Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Vocabulary Lesson

Middle dashed through the kitchen, collapsing in faux exhaustion at the foot of the stairs, gripping the end of the railing.

"I just ran 300 miles!" she gasped.

I looked at her dubiously. "You did not just run 300 miles." I walked up the stairs past her.

She followed me up to the foyer and turned to continue further up, pausing on the second stair. "Hyperbole. Have you heard of it?"

"Yes, I've heard of it."

But I'm a little surprised that you have.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Tail of Two Miracle Kitties

Mika, birthday boy
Today is kind of a big deal for me. You see this guy? He's 18 today. That's a whole lotta hash marks for a kitty. To put it in human terms, he's 88. And, I have to tell you, all things considered, he's in really great shape for being so old. Even his vet is surprised at how well he's doing.

Especially since we came frighteningly close to losing him a couple weeks ago...

We didn't, obviously, or I wouldn't be posting about his birthday. Or about how glad I am that he's still here. Or about how shocked and pleased his vet is.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself, because this particular tale ...er, tail... doesn't start with Mika.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

I had been concerned most of the morning, knowing that my dear close friend Waffle had taken her cat Monkey to the vet that morning. Monkey is a year younger than Mika, and had been displaying some really concerning symptoms: lack of appetite, lethargy, weakness, decreased everything. At his checkup a few weeks before, Waffle had learned that Monkey was now 90% blind due to retinal detachment, something that could have been caused by any number of conditions, from high blood pressure to hyperthyroidism or diabetes or even scarier diseases. Monkey had gotten a combo booster vaccine, and all of the trouble seemed to have followed after that, so there was initial suspicion that perhaps the shot was faulty, but he wasn't quite sick enough for that...but he was very, very sick.

Waffle called right after the vet appointment with an update, and asked if I was familiar with a local clinic right here in town where I live. She explained that, because of Monkey's recent heart murmur, he was being referred there and needed to be there for constant monitoring. She was on her way to me. I told her to just come straight to my house; I knew right where the clinic was and I'd take her there.

As it turned out, the local clinic here shares the same name with an emergency 24-hour animal hospital 40 miles to the south, in the next state. There's apparently a lot of confusion about that. The local vet at the clinic here looked at Monkey's records, which his regular vet had faxed to them, and recommended we proceed directly to the correct hospital, after I had called and gotten her to come in and meet us. So I told Waffle to relinquish the driver's seat, and I drove the three of us—Waffle holding a surprisingly (and worrisome-ly) noncombatant Monkey—south to the emergency clinic.
Sleeping on the exam table.

Once there, we got ushered into an exam room, where it was determined that Monkey needed intensive help right away: he was dehydrated and underweight (well, yes, we knew that), and lab work was needed, to determine Monkey's treatment plan. But he definitely needed IV fluids and labs, so that was the first priority.

Waffle and I sat and waited while they ran tests and Monkey was disturbingly boring. (That was the number one symptom that something was not right.)

Monkey's white blood cell count, the vet came back and explained to us, was alarmingly high: 25k. It needed to go down. He would be started on broad-spectrum antibiotics, and he needed to be sedated mildly just in case his personality came back as he started to feel better. The vet gently (ish) stated her suspicion of cancer rather than infection, with nothing else to go on but a high WBC count. Monkey would be admitted overnight.

I drove us back to my house in a mix of something of a terrified silence and reassurances that we were going to do whatever we needed to for him. And then, after a brief conversation with Hubby, I packed a bag and drove us to Waffle's house for the night.

January 8, 2017

Sunday morning, we called to check on Monkey, who was starting to act more like himself. After collecting a few things, I got behind the wheel again and drove us the many miles down to the emergency hospital where he was.

We spent the better part of an hour and a half with him, trying to entice him to eat. He's a food snob, you see. He knows what he likes and he doesn't like anything else. Waffle had desperately hoped to
"How do I get into the out?"
bribe him with his favorite snacks and his normal food, since he was refusing to eat what the hospital offered. No soap. Despite having been removed from sedation before our visit, he still seemed so out of it...he was aware of Waffle and who she was, but it took a good twenty minutes for him to recognize her and really "wake up." After that, his priority was jailbreak. Using his cone as radar, Monkey scoped out the room, and spent the bulk of the time trying to figure out an escape plan.

It was a frustrating visit. Monkey wouldn't eat. He would come for skritches with the comb Waffle brought, but he wouldn't eat, not even his favorite snacks. We got to spend a lot of time with him, yes. That part was good. But we could still see how sick he was, and the hope that we'd be able to take him home that night sank like a stone as the minutes ticked by and he continued to ignore the food completely. We also waited (im)patiently for the vet to come and talk to us about the latest numbers and information and whatever else they had to tell us about Monkey and what was going on.

That never happened.

We got to spend so much time with Monkey because several emergencies happened at once, and the hospital's doctors were not free to come speak with us. Disappointed, we left a bag of Monkey supplies behind with him, thanked the techs who were doing so much to make Monkey as comfortable as possible (including giving him the cushiest blankets they had), and headed out.

Waffle had us stop to fill up before we left the state because gas was cheaper, and then she called her boss before I got us on the road again. Madame was surprisingly kind, given the situation, and all but ordered Waffle to take the next two days off, and possibly Wednesday. Madame would worry about making HR happy. Waffle was to only worry about Monkey.

Since my house was closer to the hospital than Waffle's, we made camp there. I made us tea, waving away her protests that I should not let her use my really good raspberry vanilla tea bags when she might not drink the whole cup. If ever there was a time for pampering, this was it, and that is some fabulous-for-pampering tea.

"I am not taking you home tonight," I informed her quietly. "You're staying here. I'll keep the kids out of your way in the morning. But you need to not be home alone tonight. You're staying here."

I made up the hide-a-bed sofa in the guest bedroom, and we sat quietly and prayed fervently for Monkey and his health, banishing and binding and casting out every nasty thing we could imagine. Still, Waffle was shaken when the vet called late that evening and reported that Monkey's WBC count was elevated even more, to 33k, and the vet kept pushing for Waffle to accept a cancer diagnosis without any real proof. Waffle might truly want to consider if all this was the best option for Monkey, or if she should just let him go. It could be his time, the vet said.

