Monday, September 21, 2020

Colby and the Emergency Vet

 On 9/11 (really Colby?) I was washing my face at home after work and Colby rushes in to use the litter box which is quite close to that sink. (They love doing this.) But this time he growled. And ended in a painful mini-yelp. 

Okay, I have never heard that cat growl. Plus any vocalization in the litter box is bad (unless your cat just loves to announce his/her business to the world in which case you know it's normal). I checked after he left the box and found he had peed but only a little bit and not like a cat normally does. I was so exhausted from a long week at work following two other long weeks at work where I'd been staying unusually late every day. (Remember that, it becomes important.)

But despite my exhaustion I had Colby in the crate and both of us at the emergency vet before it opened, with my text all typed out and ready to go the minute the clock hit 6 pm. I hate Covid-19 because I wasn't able to go in with Colby and had to sit in my car waiting anxiously for news. 

Good news, sort of. Turned out he did not have a partial blockage. What he had was inflammation of his urethra which made it painful to pee. The vet gave me (for a hefty fee) pain medication and a muscle relaxer to help him pee easier. The vet's first name is Morgan (according to the paperwork) and I honestly don't remember if it was a male voice or a female voice or an inbetween voice but they said that it was safe to wait for xrays and a urinalysis until Wednesday, as I explained I already had a vet appointment set up for Apricot but I could trade in cats and make another appointment for Apricot.

I had learned during the time I almost died (that post is on here) that you do not give two (or more) new medications at the same time because if you're allergic to one you don't know which one. So I only gave Colby the pain medication which was gabapentin.

I've taken gabapentin for some neurological pain I have but it didn't do mine any good plus it had weird mental side effects. But Colby didn't seem to have any trouble with it. And by Sunday he had even peed in a normal fashion for a cat (somehow I was in the right place at the right time to observe this). I never did give him the muscle relaxer.

But I noticed something else. Something different, almost indefinable. Colby was ... happier? It wasn't just the difference between a cat in pain and a cat with pain relief. It was more. He was more confident. More Colby than Colby normally was. 

Intrigued, I looked up on Dr. Google "cats and anxiety and gabapentin". Remember, I had no clue gabapentin was used for anxiety in cats. I only knew it as a pain med for both humans and cats. Colby's behavior changes were the only reason I looked that up. But sure enough, it's an anxiety med. A very common one for vet visits.

By saturday night Colby was also asking me for it. He gets one every 12 hours and boy was he on the dot. 5 pm and he was up on his kitchen stool ("his" because he's the only one who uses it) and waiting for me. He never gave me the slightest bit of trouble swallowing it. 

Dry swallowing a pill can't be fun. I can't do it. I always feel sorry for my cats when I have to give them pills. But Colby wasn't putting up with it for the sake of a treat afterwards. I hadn't even offered that. He wanted the pill itself. 

By monday night the improvements in Colby's emotional well being were so dramatic I knew I couldn't take this away from him. Unless my vet said it was unsafe to remain on it permanently, that was exactly what I wanted to do for Colby. Even though it meant I was locked into a 2 pill a day dosage schedule.

Thimble, on the other hand, was rather disgruntled that he couldn't push Colby around anymore. He went roaming about the house, sulking. It was almost funny given what I knew had to have been happening between the two of them while I wasn't there. Poor, poor Thimble, couldn't pick on his little brother any more. Yeah, I didn't have much sympathy there.

I had enough sympathy, though, that when the vet's office had the appointment before mine still open so I could bring both cats at the same time, I brought all three that wednesday. Not because Thimble likes the vet. But because he was feeling left out and no longer the undisputed center of attention and I knew if I left him at home while I took the other two somewhere without him that he'd be even more upset.

Apricot's issue is unresolved but non-lifethreatening (or even bothering him that much, from what I can tell). Hopefully it will fix itself.

Colby, at the vet, is usually the cat who wanders around getting himself into trouble while the other two stay paralyzed in the carrier and have to be dragged out. Not this time. He came out initially but went back in. He was toward the end of the morning's dosage since the appointments started at 4 and by the time the vet came in after the techs had done their thing, it was 4:30.

He was shaking like a leaf. He and Apricot were both on the exam table since the vet techs weigh them and stuff and I don't let them go back into the carrier until they're all done and ready to go home (so that they know this). He was plastered flat as he could get to the table and not just quivering but visibly shaking.

I asked my vet if I could give him his evening dose. (I'd brought it with me as I figured we'd still be there at 5 pm). I didn't want it to interfere with the urinalysis if that was a possibility but she said go ahead and we'd do Apricot's exam first to give it a chance to get into his system. 

I asked this shaking, 'hiding-as-best-he-could' cat if he wanted his "pain med" (that's what I called it at first so now that's the name of it for him). Colby, still shaking violently, actually sat up so I could give it to him easier. And within 5-10 minutes, he had stopped shaking and was just annoyed to be at the vet, not terrified.

We'd already discussed keeping him on it, and my vet had said that it was fairly innocuous in clearing cat's kidneys and liver so she didn't have a problem with it. At this point, though, I indicated Colby's dramatic behavioral change and said "See? See what I mean?" and my vet was like, "wow, that is a massive difference."

She (my vet) was trying to get Apricot's heart-rate, and having trouble, so now that Colby was not shaking and so very scared I reached over and laid my hand on Apricot's head. The vet says, "Oh, that's much better." It still amazes me that Apricot's heart-rate drops just from me touching him--not even petting him, just my physical contact with him.

While we were discussing what else needed to be done with each, they didn't have to be held by a vet tech for exams so I had both cats with their heads firmly planted in my stomach, one on either side. This was somewhat interesting in hand-to-cat logistics but I managed.

Apricot got his blood drawn. Because he's gained so much weight (part of what triggered this visit) they were challenged to find a vein and it took ages. He left before Colby, but Colby had to wait until the orders for the xrays were in the system.

Colby, not wanting to wait for them to come for him, tried to go back in the crate so I put the door on it. (Thimble is still inside this whole time, by the way, determined he's not coming out.) So Colby squeezes himself underneath the crate (which is on a furniture mover). There's only a normal office chair wheel's height there but he flattened himself and managed. I was laughing despite myself. I mean, I always said Colby could fold himself into the size of a deck of cards but I thought I was exaggerating!

The vet tech, when she found him (I just pointed down after she'd said hi to Thimble and was puzzled as to Colby's whereabouts and said, "you looked right at him") laughed hysterically. We had to lift the furniture mover and the crate off of him to get him out because we couldn't get our hands underneath. And we're both women with small hands!

So Apricot comes back before Colby does, and, forgetting I hadn't taken the door off the crate yet, I apologized to him for leaving and went to use the restroom. When I came back, I found that Apricot had taken refuge under the crate as well.

Now I really don't know how he managed. Perhaps all that fat is squishier than I thought. But unlike Colby, he couldn't move around under there and he was quite, quite stuck, and not happy with the situation, so all I had to do was lift one end and he came out looking sheepish. 

I apologized again, this time for leaving him with the crate door shut against him, and took the door off the crate. He scrambled in and wedged himself up against Thimble, who was firmly against the back side of the crate and Not Going Anywhere.

Then they brought back Colby, and I let him do what he wanted, which was go in the crate too. He wanted in the back.

Now normally Apricot gets to go in first, and Thimble goes in second. Thimble lays down against the back of the crate and slides Apricot out in front of him so they're wedged like that. Colby, however, does not have the weight to move Thimble in the same fashion (much less Thimble and Apricot).

