Sunday, June 3, 2007

A New Approach and Bama's Throne

Because this e-mail from June 2 was so long, I added headings:

What I Saw on TV
Monday night I happened to record a segment of E-Vets on Animal Planet to watch the next day. I was excited when I watched it and immediately made copies for all six vets at the vet hospital. A boxer had to have a tumor removed from his leg, and the narrator was bemoaning the fact that it would leave a large hole that would be especially hard to heal on the leg. My eyes widened, “Whoa! If they think that’s a big hole,” I thought, “they ought to see the holes all over my little dog.” They used a new procedure called wound vacuuming that was unfamiliar to the vets at Cross Lanes. The TV vets cut a special sponge with a tube sticking out of it in the shape of the wound. They placed it on the wound and “vacuumed” the air out of the sponge through the tube. It formed a seal over the wound that they said bacteria could not get through. Apparently, tissue grew through the sponge. I thought this might be a good solution for Bama and rushed the DVD’s out to the vets.

Bama’s Lesson for a Vet
Even though Bama seems to be doing very well in general and some of the wounds seem to be healing at a miraculous rate, the lead vet on Bama's team (one of the top orthopedic vets in this region) was getting discouraged. He had tried to sew a couple of the large wounds, but the skin wasn’t stretching enough to hold the sutures. He had hoped to sew the large wound on her stomach and have it heal so he could use some skin for skin grafts on her legs. He said she wasn’t following the time table he had planned. He told me Bama was the most challenging case he had ever had.

The vet said he watched the video twice, but he thought the procedure could only be done on fresh wounds. He asked me again if I wanted to take her to Virginia Tech. When he asked that the first time, I told him I trusted him. When he asked a second time, I asked him what they could do for her that he couldn’t do. He said he didn’t know of anything different they would do. I asked him if I would have to leave her there, and he said yes. I said, "Bama would give up if she thought she was abandoned. She is fighting to live because she wants to stay with Dad and me."

He agreed and said that she needed me to feed her, too. I put my hand on his arm and told him, “You can do this.” He said, “Maybe I need to trust myself.” I told him I believed we were going to find a way and that good was going to come from this. I broke down a little as I shared with him how Bama had already inspired me to find a way to keep working, despite living the last 16 years in chronic pain. We need to continue to follow her lead and her timing. He agrees, and I feel secure that he and the other vets at this hospital are the right people to help Bama.

The New Strategy
The next day, he came up with a new strategy. Apparently, there is a type of bandage that takes patience. One of the vets told me it was similar to how they tighten braces to straighten teeth. These bandages are gradually tightened to stretch the skin. Each day when they change her bandages, they tighten the ones they have placed over some of her large wounds a little bit more. Today, one of the vets told me she was excited when she saw Bama. She said she hadn’t seen her for almost a week, and she couldn’t believe how well she was doing. She said she could actually tell where the skin is starting to heal around the larger wounds. YAY!

What Color Bandages?
On a lighter note, I think the lead vet grabs whatever color bandages are handy. Two of the female vets were debating yesterday about what color bandages to use. One vet said she wanted to use all one color. The other vet said, “Aw, I like it when she has different colors.” The first vet reiterated, “I don’t. I like one color.” Yesterday, Bama was all turquoise. Today, she has neon colors—pink and orange in various places—and one turquoise leg. If I were doing the bandages, I would be the same way!

Bama Wants to Live
Today several of the vets were also talking about how Bama seems to want help. They said that many dogs won’t let anyone touch them and don’t seem to want help. They just want to be left alone. It was more confirmation to me that I did the right thing by helping Bama fight for her life, rather than having her euthanized to end the suffering. Her sweet disposition and determination are winning her many fans. The words miracle and amazing frequently sprinkle their discussions about her.

To Pity or Not To Pity
One of the clients at the vet hospital started crying when she saw Bama today, saying that she hated to think about her going through that. I was surprised at her response. Because my field is special education, I learned a long time ago that pity only incapacitates people further. We must believe that people, no matter what life gives them, can overcome. Her tears made me think about that. Self-pity and pity for dogs are also incapacitating. I’ve been learning about both. Here’s an example. One time when I took Bama to the Emergency Clinic, she couldn’t walk after they did surgery to clean her wounds. Her legs were like Jello. It was the first time I gave in to pity for her. I thought they had done something to damage her more. “Poor thing, poor little thing” kept going through my mind. She continued to be unable to walk, even the next morning. When I put her down, she simple plopped on the ground like a rag doll. I was sure I was going to have to have her euthanized. “I don’t know what they did to her, but she can’t walk!” I told the vet as I carried her into the office. He placed on her the floor, and she started walking. “You little booger!” was my stunned response. I realized then that she simply had a harder time coming out of the anesthesia the clinic used, which made her legs wobbly the rest of the afternoon. Because I saw her as unable to walk, she continued not to walk until the vet, who did not have that expectation, set her down on the floor. Now I make sure that I am keeping the vision of her healthy and happy in my mind. The other day when she didn’t walk when I first put her down, I left her lying on the ground and walked away from her. When I got to the door, I turned around, and she had stood herself up, made a puddle, and was tap dancing toward me at a brisk pace.

Bama’s Kingdom
At home, Bama continues to show signs of being more like her old self. The tail is wagging much more, and she moves around frequently, even when she’s lying down. When I first brought her home, she pretty much stayed in whatever position I laid her down. Now, she joins the other dogs in barking chorus whenever there’s an interesting sound in the neighborhood. One of the frustrating ways she’s back to her old self is that she uses her acrobatic tongue to try to keep me from jamming pills down her throat. She’s becoming very skilled at hiding them in her mouth and then spitting them out when I’m no longer looking. It becomes somewhat of an amusing challenge when I have to shove six pills down her throat each day. (Yes, she does this despite the trick of holding her mouth closed and stroking her throat until she swallows. I still can’t figure out how she manages this feat.) Bama’s enjoying eating a couple of cans of Science Diet AD each day, along with a couple of containers of Activia yogurt, plus whatever high-protein treats I throw her way. The other two dogs are enjoying eating small bites of whatever she’s eating, to keep her focused on eating and to keep them from becoming competitive with her. (Currently, they are treating her gently, occasionally licking her nose or sniffing her to check how she’s doing.) Sometimes Bama almost runs when I place her down to walk from the end of the driveway to the front door. Her reward for walking is lying on her favorite chair for a while. She walks to it when she gets in the front door, stops, and looks at me expectantly. I pick her up and place the little queen on her throne. (See the picture of her semi-snoozing on her throne. What you can't tell from the picture is that her tail is wagging as I'm taking the picture--the doggie equivalent of saying cheese, I guess!)

She’s Worth It!
Most of you know me well enough to know that I am much more of a night person than a morning person. I thought I was going to be able to sleep in when my job ended. Instead, we have to have Bama at the vet between 7:30 and 8:00 AM each day—even weekends and holidays—for bandage changes and frequent surgeries. (I still can’t get to sleep until midnight or later. ~SNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORE~) Then an hour to three or more hours later, I bring her home, hand feed and water her, and then give her her pills for the first time that day. One of the vets was talking about how difficult this process was for me. “She’s worth it,” I replied without hesitation. Most of the time, Dad has been making the vet trips with me, holding Bama on his lap while I drive. He feels the same way. I realized the other day that I would not have been able to do this for Bama had I been working. I’m thankful I’ve been able to give a little back to this dog who has given so much to me.

Thank you!
Thanks for your support—positive thoughts, prayers, or monetary. It’s been invaluable as we have faced this challenge.

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