Waffle was overwhelmed.

I was so glad I'd told her to pack what she might need for an overnight...and then I took a few moments to discuss the next few days with Hubby.

Blessings come in all sizes and shapes, you see, and that week, his schedule had just so happened to be such that I could be gone for several days, and his work responsibilities would not conflict with the kids being home from school. I could take Monday and Tuesday, even Wednesday, if I was needed, and everything would be covered. "Is it going to be okay if I go?" I asked, even though I was 99% sure of the answer.

"Of course," Hubby said with a gentle smile that bordered on serious. "I know that someday you're going to need her when it comes time, with Mika. I'm just not going to be able to be there as much."

I nodded. I don't like thinking about losing Mika...I'd much rather enjoy the time we have now than obsess over the fact that the days we have ahead of us are far fewer than the ones behind us. "But I don't think of it as a debt to be repaid."

"I know you don't. Just go, and keep me posted."

January 9, 2017

I got up in the morning and got the kids off to school, keeping my promise to not allow them to pester Waffle. I also packed a go-bag (yes, I watch too much NCIS and Criminal Minds) for when we left later, since I was pretty confident I'd need it. Then I knocked on Waffle's door. She was up, and ready for tea.

We decided our plan of attack would be to first go fetch the Monkey and get what information we could, and then we would go take him back to see his normal vet, who knows him and knows what he's like. Waffle felt she could trust Dr. Paul more than she could the emergency vets who were trying to give Monkey cancer and her a heart attack. I then informed her I had a bag packed for the next two days and I was ready to go. Tears filled her eyes. "Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure. Hubby and I already talked. Let's go jailbreak a Monkey."

I hopped behind the wheel and we sojourned back to the emergency hospital, where we talked with the one vet there who made the most sense, one of the managing partners. He was not convinced of the cancer diagnosis, but he did think that Monkey probably had a vicious infection. Monkey's WBC numbers were beginning to trend downward, which is the way we wanted them to go. We felt encouraged, to be sure, but there was still a lot of scary...he still wasn't eating, he still was non-combative (with the exception of growling so loudly he nearly burst this vet's eardrums that morning when the poor man tried to listen to Monkey's heartbeat), and he was still lethargic, all of it without any conclusive explanation other than one single kidney value that was slightly elevated. The hospital was not equipped to run the diagnostic testing that the vet felt was needed to determine if the numbers were just scary-looking or actually scary. Ultrasounds were needed. He recommended that Monkey get those tests, but he understood Waffle wanting to take Monkey back to see his own vet first. He did say he didn't see what had the first vet on Saturday saying what she had regarding the WBC counts, for the tests had been run too close together to have any meaning. That vet, he implied, had lost the proper connection between her cheese and her cracker.

Back in the car, Waffle held Monkey while I drove back to her home, where I tried in vain to get Monkey to eat some cheesy dibbles (what she calls his favorite snack) and Monkey tried to radio outer space for directions around the apartment while Waffle packed for a couple of days herself. And then we were off, heading for Waffle's old stomping grounds and Monkey's regular vet. The Piano Guys' Uncharted played on a loop, with Monkey having a small fit if we tried to skip the "Jungle Book/Sarabande" track. Once again, Waffle held him as I drove. Monkey didn't even try to convince her (or me) to share when I insisted we stop at Wendy's for lunch. Waffle's concern was so great that she couldn't eat much.

Dr. Paul's associate was the one who ended up seeing us, and recommended a nearby emergency hospital after Waffle shot down euthanasia in emphatic terms as soon as it was brought up. By now, Waffle's mom had joined us. Monkey was once again admitted, this time at the hospital closest to Dr. Paul's office, and both Waffle and I immediately liked the ER admitting vet who spoke to us, who agreed that this was not quite what the vets down at the first emergency clinic seemed to be insisting. He also posited the idea of a raging infection. A tech who billed herself as the cat whisperer took us back and said she could get Monkey to eat even if no one else could, and took charge of the Monkey Bag with his food. Monkey was scheduled for a kidney ultrasound the next day once he was transferred to Internal Medicine.

We were both relieved when we left this hospital and headed for Waffle's parents'. Not that we doubted the competence of the vets at the first hospital—cough—but there was something about this place that put all of us, Waffle's mom included, at ease. Plus, they were not out for an arm, nose, leg, and whatever brains they could pull out the nasal sinuses in the way of payment.

Whew.

Tiny
At Waffle's parents', I got a quick tour of the house and met Tiny, the kitten Waffle had gotten her mom for Christmas. A bouncy little thing of about 13 weeks old, he was in nonstop motion until he wore himself out. After dinner, we played with him until we were all exhausted from the day.

January 10, 2017

To pass the time, Waffle and I watched a movie, and then called the hospital late morning for a Monkey update. Due to emergencies, Monkey had been admitted to Internal Medicine but had not been taken for his ultrasound yet. We discovered Tiny had a not-tiny doppelganger outside along the small pond along her parents' property line. I touched base with Hubby and told him the latest news. We tried to break Tiny of his bathroom-living habit. After lunch, Waffle and I watched yet another movie, followed by another call to the vet.

Still no ultrasound.

As we realized this might stretch into Wednesday, I decided I had better make a tourist trip to the largest Walmart in the state to pick up a few select articles of clothing for the following day. I sent Hubby a text to let him know I'd be one more day, but home by the time the kids got home from school (give or take), and Waffle and I headed to the Walmart so large you needed two cellular signals to reach the front and the back.

As we browsed for the things I needed as well as what Waffle's mom asked us to get for dinner, Waffle's phone rang. It was the vet. We moved closer to the front of the store to maintain connection. I couldn't tell much from Waffle's end of the conversation, but I could see from her face that this was much more than we'd hoped for.

