June 5th 2010 1:40 pm
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[This entry was written by my mommy.]
She's gone. I've lost my baby girl.
I'm going to attempt to write about what has transpired. I've been alternately crying and numb, and I can't see anything but the images of how she was yesterday. It was so, so awful. My baby...
When my boyfriend Andy and I left for Vegas on Friday night, Valentine was her normal, healthy self. When I returned Monday evening, I headed up the stairs to check on her and her brother, and I saw her lying on the landing, which isn't unusual. What is unusual is that she didn't bolt up as I approached and race me to my room. Instead, she just lay there. I was a little confused by her behavior, but I didn't think too much of it, and I continued into my room.
Alan, my roommate, stopped by my room to tell me that he'd heard Valentine making vomiting noises. I told him that she seemed okay, if a little tired, but I went to the hall with him and looked at her laying there. Alan reached down to pet her...
...And she let him. She's never let Alan touch her before.
And then he went downstairs to grab some food and came pounding back up the stairs, which would normally have her bolting for the safety of my room, but she just continued to lie there as he jogged right past her head.
That's when I knew something was wrong.
I lifted her up and took her into my room, where I gently set her down on my bed and began researching nearby 24-hour pet hospitals (it was already almost 1:00 AM by this point). While I was doing this, she started retching, and she produced some white foam that didn't seem to have any content; after she was done, she sank down onto the bed and didn't even rearrange herself into a more comfortable position. Even more worried, I hurriedly called the nearest emergency clinic and told them how she was vomiting and listless, and the girl on the other end of the line said, "Just from the combination of those two things, I think you need to bring her in right away."
I quickly grabbed her cat carrier and shoved her inside -- she hardly put up a fight; she's usually a terror to get in there -- and I rushed her to the clinic, ten minutes away. She was silent the entire ride; usually she cries anytime I put her in the car. Everything I noticed just seemed to confirm that she was sicker than I'd thought five minutes prior.
Once I'd checked her in at the hospital, a vet came and examined her. The first things she noticed were how dehydrated she was and how jaundiced her skin, ears, and gums looked. I know that jaundice equals liver damage, and I tried to swallow my panic as I asked what was wrong. The vet said to me, "Has she been eating?" I frantically tried to recall, but I don't monitor their food intake. I feed them thawed meat once a day, and since they don't usually finish it in a day, I left them a single day's worth for the two days I was gone -- not usually a big deal. I told the vet, "I'm honestly not sure. I switched them to a raw diet two months ago, but once I was sure they were both okay with it, I stopped watching carefully to see how much they each consumed."
The vet suggested that perhaps Valentine had been upset by my departing for the weekend and had stopped eating, which could have led to something called feline hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease. When a cat stops eating, the body responds by releasing stores of fat (as do our bodies) in order to compensate for the sense of starvation, but a cat's liver isn't equipped to handle such a build-up of fat all at once, and it may have gotten "clogged". The solution was a feeding tube that would nourish her for a few days to a few months -- however long it took to get her back to normal. "It's curable," the vet assured me, "as long as there are no other underlying problems, and as long as she survives the anesthesia from the surgery."
I gave permission to go ahead with the surgery to insert the feeding tube, as well as to do an ultrasound to be sure that there were no other issues; and after saying goodbye to her and watching her be carried into the clinic's treatment area, I went home, very worried about my baby girl.
The next day, they called me a few times to update me on her condition. She seemed to be okay, they said -- about the same as when I'd brought her in. They had noticed an enlarged pancreas on the ultrasound, so they were doing a blood test for pancreatitis, which could easily have led to the FHL. After they completed the surgery to insert her feeding tube, they called again to tell me that I could come visit, if I wanted, so at around 10:45 that night, I went to spend some time with her.
When I got there, she was so weak that she couldn't even hold her own head up, but the vet tech who brought her to me said that that can be normal for a cat who's just endured so much trauma and illness. The tech then left me with Valentine, and I put my head down on her side and called her name, which usually makes her strum with purrs. It did this time, too, but her exhaling was so noisy that it almost sounded like she was growling at me. When the tech returned fifteen minutes later, I asked what the noise was, and she said it was ether escaping in her breath, and that that, too, was more or less normal, though she wasn't sure what was causing it.
I said goodnight to her and gave her lots of kisses and got her purring up a storm before I let the vet tech take her away. Then I went home to sleep for the first time in several days.
At around 5:00 AM, I got a call from the hospital. It was Valentine's vet, who told me that Valentine had displayed a slight decline in general health since I'd last seen her a few hours before: her blood pressure had fallen to a semi-dangerous level, and they were pushing dopamine to keep it up. I asked how concerned I should be, and the vet said, "We'd be much more concerned if she wasn't responding to the dopamine, which she is. I don't think there's any reason to rush down here right now. I'll let you know how she does throughout the day."
At 11:00 AM, though, I received another, far more distressing call: Valentine's blood pressure was still falling, and her blood sugar was now low, too, indicating the beginnings of kidney failure. This time, the vet said, "She's taken a definite turn for the worse. I now consider her to be in critical condition. We think now that she might have FIP, which is a fatal virus that some cats get for reasons that are still unclear to us. We've moved her into our ICU and she's being monitored closely, but I'd urge you to get down here if you can."
