no longer crying in pain. She sat in my lap, purring and dozing. She was so alive, so Ella. Tearfully I asked her, begged her, to please get better.
Nick and I drove home, and I tried to get a few hours of sleep, while I left Nick to call and explain the crisis to Ken, who was out of town. Without Ella by my side, along with a very nervous Lily I stayed awake until my alarm rang.I went to work in the morning. As the newest words and picture person at Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, my office is only a few blocks from the hospital. This was comforting.On the way there, the student who was helping with Ella called and said my cat stabilized during the night, and that they were doing an echo-cardiogram and other tests.
So, Nick and I spent the morning in my office waiting for the next step.
At 2 p.m. we met with the cardiologist and took Ella home. She has congestive heart failure, which we can treat with medication. The clot looked like it has either moved or dissipated, but her prognoses is not good. Although she will have several pills to take for the rest of her life, blood clots may be part of her future. But the fact she is here next to me, purring, eating, even playing our favorite toss-the-kibble game, is encouraging.
This is why the now is magical. She is still alive, still Ella (even if Lily can’t yet recognize Ella’s scent as that of her sister). Nick really came through for me during this time. My boss was beyond sympathetic, and Ella’s care was excellent. Though I realize her future is uncertain, I have this moment and maybe the next. And she reminds me that every day I have her beyond this moment is a gift. I have a camera and I can keep the now.
- How to handle feline aortic thromboembolism
- VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine Small Animal Hospital