"They sedated him for the ultrasound," Waffle reported. "And when they did, they thought they might as well try to get his blood pressure too. It was astronomical." She laughed. "He needs blood pressure meds!"

Suddenly it all made sense: the lethargy, the lack of appetite, the disappearance of purrsonality, even the retinal detachment, which the vet had said previously could have been due to high blood pressure. I'm on medication for high blood pressure myself, and there was one night when my blood pressure exceeded the limits of my meds. I felt horrible—nauseated and light-headed and off-balance and just off. I explained how I could understand everything about the way Monkey was acting on the basis of that one diagnosis.

Waffle went on, "The ultrasound shows that he basically has old man kidneys, and the one doctor still thinks he needs to see the ophthalmologist on staff to make sure the retinal detachment is due to the blood pressure being through several roofs and not some weird sarcoma, but his white blood cell count is still trending down, and they think that still might be an infection. She's still saying she can't rule out cancer, but it's not impossible for it to not be part of it. Monkey can be released tomorrow! And it's possible he could regain his vision!"

We went home for dinner with happy news.

January 11, 2017

We picked up Monkey, and headed for home once again, new medications in hand: a different antibiotic, blood pressure medication, and a recommendation for him to take folic acid to help with his woes. I had a pill-popper at the house from when Minou needed to be medicated for something, and I told Waffle she was welcome to borrow it. So we stopped at my house to both drop me off and to have me do a trial run with the pill popper and an angry Monkey, and I promised I would be out the following Monday to poke the Monkey with his new injections that were part of the treatment to get him out of anemic state and back to glorious health.

In the following weeks...

Monkey's WBC numbers continued to drop. They had peaked at nearly 50k, frightening Waffle and me, but we never stopped believing in the miracle that God had shown us was going to ultimately come. I went out for five weeks in a row to lend my expertise in sticking cats with needles (having given Po injections for nearly seven and a half years for her diabetes) and to help with forcing folic acid, antibiotics, and blood pressure meds down Monkey's gullet. Waffle called me in happy tears after his checkup on February 11th to report that Monkey's white blood cell count was now just shy of 13k (for those of you playing along at home, we would learn six weeks later at Mika's first appointment what a normal WBC count is for kitties, and Monkey had soared past that), and that was the moment Waffle knew for sure that she'd truly gotten her miracle. Cancer was completely off the table. Monkey's blood pressure was even at a high normal, once the vet adjusted for Monkey's severe, so-mad-he-pooped-himself, got-a-full-facial-party-hat temper tantrum. So... No cancer, nothing lurking, just Monkey and his random weirdness.
Faceplant mope.

Monkey's not exactly happy about his new life as an old man, where he's got to take a cabinet of pills at night, and so he's found a way to protest what he feels is an unfair lot. But once Waffle found out that she can get his blood pressure medication in a transdermal pen, the world rejoiced, because now Monkey only needs to have the folic acid forced on him with the pill popper. The rest gets smeared on his ear flap.

At his follow-up with the ophthalmologist and the internist a week after his misadventures in the hospital near Waffle's parents, there was no indications of cancer causing the vision loss. In fact, his retinas were showing signs of re-attaching. Further visits showed that Monkey was recovering nicely. His most recent vet visit was last week, and he's gained three-quarters of a pound (a feat his vet thought impossible)...and doesn't need to be seen again for three months.

All of this huge long story is to say...Waffle and I asked God for a miracle for her 17-year-old cat. Who says God doesn't listen to the little things? He answered us in a huge way.

Which turned out to be a very important thing...

Saturday, April 1, 2017

I bent down to pet Mika before getting ready for bed, and noticed a spot under his chin. Well, now. That's weird. That wasn't there earlier. I picked Mika up—Has he lost weight?—to get a closer look. Yuuuuuuck. Whatever the spot was, it stunk to high heaven. I carried Mika along with me as I went to find Hubby.

"Look at this. He has this scabby, smelly thing on his neck." I pointed it out. "It's new. I don't know what to do, but this can't be good. I'm afraid it might be a tumor that's come through the skin."

Hubby's sad eyes gazed back at me. "It might be." He scratched under Mika's chin to get him to tip his head up. "You can always put some antibiotic ointment on it to help keep it clean."

That's what I ended up doing...and, for good measure, I took a couple of pictures, just in case.

I went to bed tired, scared, and worried that my bold words to my counselor—"I think Mika is gonna make it to 18"—were nothing but hot air and false bravado.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

I checked Mika's neck as I came downstairs. To my dismay, the antibiotic ointment had not done anything to help overnight. The spot had doubled in size.

So had my terror.

I was definitely not ready to lose my baby. I couldn't even fathom it.

I couldn't eat lunch.

Waffle called. I talked to her. She reminded me of how Monkey had not told her it was his time. I needed to let Mika tell me if it was his time, but that we could also pray. We'd ask God for another miracle. The definition of testimony, she said, was to simply ask God to "do it again." God had healed her kitty. He would heal mine.

I finally felt well enough to eat something, and got a bowl of ice cream. I knew the realities of an 18-year-old cat...or nearly so. The odds were not good.

Special Edition was visiting for the weekend, and I went in to break the news to her that this could spell disaster for her much-beloved friend. I held her and we both cried, for neither of us could handle the idea of saying goodbye to Mika, my baby and her confidante. I think Mika knows more secrets than anyone else in this house.

I begged Hubby to make chicken tortilla soup for dinner that night, as Mozart and BusLady were coming over after too long a time between our normal monthly get-togethers. BusLady had been pre-vet for awhile and I wanted her opinion. Mika let me hold him—unnatural behavior for him—when they arrived, and she took a look at his neck. BusLady sadly shook her head and cautioned me to prepare for the worst.

The girls had been sent up to get ready for bed, and Hubby, Mozart, BusLady, Special Edition, and I were still in the dining room talking. Mika walked by in the hallway, and Special Edition noted, "Momma, I think Mika pooped in the hallway."

It sure smelled like it when I went to clean things up, but when I found him upstairs in Special Edition's room, I found that the nasty discharge was coming from Mika's neck! "Hubby, I need you!" I screamed.