He didn't let that stop him. He just lay down on top of Thimble. 

Thimble got this extremely long suffering look on his face, like, "see mom? See what I put up with from these two?" And when the vet tech came in with the results of the tests I motioned her over and said, "you've got to see this," and she had a giggling fit again.

(They love my cats. They tell me this every time I come.)

About Colby--what caused his urination problems? Well, he had no kidney stones. No crystals in his bladder. No bladder infection. You know what causes this inflammation in cats with no medical underlying cause?

Stress. Stress from me being gone so much longer each day for the past three weeks.

Yup, I made my cat sick. Go me. And as a result, not only did he have this urination problem (which has resolved itself), but he now has a permanent anxiety disorder and is no longer my phlegmatic, quiet kitty.

At least we found a medication that makes him feel better (because me coming home on time wasn't going to be enough any more. Not once the anxiety gets its hooks in him). Even if it was totally by accident and for a different original reason.

A week and a half later and Colby has never been a happier, more content cat. He's not acting sedated or drugged. He's eating more of his food and even participating in supper treats (which I thought he didn't do because he didn't like the treats offered). Turns out he loves the treats. He's wanting far more interaction with me than before as well. He's just more of himself now that the anxiety is out of the way.

And what about Thimble? He's getting used to the new world order. He's still not happy about it, but I'm giving him lots of attention too and he's slowly adapting.

Meanwhile Apricot just observes from the sidelines, which is what he's always been best at doing.

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Annual Vet Visit

December 27, 2019.

I took all the boys to the vet today. It's two days after Christmas. Two days after Christmas is when I brought Colby and Thimble home five years ago. I think they may not have appreciated commemorating this day with a visit to the vet.

Apricot has, given all his vet trauma this year, taken to peeing in the crate on the way there. I knew I couldn't have this situation continue. It makes everyone unhappy.

Did you know you can get diapers for cats? You have to also have something to keep them on. I used the onesie I had gotten him as an alternative to a cone that he didn't appreciate.

And it worked! We got there with dry cats and a wet diaper. Not that I'm happy Apricot loses control of his bladder muscles from fear; I wish he wouldn't be so scared. But I'm happy I found a way to make it so none of the three have to suffer the consequences of it.

They told me when they got blood for yearly bloodwork that they got urine samples from Colby and Thimble but not Apricot. I said, entirely unhelpfully, "If you can get it off the diaper that's where Apricot's all is" motioning to the trash can. (No, they can't get it off the diaper and I knew that. I was being a smart aleck).

Well, Thimble is doing well. She heard a faint heart murmur from him for the first time. I asked if stress could cause it. She said yes, actually, it can. I said because he's been really stressed out with Apricot's illness (see the blog post about Apricot's Expensive Scare). So we'll see if he still has it next year.

Colby's heart murmur is still there. And the poor guy is constipated. So he'll be getting miralax in his pumpkin. He doesn't mind it (I had already been giving him a little bit as I knew it was okay to give cats and I suspected what the problem was). So hopefully that will get things moving and he will stop throwing up half of what he eats.

Apricot's all healed up and is just waiting for his fur to grow back in the spots that got shaved when he had the biopsy. She was very pleased at how well he looked compared to the last time she saw him.

We had to stay a long time. Judging from what I overheard (the walls are too thin for my autistic ears not to overhear stuff), there was an emergency visit from someone whose dog may have broken his foot/leg. Apparently it's not broken, just sprained. Anyway, although nobody said it, I think that's why it took my vet so long to make it to us even though we had the first appointments of the day.

I had to keep them out of the crate so the vet could examine them when she did come in, and they were not happy to be locked out of their home away from home. Colby roamed around as usual, spending some quality time on my lap and then moving on to other things and returning as he pleased. Thimble squashed himself into the corner under a red chair and Apricot joined him. Colby thought they were silly.

After far too long (and a big bill--three cats with bloodwork, two with vaccines, and one with xrays cost a lot), we finally got to go home.

The crate lives in my bedroom on the side I don't use with the door off in case anybody wants to visit inside. I've never seen anyone do so but there it is. I put it back when we got home. And eventually got around to going in my bedroom again to make the bed with the sheets I'd washed and put in the dryer before the vet visit.

Apricot, startled, emerged from the crate. I was equally startled, but apologized for scaring him. I said I didn't know anybody went in there --- and I was astonished that he would go in so soon after the vet visit.

I wonder ... he knows he peed on the way there. He also knows it should have gotten everywhere and didn't. I wonder if he was in there trying to recreate the event in his head so he could figure out what happened to his pee! I mean, it's not like a diaper is something a cat has any basis for understanding.

And everyone was very glad to be home and very loving, which was nice. They can be standoffish after a vet visit sometimes. But today I had cats all over me whenever I sat down!

Apricot Gives Me an Expensive Scare

One day in September I was petting the cats and noticed Apricot had scratched the area right in front of his ears raw. I couldn't see anything wrong with his ears. I hate taking him to the vet because he's so scared of them. He is a "freeze" scared kitty, not a "fight" scared kitty, so he at least has that going for him--no one has to restrain him unduly.

I thought maybe I would trim his nails, as that task was in my to-do list at the moment. (It shows up regularly in the app I use for reminding me to do things.) So I trimmed nails.

And I found Thimble's back foot was bloody and there was this weird growth beneath one of the nails and he was definitely touchy about the area.

Fine. I'll take them to the vet. I got an appointment the next day, and ended up with all three of them because I honestly couldn't figure out how to leave Colby behind without (a) letting him out of the house accidentally while I carried the crate with the other two to the car and the door stays open while I do that, or (b) locking him in one room the entire time I was gone, which would be traumatic.

Apricot peed on them again. I mean, he lost control of his bladder on the way there from fear, and the pee ended up on all three cats. Mental note to do something about this.

Thimble didn't have a growth. That was just his nail bed. It looked like a growth because his nail was almost ripped off completely. In fact it came off in the vet's fingers when she went to see how secure it still was. (She's still embarrassed she did that while I was holding him. Luckily for me I had my eyes closed when I saw she was going to test it. Neither of us expected it to come off in her hand.)

So basically he just tried to declaw himself. Again. It was the other back paw he'd done it to before. And as before, all we could do was let it heal and make sure it didn't get infected. (He's fine, by the way.)

Apricot had a yeast overgrowth in his ears again. So I was taught how to clean them and given a ketoconazole solution to use to clean them. It worked like a charm and no more yeast infection after a week of daily ear cleanings.

But at the vets I casually mentioned a scab on his side near his backbone that he had, because I figured while we're here anyway, she might as well look at it. We both thought it was just from playing with the others. Thimble's a sweet cat and doesn't do things like that on purpose but he could easily do it on accident as he's so strong and doesn't realize it. She took the scab off to make sure it wasn't a puncture wound (it wasn't).

It didn't heal. It just kept getting bigger. Another one popped up. And another. Each started small and slowly grew. None of them would heal.

Two vet visits and a predisone shot later. The wounds are still getting bigger, still not healing, and more are still appearing. The predisone made him throw up repeatedly so no more of that steroid for him. My vet confessed she was completely stumped and had never seen anything like this and sent me to a specialist, a dermatologist for pets.

I am very fortunate to live five minutes from a world-class specialty vet practice. They have everything from dentistry to cardiology to surgery to oncology ... and dermatology.

