When I look at Sally
I see an elderly lady
I see too many cats
A big heart
Trying to save them all
I see a veterinarian
That carries the same big heart
That sees a cat
Stuck in a situation
Seizuring, unable to stand
Skin and bones
Head twisted almost upside down
Ears full of infection and parasites
Feline leukemia virus taking over.
Elderly lady doesn’t comprehend
Just sees a life to save.
Veterinarian. Sees suffering and a life that should be let go. Knowing the home it would go back to would put her in a kind of cat hell where she too would want to live but would cycle through periods of being sick and then sicker, then back to sick again.
Ah but what do I know…
Sally. A constant reminder to not always take the easy (?) way out. To go with your heart. Giving up not an option every time.
The profession of Medicine is truly a calling and to treat it otherwise is a tragic mistake.
Decisions are made and then you live with them. Good or bad.
You die, you live.
What is the determining factor?
Money can never really be the reason.
I understand it on purely profit driven business level. But what is profit, if not life? At least trying for a really good life in oneself.
There are always places where letting go is right.
Over the years I’ve found two places it’s not. 1. In any young patient. And 2. Anytime there is hope by someone, be it the owner, the doctor or the patient. Hope is the life saver.
I can remember times (countless) that someone comes in for euthanasia and we didn’t do it that day and I see the pet back a year later or even two years later or even five years down the line… and it’s like that thought (euthanasia) never happened and the patient is doing fine.
So Sally, with her head twisted and unable to stand, having uncontrolled tremors, a severe respiratory infection and feline leukemia seemed the perfect candidate for euthanasia.
But she was young and the owner didnt want to give up.
My two golden rules flashing like neon signs in my brain.
So we kept her, treated her with antibiotics, gave her fluids, treated her ears and killed all the fleas and dewormed her.
Every day the owner would call and ask how Sally was doing. And surprisingly Sally was getting better. Despite my poor prognosis. Sally was a tough one.
After 2 weeks Sally could go home. But only if the owner could keep her in, not around any other cats. She still had a head tilt and vestibular signs and wouldn’t be able to defend herself or be able to run and jump or climb to safety. Plus she had feline leukemia which is contagious to other cats and suppresses the immune system putting her at risk of catching every other viral or bacterial disease present in the elderly woman’s colony of cats.
This was impossible for the elderly owner so we offered to keep her , find her a home and not charge her for her time with us.
I love looking at Sally.
For all the reasons why I should fight for them and for myself.
It’s not about money or about suffering or about ego or pride.
It’s about the gift of life.
Precious, precious life.
It’s about the will to live, the desire to help, whether you are the eldery lady with too many cats or the veterinarian that gets paralyzed about what’s the right thing to do at that critical decision point, when you honestly can say you don’t know what the outcome will be with treatment but you know what will happen when you inject the euthanasia solution.
I alone can choose if you live or die.
That’s a tremendous responsibility and one that I love Sally for.
Because she proved me wrong.
‘What ifs’ are crushed by the spirit for the life that is clung to.
Sure she had some very hard days but the worst were before she ever came to us.
I’m confident she does not recall or worry or stress or have flashbacks of being so sick.
Over those mountain tops and through the valley she did go, never looking back, just looking for help and no one to squash her hope.
And we did it! We stuck by her side, helping her along the way, hoping with her and we were all successful. Sally is healthy and active and getting fat. The only reminder of her illness is a slight head tilt and a permanent squint from the nerve that was damaged when she was so sick.
I love looking at Sally.
There’s a million reasons why.
One day maybe I will find the words to explain it.