Well, this brought everyone. Nearby paper napkins were grabbed and Hubby held them under Mika's chin, to his neck, and sat on the couch, holding him. I sat on the floor. "Honey, do you want to hold him?" Hubby asked.

I nodded, and Mika was transferred into my arms.

"I don't want you to look at how much is coming out," Hubby instructed gently. "I just want you to hold your baby."

"There's no vet open that's close enough," I sobbed. There was no way I was taking him to that emergency hospital where Monkey had gone.

"Honey." I looked from Mika to Hubby. "There's not going to be time." Hubby's face was so sad. "We're going to lose him here." Then he called to the girls to come say goodbye.

BusLady sat on the floor behind me on one side, Special Edition on the other, and Mozart stood in the doorway. I just cried and tried to let Mika know it was okay to go home, not watching to see if he was still discharging fluid, but seeing that his eyes were glazing over.

Waffle had messaged just as the crisis hit, and I had shot back a quick reply that we thought Mika was bleeding out in the living room, and so she called me. I quickly became incoherent, and she ordered me to hand the phone to Hubby.

And then...Mika began to perk up. The glaze left his eyes and they no longer looked quite so sunken in to his skull.

Together, Hubby and Waffle arranged for her to take Monday off, so that she could come down and support me. She would be available to take me to whatever vet appointment I would be able to arrange for Mika, one that I was growing more and more confident that he would be able to make.

BusLady and Mozart took their leave, asking us to keep them posted about Mika's condition.

To keep him safe, Special Edition, Hubby, and I set things up in the den so that Mika had food, water, and potty available, and then cooped him up in there for the night.

April 3, 2017

After I got the kids off to school, I called the vet's office and left a message. After waiting an hour and a half to have them call me back, I got impatient and called them again, since Waffle was waiting to hear from me about an appointment time. My second call was successful and I wrangled an appointment for 2:40.

Now I just had to wait.

To quote that famous Spanish philosopher, Inigo Montoya, "I hate waiting."

Waffle came down, and she, Special Edition, and I had lunch in the kitchen before we gathered the small cat carrier (which we ultimately didn't need), my towel from Sunday's shower (because it smelled like me), and Mika, who consented to let me hold him for the duration of the 25-minute ride to the vet's—a heretofore unthinkable feat. Mika hates car rides. He's terrified of them. But he sat tranquilly in my arms, looked around, and just let me hold him. Overnight, as I'd stayed with him in the den, I'd come to a peaceful acceptance of whatever the day held, but this strange behavior was unnerving.

Hubby met us at the vet's (his boss is great and let him leave a little early, just in case), and the bunch of us—Hubby, Special Edition, Waffle, Mika, and me—waited in the exam room for the vet. I was worried about the loss of nearly 3 pounds since the last time I'd weighed Mika, which was around last August, when I'd weighed everyone, including a dying Minou. The tech got Mika on the scale and confirmed my findings, that Mika had indeed lost that much weight. Youch.

Dr. Eckert came and and examined my poor boy. Within minutes, my fears of cancer decreased as she proclaimed that Mika had an abscess. Had being the operative word. As we described the drainage episode from last night, she interrupted. "Looked a bit like tomato soup? Smelled foul?" Hubby nodded. "Yeah, sounds exactly like an abscess."

She went on to say that she wanted to run some labs and she also wanted to shave back some fur to see what all they were dealing with, but she was confident we were dealing with an abscess. She couldn't positively rule out cancer yet, however. But an abscess seemed the most likely cause for the symptoms that Mika was displaying. Ultimately, based on the ages of our felines in our home, she speculated that the fault for the abscess lay with one of the younger cats being a bit too aggressive in play with poor old Mika, and a play bite had broken the skin and gone amok.

Then Waffle stood up. "I'd like you to run a blood panel and a CBC," she requested. I swallowed and looked back at her. "I'll pay for it. But you need to know where he's at and that he's okay. " Cancer was still a possible option on the table at this point, and Waffle really wanted to rule that out.

Dr. Eckert suggested that we go get a coffee and hang for about 45 minutes, and then come back for results. We opted for soft drinks at the fast-food joint next door, only to wait another 45 minutes upon returning to be squeezed back in between patients. Dr. Eckert met us with a smile.

"He was such a good boy for everything that we did to him," she reported. "There was still a little bit of junk left in the abscess, so we drained that. But he definitely had one." She showed us pictures on her iPad.

Waffle stepped back. "I definitely shouldn't have looked," she said with a rueful chuckle.

Dr. Eckert continued. "He's going to need some antibiotics and some topical cleaner for his skin, and he'll need to be quarantined, but he should heal right up. His white blood cell count is 25k; normal is around 17k. I'm comfortable calling that increase due to the obvious infection of the abscess. I did not feel any discrete tumor underneath. His bloodwork looks like what I'd expect from a cat his age, although he does have one elevated kidney function number that's of concern. He also has a high-normal thyroid number that I want to consult with our lab about. But he is 100% worth treating and 100% recoverable." She gestured to a spot on one of the photographs. "We may still lose some of this tissue here, but if he does, that means it's necrotic, and so it's okay for him to lose that. I want to see you back Friday, or Monday, as long as you email me pictures on Friday to update me. Call if you have any questions or concerns."

Waffle looked at me and grinned. "You got your miracle."

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


He adapted to cone life pretty quickly.
Mika was scratching at his neck. Not only was he scratching, he was scratching stuff off his neck. Specifically, he was going after the piece of tissue that Dr. Eckert had warned us about. I made the gross discovery that whatever it was remained attached only because it was matted fur and removed it, and called the vet's office to ask what we should do. Dr. Eckert personally returned my call as I was going to pick Hubby up from work. She recommended that we go in and have one of the techs fit Mika for a cone. Then, she said, she wanted us to add a cream medication to our wound care regimen.  She also said that she thought Mika might benefit from laser treatment to help stimulate tissue regrowth. And she'd see us Monday.