My poor rescued feral kitty. He was on an antihistamine to try to reduce the itching (he had washed a spot raw on his tummy from the itching by this point). But antihistamines don't work all that well in cats. They don't know why.

Dr. B- examined him and gave me three options. It was either a deep fungal infection, an allergic reaction, or, and she thought this was a remote possibility, cancer. The spots had a specific type of white blood cell mixed in with all the scab crud that are allergy related.

She did a biopsy a week later. She only does a local anesthetic and gives them a sleepy gas to knock them out only as much as needed. She said they didn't even have to knock him out completely. He just lay there and watched them take punches out of him. (That's a biopsy punch; kind of like a hole punch without the other side, I think.)

After that he had a (different) steroid pill. By this time I had put him in a cone after first trying a surgical onesie. He is an old fashioned cat, apparently, who doesn't believe cats should wear clothes, and he wouldn't go to the bathroom while wearing it, so he leaked from his full bladder before I realized what was going on. So a cone it was.

I found a clear plastic cone online for him so the others couldn't sneak up on him. Thimble is Apricot's best friend; they're great buddies. But Thimble is also a bit of a practical joker and I could just see this turning out badly if I restricted Apricot's field of vision.

I had to get a second cone because Apricot had a bad tendency to get a drink and soak the fabric edge of the cone and then go use the litterbox and get litter coated all over the edge. So I'd put the second cone on, take the dirty cone off, clean the dirty one, and let it dry until I had to swap them again. Usually about every two days.

The steroid really helped. The lesions started healing. And then the biopsy results came back faster than anticipated. Apricot was allergic to something.

Seriously? That is one nasty allergic reaction.

They'd taken a blood sample to do an allergy test if such was needed when he was under for the biopsy, so now they sent that off.

Apricot is allergic to dust mites and molds. Just like me.

Instead of an antihistamine, there is a drug that goes even farther up the chain of events that leads to the active allergic reaction and stops it at the source. My ears pricked up. What is this drug and why don't I have access to it?!?

Oh. Because it's cyclosporine. It shuts off the immune system. They're not going to give that to a human just for allergies. Phooey.

But for a cat that doesn't have to interact with anyone besides the other cats who live with him and also don't interact with anyone, it's okay to use.

So he got that pill while we weaned him off the steroid, and as a long term solution ... can you guess?

He's getting allergy shots. Just like me. For practically the same things. Only I have to give him his allergy shots.

Luckily he's absolutely fine with me sticking a needle into his shoulder fat. I've been told they don't have a lot of nerves there and it seems to be true. I tell him it's time for his shot and show him the (already prepared) needle and syringe and he just shrugs and lets me stick him.

And having had allergy shots myself for years now, I'm familiar with how they work and all that goes with it. At work I use syringes (without needles) all the time so I'm really familiar with those too. His are smaller, I'll grant you, and have a needle at the end, but the action of filling / emptying the syringe is very similar.

I was convinced he had cancer. What else could non-healing lesions be? I'd never even heard of an allergic reaction like that. Thank goodness humans don't appear to have that reaction. It was horrible just to watch much less imagine having it.

So Apricot is off the steroid. He doesn't appreciate the cyclosporine every morning but he lets me do it. He hid under the couch twice but I had previously discovered I could actually tip the couch over, and that's more traumatic than the pill, so he's stopped doing that. I tried giving him a treat reward afterwards but he doesn't want it. <sigh>

He's building up the allergy shots to the maintenance level (humans have to do this too) so his shots are every three days but once on maintenance, which is in about two weeks, he'll only have to have them once a week.

The shots take a shorter time to work than humans, too, which is a good thing given our comparative lifespan. The end goal is to make it so he doesn't have to take the cyclosporine or have the shots.

All this medical work was very expensive though.

And it's definitely worth it to have a happy, relatively healthy kitty.

PS. Thimble's been having trouble with this whole thing since Apricot's his buddy and has been more needy and acting out more, just like a toddler. Poor baby. I'm trying to reassure him but his grasp of English, while impressive for a non-human, isn't up to explaining allergies.

That Time I Almost Died

I'm writing in May but this all happened back in March.

Now I understand (from internet research, so take that as you will) that most bronchitis is viral. Not the kind I get. Mine is always bacterial. It's like the bronchitis bacteria lives permanently in my bronchial passages (which may get referred to as "lungs" later on but I do know the difference) and it comes out to play whenever I get too stressed and my immune system can't handle it anymore.

For many months (possibly even a year or more) before March I had been getting very little sleep, about 4 hours a night. My job had gone crazy and was piling on the stress, and then one of my remaining friends decided to leave for a different job. He convinced me I could actually manage his job (as no one thought the company would simply not fill it; it was kind of important) and so after he let the lab manager know on March 11 that he was leaving, I made a pitch to the lab manager on the morning of March 12 on how I would be a good candidate.

This was majorly stressful for me and in fact I now realize I wouldn't actually be able to do that job ... but it's all good since the company isn't backfilling it anyway.

All that stress, all piled on ... literally I made the pitch at 8ish in the morning and by 10 I could feel the bacterial infection building in my lungs. (See? It's just shorter than typing bronchial passages every time. Deal with it.)

I hoped I was wrong. I've been accused of being a hypochondriac before. And there was a strange sensation not normally a part of it; my chest felt cold like the guy in The Incredibles was aiming a freeze-ray at my chest.

But by the next day, Wednesday, I could hear the rattle cough starting. So I made a same-day doctor's appointment for after work. Not with my regular doctor--it's impossible to get a same-day appointment with her. But with the nurse practitioner I'd seen before at the same place. By the time I got there I was extremely miserable and just wanted to rest.

She mis-diagnosed me with sinusitis and gave me a script for antibiotics. Well, silly me, I figured whatever, antibiotics are antibiotics and it'll work for the bronchitis. (No, it won't. You need a different type.) It was a ten-day course. I stayed home from work the next day, getting steadily worse, and then tried a half day on Friday simply because I should have been feeling better by then.

That made it even worse. But the half day gave me the ability to go for groceries the next morning at least... good idea as far as eating went, but bad as far as getting better. Because then around noon I came down with the flu.

It was textbook. Major chills/fever, aches and pains (and my word were they severe!) etc etc. I was so miserable and in so much pain* it didn't occur to me to go somewhere and get antivirals.
*Yeah, I know you can take ibuprofen or aleve for the pain of the flu. You can. I can't. All those medications just give me headaches now and don't do a thing for pain. It's what happens when you over use them (as I did during the ten years of living with undiagnosed endometriosis). They're called analgesic headaches. Learn from my mistake. Be sparing with them.

The cats were walking warily as I was behaving in a completely different manner than usual. The gunk in my lungs was making it difficult to breathe and I was having to cough frequently just to get enough air.

Since I had the flu and bronchitis I decided to stop walking my usual three miles outside in the morning and rest and stay hydrated, drinking water like usual, which means a lot. I also decreased my food intake as I wasn't exercising as much. These decisions sound like they make sense, right? Not ... really.

I didn't go to work Monday. I had the flu, and I knew this spring batch was particularly virulent. I avoid the news like crazy and even I had heard that. I called my doctor's office but they said the antivirals wouldn't help at that point. They didn't actually tell me to stay home though ... that ended up being an oops later, financially.

By this point I was so tired I couldn't do anything requiring concentration so I just sat on the sofa and watched the cats. I managed to feed myself and do the necessary things for me and the cats but that was it.

