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A very short road

Posted by joeabbott on March 5, 2012

imageIt’s hard to write about Spencer but I need to talk. If I consider his situation clinically I can avoid this becoming a Greek pathos play of words … but, I have one of those posts started, too.

A couple weeks ago Spencer vomited on a Tuesday. I know this because it’s written on our calendar; we track things like that. He did so again on Wednesday and Thursday but had a full appetite those days, eating all of the food we’d laid out for him. From our untrained eye, he was still eating far more than “losing”. It was Thursday, 2/23, and we had a vet visit scheduled for him on 3/6; when it would be more convenient for us. We got home from work on Friday and while he hadn’t thrown up, he hadn’t eaten a bite. Our vet, Dr. Wilford, made a house call on Saturday.

She took labs and we made a worrisome visit sociable with some baked goods and light conversation. She found nothing concerning with his outsides and we sent her home with some eggs, a few scones, and a couple small vials of Spencer’s blood they drew in our front room.

The next day we heard that 3/6 was too far out, she needed to see him at her clinic (Atlantic Vet Hospital in Seattle) sooner, and so we scheduled 2/28 to be the day for the checkup. By that time his coloring was severe (yellow) and we’d started to syringe feed him. They took more blood and we talked about his situation being extreme: we needed to keep food in him, we needed to give him fluids twice daily, and we needed to make sure we understood that some cats were hospitalized at this stage.

I went into work late that day and, later yet, stopped by the good doctor’s home to pick up some pancreatic enzymes that we couldn’t find anywhere locally. In addition to the jaundice (or because of it or something), he wasn’t digesting and absorbing the nutrients from the food he was eating. Through her connections, Dr. Wilford ordered some up and had them rush order to her home. Yes, I know where my vet lives and have visited several other times. With a “Spencer” in the family, this isn’t abnormal.

Nor is it now abnormal to crush up pills in a mortar so we could mix it with food and syringe feed him; giving fluids is newbie stuff; shots, pilling, and cleaning him … not even worth raising a fuss. He hasn’t needed exceptional care most of his time with us, but we’ve grown into these things. He doesn’t like it … we don’t like it … but we all do what we need to and no one gets upset or hisses or raises a stink. Helping someone or accepting help in need is what you do.

I worked from home on Leap Day, 2/29, but that was a hard day. When I work from home I actually do work and I expect to, but it was too hard. I took a long lunch to feed Spence but work demands continued to come in and required my attention. By the end of the day I announced I’d need Thursday and Friday off; on top of needing to deal with Spencer and the stress, I now had a full blown sneezing-sore-throat-feeling-miserable cold.

imageAnd, as we worked cheek to jowl, Suzy caught it as well.

Spencer previously rebounded quickly from his lapses when we started ministering to him, but he was having worse problems this time. It was clear he was very sick and not improving. Suzy and I talked about end of life plans, about what we would and wouldn’t do in terms of care (hospitalization, feeding tubes, etc.), and the hard question: how long could we both keep up the work of caring for Spencer: forced feedings three times and fluids twice a day.

We asked Dr. Wilford to make another house call on Friday and she accepted.

Suzy stayed home that day to care for Spencer and me, nurse her own growing cold, and meet the doctor. Again, we made the visit as cheerful as these things could be and sent the doc home with some croissants, “Suzy cakes”, a dozen eggs, and more of Spencer’s blood. And now Suzy can add “assisting a blood draw” to her repertoire of ersatz vet tech skills. We waited and worried and, late on Friday I sent mail to work telling them I wouldn’t be in the following week.

We took the doctor’s phone call jointly on Saturday morning and it confirmed the worst: even hospitalization was unlikely to help Spencer at this time. His situation had been bad and was now worse. The main problem is the jaundice or shutdown/blockage of the pancreas. A normal bilirubin count in the bloodstream is 0.5 something; Spencer initially had a count of ‘3’ on the first Friday visit, ‘19’ on the Tuesday visit, and his Friday draw showed him to be at ‘29’.

And that’s where we are.

It’s been an awfully fast week. We’re hoping that he shows signs of improvement but know that the best we can really hope for are some good days before the inevitable crash.


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