Hubby and I stopped at the local pet store to see if we could find something there, but I was hesitant, and so we went the route of the vet's office. I was glad we did; the cone was so much cheaper! It did, however, take three people to get a conehead Mika back into the small cat carrier we'd used to bring him down.

Friday, April 7, 2017

I emailed photographs of Mika's neck to Dr. Eckert, to show Mika's progress. I'm avoiding showing them here because, well, they're pretty gross. When I say that Mika had open wounds on his neck, I'm not kidding. I could see things! Mika had one large, gaping wound track in the center of his neck, which had caused the run to the vet's office to be fitted for the cone, and then the smaller hole where the abscess had drained from. But Dr. Eckert was very pleased with his progress, and said that, if there was a granular tissue bed forming, we could discuss laser treatment on Monday.

Because I am my mother's daughter, I went and Googled images of granular tissue. (I don't recommend this for the squeamish.) But at least I knew what the goal was for his neck to look like by Monday!

Monday, April 10, 2017


I do not want to come out.
Waffle, Special Edition, and I wrangled Mr. Satellite Dish into the larger carrier that we have, after determining that trying to get Mika back into the smaller one was an exercise in futility. In that morning's wound care, I was confident that I'd seen a good solid granular tissue bed on both wounds. The medications seemed to be doing their jobs. I told Waffle that the smaller hole was closing up nicely.

"You mean his smoker's stoma?" She grinned.

I chuckled. "Yeah."

We got back into the exam room, and the first thing they did was get Mika on the scale. He'd gained back an entire pound! That's huge! I was so happy. I suspect that the sheer size of the abscess (I was speculating fluid sizes, but Waffle stopped me from translating mL into measurements she could understand) was compressing his esophagus and thus inhibiting his ability to eat. I was refilling his bowl twice a day sometimes. And he was starting to fight the antibiotic more. "That's a good sign, I'm sorry to say," the vet tech told us. Oh, I know. I was happy to have him fight me. I knew it meant he was getting better.

Dr. Eckert was thrilled with his progress. They took him back to do a little wound care of their own, and when she brought him back, she said she wanted him to stay on antibiotics for another week, but she thought he'd progressed so much during the week that he didn't even need the laser treatments we'd talked about. Mika was doing great for such an old dude! She said she had done a free consult with the lab that does their testing about Mika's thyroid numbers, and the lab didn't feel his results there were of major concern. The biggest issue was the one kidney number. She wanted him to try a kidney food diet, to help with his old-man kidneys, and said we should keep doing what we were doing, and she'd see us back in a week.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I sent several pictures to Dr. Eckert to update her, and to ask if what I was seeing on the wound track was the right kind of healing results or if it was more of the kind of stuff she'd said could be gently cleaned away during wound care. Nope, these were genuine scabs, and I should leave them alone!

Friday, April 14, 2017

I meant to email Dr. Eckert more pictures, but I didn't get a chance to. I was satisfied with the midweek update. However, there was cause for great excitement: the smaller hole, where all the drainage had come from that Sunday night, which had caused so much panic, had completely healed over! There was nothing now but a small scar.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Special Edition and I collected Mika and took him down for this week's checkup appointment. Mika's weight remained the same, which we were all pleased about, and he seemed to like the kidney food. Dr. Eckert was blown away when I told her the one wound had completely scarred and was healed. I felt it was a matter of days before the other would be fully healed as well. She probed a little at his neck and proclaimed him an incredible healer for such an old boy. In two weeks, he had gone from gaping wounds to brand-new flesh. Amazing. She wanted us to finish up the antibiotic we had and keep doing the wound care, but she pronounced Mika in astonishing recovery and good health for his age and said he didn't need any more antibiotics, just the wound care until he was healed and lots of love.

We headed for home that afternoon without having to schedule a follow-up appointment (Dr. Eckert just wanted to see updated pictures by email).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I was doing routine wound care on Mika, who was now much more feisty during these times. I probed a little at the scab remaining on the longer wound, because it was all flaky around the edges. To my surprise, it came off, except for one tiny spot. There was brand-new scar tissue underneath! I immediately emailed pictures to Dr. Eckert.

Friday, April 21, 2017




*cue musical intro*

CONE FREE!

AS FREE AS THE WIND BLOWS...


Ahem.

I took his cone off when I got home from work, and he was so happy that I got neck-nuzzles and purrs and lots of love. He was delighted to lose his satellite dish.

I could have taken it off on Thursday, but I wanted to give all that new skin time to strengthen before I let him have free run of the house again.

Dr. Eckert finally caught up with Wednesday's email and said she was thrilled with the progress and glad he was doing so well.

Today

God did something amazing again; there is no doubt in my mind. So many things could have gone so badly here. Instead, God took an 18-year-old cat and defied the odds. He went beyond that and made an old cat heal better and faster than anyone expected. Mika is pretty much back to his old self. He's vocalizing again. He's begging for cheese again. He's going all the way upstairs.

And I am so grateful for an Abba who looks at my life, at the life of my friend Waffle, at two small cats, and decides that they are important enough for him to act, because of how important those cats are to the lives and hearts of us, his children. Some might laugh these two fluffy miracles off as being no more important than a finding-of-lost-car-keys miracle.

Waffle and I? We know better.

Our God sees.

Our God knows.

Our God heals...even stubborn kitties.

He is Jehovah Rapha.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Middle's Mental Meanderings, Part 247

Last week, Middle brought up the subject of blindness in people. Now, this is not something that has never been discussed before, because my best friend JJ is blind due to an incurable disease, and the girls have all met her and her Seeing Eye dog (Aussie, at that time). The discussion did come up out of the blue, but that's nothing out of the ordinary for Middle...

"Hey, Momma. I have a question. How do people get blind?"

Middle caught me off guard and I only half-heard her question. "How do people get what?"

"How do people get blind?"

"What do you mean?"

"Can they be born blind? Does something make them blind? How does it happen?"

