Paws and Effect

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about my visit to the vet to discuss Kissy’s leg. After X-rays and consultations with four orthopedic surgeons, my vet and I agreed that amputating her congenitally deformed and chronically painful leg would be the best thing to do in order to give her the high-quality and pain-free life she deserved so much.

Yesterday I brought her in for amputation. We did pre-anesthetic blood testing to make sure nothing was abnormal, and Dr. Alden said everything looked great. Her packed cell volume — the percentage of red blood cells in a blood sample — was 37%, which is well within the normal range.

Dr. Alden allowed me to watch the surgery and document it in photographs, which I felt was a tremendous privilege. It was beautiful to see her loving on Kissy as the tech induced anesthesia — stroking her head and cooing sweet words in her ear as she slowly descended into the deep, painless sleep of surgery.

I’m not going to show you any photos from the surgery itself because an amputation is not a pretty thing to watch. But I will say that as I stood there observing, and Dr. Alden explained the different parts of the procedure and showed me various anatomical features and the tech carefully monitored Kissy’s vital signs and made sure she was sufficiently deep in anesthesia so she wasn’t feeling any pain, I felt the deep-seated love and kindness they brought to the operation.

Dr. Alden gives Kissy some love

Dr. Alden gives Kissy some love as the tech inserts an IV catheter.

I was there with Kissy as she began to come out of anesthesia, stroking her head and telling her how well she did and what a brave kitty she was, giving her lots of love and affection even if she wasn’t awake enough to perceive it on a conscious level.

After they moved her to a recovery cage and surrounded her with warm saline bottles to keep her body temperature up, I left to do some errands. The vet said I’d be able to pick her up around 5:00.

Kissy post-surgery, coming out from under anesthesia

Kissy starts coming out from under anesthesia. She’s still on oxygen at this point, but as soon as she showed a swallow reflex, they removed the tube and let her breathe on her own.

Three hours later, just as I was finishing my laundry, I checked my cell phone and realized I’d gotten two voice mails from Dr. Alden, about half an hour apart. “Oh, shit,” I thought. The first voice mail said Kissy had had some seizure-like activity, but she was doing okay at the moment. The second was much more dire. Kissy had come out of anesthesia enough to start thrashing around in her cage, a clear sign of severe pain. The techs physically restrained her to keep her from injuring herself, and the vet administered Buprenex to ease Kissy’s pain.

Then things took a decided turn for the worse. Her heart rate had increased to 160 beats per minute (when she was sedated, her pulse was lower than that) and the pulses in her limbs felt weaker. They drew more blood and found that Kissy’s packed cell volume had decreased by 10%, which indicated that she was having abnormal bleeding.

Dr. Alden re-opened the incision to ensure that none of the ligatures on Kissy’s femoral artery or other blood vessels had come undone. Although there was a lot of blood at the wound site — probably as a result of all that thrashing around — there was no evidence of active bleeding and all the sutures were still tight. She recommended that I take Kissy to a veterinary referral clinic in Scarborough, about eight miles away, where they could do more extensive monitoring, and if I got there in half an hour or so, Kissy would be ready to go. I took a few minutes to set up a ChipIn for her extra expenses. I’d budgeted for the surgery, but I knew from my experience with Dahlia earlier this year that urgent-care bills can add up really fast.

As I was driving across town to pick Kissy up, I got another call: Kissy had continued to go downhill and it was clear that something serious was going on. Dr. Alden had sent Kissy ahead to the referral clinic in the care of two techs. I was just around the corner from the clinic at the time, and I dashed in for a quick consultation with Dr. Alden before I set off to follow the techs to Scarborough.

When I pulled into the clinic about 15 minutes later, I was halfway to the door when the techs, Renee and Sam, came out to meet me. “I’ve got some bad news,” Renee said. “She didn’t make it.” Sam, who had assisted in the surgery that morning, was in tears.

I stood there in shock for a second. “Oh my God,” I whispered. I felt the tears welling up in my eyes.

“I was driving,” said Renee. “She crashed about halfway here. We did everything we could…”

“I know you did,” I said as the tears started to flow. Renee hugged me and I said, “Thank you so much for trying.”

“Thank you so much,” I said to Sam as I reached out to hug her, too.

I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. But numbness had overtaken me by that point.

“Do you want to see her?” Renee asked.

I nodded, and they escorted me inside.

One of the referral clinic’s vet techs took me to an exam room and brought Kissy’s body to me. She was wrapped in a huge, dark-blue fleece blanket, and all I could see was her head and shoulders.

She looked just the way I’d left her.

Once I was alone in the room, I broke down and wept like I haven’t wept in years. I stroked Kissy’s beautiful, soft fur and told her how sorry I was, that all I’d wanted for her was a happy, pain-free life and I had no idea that this operation, or the drugs, or the pain, or something none of us could ever have foreseen like a blood clot or a ruptured aneurysm or whatever, was going to kill her. I told her it was OK for her soul to leave, that her body was dead now — I worried that with her sudden death, maybe her soul wouldn’t have fully realized that she was dead, and I didn’t want her to stay with her body, confused about what was going on. And I cried. And cried.

I finally pulled myself together enough to arrange for her cremation. As soon as I left the building, I called my mother. Sometimes you just need your mother, and this sure as hell was one of those times. Mom’s compassionate words soothed my aching heart and grounded me enough that I felt like I’d be safe to drive back home.

Back home, I ended the ChipIn and then made the hardest call I’ve probably ever made in my life. I called Robin. I’d adopted Kissy from her rescue, Kitten Associates, just six months ago, and Robin had been following Kissy’s progress in adjusting to her new home, standing by me through the tough times and celebrating every milestone along with me.

We cried. And cried some more. Both of us wished we lived closer so we could cry on each other’s shoulders and celebrate Kissy’s wonderful but entirely too short life together. Dr. Alden called me around 6:15 after she’d finished her day’s appointments and offered me her condolences. I thanked her and said I couldn’t have wished for better care for my sweet Kissy, and for the compassion and kindness everybody at the clinic had shown after Kissy’s tragic death.

Gone too soon, loved by so many, never forgotten. Gaté, gaté, paragaté, parasamgaté, bodhi soha!

After a night of alternating between shock and tears and trying unsuccessfully to distract myself by watching episodes “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on Netflix, I fell into a blessedly dreamless sleep. This morning I woke up knowing what I had to do.

I’d already budgeted for Kissy’s surgery, so I have the resources available to take care of that. You contributed $360.50 to the ChipIn for Kissy’s extra care. The best way I can think of to honor Kissy’s life and the wonderful work that Robin and Maria do to save cats from high-kill shelters in the deep south is to donate that money to Kitten Associates. They saved Kissy’s life and the lives of her newborn kittens. If it hadn’t been for them, I would never have had the privilege of loving and meeting Kissy. May this money help you save more lives.

 

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