This is how I know that every morning Thimble basically does calisthenics. He runs through the house, leaps up onto the 5.5 foot cat tree from the floor, leaps down again, runs through the house, rinse and repeat. No wonder he's so strong. The other two just settle into nap mode. And some of the time that was with me, which was nice.

The gunk collection in my lungs was worse when I was lying down (I discovered later it wasn't just lying down that did it; it was sleeping). I would wake up, unable to breathe, coughing violently to clear a passage for the air. If you've ever coughed so much you expelled all the air from your lungs and you couldn't stop coughing long enough to inhale, you know how it feels.

Luckily for me, I'd had the flu shot, and while it didn't keep me from getting this strain, it did shorten the time I had it. By Tuesday the flu symptoms were dissipating and I knew something was wrong since if the antibiotics had worked, my bronchitis should be gone.

And the flu had done something to the bronchitis somehow. Now the gunk only collected when I slept. So I was waking up every four to six hours coughing violently. And the cough was so thick it wasn't doing the characteristic rattle anymore.

I called the doctor Wednesday to get another appointment with the NP, only to be informed that she'd been let go that very morning. And from the tone of voice (shock), it had not been her idea to leave. My actual doctor had appointments available on Thursday as she was doing some extra days to fill in.

Thursday morning I woke up, coughing my lungs up as usual. About two weeks before all this I'd gotten a new mattress and this one could bend and prop me up in order to sleep , and I really don't know what I would have done without it! If the gunk collection was that bad sleeping propped up ...

Something happened though. All the sudden my muscles in my back went from being aching and in pain from coughing to being violently in pain. This was, I discovered later, when I broke a rib on both sides from coughing so hard. At the time I didn't know what happened; I thought it was an accumulation of muscle stress.

When I went to my doctor that morning, she misdiagnosed it as post-flu syndrome, which is where a symptom (or two) from the flu hangs on even though the flu is gone. She gave me prescriptions for prednisone to reduce the inflammation in my throat so I'd stop coughing, a muscle relaxer for my muscles to reduce the pain since I can't take analgesics, and a hydrocodone cough syrup for immediate cough relief. (I didn't know hydrocodone reduced the cough impulse!)

I took all three in the parking lot of the pharmacy as I knew I could get home before the sleepy part of the hydrocodone / muscle relaxer combo kicked in and I needed relief from the pain. That was around noon.

The muscle relaxer wears off in six hours. The hydrocodone wears off in 12. And I'd never had a steroid before ...

By 6 I was having trouble breathing, and not the bronchitis trouble. By 7, as I had waited to see if it improved with the muscle relaxer wearing off, it was worse. I called the nurse helpline and consulted with them because I was getting freaked out. Because I wasn't breathing unless I was actively thinking about it.

Should I call EMS?

Yes, the nurse said.

I'd never called EMS before. I promptly dissolved into an anxiety attack. This didn't help the breathing problem.

I called my dad to come over (my poor parents had no idea how bad things had gotten because I hadn't told them). Then I called 911. I was not coherent enough to specify what I needed, apparently (I thought I was; I said I was having trouble breathing, which would mean ambulance) but what showed up first was the fire rescue people. You know, the non-fire-truck fire car? They have oxygen and stuff like that. And I gotta say, the oxygen helped more than anyone realized.

My dad got there, and then the ambulance proper got there. The fire people left and the ambulance people were a little bemused. They didn't know what to do. I was having an anxiety attack, obviously, but I was also having trouble breathing, and I didn't want to go to the hospital but I didn't know what I wanted (other than to be able to breathe).

My cats had vanished at the first sound of strangers. The ambulance people, three of them, stood around while I sat on my sofa with my dad (I'm 43, he's over 80, seriously, I think I should have been able to do this on my own). And one of them basically talked me down. Got me talking about my cats, and that helped. I think I vaguely remember Thimble showing up at one point, taking a look at the four other people in my living room and disappearing again. I don't know for sure.

Sheesh. Just writing about this is traumatic. And believe you me, the trauma got worse as time went on.

So finally both my anxiety attack and my breathing problems subsided enough that I thought I'd be okay with just Daddy. I asked them, where did the breathing thing come from? I was very clear that it had started before the anxiety attack--that's what caused the anxiety. Turns out I had a rash directly under my left eye that I hadn't realized I had, and the main guy pointed out that between the rash (me: what rash?) and the breathing problems he would guess it's an allergic reaction.

And I had no idea which of the three medications caused it.

This meant that I couldn't take any of them. I let my dad go home after a few more hours when I felt my breathing was strong enough on its own without me thinking about it constantly that I would wake up again in the morning.

On Friday I couldn't get a doctor's appointment with anybody at my doctor's office (which is something I highly resent ... what part of "allergic reaction to the medication I was prescribed" doesn't mean you need to do something?) So I went to a doc-in-a-box, those walk-in places that have popped up all around the country.

They did an xray to make sure I didn't have pneumonia (I didn't. I never do.) and prescribed basically the same thing as Nyquil only with Sudafed added. Seriously? But I didn't have another choice.

Saturday I woke up and the coughing to clear my lungs was so very painful I decided, rather irrationally, to stay awake a few nights so I could get better and maybe sleep without pain upon waking. (It would have been more rational to say, okay, I'm now down to two hours before I wake up coughing. So let's set an alarm for one hour and at least get some sleep.)

The irrationality started before the sleep deprivation. And there's a good reason for that.

I got groceries. And vacuumed the house. As usual for a Saturday. That wasn't rational either. I should have asked for help with the groceries and let the house go un-vacuumed for a week. And I stayed awake all night. I also took one of the muscle relaxers that afternoon and just kept an eye on myself. I figured it was probably the least likely to have caused the allergic reaction. I was right about that. It was fine.

The cats thought my staying up all night was strange but rather marvelous. Especially as mostly I just sat and petted anyone who showed up.

Sunday things were seriously deteriorating. The coughing was worse. The sleep deprivation was even worse. I couldn't think straight. I was actually aware of this at this point. I felt I should probably have someone like a doctor see me but I didn't want to go to a doc-in-a-box. She hadn't even known that hydrocodone was a cough suppressant. Granted, I hadn't either, but I'm not a doctor.

That meant the ER. Was I really bad enough to go to the ER? I didn't know. I remembered (why couldn't I have remembered this earlier?) that we had tele-doctor access now. So I did that, signed up and followed directions and talked to a doctor via skype. She said I should go and get checked out.

Well, I was thinking enough to realize I wasn't really safe to drive by myself to the ER. So since it was Sunday and my brother wasn't at work, I called and asked him. He came over, heard I hadn't slept since Friday night, and said indignantly "what makes you think you're safe to drive?" after I asked him to follow me to the ER. He had a point.

So he drove me there. I was in such pain of my own I didn't sense how uncomfortable he was. This is usual for me as I usually pick up on that sort of thing.

Finally, finally, a doctor actually got it right. (No, he didn't, but more on that later.) Turns out it was still bronchitis. Even though the gunk was only collecting when I slept (I'd tried to sleep sitting up earlier that day and that's when I found out it was sleep that did it, not lying down). Even though the cough wasn't rattling like I was used to bronchitis sounding. This was just another possible manifestation of bronchitis, although an unusual one, and I was fortunate I had an ER doc who actually knew about it.