"Yes, some people are born blind. Sometimes it happens because of a disease. My friend JJ has something called retinitis pigmentosa that causes her blindness. Sometimes, like in the case of Helen Keller, really high fevers can cause blindness."

"So Helen Keller was a real person?"

"Yes, she was. She got very sick and ran a fever so high that she lost her sight."

"What about JJ?"

"Well," I paused to think about how to explain RP, "the back of your eye has something called the retina, which is what we see against. Hers is going away, so she can't see because there's nothing for her to see against."

Middle chomped on a bite of cereal. "So how do blind people get around? Do they just automatically get a dog?"

I stifled a chuckle. "No. There are three ways that the visually impaired get around. They have a special cane they use that helps them find and avoid objects"—I used a pen to demonstrate—"or they use another human, or they have a dog guide."

"So if I was blind, how would I get a human?"

Good heavens, girl, we are not dealing black-market humans! "You don't get a human," I choked out. "What I meant by that is there's usually another person in the blind person's life who helps them navigate, who drives them places, who guides them around. Family and friends both help out."

I went on to explain that, in order to qualify for a canine guide, most schools require an application and several weeks of training.

She nodded, and that seemed to satisfy her questions for the time being.

Get a human.

Oh. My. Word.

This girl...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Non-Bucket List

I didn't realize there was such a thing as a Non-Bucket List until the day I got my #1 entry for it...the day I watched Middle pass out in front of me in the back of an ambulance.

Allow me to say here that Middle is fine and ultimately none the worse for wear.

To be honest, if I'd had to hazard a guess which of my girls would get an ambulance ride first, I would have guessed Middle. I just didn't guess it was going to be for this.

The whole thing started as a normal Saturday a couple weeks ago, except that it was the first really nice spring Saturday with beautiful weather instead of rain, and so the kids had all rushed outside to play. I started laundry and puttered around before looking at the clock and giving serious consideration to a rather late breakfast now that it was 11:30. (Oops.)

Youngest came in to tattle that Oldest had left the yard. The girls all know they're not supposed to leave without permission, or ride off on their bikes without telling me, so I went out to check. Sure enough, Oldest had ridden off, as I saw her ride into her carpool buddy's driveway. I decided I'd give her five minutes to come back before I texted her friend's mom to have her sent home, since she did have permission to ride her bike that far.

Back in the house, I checked on the laundry I'd started. Funny. That sounds like screaming.

Turns out there was good reason for that.

Middle burst into the house with the kind of screams that most parents say their kids should only be emitting if blood is involved.

And there was blood.

Middle clutched her right temple, the source of the blood. Youngest trailed behind her.

"What happened!" I tried to pry Middle's fingers away from her scalp.

Between gasped and tears, Middle screamed, "Youngest hit me with her scooter!"

"She what?!"

"I was swinging my scooter around and it hit her."

Egad.

I made Youngest go outside to put away her scooter, then yelled for her to hurry up and get back in the house. I tore off clean paper towels and tried to clean up Middle's head wound. Blood had trickled down through her hair. My child, who had the fortitude to endure a vicious strain of strep for four days before telling us her throat hurt, saw the faint smears of blood on her hands and whimpered. Head wounds bleed a lot. "It's okay, honey."

What I found as I wiped away the blood in Middle's riot of curls was barely more than a scrape. I gave her a fresh paper towel to press against her head since it was still oozing blood. When Middle couldn't follow my finger as I moved it back and forth and up and down, weaving a little as she tried, I had her sit on the den couch. A quick search on my phone brought up the symptoms of a concussion, and a few pointed questions gave me enough concern that I called Mitzi and asked for a ride.

Because, after all, traumatic head injury hadn't been on my day planner and Hubby had taken the car to work.

Mitzi drove us to the urgent care here in town, and said she'd pick us up if they punted us to the ER.

We got in fairly quickly as there was no one else in the waiting room. The doctor examined Middle and said he had enough concerns about her having a concussion, despite no loss of consciousness, that he wanted us to take her down to the ER for a CT scan. He offered to have the ambulance called to take us down, but since Middle seemed to be fine, I called Mitzi to come get us.

As we walked down the hall to leave the clinic and wait for Mitzi in the main waiting area out front, Middle stumbled. I got her settled in a chair and watched her nervously. Behind my sunglasses—she was very sensitive to the bright lights—her eyelids fluttered. "I'm trying so hard to stay awake."

"What do you mean?"

"I feel like I'm going to pass out."

"Pass out? Did you before?"

"Yeah, when I first got hit." Her head lolled, and she fought to keep it upright. "I got hit, and I blacked out, and then the pain hit."

"How long did you black out?"

Middle's hand flopped weakly. "I don't know. Maybe about ten seconds."

After a very short mental debate, I hustled back to the receptionist's desk and asked her to call the squad. Then I called Mitzi and explained why I was having medical professionals transport us to the hospital.

The squad arrived within minutes, and I quickly told the EMT that Middle's behavior was not normal. They strapped her into the gurney...

And that's when Middle passed out.

The EMT told her partner we were all going for a ride, and we were going back to the station to pick up the paramedic for the run.

On the two-minute trip between the urgent care and the emergency services building, I came very close to panicking as Middle's eyes rolled back in her head and she lost consciousness again.

The paramedic kept close tabs on Middle during the ride down, making her answer questions and remember things. Middle had difficulty with recall and her responses came at a fraction of her normal speed.
Flat TV.

I called Hubby once we arrived at the hospital and he came over right away. The bunch of us clogged a room in the ER while we waited for Middle to get her CT scan. She got to wear a nifty C-collar until the results came back and confirmed no fractures and had to watch TV lying flat on her back.

The ultimate good news is that the CT did in fact show no fractures, as well as no traumatic brain injury. The scans were clear. We just needed to watch her for any worsening symptoms. They gave us a prescription for some nausea medication to help with the dizziness and upset stomach. We followed up with her doctor later in the week, and she extended the gym excuse for another week, just to be on the safe side, as Middle still showed some residual effects from her push-scooter collision.

