Monday, December 31, 2012

Team Seamus: the Christmas Saga

After my emotional last post,  26.4.26, I anticipated the following one would be much more light hearted. It would be about ugly Christmas sweaters or eating too much. You know, Christmas stuff. Christmas stuff like the quick trip to East TN to see my family when Jon got off work Saturday night. Christmas stuff like driving back to Nashville on Christmas eve morning so we could spend the following couple days with Jon's family. 
Then Saturday night as I was preparing to leave as soon as Jon got home, this happened:

Trip to the emergency vet for a very sick Seamus :/
 — atNashville Veterinary Specialists.

Nashville Veterinary Specialists
Veterinarian · Nashville, Tennessee

Around 10:30pm I let the pups out in the backyard to potty, and then called for them to come back in a couple minutes later, as the temps had dropped considerably. Aka came charging back in- as usual- but Seamus was nowhere to be seen- very unusual. I gave it another minute or two, thinking maybe he was taking his sweet time selecting the right bathroom spot...but still no Seamus trotting back to the door. I went looking around the house, checking corners of the yard, nervous about what I would find. Then I saw him- laying on the ground by the fence. He barely acknowledged me and did not move to stand up- very un Seamus like.

I slid my hands under his cold belly, lifting him to his feet. He hunched over, shaking, still not offering to move. I got him back into the house as quickly as possible where I put him under a pile of blankets- thinking he had gotten too cold. Thirty minutes later the shaking hadn't stopped; he actually seemed worse . With Seamus squinting, panting heavily and still shaking I texted Jon to let him know something was really wrong, then I got on the phone with my sister in law Jessy. She is great with dogs and works for a veterinarian so I was anxious to hear her thoughts. She brought up the fact that his shaking was likely caused by pain and stress rather than cold. She recommended Nashville Veterinary Specialists as the best emergency vet, and said call them if this goes on much longer. Another 15 minutes of Seamus shaking, panting, and not responding. I called the vet and gave them a heads up we were coming. Jon left work early, came home, put the sick pup in the car and off we went. 
Pretty quickly after he was admitted, we knew his condition was very serious. No out of town travel, no Christmas as planned. Maybe Seamus would not even make it through the night. X Rays and an exam showed major problems in his lower intestines. The diagnosis: ruptured lower intestine requiring immediate surgery to stop the leaking fluid that would poison the rest of his body. The cost estimate: low end $2800/ high end $5400 due at the time surgery begins. Ouch. I feel like I am not alone in saying I don't have $5400 lying around, readily accessible in the wee hours of a Saturday night/ Sunday morning. 

Panic: My husband is a great man. I hope you know that. He kept relative calm, as I became a red-faced avalanche of tears and snot. Jon was able to get a hold of a vet who is a family friend (Kevin- bless his heart for answering the phone at 2 am). Kevin confirmed the estimate was in the right ball park, that diagnosis and treatment sounded appropriate, and that we were in the best possible place, as Seamus would need constant monitoring- something our usual vet wouldn't be staffed to provide during the weekend and holiday hours. The emergency vet talked us through what our options were as we needed to decide immediately because Seamus would not make it much longer in his current state. And when his body started failing there would be no more delaying the decision. The options:

1. Surgery- which the Dr. required proof of payment for prior to starting.
2. Euthanize- which would spare him pain when his body did fail.

We tried our best to realistically weigh the options. 
Pro Surgery: He's only 7 years old. He is very strong and healthy. He is our big, sweet baby; he has been there to love and comfort us through so many ups and downs.
Pro Euthanize: He seems too young to not have a shot at surgery- BUT we don't want him to suffer. 

Decision: We will hope for the low end of the estimate because he is otherwise very strong and healthy and pursue the surgery using Care Credit- a credit line they suggest for people in our situation. 

Next step: Apply for Care Credit, and get the surgery under way now, because he will have a much harder time making it through if we wait until he is failing.

Complication: Care Credit. The vet office staff (and many friends have since confirmed) says CC customer service is available at all hours- call now and get an account. We call, and get only automated responses. Nothing except an automatic approval for the lowest possible amount of $500. We call every number listed, multiple times- no answer. Finally, we have to accept that we're not reaching them tonight. The vet says, "Go home and try Care Credit again first thing in the morning- maybe their system is down tonight. We'll inject antibiotics into his abdomen every 30 minutes and try to hold off the infection until you can get the account set up. I say "OK", Exhausted and not knowing what else to do. I set the alarm for a couple hours later: 7am. 