He prescribed antibiotics. The correct ones. The problem was ... they made me nauseous. Severely. As in, don't bother eating because it won't stay down.

My brother had taken me home and then left for his own home, so there I was. Sleep deprived, irrational for more than one reason (which I didn't know yet), and in severe pain from the broken ribs (which again, I didn't know about yet).

I knew I had to keep my blood sugar up. Research on the 'net and asking my sister on the phone led to trying honey dissolved in hot water. I could keep down a spoonful at a time. I switched to agave nectar (it's more caloric than honey for the same volume). I had a spoonful of applesauce every six hours or so. That was it.

Monday the pain was killing me. I needed something desperately. Everyone was at work. I didn't want to bother my parents again. So I called EMS. This time I rode in the ambulance (it almost didn't have shocks or springs at all. Talk about pain) and went to the other hospital system's ER.

Mistake. They treated me like a drug addict. They ignored me, left me in pain, and finally prescribed lidocaine patches which did nothing more than numb the skin of my back. They didn't pick up on the fact that a woman who can't walk in a straight line, who is confused and can barely pick out words to use, a woman who can't walk at all without support, might be something other than drunk. (At least, I assume that's what they thought). They didn't pick up on the fact that someone who is crying in pain might actually be in pain. They did an xray for pneumonia. Not gonna see broken ribs on that.

They told me I was almost ready to go home so I called my parents who came and then four hours later they let me go. Any number of times I was ready to walk out of there but I thought maybe I might get help?

The lidocaine patches have two covers, one on both sides. Kind of like a bandaid. I didn't realize that and had one on my back with the plastic against my skin. It didn't work very well. When I did get it on right, it worked a little better but it actually added to the nausea, although not that noticeably. What's one out of a hundred? Like my nausea was 99 and it added 1 to it, so now it was 100.

And I was so desperate I took some of the hydrocodone cough syrup. Remember, I had a 50/50 chance of that being what caused the allergic reaction. It wasn't ... which means I'm allergic to prednisone. To the very drug they give people who are having a violent allergic reaction. And I probably shouldn't try any other steroid either, since they have such similar chemical structures. Great. Another whole class of drugs that I can't have.

Between the antibiotics and the cough syrup, the cough was actually subsiding. I was actually getting to the point where I could sleep and still breathe.

But something else was going wrong. Something that had been going wrong since the beginning but was accelerating dramatically now that I had stopped eating anything besides the honey. I didn't know.

I slept well Monday night, exhausted from the all-day stay at the ER and from simply being so ill for so long. When I woke Tuesday, I was actually hungry. I carefully ate a protein bar, the simple ingredient one that I knew didn't have anything to disagree with my stomach even a little bit. And then I went back to sleep.

When I woke to use the bathroom, I was going to wash my hands afterwards. I couldn't walk in a straight line, and my brain felt foggy and floaty and all confused. I had taken to writing down the times I took my various medications, so I wouldn't overdose the hydrocodone and so I'd remember the antibiotic (which was a early afternoon thing since that's when I started them and it's every 24 hours).

(Sorry for the vivid description to come.) I had to steady myself against the counter before I turned the water on. I was looking down at the sink. And then I threw up the protein bar. It was like a magic trick, though. No convulsions. No nasty taste or burning sensation in my throat. Just liquid with well-chewed pieces, pouring into the sink. Like I hadn't digested it at all.

Maybe, I thought, maybe my blood sugar was low. Maybe that's why I still feel all foggy and confused. Obviously I hadn't gotten any benefit from the protein bar. But I'd slept, and slept well, so it wasn't sleep deprivation anymore. (I now realize it could have been because one night does not make up for a week of constantly interrupted sleep plus a night of no sleep, but it wasn't sleep deprivation and it hadn't been.)

I called my doctor's office when they opened. Could they test my blood sugar without an appointment? No. I called a doc-in-a-box. They could test my blood sugar but they couldn't do anything about it. Because if it was my blood sugar, I was going to need a glucose IV drip as obviously I couldn't keep anything down.

Dang. That meant the ER. AGAIN. Three flippin' days in a row?!? Do I have to?

Thing is, I never throw up. Even when I want to, having eaten something I shouldn't have. Even trying the finger down the throat thing. I never throw up. And I had never, even as a child when I could throw up, thrown up like that. Like a magic trick.

Between that and the brain fog, which wasn't right either ... yeah. I had to. Staying home ... I might not wake up. I seriously felt that odd in my brain.

I called my parents, as all of my friends work during the week. My mom, utterly stressed by the four hour wait in a horrible big echoey waiting room the afternoon before, almost burst into tears and begged me to just do home remedies. I hung up.

One friend had started a work-from-home job, and while that didn't mean I could interrupt her job for frivolous reasons, it did mean she had a little more freedom that someone who worked for a corporation and had a boss to ask if they could leave and so on and so forth. I called her.

She actually had a glucose meter. So she brought that over and we tested my glucose. It was fine. (Thanks to the agave nectar in water I'd been able to eat, apparently.) She left it up to me on the ER visit.

And I honestly don't know how I made the right decision. I don't know what made me decide to go for the third day in a row, bothering my friend even more (and I hate putting people out), and leaving my cats behind without so much as a goodbye. But I did.

We got there and were waiting. She'd gone and gotten a wheelchair which was most helpful. My house is small and there's always a wall or a piece of furniture to help keep you upright, but ERs are not so well designed. I went to the original ER, where they'd properly diagnosed my bronchitis (or at least gotten me the right antibiotics for what I actually did have).

Literally from the time I woke up and threw up to the time we were there at the ER, the nausea had increased to severe pain which actually was worse than the coughing pain from broken ribs! I felt the need to lie down ... I didn't want to throw up again, considering I had nothing but water in my stomach. The thought of a convulsion related to throwing up happening in conjunction with the pain from coughing was enough to terrify me.

So I used the wheelchair and a waiting room chair that was two people wide to lie down, being grateful I was a small person. I don't remember triage, where they take your blood pressure and ask why you've come to the ER that day and do the oxygen thing on your finger and temperature and stuff. I don't know if they did that or not. I don't think so.

The next thing I remember is being escorted in the wheelchair to a rolling bed in the hallway (yes, they're that packed and that small). This was much better than the makeshift bed I'd come up with in the waiting room.

My friend stayed with me.

She stayed with me all day.

They started an IV drip. Just saline, since my glucose was fine. They took blood for a blood test. A doctor came by and pushed on my stomach in various places and got told to stop, please, multiple times, along with a bunch of "ow, ow, ow"s. I think I managed not to moan about it while they weren't wanting to see where it hurt. Unless the other lady I heard complaining about her stomach hurting was me. Could have been.

They wanted to do a CT scan and you have to drink contrast stuff. They put it in ginger ale or something like that, clear and sweet and carbonated. I can't drink carbonated beverages at the best of times (it goes up my nose, not down my throat). I couldn't quite convince them. My friend wrangled a doctor (the nurse couldn't put it in anything else) and said she can't drink this can you put it in water.

Yes, he said, but it'll taste terrible. Me, slurring my words: don't care. Can drink it.

And I did. And it tasted terrible. But at least I could swallow it. And amazingly, it stayed down long enough for the CT scan (and afterwards). They'd given me an anti-nausea med in the IV when I first got put on it, but as the pain had not subsided yet, I thought it wasn't working. I guess either it was working better than I thought or it was the fact that the contrast was in water, which I was still drinking and still able to keep down.

