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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Will she make it, Doc?

Now this is probably the number one question any doctor hates to hear. I don't care if you are an MD or DVM.

I saw a kitten tonight, a tiny tortoiseshell kitty. One of my favorite "breed" of cat. They are usually very personable, and friendly. I do believe that certain coat and color combinations share personality traits, although there are certainly exceptions to every rule.

She was very sweet, but very sick. She was weak, dehydrated, and tiny for her age. She had diarrhea on her hind end. She had labored breathing.

"Do you think she will make it? Am I going to wake up and find her dead?", the client asks.
The truth is, the answer is "maybe" to both questions.

You see a lot of different experiences in veterinary medicine. I have seen dogs that have been hit by cars, without a scratch, but died overnight. I have seen dogs that look so mutilated that something must be broken or damaged that is going to threaten this dog's life, and some of those have made it. I have seen a litter of kittens or pups, same parents, same age, same genetics, where some survive illness and others do not.

Truth is, in veterinary medicine, unless you have access to full emergency staff, MRI and ultrasound, and God's little handbook to life, we cannot be sure, even with all the best equipment. We look for signs, like pallor, capillary refill time, pupil dilations, nerve reflexes, alertness, response times, and for the most part we have an idea whether a pet will make it through a trauma or accident. But there are always those that surprise us. There are always those with just a little more than the mechanics of life that surprise us. The little medical miracles...

When I went to help rescue pets five weeks after Katrina hit New Orleans, we pulled a young Rottweiler out of a house. She was skin and bones. She was in a two story house, with all the doors locked, and windows were barred shut. The water had risen at least 8 feet as evidenced by the staining on the walls. The ONLY evidence of food that I found in the house was a single serving size empty bag of Doritos. The first floor was covered in mud. We followed her upstairs to catch her. The toilet seat was down. How does a dog survive with no food, and only muddy salt water to drink for 5 weeks??? I cannot explain that!

We just don't know enough about life or death to know why some animals or people make it through an experience, and another with similar experiences does not. We understand quite a bit about the mechanics of life, like organ function. If a lung lobe is torsed, if the spleen is ruptured and bleeding out, we are pretty sure that without medical intervention, the injury is likely to cause death.

I don't know if this little kitten will make it. I hope it does, of course. Perhaps this little kitten has a spark of life in it that is going to protect it and guide it through this illness. Perhaps this kitten's purpose in life has already been fulfilled, and it is time for her to go.

I do believe that every thing in life has a purpose, both animals and people. I recall a bible study class, where the pastor asked if animals go to heaven. Well, I don't know much about the bible which is why I decided to go to bible study, but I knew that answer to that question..."DUH, of course they do". Okay, I didn't say DUH out loud, but I did think it, and it was loud in my head. The pastor continued to say that animals do not have souls so they do not go to heaven. To summarize my thoughts, "Yes, they do, PERIOD" They have souls, you can see it in their eyes. Yes, they do go to heaven. I believe anything that can experience unconditional love has a place in heaven.

There was one lady that was appalled at the thought of animals in heaven. She was so shocked, that when bible study was dismissed, she stood behind me, close behind me, and said, "I can't believe SHE thinks animals go to heaven!" I never went back to bible study. I see her in church every Sunday, sitting right up front. Can't you just picture her in line waiting to get into heaven, with a cow in front of her, and a shih tzu behind her lifting his leg on her!

You may think your purpose in life is one thing, like raising your kids, being a CEO of a big corporation, fundraising for a charity, going to bible study, or rescuing animals. But your purpose in life could be the words you mutter to the nurse on your death bed when you are alone and 89 years old.
Perhaps this kitten's purpose was to help me make you laugh with the bible study story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy there are people like you helping out all of our furry and not so furry friends! I love animals so much, but unfortunately I have a WAY too soft of heart to do all of the work that you do. I can't get sad stories about animals out of my mind, even when I just read them. Thank you so much for being so strong to stand up for all of our little buddies! My mom and I saved all of our pets throughout our lives, and whenever I have room for another furry family member--you bet it will be one that really needed a home. My hope is for my husband and I (we just got married) to eventually make a lot of money, so we can donate a lot to the animals that save and enrich many of our lives! For now, I donate what I can...which is not much. I'll post your blog on my facebook. Thank you for all of your time and work to help animals in need!!