Sunday morning: The alarm goes off. I call and get the same automated response. Try again several times. My heart drops. It is a Sunday morning. For whatever reason (holiday weekend?) Care Credit's customer service line is down when they are apparently usually "always" available. I call the vet and tell them. They ask, "What do you want to do? He cannot last long on antibiotic injections." I say, give me a little more time to come up with... something? I have no idea what that will be. I try Bank of America. No answer. No answer. What the hell. How is this happening. As friends and family start waking up, I get messages asking what is going on? How is Seamus? I try to recount what has thus far been our own "Nightmare Before Christmas". Many people offer to pray for his health and ask if they can help in any way- can they help contribute some money to his care? It feels extremely weird... I know to most people this is just a dog. My dog. No one else should feel responsible. Why would they? Because they care. People do exceptional things because they care. At this point so many people asked about contributing, and my heart was breaking as we'd run out of any other options, that I gladly accepted this generosity. Folks start sending in contributions to Pay Pal. Then I realize these funds will take days to transfer and the vet is asking to be shown funds that are immediately available. I tell a couple people this. I call the vet to discuss options. She says, bring at least a 50% cash deposit and we'll accept Pay Pal immediately if you show us proof of funds and give us a statement that you are using it to pay the invoice. I say "GREAT". And start a crazy collection pulling every bit of accessible $ that we have. Then I get word that Jon's co-workers and friends gathered hundreds of dollars that morning at Boscos, for what I now call Team Seamus. I get a call from a friend and her husband who are out of town but know about the emergency. They give me instructions on how to get into their house and find a very generous amount of $ to take directly to the vet. I call the vet and tell her, we can do it. WE CAN DO IT. Thanks to the kindness all around it. The surgeon is called in. We meet at the vet and hand over the stack of mixed cash and checks, and the front desk staff stops and says, "You have AWESOME friends." I  tell her, "I KNOW!" I have been blown away by their willingness to help, by their desire to make a difference. 

Sunday evening: At this point we've set up the pattern of morning and evening  communication. When the surgeon came in and checked Seamus, he wanted to postpone and run an ultrasound Monday morning to gather more info since Seamus was hanging in pretty well. Then around 8pm his white blood cell count spiked, signaling the infection we had feared. Time for surgery. In fact, they were trying to get to him so quickly he was already prepped and ready to go when the surgeon called. No postponing till Monday. I am eternally grateful for everyone who contributed amounts large and small towards his treatment. Without each and everyone of you, that Sunday evening call would have been to confirm euthanasia. Two of our friends took us out for dinner- first meal since Saturday- and kept us company while we waited for the next call. How did they know exactly what to do? And how did they manage to find the time to take care of us during their holiday weekend? I don't know, but the fact that they did carried us through that scary night. By midnight, we got the call- he made it! He made it through surgery and was waking up from being put under. A golf ball size mass had been blocking his intestine, and had also weakened the intestinal wall causing leaking. The mass needs biopsy. We hope to have those results today. Knowing he made it through safely, and that Team Seamus was out there all around us caring and contributing to his (and our) well- being, allowed me a night of much needed sleep. 

Monday: He made it through the night, and we were able to visit in the afternoon. Poor guy, whacked out on heavy painkillers, but hanging in there! His blood levels,body temp, heart rate etc were pretty stable- good signs! Monday evening's call reported the same- he's stable! 

Tuesday: Still stable! BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT EVER. The vet cautions us that the first 3-5 days post surgery are still high -risk as we wait to see how his body responds to the surgery recovery- wise (will the leaking start again, will there be infection). Tuesday night's call reported continued stability, and the possibilty that he could come home Wednesday!

Wednesday: The wee baby Seamus (as one of my sister-in-laws, Missi, calls him) was cleared to come home. I'm crying YET AGAIN. Several days ago, I had known there was a very real chance that he would never come home. And our house without a Seamus is just not the same home.

Thursday- now: He's recovering very well! Seamus wears a plastic cone collar for 3 weeks to prevent him from messing with the staples in his belly. He is on many antibiotics and painkillers. But he back! His personality is back; he's gently playful and sweetly looking for some love. We're expecting to hear from the lab anytime now, and will keep everyone updated on the biopsy results. I am forever grateful for what happened this past week. Some people have commented (and I have thought at points) "this must be one of your worst Christmas' ever". It certainly was a pretty nightmarish week- but the ending was the best I could've ever hoped for. We started out with a nightmare before Christmas and ended with a Christmas miracle! 

I can't even find words enough to say how very,very thankful I am. 

1 comment:

The Blonde Mule said...

Girl, I'm so glad that pup is okay. I don't know who all helped, but I'm pretty sure I speak for all of us when I say you are more than welcome & we'd do it again in a heartbeat. Team Seamus! XO!