When they brought me back, we met my bed being rolled down the hall with my friend beside it. They were putting me in one of the ER rooms. How lovely to not be in the hallway with people walking back and forth all the time.

But this meant I was all confused with directions again, and couldn't find the bathroom. I was walking better (yes, there was a reason for that ... and I've mentioned it. Do you know what it is yet?) and so while my friend was off hunting down lunch for herself, I was hunting the bathroom.

A doctor asked me if I was making a run for it. Had I been back to myself, I would have said something like, "yup, at top speed too" considering I was walking very slowly and carefully. But instead I said, "where'd you guys move the bathroom to?" He laughed (as I meant him to) and said "they're where they've been since the building was built." And then gave me directions which consisted of turn around and walk straight till you go through that door. (Literally it was that easy).

Different bathroom than the one I had been using, though. I still don't know where that one got to.

Finally a doctor came in and said, "we're going to keep you overnight."

And my reaction was pure relief. Something was actually wrong. Something they could fix. I wasn't going crazy. I wasn't a hypochondriac. And I would be able to sleep without fear. Because if something did go wrong, they would come in and do things to revive me. For the first time in three weeks, I could sleep without fear. I hadn't even realized how much that had been hanging over me.

The doctor continued, "your sodium was really low when you came in and we have to raise it slowly. Your potassium is low too and we're going to put a potassium drip in too."

I knew about what low sodium did to you. My dad had had the same thing, for a different cause, years earlier. The sodium was everything. The confusion, the floaty feeling, the foggy brain. I literally couldn't think because I didn't have the ions to make electricity to pass impulses from one neuron to the other.

The potassium is similar. But the sodium chloride drip (saline) is fine. No pain. Potassium chloride burns like hell. They had to split it into the sodium line way way up the join so it was diluted enough before it got to me, and I only had to have a mini-IV-bag of it! It was horrible, like a tetanus shot times a hundred. Luckily it wasn't for long, just an hour or two. If I could have handled more pain I could have gotten it done with sooner ... oh well.

My friend had to go home that afternoon. I still can't believe she stayed with me all day. She called my brother to see if he'd come after his work. I asked her if she could take care of the cats when she went home, since she goes right by my house. So she did that. She said Thimble was curious. ("said" via text.)

When my brother finally was able to respond, he said that he could only come for a couple hours. I asked him (via text again) if he could stop by my house and pick up stuff for me. My friend had my physical key, so I sent him an electronic one, thanking my own forethought of putting in electronic locks the previous year. Because of course this was the only visit to the ER where I hadn't come prepared to stay the night.

I got a nice big corner room. This hospital only has private rooms, but they're usually smaller than than the one I got. The end of the building is a wedge so the rooms at the end are two half-wedges. Lovely bank of windows looking out over other hospital buildings which gives a view like of a downtown skyline.

Good thing I was walking, talking, and thinking better though. The room was too big for my previous style of walking! And being by myself meant I had to advocate for myself. But I was amazingly able to do that, discussing my anxiety medication with my doctor (it has a withdrawal possible side effect of "death" so I figured they might want to continue it--they did--but it's a controlled substance and would have to come from them), discussing other things medical (like what my sodium numbers actually were, for example).

My brother came and that's when I realized just how uncomfortable hospitals make him. I was actually recovered enough to pick up on it. But I wasn't recovered enough to block the sensation so I was kind of glad when he went home. It was calmer without his silent tension. I'm really glad he came though. He said both 'Coons had followed him around as he gathered up my over-night-stay stuff. I said really? Colby too? Wow.

And I ordered a hamburger for supper and actually was hungry and not nauseous and kept it down. Because guess what, the low sodium makes you nauseous too, not just the antibiotic. Plus I'd forgotten to take the antibiotic that day (I wonder why ... haha) and they'd given me more anti-nausea medication before in the ER.

It was the best hamburger I've ever had.

Later I was still hungry and asked the nurse desperately if there was a place to get food (I was thinking a vending machine or something) but she said "we have food for patients" and told me my choices. So then I had a ham and cheese sandwich on a croissant with a side of fruit (melons and pineapple which I normally don't like melons but I was starving and ate it too) and a dessert of a graham cracker. And it was all delicious and my tummy liked it too.

After midnight I wasn't allowed to eat anything though since they wanted to do a fasting MRI the next morning. They'd seen "something" on the CT scan. (Lovely phrase there, people.)

I went to sleep around 9 or 10 and got the most wonderful sleep in the world despite the fact that they came in and took my blood pressure and then stuck a needle in my non-IV arm and took blood every four hours. I barely remember it.

At this point in May I had to stop writing because it was that traumatic living through it again while writing about it. It's December 27th now.

When I woke up I felt better than I had in weeks. (Not that that was odd or anything!) I was able to make a phone call to my insurance to make sure the MRI would be covered. And I don't do well on phone calls to places like that at the best of times. (They say MRIs have to be pre-approved but apparently any test, including an MRI, that gets done while you're admitted to the hospital is automatically pre-approved.)

And I think I might have been a bit of a pest, asking when the MRI was going to be. The problem was I was now absolutely starving. I wanted food so badly. They actually got me to the MRI fairly quickly for a hospital system--about 10:30 am, but since I naturally wake up at 4 am (I'd gone back to sleep till 7, but still) I was awake for a very long time with a hungry non-nauseous tummy.

I was a little worried about the MRI since I have mild claustrophobia, but this MRI can handle a 500 pound person (they told me) and I could barely reach the top of the tunnel with my arm outstretched. It was huge. It was open on both ends so I didn't have any trouble with it. They also warned me it was loud and I had both in-ear hearing protection (they provided) and over-the-ear headphones (through which instructions came).

They were disappointed in my ability to take deep breaths. I wish I had known at that point that my ribs were broken because I would have retorted, You try taking deep breaths with broken ribs!

The MRI was done with and without contrast (the without part first, obviously), and this time the contrast was put in through the IV. They warned me it would make me flush warm as it went through my system and make me feel like I had to pee really badly but it was a fake feeling and would go away in a few seconds. This was all true.

I commented that I was disappointed. They asked why. I said that my feet were still cold. It was supposed to be funny (I mean, it was true, but it was meant to be funny). I don't think they got the joke, though.

And then they discharged me around noon, but I was able to get breakfast first, and take my antibiotic. Within half an hour of taking it, I felt the nausea returning like some awful beast. I had already been discharged but was waiting for my parents to get there. So, feeling guilty, since I wasn't technically a patient anymore, I called the nurse line and asked if it was possible to get an anti-nausea pill (I had a prescription for them but obviously hadn't gotten to fill it at a pharmacy yet) in the next 20 minutes.

They managed it; wonderful people.

The 20 minutes was my fault. I'd been under the impression my whole life that there was no more of this hospital "downtown" as I'd been one of the last babies born in their downtown facility. (I didn't know that they'd then torn the building down and rebuilt it). So, given something someone had said that I'd overheard, I thought this facility was referred to as the downtown one. And that's what I told my parents. I knew where I was; it was ten minutes from my house on a bad traffic day and thus ten minutes from their house. But I don't navigate by street names, I navigate by patterns, so I didn't know what street it was on to tell them that way.

Oops. Luckily I'd been chatting to a "driver" (the person who pushes your wheelchair around--they didn't let me walk to the MRI and back, for example) and mentioned that I'd called it the downtown hospital and she set me straight, and I had to call my parents and tell them oops, sorry, and they were almost to the downtown one at that point and so had to turn around and come back.

