Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dying Cats Can't Suck

Jazzy-Jazz, as my pilgrim bride likes to call her, is still not doing well. In fact, we were going to have her euthanized yesterday afternoon per the vet's recommendation. The vet called yesterday and said that our cat had more yellow fluid in her abdominal cavity and the fact that she hadn't really gotten any better despite steady fluids over the weekend meant that she probably did have F.I.P. Slightly curious to me was that they never gave her the test for it until yesterday despite having giving her the blood test for exposure to corona virus the day she was hospitalized. Despite feeling the way she did, she ran the test anyway before calling us and then gave us the option of waiting for that test to come back and say yes she has F.I.P no doubt about it, or spare ourselves further heartache and euthanize in the near future. She informed me that the test takes 3-5 days to come back. I didn't really dwell on that at the time because I wanted the vet to stop beating around the bush and give her opinion as to whether we should put her through 3-5 days of force feedings or help her go with some dignity. The vet, after a few times having to repeat the simple question to her over and over finally opined that if it were her cat, she would have it euthanized. My head didn't go back to the previous thought above that if it were her opinion the cat pretty much has F.I.P....

a) Why didn't she run the test the first day she was hospitalized?

b) Why did she run the blood test before she called me to tell me the cat isn't doing any better and probably has the disease she decided to wait until today to test for?

Anyways, I was too wrapped up emotionally in anticipating my wife's reaction to this news and wrapping my own emotions around the hard, cold fact our cat was going to die to pin those two inconsistencies to a bulletin board hanging on a firm wall within my head. So I became pretty pragmatic and informed the vet we would most likely agree to have Jasmine euthanized, but I would need to speak to my wife about it and get back to her. She suggested that if my wife agreed I could just call her back and she could have it done to avoid us further pain, noting we hadn't owned the animal for that long and may just want it done a.s.a.p.. That kinda woke me up a bit emotionally and my response was that I didn't know if Nancy would want to be there but at least I did want to see it take place. She said I could but didn't seem to enthused about that but I didn't pay that any attention. So the call ended somberly and I braced myself to call Nance.

So I called Nancy and informed her what the situation and options were. She was o.k. about having the cat euthanized and preferred to see Jasmine before it happened, but didn't want to see her put to sleep. I expressed to her how I felt (I wanted to see the whole thing through, and as to this moment I still can't explain why). We ended our conversation and I called the vet back and I told her what we'd decided upon and that we could be there between 4:30 and 5 P.M. and if that was o.k. She stated it was fine and she didn't leave work until 6 P.M. No other rules of etiquette regarding euthanizing were laid out by the vet as to what we were supposed to do when we got there and how the process was supposed to go.

So we get to the vet's office about 4:40 P.M. or so and we give our names and inform the vet assistant at the counter that we're here for Jasmine and she's supposed to, I think I used the term 'put down'. The lady asked for our last names printed up the bill, and while the printer was still chugging out the paper said to the effect that your balance is yada yada dollars. We informed her that her office had already charged our card the day we checked her into the hospital so it's on file and we had already paid about 98% of the price she had said. Her response was, o.k. you still owe yada yada dollars, someone will have your cat waiting for you in room 1. I don't think our names, the name of our cat, nor the word sorry came out of that woman's mouth. It was getting me pretty angry. What I was angry about was that either she was pretty callous, or that she wasn't meaning to be callous but wasn't listening when we said that we were here to see our cat get put to sleep. In her defense, it later became evident that the woman was new at the job because on our way out the other vet assistant had to assist the lady who'd we dealt with when we arrived pretty much check us out. Specifically I remember her telling the women to pay attention as she did something on the computer screen to reprint our bill as we left the office. Which leads me to what happened once we sat in the waiting room waiting for Jasmine.

So we sit down in the waiting room and share in meaningless conversation just to break up the silence in the room. A vet assistant brings in Jasmine wrapped up in a pillow sham and sits her on the metal exam table and within 30-45 seconds after that Nancy begins to cry. The crying experience for Burdicks is a bit different than most human beings I've encountered. It is, like most other things Burdicks do, quite inaudible. The only reason I knew she had started crying is because I turned to my right and looked at her eyes and face, which were both very red. It's in some ways both a blessing and a curse that Nancy isn't much of a crier. A curse in that she suppresses a lot of emotions that I have to pull out of her sometimes. A blessing in that sometimes crying can be a very annoying thing about women, especially when it seems to be over not very much at all. Well, this was a big deal, but I was still surprised to see her crying, as she's probably cried less times total than the number of years we've been married and we haven't even been married 10 years yet.