Near panic, I called Adam -- my ex, who had raised Valentine with me -- to ask if he wanted to come with me to potentially say goodbye to her, which he said he did. I picked him up and, through tears, explained her condition to him on the way. I'd been worried about seeing Adam after so many months -- how I would feel, how I would react -- but at that moment, nothing in the world mattered to either of us but Valentine.
When we got to the hospital, the vet met us downstairs and brought us up to the ICU, warning us as we walked that Valentine was attached to lots of tubes and wasn't particularly responsive. She told us they'd had to push even more dopamine to continue to support her blood pressure -- an extremely dangerous sign.
When Adam and I walked into the ICU and saw her on the table, our hearts just about broke. She was tied to tons of machines, though it wasn't as awful as it could have been because she was swaddled comfortably in and on lots of blankets. All we could see was her little head. She looked to be sleeping, but we knew it was far worse than that. She was so out of it that she didn't respond to our presence, though we both touched her and murmured her name.
The vet told us that there was a chance she could still get better, but within a half-hour of our getting there, her blood pressure dropped severely again, and they had to push even more dopamine. I've had enough medical training to know exactly how bad that is.
The vet was clearly dancing around telling us that we had to make a decision soon, though Adam looked at me and said, "It's not looking good. I'm going to leave the decision to you, since she's your baby, but she's probably not going to get better; you know that." He kept talking about how I couldn't bankrupt myself and blow my chances at going to Peru, but none of that mattered to me. "As if I'd enjoy Peru if I knew I hadn't done everything I could to save my baby girl," I said to him. He left it alone after that.
We pet her and cuddled her and talked to her gently. Once or twice, she seemed to jerk awake and writhe to get more comfortable. They pushed some additional medication to keep her blood sugar and blood pressure up.
And then she woke up enough to begin moaning loudly.
It was the most horrible sound I've ever heard in my life. She was absolutely crying; it sounded so human. And it instantly shattered my heart into a million pieces. I immediately turned to the vet and said, "I think we know the decision we need to make. I can't let her be like this." The vet's eyes were sad but approving as she nodded and left to go get the paperwork for me to sign.
Within minutes, one of the vet techs told us that the vet was ready with the injection, but I asked if I could have a few more minutes, and she told me, "Take as much time as you like. We'll be here." Adam and I cuddled Valentine for ten minutes after I signed the paperwork; he kissed her head and let a few teardrops fall into her fur as I sobbed into her soft, warm side, telling her I loved her and that I was sorry. I did everything I could to stop crying because it had always distressed her when I cried, but how could I not cry? I had just signed the death warrant for my baby girl.
She quieted whenever I spoke her name and kissed her little head. But then, out of nowhere, she jerked awake and began those horrible moans again, and, panicking, I begged the vet to do it now, do it right now, please end her pain, please, I can't see her like this.
They brought me a chair and helped lift her beautiful, broken body into my arms. Adam put his head to hers as I buried my face in her side, murmuring her name over and over again in as happy a tone as I could manage for her. The vet pushed two injections: one to put her to sleep, and the other to stop her heart. Seconds later, she gently listened for a heartbeat, then whispered, "She's gone."
I couldn't believe it. I was still holding her. She was still fluffy and beautiful and soft and warm and heavy in my arms. I fully expected her to suddenly turn and nuzzle into me, even though I knew it would never happen again. Adam began to sob in earnest, clutching her fur and pushing his face into hers, even though I knew her sightless eyes were staring beyond him. I just continued to cradle her to my chest, occasionally whispering her name and planting kisses in the soft fur along her side.
The vet techs very gently untied her from all the machines and told us to take our time, then left us alone to be with her. With tears streaming down our faces, Adam and I gazed at each other, silently sharing all the pain and all we'd lost in losing Valentine. I murmured to him, "I know she's gone, and that we should leave, but I can't bring myself to let go of her. I can't put her down. Why can't I put her down?" Adam shook his head and said, "I don't think you need me to answer that question."
Several silent minutes later, I wondered aloud, "How do parents do this with children?" And Adam said, "I don't think they do. They seem to get through it because time still insists on passing, even though they aren't moving with it inside." He paused, choked back a sob, and added, "That's what it'll be like for us now. She was our baby, our child."
A half-hour later, some unspoken signal told me that I was finally ready to release my grip on her. I placed her back on the table as gently as I could, her lifeless head flopping horribly. I turned to Adam and said, "Are you ready?"
He began to nod, then abruptly stopped and shook his head and said, "Can you step away from her for a minute?"
"Of course," I said.
I walked to the counter to get a tissue for myself as Adam put his arms around her and lowered his head to her side, where I always kissed her, and cried softly into her fur. I reached out and petted her beautiful head as I waited for him.
Then I noticed a trickle of blood coming from her nose. "She's bleeding," I told him, alarmed at the sight.
Adam jerked upward and stared in shock at the growing pool of blood that was puddling around her head; then he called frantically to a tech: "She's bleeding." The tech came over with a cloth and said, "That can happen sometimes when the body begins to relax."