Anyway, we got home, and I was even able to drive to the pharmacy and get my nausea med prescription filled and buy some Gatorade.

Apparently, your body has a balancing system that keeps your sodium in your blood at the right level. But when you screw that up, the system takes ages to reboot. The minute I switched from the Gatorade I bought (because I used it up) to water later that night, I started feeling that confusion returning. So the next morning I went to a Walmart and bought a lot more Gatorade.

And after that I found Propel, which is a powder version of electrolytes you can add to your own water and not have quite the intensity of flavor, and I'm still using that in my water to this day. I have noticed a difference in my mental acuity, especially at work, and I think drinking as much water as I do was actually keeping my sodium just a tad low constantly.

So you still don't know what the original illness was. It wasn't bronchitis. It wasn't the flu. It wasn't any of those things. It was a far sneakier and unusual illness. I found out in June.

June is when we go to our family reunion. My dad and his siblings are old enough that they were children before all the vaccines we have now. I was describing specifically how I broke my ribs to my Uncle C- (I was staying at his house) and he said, in his delightful accent, "Oh, well, now, that's whooping cough."

Wait, what? But I never made a whooping sound.

A bit of internet research showed most adults with whooping cough don't make the whooping sound.

Curious now, on the way back I described how I broke my ribs to my father without ever mentioning what his brother had told me or referring to it in any way. Daddy promptly commented, "That's whooping cough."

More internet research convinced me that is what I had. It fit all the symptoms, even the odd ones. The pattern (the first week mild, the second week flu-like symptoms and violent coughing, and the third week it gets even worse but luckily that's when I was prescribed an antibiotic that is commonly used for whooping cough too) matched.

I told my doctor my conclusions, and she said that we could do a titer value on my blood and see if I was right.

Yeah. I was right. I'd had whooping cough. That was the most sick I have ever been in my life. If I hadn't gone to the ER that third time, I most likely would have had a seizure from the low sodium and gone into a coma, and from there death if I wasn't found soon enough. And who would have found me? My sister said she probably would have started worrying after two days ... that wouldn't have been soon enough.

It was a scary, terrifying experience and one I will never go through again as I will be getting my vaccine boosters every five years for sure.

It was the gift that kept giving, too. The stress gave me the first cavity I've had in over 18 years; the three rounds of antibiotics (I had to do the antibiotic that worked twice because of skipping it the day I was admitted into the hospital) ripped up my stomach so bad I ended up having to have a colonoscopy and endoscopy in July to make sure they hadn't caused an ulcer; the MRI had to have a followup to make sure the lesions hadn't grown (everyone was so careful not to say "cancer" but that's what growing lesions are); and my ribs still hurt when I over stress them. (The second MRI showed no changes had occurred so that was a relief.) (And there's no ulcer. Just a stomach that's gone from being picky to being super picky.)

I'm glad this year is almost over.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Continuing Apricot Saga

Well, he was okay.

Last night, Sunday, Apricot threw up his supper treat. This is unusual for him. Then, this morning, as I was getting ready for work (and it’s not like I spend a lot of time in the house awake in the morning before leaving for work), I saw Apricot scooting. Again. 

He didn’t have to let me see him do it, either. Which means to me, that it was serious. Again.

When I got to work I waited until my vet would be open and called them and got a same day appointment at 4 pm. Today or tomorrow I also needed to get an allergy shot. (It’s complicated. But essentially when you start a new bottle you have to build up your dosage and during that time you have to come in more frequently. And I’m in that time period.) 

I managed to leave work at 2:20 (a half hour early) and get to the allergist, get my shot, get home by 3:20 (I was blessed by traffic actually moving!), get changed, get Apricot, and head off to the vet. I didn’t bother changing my stuff out of my work bag, just took out my lunch bag and took the rest of it with me, since it had my water bottle and stuff.

Apricot was not pleased. When I put his harness on him before I got changed and explained the situation, he hid. I had blocked off both major hiding places though. He still managed to find somewhere I couldn’t find him. I actually have no idea where he was initially hiding. He tried to change spots and I saw him when he was inbetween them. 

Then, again in the kangaroo pouch like Saturday, when I started the car he let out an ear-piercing meow. I didn’t even know he could make a sound like that. I said, “ow. Loud much?” Fortunately for my ears and my nerves, that was the only sound he made on the way there.

Well, my vet examined him, and this time his left gland was impacted. Seriously. It was clear on Saturday and two days later it was full and, er, sorry for the detail, but “sludgey”. 

She said that it was really hard to tell with these things whether it was an infection causing it or not. I mentioned that someone in the house also had diarrhea based on litter box evidence but it was difficult to tell who given there are three cats. It’s a good assumption it’s Apricot, though. (If you want to know why, look up more detail on anal glands and why they get impacted. It’s kind of gross.)

So I have antibiotic pills to give him, two per time, twice a day. (And isn’t that going to be fun.) There were bigger pills that he could have taken just one twice a day but, despite his weight, he’s not actually that big of a cat and has a small mouth. I’d rather do two ... at the moment actually. We’ll see how he takes to having a pill. Two. She said they should help with his diarrhea too.

But something really awesome did happen during the examination. I suddenly realized, wait, I don’t let the vet tech hold him, I do the holding during the vet exams. So I got up and took the pouch off and said something incoherent along the lines of, “here, let me hold him”. And put my hands on his shoulders and along his neck as I was going to move them down to hold his front legs. 

She just so happened to be listening to and timing his heartrate at the same time I did this. 

She stared at me in astonishment. She said, “his heartrate went from over 200 to around 140 the instant you touched him.”

What I said was something along the lines of “wow.” What I felt was an urge to cry from happiness. I’ve worked so hard for so long to have him feel safe around me, and to have concrete physical evidence that he indeed does feel safer with me, even just me touching him, was overwhelming.

Now as we were leaving we had to stop to pay, of course. And it was only then that I realized I did not have my wallet with me. Idiot me had left it at home, in my lunch bag. My wallet lives in my lunch bag during the week because all I do is go to work, and the lunch always goes with me, and that way it’s less random clutter in my work bag. Oops. I felt so bad. But they let me call it in when I got home. It helps to be a long term customer. 

I’m at home now. I learned from Saturday and didn’t let Apricot out of the pouch until I had the door to the tvroom open so he could go hide in his preferred hiding spot. Thimble, prevented from being a pain in Apricot’s, well, butt, took out his smelling desires on the pouch. That worked out nicely.

And Apricot just came out so I need to go have Apricot Cuddles with him, as I promised him I would when he emerged.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Apricot’s Okay

For almost a week and a half now Apricot’s been exhibiting scooting behavior, dragging his butt on the floors. But these episodes were always brief and I didn’t really think about it much, other than to note that he was doing it and he seemed to be distressed by it when it was happening.

Fast forward to today, when the scooting became much more persistent and severe and it became obvious even to oblivious me that something was wrong. So I called the emergency vet (seeing as it was Saturday and my vet wasn’t open) and the lady on the line said that it sounded like impacted anal glands.


I knew about those. I’d never had a cat with impacted anal glands but I knew it could happen. I even knew it happened more often to overweight cats (like Apricot) and that one of the signs was scooting behavior.  Did I put two and two together by myself? As usual, no. Poor Apricot. I hate it when others suffer because of my brain’s inability to put two and two together and reach a conclusion of four.