Nancy eventually stops crying after a few minutes. Time marches on and on. It's now after 5 P.M. and we're both kinda wondering what's going on but also realize we're not the only ones with a sick pet and maybe not the only animal to be put to sleep at this clinic today. We wait patiently some more. I start to become angry at the staff and hospital while still expressing to Nancy that I'm probably nitpicking them because I am upset that our cat has to die whether we like it or not and I'm scapegoating the closest thing possible. I guess in short I was trying to keep perspective. But we were confused. What was the etiquette of this? Were we supposed to walk back out to the front desk, wait in line again to tell them again to kill our cat? I still really don't know the answer to this question. I'd never visited a vet office in my entire life. Maybe my expectation that the doctor was going to come in and let us know she was ready to do her job and to say our last good-byes wasn't reasonable. At the very least there wasn't enough communication between the vet and myself on the logistics of putting our cat to sleep in her office. So at about a few minutes before 6 P.M. I told Nancy that this was ridiculous, the cat carrier was still conveniently in the car from the day we brought her here, and I was going to go get it, bring it back, and Jasmine was leaving with us.

And that's what we did. We did go back up to the front desk and inform them that we'd kinda waited for the doctor and that we'd now changed our minds and would take Jasmine home. We also asked them to redo our bill without the euthanization charge on it. Her response was, 'oh she's better now?' I don't really remember how I answered that one but I held my anger and contempt in check and gave a rather muted response that basically no she's not better. The bill thing was especially hard because we had to ask her to print a bill as she wasn't offering to give us one to look at, even that first time when we checked in and she quoted what we owed the vet. Again in her defense I think that wasn't purely callousness, but that she didn't know how and the person that did was busy with someone else. The lady wasn't mean now that I'm looking back at it, it was more that she is the type of personality that cannot admit it when they do not know how to do something, which we would have totally understood because everyone is new at one point in time.

So anyways after we asked for the revised bill on our way out I believe the vet assistant/cashier/receptionist woman knocked on the door right behind her which was the vet's office. Went in, and came out about 5 seconds and finally offered something that addressed what was irking us for the last hour and a half. She said that it was o.k. for us to take Jasmine home. I stated oh, o.k. well, we're leaving now, thanks for the revised copy of the bill and we were on our way. As we walked away the doctor was still in her office, still engaging in what sounded like a personal conversation with someone else in there. She never stepped out of that office. When we got back into line with Jasmine in her carrier I had noticed that there was someone blabbing away in that office almost non-stop but the voice was indistinct. So after the receptionist came and went from that room did I realize that had been the vet that was talking up a storm with who knows.

So Nance and I rehashed everything about this visit and how disgusted we were. We get home and apparently the Dr., at 6:07 P.M. called and left us a message saying it was our right to take Jasmine home, she thought we were still saying our goodbyes to Jasmine and that when we were ready we should have let someone know to let her know we were ready for her to be put to sleep. Again, my expectations may be unreasonable as a first time user of vet services for a pet, but I thought it was pretty clear when we said we'll be there between 4:30 and 5 P.M. that somewhere around there something was going to happen. Again, I'm no vet etiquette specialist here, but I think a half-assed voicemail blaming us for being more assertive/not taking control of the euthanization process at their animal hospital was lame. Very lame. Put in more blunt terms Nancy our I should have left the exam room, got back in line, and requested again for our pet to be put to sleep...I can't wrap my head around that one still. Maybe I should have ordered a singing telegram or a skywriter, too. Oh and the voicemail message stressed twice that the I.V. needed to be taken out of Jasmine's paw. Yup, we knew that. Between me receiving them and Nance's doling them out as care on people, I think we've got that one covered. I inspected her paw this morning and the swelling of it has disappeared. It looked like some kind of cartoon cat clown paw because the I.V. had infiltrated.

So anger put aside at the moment, Jasmine is at home with a little bit more weight on her because of the hospital's force feedings. She's still pretty sick and she won't eat. She's just basically hiding out in different spots in the house resting. I feel terribly about her. We're going to bring her to another vet this afternoon to put her to sleep. We decided we weren't giving the hospital that treated us like dirt after they got our thousand dollars the pleasure.

In a week or so I'm going to make a kind of conspiracy oriented post about how that vet kind of took us for a ride and the little things that the vet did and didn't do, did say and didn't say along with other things that were weird when we look back at it now disillusioned with the sincerity of this vet for at least our pet.

I'm kinda happy we have an extra day with her because if she'd gone out surrounding some of the callous stuff that went on yesterday it would be impossible to not have our last day with Jazzy-Jazz tainted. Hopefully we can make it right for her and us today :(

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