The vet, seeing what was happening, came over and said to us, "I'm going to cover her now. Are you ready for me to do that?"
Adam and I both nodded, but then I darted over to her and pressed my face into her side again, planting kisses up and down her length, whispering "I love you" one last time. When I withdrew, the vet gently covered her with the towel that had been keeping her warm. I pressed my hand into her soft body once more, and then, tears still streaming down both our faces, Adam and I turned and left.
I took Adam to my house to spend some time with Ender. We talked about Valentine, about our lives, about everything and anything that came into our heads, and somehow, we both felt better. It was obvious to both of us that we were the only ones who would ever understand exactly what we both needed right then. He reassured me that we'd given Valentine a good life, and I teased him about the air gun he'd always used to terrorize both her and Ender, and we laughed, even though laughing hurt.
An hour later, I drove him back to school. As I put the car in park, he turned to me and said, "Thank you for letting me come today."
"Thank you for being there," I told him, fervently. "I wouldn't have been able to get through this without you there."
We smiled at each other, both still so visibly aching from the pain. He reached out to hug me, and I wrapped my arms around him, too, thinking to myself how the chiché misery loves company had never been more true or more comforting in its truth.
"I never know how you'll take this," Adam murmured into my shoulder, "and I don't even know for sure what I mean by it anymore, but... I love you."
Softly, I replied, "I know how to take it. I love you, too."
He pulled back and gently kissed my forehead, then got out of the car and slowly walked away. And I drove home, where my two roommates were waiting to kidnap me to go to Ocean Beach in an attempt to get my mind off things.
I saw Adam once more last night in an attempt to share that misery with him. We needed it. We both still need it, but now it's time to try to heal on our own. I stayed at Andy's place last night in the hopes of being comforted, but it took me all night to realize that the only person who could truly comfort me -- as had been the case for so many years in the past -- was the one person who'd seen and shared with me in the pain of the horrible images that kept me awake all night long.
I'm still in shock. She went from perfectly healthy to dead in a matter of two days. I can't decide whether to bury her or have her cremated. I never thought I'd have to make that decision this decade, let alone this week.
I can't remember her being healthy. Whenever I try, all I see is her on that ICU table, crying from the pain, and her sightless eyes staring out at nothing, even though Adam had tried to close them.
I wrote this so that I would always remember, because I think it's just as important to remember the awful times as it is to remember the good. My heart is still in a million pieces, and I'm not strong enough yet to glue them back together. My only wish is to be able to remember her healthy sooner than later. I can't take too much more of these images of her death. They're beating at me like relentless waves in a thundering storm, and I'm being worn down under them.
Goodbye, Valentine. You always were, and always will be, my precious baby girl.
April 30th 2007 12:14 pm
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I had the scariest night of my life last night! And, of course, it's all thanks to my reckless brother, Ender. He decided in the middle of the night, while Mommy and Daddy were asleep, that he was going to push the screen out of the window and escape to have some fun!
Now, I love my brother, but he isn't the sharpest claw in the paw, and since Mommy and Daddy didn't know he was gone, I realized it was up to me to make sure he didn't do anything stupid. I hate going outside, but I gathered up my kitty-courage and jumped out after him.
Ender was racing from bush to bush, and I had a hard time keeping up with him -- fat as he is, when he's excited, he can sure run! At some point I lost him, and found myself in a bush in front of a stranger's house. There was a mean-looking cat glaring at me from the door, and I was scared. I called to Ender, but he didn't respond, and I couldn't see him anywhere -- and I couldn't even see our home anymore, either!
I crept from bush to bush as quietly as I could, looking for any sign of Ender or Mommy or Daddy. It was cold; there was no food or litterbox; and I missed my brother. It was horrible! I was out there for hours, until the sun came up and strange people starting walking around outside, right near the bushes I was in. I scrambled to hide underneath a car.
Finally, just when I was starting to think that I'd never get home, I heard Mommy calling me! I yowled to tell her where I was. Just as I saw her crouch next to the car I was hiding under, Ender jumped up on the porch next to the car and told me that he was worried sick all night! The feel of Mommy's arms scooping me up and carrying me home was the most wonderful thing ever.
As soon as we were both inside, Ender scolded me for getting lost, and I scolded him for making me chase after him in the first place. We agreed that I wouldn't follow him outside anymore, and he'd be responsible for his own stupidity. "I know how to get back home no matter where I am," he bragged as he relaxed on the carpet, lazily cleaning his muddy paws. Well, I'm glad he's so sure, because I'm never going outside again!
April 1st 2007 7:11 pm
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Something is very wrong! I went to spray my lovescent on Mommy's clothes today, and they were all gone! It scared me, so I went to hide under the table, but it was gone too! So I went to hide under the pots and pans, and they were gone too! And the big brown toys Mommy and Daddy brought home are all sealed up, and a lot of scary people I don't know are taking them away!
Don't Mommy and Daddy love us anymore? Ender says it's all okay because Yoohaltruk will save us, but I don't believe him. If he feels so safe, why's he always trying to escape?