Middle is on the mend and seems to have completely recovered from everything. I may have lost a year off my life.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

New Adventures in Babysitting

A couple of weeks ago, I got asked to babysit Duckie again.

Man, I have been waiting for this ever since the last time I was asked (although I still maintain that Middle more wanted Duckie to babysit me that day, because I was so sick), and Waffle and I came up with the idea for Duckie to be naughty.

Clearly, Duckie needed to have some more misadventures.

So I tucked him in my front pocket and went about my day.

One of the projects I had for the day was to update the family photos we have displayed on our walls. I had finally gotten prints of some of the photos taken after the adoption finalization, and planned to replace a few photos here and there with new ones. I also wanted to rearrange the framed pictures on the "family" wall by the den. I searched up and down for the framed pictures I was going to replace (I'd taken them down to make room for stockings), finally found them, and set about gathering the tools I'd need.

That's when Duckie wanted to halp.

First he climbed into Hubby's multi-store container and tried to pick out nails and screws and even drywall anchors to hang pictures.

No, Duckie, those are not edible.
I had three photos to choose from and two frames.

Dese two, pleez.
Naturally, he wanted me to choose the two pictures he was most prominently featured in.

As I started rearranging, I realized I was missing a photo I really wanted to have framed, to go next to this gorgeous canvas adoption art piece we'd received from friends at church. I ordered it in two sizes to be picked up in an hour at Walmart, then dashed off to an appointment, with Duckie in tow.

Afterward, the prints were ready, so we went to Walmart.

Lemme ooooouuuuuuuutttt!
Duckie threw a tantrum when I wouldn't let him push the cart.

Once we got home, I finished hanging the pictures and cleaned up a bit; he was content to stay in my pocket as I worked. 

But Special Edition was coming out to see us for a few days, and it had really been too long since I'd vacuumed, so I did that, but when I went to empty the dust cup, I got distracted, and...

It's a dust bath!

Duckies love dust baths. We need them to preen our feathers!
Oh, Duckie.

You don't have feathers.

You have fluff.

You don't need to preen anything.

In fact, your fluff is so smooshed, you don't have anything to preen.

Dusty duck.
You need a real bath.

Into the tub.
When Middle was getting ready for bed that night and went looking for him, I said that Duckie was in the dryer.

I pulled up these photos to explain why.

It was glorious.

Yesterday Morning

I was sitting in the living room, minding my own business, trying to accomplish a couple of things before we had to leave for the twins' standing Tuesday morning appointments. They're up and moving.

My dress is ever so dreamy.
I am up. Moving...that's a bit of a stretch. But I'm getting there.

Middle bounced into the room. "Momma, I tried to teach Kimo the chicken dance. ... She did not excel at it."

And then she was off, chasing Kimo again, and I'm pretty sure I heard her telling Kimo that she needed to move her arms in such a way so that she could do the flap-flap motion.

I'm preeeetty sure kitty arms don't do the flap-flap.

Poor Kimo.

But if she can get Kimo to chicken dance, I'm thinking world domination is definitely within this girl's reach.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Habakkuk 3:18

"[Y]et I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior."

February 9, 2017, turned out to be one of the craziest days so far this year, and one I hope never to repeat again, but for being able to tell this story.

The one snowstorm we've had all winter decided to arrive overnight, with the predicted ability to dump 4"–8" of snow on our region. Middle was scheduled for eye surgery to readjust one of the muscles in her left eye that had been tightened too much by July's surgery, Mom was out of town and couldn't help, and of course we had no idea that we were looking at impending white death when we scheduled the procedure at her follow-up appointment the week before. So not only do we have a 75-minute drive to get to the surgical center, we have one in bad weather.

Fortunately for us, we have wonderful friends...and the always-delightful Mrs. P, a dear friend who is retired and lives nearby, agreed to come to our house at the ugly hour of 6 a.m. to pack the remaining cherubs off to school for us that morning. I was pretty confident that we would all be home by the time they'd be out of school for the day. As D-Day approached, and we realized a snow day was entirely possible, Mrs. P said she would simply stay with Oldest and Youngest at our house. "Are you sure?" I asked. "We can just take them with us." She was sure. And from the pictures she shared, they had a much better day than we did.

So, off we scooted. The interstates weren't in bad shape, but we weren't 20 miles from home before the DOT had dropped all speed limits to 45 because of the weather conditions. Frustrating, because the roads were mostly wet and the snow had let up, no longer falling as heavily, so Hubby kept moving with traffic and around it as best he could. Middle fell asleep in the back as we traveled.

The route between our home and the surgical center where we needed to get takes us over a small mountain. The best way for us to get there is to go north on one interstate, east on another, and then south on a third almost until we're nearly at the same general latitude from whence we came. It's that third interstate leg that always concerns us. It's old, it's narrow, and it's dangerous in this kind of weather. And you're far more likely to have problems...

"Tire pressure warning just came on," Hubby observed as we were throttling down that very same section of highway, about fifteen minutes from the surgical center. "I don't know if it's the back right one..."

The one that we knew had two nails in it and were babying it along with Fix-a-Flat.

The wobble in the rear of the car became more pronounced in a hurry, and Hubby gently steered us off into the snowy shoulder.

It was the left rear tire.

Did I mention that this section of the interstate in question is really narrow and treacherous under good conditions?

These were not good conditions.

I called the surgical center to explain our situation and tell them we would get there when we got there. They assured us that we should just be safe and they would take care of our daughter when we arrived.

Hubby determined within a few short minutes that it was foolhardy and more to risk attempting to change the tire there on the road, and opted to risk the rim for the half-mile-ish (blessedly) to the next exit and nearest gas station. There, he scavenged a cardboard box from the dumpster and exchanged the left rear tire for the spare while Middle and I roamed the small convenience store.

Hubby waved us back out to the car, and Middle and I trundled out into the cold. "Look at this," he called. He pointed to the half-dollar-sized hunk of metal embedded in the tire, and the subsequent gash that ran across the tread and up into the sidewall. "Fix-a-Flat won't fix that. I figured it was something like this based on how fast it went down." He sighed. "I hate this road!" While we had a good spare, getting back home over the mountain would be tricky, and two new tires were definitely not in our budget. Not even close.