The emergency vet suggested I take him to a regular vet that was open on Saturdays and suggested Banfields in Petsmart. For those of you who don’t know this, Petsmart is a store that sells pet food, toys, beds, and anything else you can think of for pets. In the store itself is also a veterinary practice that’s financially separate from Petsmart but physically you get there by going in the store. Some stores have separate entrances and some don’t. 

The closest two Petsmarts in my area were full up so I called the third one. After having a discussion with the veterinarian the vet tech said I could bring him in any time and they’d fit me in.

Why do these things always happen when it’s raining, cold, and I’m sick? I had a sinus headache, day two. And I’d already been out grocery shopping and vacuumed the house that day, too.

But Apricot is important to me, more important than any of that. I put on the kangaroo pouch, put his harness on him and popped him into the pouch. You see, ever since he was briefly adopted and then brought back to the shelter before I met him, he thinks a carrier by himself means that he’s being returned to the shelter. A carrier with the other two cats in it is safe, though. When I have to take him by himself, I don’t use a carrier because it’s traumatic enough for him.

I took his rabies tag with me as I couldn’t figure out how to attach it to his harness, having lost the little metal ring thingy you’re supposed to use for that purpose. Only to find out when we got there that they needed the actual paperwork and the tag wasn’t sufficient. (Then why give me a tag at all?) She said she’d do it this once but next time I needed to bring the paperwork. I offered to email them a pdf of it and that was accepted. I felt bad about that too, not bringing the paperwork. They’d told me to but I thought the tag and the paper were equivalent and the tag was a lot easier to bring.

This Banfields didn’t have a separate entrance and was at the back of the very busy store. I felt bombarded by the people and their pets (mostly dogs) and the noise and the chaotic visuals of all the products on the shelves with all the smells from all the people, the products, the animals. It was overwhelming. And there’s poor Apricot, in the pouch, unable to get comfortable.

The whole ride there he was moving around, trying to find a position he was okay with, shoving various bits of himself (mostly pointy legs and knees and feet) into my stomach. You wear the pouch around your front, you see.

But they were quick. Literally the tech took him back, did the expressing of the glands, and brought him out to me while the secretary person was taking down my information! She said the left one was fine but the right one had definitely clogged. I’d done some research and asked if it was still liquid or if it had gotten to the solid point yet, because I was afraid that since I’d left him for a week and a half with this problem it had gotten past the “easy” point of fixing. She said it was a little sludgy but still okay to express, not infected or anything. 

That was a relief. And they only charged me 27 dollars which for veterinary anything is amazing these days. 

When I got home, he promptly hid under the bed (because I had the door to the preferred spot closed). I opened it and urged him to come hide in the spot he wanted to, but Colby had managed to get under the bed too to pester him and I had to drag him out to give Apricot the chance to make a run for it. 

Apricot actually emerged less than half an hour later and came by to tell me he felt so much better. Thimble promptly pestered him unbearably, trying to get all up in his butt business, that Apricot disappeared under the couch again and this time stayed there for several hours. I called Thimble a bully. About ten minutes later he came and made nice with me and cuddled up to me. And they say cats don’t understand English.

By supper time, though, everyone had gotten back to normal with each other (thank goodness). 

And I can’t believe how many clues I missed as to how distressed Apricot was. He was such a happier cat now, like his old self. He eagerly participated in treat time (which for the past week he’d either skipped or had no appetite for). He wanted held and cuddled and I finally realized he was telling me thank you.

Because I had been apologizing to him for having to take him to the kitty doctor when I know it really sets his anxiety on edge and apologizing for not paying more attention earlier ... and now he was letting me know that he felt so much better and he was okay with the doctor visit since it made him feel better.

I do so love my sweet, fat, orange cat. They say there’s something special about orange tabby boy cats and I totally agree.

Monday, December 31, 2018

I Killed the Fire Alarm

This is a tale that happened over several months early this year (2018). Like over about 6 months of time.

Fire safety: you're supposed to have a fire alarm in every room. The one in the kitchen would go off every time I opened the waffle iron due to the steam from it. This got tiresome, so I would take the alarm in to the next room before cooking.

And then I'd forget to bring it back.

Well, that's not helpful for fire safety. So I decided to relocate it. I put it on top of the fridge. This solved the problem as it was far enough away from the waffle iron and stove not to go off every time I opened one of the two when they were hot and had steam emerge. (Steam and smoke trigger the alarm the same way.)

The refrigerator also had a stack of boxes on top of it, to the right as you look at it. Then there's cabinets above the back half, the way some kitchens are. The boxes were to keep Thimble from jumping onto the counter (which starts immediately to the right of the fridge) and from there to the fridge. So the fire alarm was put on the left side of the fridge.

I promptly forgot all about it, as it no longer went off frequently. I even forgot I'd put it there.

Fast forward several months. Thimble decides that it's possible to leap onto the left side of the fridge from the ground. Not acceptable. He does this several times before I gave up, realizing I wasn't going to be able to discourage him, and instead put a large vase with a fake flower arrangement on the space. Thimble had liked stretching out on the fridge and was put out with me until he discovered that moving the vase meant he could get on the rolltop desk (where the vase had been) and from there, onto the built-in pantry. There's not enough space for him to stand up on the pantry top, but he can sprawl out and vulture the rest of us from up there so that makes him happy.

One day when I was making supper, this horrible noise started. I couldn't figure out where it came from. It seemed to be coming from the microwave? No, the toaster? Both of these things are often in use for supper preparation and both are next to the fridge. The horrible noise ceased before I could locate it.

The cats gingerly came back into the kitchen. I took my fingers out of my ears and finished making supper.

Days or weeks later, it happened again. And again. It was completely random. Always when we were in the kitchen with me making supper but, during the work week, that's the only time I am in the kitchen for any length of time.

I was slowly going insane. I hate noise. I hate loud, high frequency, ear-piercing noise. I hate random screeching noises. It would startle me so badly every time it happened that my heart would literally hurt afterwards.

It happened often enough that I narrowed it down to the toaster. But it's a cheapo toaster. It doesn't have any way to make a noise. It doesn't make noise when it's done or anything. How the ... (suppressed curse word here) ... is it doing that????

And then something clicked. That sound. I know that sound. It's the sound a home fire alarm makes.

Where's the fire alarm?

The next time it happened something else clicked. Remember? You put it on top of the fridge?

I reached up and fished around and found it by feel (I'm not tall enough to see the top of the fridge), pulled it down, and yanked out its battery. The sound vanished.


"Boys, boys, come see, I found it, I found it! I killed it, see? I ripped it apart! I killed it!"

Yes, that was me. Out loud, ecstatic, holding up the alarm and the battery, demonstrating to the cats that it was safe, see, here's its wicked heart! (It worked. The cats came back in and from then on were completely relaxed in the kitchen again, instead of being on edge the way they had been since the strange sound occurrences started.)


I'm really glad there's no humans in the house to video me and put that on youtube. 


So what happened was, Thimble sprawling on the fridge had pushed the alarm back under the cabinets. The toaster sent steam up which was then channeled into the space between the fridge and the cabinets as the cabinets continue over top of where it is. The steam rolled over top of the alarm, and, if there was enough of it, the alarm would go off until the steam went away, and then the alarm would stop sounding. Thus the complete seeming randomness of the sound.

By the way, fire safety be damned. I don't have a fire alarm in the kitchen anymore. It's still killed.