Sunday, June 3, 2007

Lesson Learned from Hurricanes

Here is an e-mail I sent on May 27:

When I first moved to Mobile, AL, I was terrified by the idea of hurricanes. The natives were nonchalant when I asked them how they coped. They would shrug their shoulders and several replied, “It’s just stuff.” I’m thankful I never experienced the wrath of a Katrina while I lived there, but I did evacuate a few times. One of the benefits of dealing with a potential natural disaster is that it forces you to decide your priorities. I realized my priorities for an evacuation were my father, my dogs, family pictures, and my computer files of my creative endeavors—in that order. The rest of it truly is “just stuff.” It was devastating to see people who had to leave their pets behind during Katrina. For those of you who don’t live in hurricane prone areas, you might not realize how difficult it is for people to evacuate with pets—even when they consider them family members, especially those who were too poor or unable to find a hotel that accepted pets or a vet clinic that wasn’t already filled. Shelters typically will not accept pets. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for these people to leave their beloved animals behind.

Anyway, this is why I didn’t hesitate when the vet told me it would be extremely expensive and time-consuming to save Bama. I had decided long ago that my dogs were prioritized above “stuff.” I’m doing her nursing care—the vet said I’m probably saving $50 or $60 a day by doing so. Dad and I are beginning to assist with her bandaging, and other than a daily bandaging and/or surgery, she stays at home with us. The pet stroller has been a godsend. I sit her in it to hand-feed her and give her water from a rabbit water bottle so she doesn’t drink too fast or spill it on her bandages.

By the way, if any of you have problems getting your dog to eat when they are ill or taking antibiotics, try Activia Vanilla Yogurt by Dannon. The closest Bama came to dying was when she stopped eating and was getting too little protein. They told me she was also losing protein through her wounds, which led to extremely low levels of albumin. She swelled so badly that the tape around her neck for the catheter was choking her. I had to rush her to the emergency clinic, and they had to add about 2 ½ inches of tape to her neck. They gave her plasma the next day, which raised the level some, but it was still dangerously low. When I found out it was caused by low protein, which would eventually affect her heart and kidneys, I tried to figure out what I could do, since she didn’t seem to be willing or able to eat solid food.

About midnight last Friday, she was so low functioning that I was afraid I was going to lose her. I placed her on my lap, thinking I would much rather have her die there than in a crate at the emergency vets. Then it occurred to me that I have an extremely difficult time finishing antibiotics because they make me so nauseated, and I realized that being given hefty doses on antibiotic on an empty stomach could be doing the same thing to little Bama. I decided to go to the store to get her some yogurt to restore the good bugs in her stomach as well as giving her much needed protein. Because I’m so allergic to the stuff that if I get some on my skin, it can cause my throat to close, I had to use plastic gloves while giving it to her. The only kind they had at the gas station was strawberry, and I doubted if she would eat it, since she had been spitting everything else out and was refusing water. I pried open her mouth to stuff some in the roof of her mouth using a plastic spoon and was surprised when she swallowed it. It actually seemed to taste good to her.

By the next day, her appetite was returning (she was almost ravenous) and her protein levels increased. I purchased the Activia at the grocery store because it is supposed to contain more of the good cultures than other yogurt. I give her a couple of containers a day. If she has a couple of bites left over, I give them to my other two dogs, who also seem to love the stuff. The first thing I added to the yogurt that she also loved was the little toddler chicken sticks that look like Vienna Sausages. I remember someone who had papillons mentioned years ago that they used those when their paps had a poor appetite. The first solid food I added was Vitality Chicken Breast; Target and some of the pet stores have different types for different issues—I get the kind that has flaxseed and other stuff in it for skin.

I happened to find Oxyfresh Primorye at a local pet store. I call it Bama’s wake-up juice; she usually wakes up low energy in the morning, and I give her a couple of teaspoons using a medicine dropper before we go to the vets. By the time we get there, she is walking around the clinic, extremely alert—bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I chose it because it had cranberry juice in it, and I thought it would be good for her kidneys. Her urine was orange before I started using it, but now it looks normal. I didn’t realize that it would also have other benefits for her. I hope none of you have dogs who ever need this info, but I thought I would provide what I have learned the hard way through trial and error. I wish I had started Bama on the yogurt as soon as she started on the antibiotic. I will always give my dogs yogurt when they go on antibiotics in the future.

The vets and techs keep calling Bama amazing and remarkable. Although she still has some large open wounds that will require skin graphs, they are seeing good progress toward her healing. It’s unbelievable to me that she can walk with all the wounds she has on her legs. I have to help her get her balance, especially when she has an e-collar on. Once I do, she takes off. Because they keep splints on her front legs, it sounds like she’s tap-dancing across the floor. (I've uploaded a video of her walking on the homepage for this blog.)

I received a shock yesterday when the vet’s estimate has gone to double what he originally thought. Actually, the Vet Hospital and the Emergency Clinic have done what they can to help—even donating some of their time. All the vets and techs adore her. I actually saw the primary vet on her team give her a kiss on her forehead as he was carrying her to the treatment room. He is stopping by the vet hospital today and tomorrow to help us with her bandaging so we don’t have to go to the emergency clinic this holiday weekend.

I believe all of this is going to work out and that Bama and I will be able to “pay it forward.” Some of my dear friends have shared how they had an extremely painful experience with “an accident instead of an on-purpose.” Some have told me I need to write Bama’s story. Perhaps I will. I’ve told my vet that Bama is going to be his journal article. Also, when she is well and if I can get her beyond her terrier willfulness (which has probably aided her survival) enough to have her pass the Delta test, I believe she will help kids and even adults who feel like giving up because of their circumstances. She has certainly inspired me.

If I had given Bama up to a rescue organization because of my inability to pay for her care or if she had been abused, they probably would have done a fund raiser for her. Of course, most of the rescue organizations are for purebred dogs. Bama is a loveable mutt, and I’m not about to give her up. A couple of you have mentioned that you would like to help. It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable to do this, but I have been asked so I thought I would provide the information. If you can and decide you want to, you can contribute to Bama’s care by contacting the Cross Lanes Veterinary Hospital at (304) 776-4501 for Bama Shank. Please, please avoid feeling under any obligation. I realize that most people are strapped for money right now, especially with escalating gas prices. Because I’m not associated with a rescue group, you can’t even get a tax deduction for this. I know we will find a way. Sending positive thoughts and prayers for her recovery is an invaluable way for you to contribute. It’s wonderful to feel that support.

Thanks for your concern, dear family and friends.

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