Artiste.
We piled back in the car and drove the rest of the way to the surgical center. We had a bit of a wait because the next patient had gotten bumped into our spot, but those things happen. We met with the usual suspects: nurses, anesthesiologist, surgeon. We were confident our girl was in good hands this time, just as she was last time.

Middle went back to OR, and our tummies were growling. One of us needed to stay put with in the surgical center, and so Hubby went out to scrounge breakfast for the two of us.

Ten minutes later, he called me. "I have good news and bad news. The good news is we no longer need two new tires."

Okay...

"The bad news is I've gotten into an accident. I'm okay," he stressed. "The car is not, however." He went on to describe how he had looked down for half a second and discovered the car in front of him had spiked the brakes hard when he looked back up. He hadn't had time to stop. There was minimal damage to the car in front of him, and even less to the car in front of that one, but that vehicle happened to be a company car, so that meant all kinds of headaches now. The police were on scene, and they were not happy when they discovered that the driver of the car Hubby hit was not validly licensed. (It seems he had a license of some kind, according to the accident report, but it was expired.) They were even less happy that the driver was trying to claim that the fully-licensed passenger was driving, not him. When all was said and done, the license-less driver was ticketed for that, the third driver walked away relieved that she had practically zero damage and a police report to cover her heinie with her company, and Hubby was ticketed for reckless driving.

Youch.

$500 deductible.
At least $200 for new tires, provided the car is fixable.
$130 ticket.

And we still have to get home.

I dumped out my sock change purse and bought myself a Snickers bar and a Diet Dr Pepper from the vending machines in the lobby.

I got a text from Special Edition, asking if Hubby was okay, having seen his post on Facebook about needing a car. I gave her the story so far.

Then I went back to see Middle, who was now in recovery and doing fine, promising that Daddy would arrive soon.

Hubby arrived shortly, having gimped the car back to the surgical center. The nurses tutted over our run of bad luck that day. Middle bounced back fairly fast in recovery, and we were heading for home within thirty minutes of Hubby's arrival in recovery.

We discovered in short order that the radiator had been damaged, as there was no longer heat in the car. There was plenty in the engine, however, We stopped at my mom's house for Hubby to assess, and then took a long shot...and drove the mile or so to the used car dealership near there where Mom had recently bought her new-to-her car, where we had bought our now-banged-up one, where Dad had bought his last couple of vehicles. I watched the salesman wince as we drove toward the rear.

This place, these two guys who run it, they are Christian men. Our last three vehicles have been purchased, directly or indirectly, through this one salesman. My dad trusted this guy. And it's a powerful statement of what your father's name can do for you, too. Hubby parked, got out, and walked toward the office.

He told me later that he said to them that he knew they were in the business of selling, not lending out, but thought it was worth a shot to stop in and see if maybe they had a loaner we could use until we could arrange other transportation for ourselves.

I cried when Hubby opened the door and told me to get out, as I watched the finance guy brushing off their loaner vehicle. "Just get it back to us by Monday," he told us.

Three days. This gave us three days to arrange something to get us through the next week or so, until the insurance company figured out what they were going to do.

We made it home and I relieved Mrs. P of my other two kids, and discovered they'd been baking up a storm while we were gone, having made brownies and a cake.

We have wonderful friends, as I believe I've mentioned somewhere in this thing. I contacted good friends of ours who have previously offered to let us borrow their second vehicle if we need it, provided we can play shuttle for her husband. They were able to arrange some strings and said we could borrow his car.

When we returned the loaner vehicle on Sunday night (which turned into its own Keystone Kops adventure after Hubby locked his cell phone in the car and didn't discover it until after he'd dropped the keys; yes, we got it back without much incident), I used the insurance company's app to upload pictures of our poor car to our insurance claim.

Then we waited for the insurance company to do their thing.

We discussed what might happen and how we might proceed, should the insurance company decide to total the vehicle. We knew we didn't have the money for the deductible. Hubby works for Chick-fil-A these days. He doesn't make a lot of money. We make ends barely meet by the skin of our teeth most months. It's creative money management at its worst, usually. We definitely didn't have $500 just sitting around.

I told our Sunday School class that I've never prayed so hard for a vehicle to be totaled in my life...and chuckled when one member asked where our car was, so he could go "help."

On Tuesday—Valentine's Day—I went to the mailbox. Special Edition had come out the night before to visit, and she watched me stand in the foyer and open up a card from a college friend we dearly love, who lives miles and miles away.

Curious that we would be getting a card from her now. We usually get one at Christmas. Or when the whimsy strikes her, because she's found something cute for us or the kids.

I was not expecting the check I found inside. I looked at the staggering number: $1000! I nudged the slip of paper down. "You are loved by an extravagant God," she wrote, with the direction to send the rest on to bless someone else if it's more than what is needed.

Tears pushed at my eyes. I didn't even know what the insurance company was going to do yet.

One thousand dollars. That would cover the $500 deductible...the two new tires we'd need...the labor for getting them put on and messing around with the tire pressure monitoring system...the fine for the ticket...the lapsed inspection that we had been putting off because we knew that one tire wouldn't pass. It would cover it all.

Later that evening, I checked my email on my phone. The insurance estimate was in. My phone turned the PDF to gobbledygook when I tried to read it, with the lines mashing on it together, but I could see enough to tell that they would be fixing the car, not totaling it, so I forwarded it to Hubby and went back to watching Friends with Special Edition. (It's our thing.)

Truthfully, it wasn't until the end of last week that I finally put everything together as to exactly how God had this figured, when I was trying to tell Waffle what had happened. That's when I realized just how specifically my extravagant God had covered everything...right after she screeched at me for not telling her sooner.

I can't have any doubts now that God will take care of us, even as tight as things are for us.

The car is in the shop. It will be repaired. And we have the funds to cover it all.

Because of his great love for us.