Saturday, March 12, 2011
It's been a trying few weeks at the Princess Holly household.
On Feb 24th, I woke up at 5:00, and didn't immediately notice anything unusual. I brushed my teeth and got ready to hit the treadmill. As I left my bathroom, I realized the cat meowing at me was Trinket. Cooper is usually the one who want to remind me that he's STARVING and MUST be fed immediately if not sooner. I knew instantly something was wrong. I called Cooper and there was no response. I woke up Nick and told him something was wrong, but he thought I was being dramatic. My stomach had a knot in it while I looked and called for him.
I finally found him down on the main level laying on Sunshine's bed. I raced over to him and picked him up. He started purring and I sighed from relief. He seemed fine. I set him down so I could feed them, and he crumpled to the floor. He was paralyzed in his back legs.
I immediately went into panic mode. I told Nick we had to get him to the emergency vet. I called the U of M emergency vet and told them what was going on. They asked his age and breed. I told him he's 7, and a Ragdoll. They said to bring him in right away.
I sped to the U and was there within 20 minutes. When I arrived they came running out to me, asked if this was the Ragdoll, I said yes, and they scooped him out of my arms, and ran with him. About 5 minutes later they called me into a room. It was an empty exam room with nothing but a box of Kleenex. This isn't my first time with an animal emergency, and I know the room with the tissues isn't where you hear good news. A very sweet, young vet told me that Cooper had a femoral embolism. He threw a blood clot to the femoral artery, which supplies blood to his hind legs. He had no pulse in either leg, they had cut one of his toe nails, and it wasn't bleeding. His hind legs were cold. She went on to say this is fairly common in Ragdolls, and wasn't anything we could have prevented or known about. She said the prognosis for him was very poor, and only about 10-15% of cats survive. She also said, this is an indication of heart disease, so if he did survive, he likely has some heart issues. She went on to say that most cats they see with this are down and out, and Cooper was sitting up and alert, so that was a good sign. She recommended they give him heparin therapy to try to dissolve the clot to restore blood flow to his rear legs, they were going to give him some pain meds, and see how he responds. She told me she was going to go get Cooper before they started the heparin so I could say good-bye to him. She brought him in, all wrapped in a blanket. He was purring, and sweet, but you could tell he wanted to get out of there. I petted him, and talked to him. Snapped a couple photos with my iphone. I refused to say good-bye to him. I told him to be a good boy and I'd see him later. With that, the vet took him from me. He was taken to the ICU for his treatment, and I was told to go home and they would call me in a few hours.
I got home, decided to workout on the treadmill because I needed to relieve some stress. I had called work to tell them I'd be late, so I was in no particular hurry. I took a shower, and was heading into my office at about 10:00, when I received a phone call from Cooper's cardiologist. (yes, at this point, my cat has a cardiologist) She told me that the news wasn't good. Cooper was in congestive heart failure as well as his embolism. She was very kind and soothing, and answered all my questions. She told me to come in at 3:00 to further talk about Cooper and his options, and prognosis.
I arrived at the U of M at 3:00. There was a large manly woman who came out and told me what a good boy Cooper was. She had been one of his ICU nurses, and was madly in love with him. She brushed him and comforted him much of his stay there. She brought me into a room and went to go get Cooper. He looked disheveled, had part of his hair shaved off, and smelled like urine. He had peed on himself, because he had no control of his hind legs. I felt terrible seeing him in this condition. The cardiologist came in. She was very pretty in an unusual way. She had an accent I couldn't quite identify, and spoke slowly, and very articulately. She explained that Cooper would require lifelong meds for his heart. I asked if they put cats on Lasix, like they do humans. She said that's precisely what they were putting him on, along with aspirin to help keep clots down. She told me his echo-cardiograph showed another clot in his heart and he could throw it at any time. She said that most cats regain some use of their limbs after an embolism because their veins reroute around the blockage to resupply blood to the muscles, however if he didn't regain his hind legs it would prove fatal. She told me his short term prognosis was good because I was willing to try with the meds and physical therapy. His long term prognosis is poor, as most cats with heart failure live 6 months a year, occasionally 2 years. She was very patient and made sure I understood his prognosis. A small percentage >20% survive long term with meds. I'm hoping he's in that >20%.
I brought him home Thursday afternoon, and he wouldn't eat or drink. I syringed water into his mouth a few times an hour to make sure he remained hydrated. I got some high calorie vitamin gel and put it on his tongue along with baby food to try to keep his strength up. He had to lay on pee-pads because he couldn't use the litter box. It was awful and I questioned if I was doing the right thing for him, or if I was being selfish. I just felt I needed to give him a chance to beat this. I had faith he could, and he's such a sweet, kind hearted baby, I had to make sure he had every option.
I barely ate or slept myself. Friday I had to go to work, and of course I was a basket case. I got home, and there wasn't any improvement. His feet were still cold, and he was still paralyzed. The ER vet said if it was coming back it would do so within 24-48 hours. I was scared he would remain paralyzed. He still wouldn't eat or drink, and I felt awful. I bought him a rotisserie chicken to try to coax him into nibbling on some food, but he wasn't having any of it.
Saturday, he seemed to be able to move his hind right leg, and it seemed to be warming up. Not a lot, but a little bit. I turned my back for a couple minutes and I thought Cooper had scooted to the litter box. I wasn't positive, but someone peed in it, and Trinket won't use an uncovered box. We took the cover off so we could hold him in there to go potty. Later I saw him scoot a few feet. His hind right was regaining a tiny bit of use! And he started eating canned cat food! This was amazing progress as far as I was concerned.
Sunday, he was hobbling on his hind right leg. Cooper was acting more himself and I couldn't be more pleased with his progress! He continued to improve as the week progressed, and by Tuesday or Wednesday his hind left foot was warm again, too. I was hopeful maybe that would come back as well.
Thursday he had his recheck at the U. It took 2 hours, not because they ran a lot of tests, but because he had quite a social life to tend to. Everyone in Emergency, ICU and Cardiology remembered him and wanted to see him. He rolled on his back and begged for belly rubs, and purred so loud they had trouble hearing his heart. Everyone commented that he is practically a dog in cat's clothing. The doctor was pleased with his leg, and overall recovery, but warned me that he still has a clot in his heart.
So that's where we stand now. It's been 2 1/2 weeks. Cooper has full use of 3 legs and 1/2 use of his hind left. It's warm now, and he still needs to regain motor function. He can't quite control the foot, but can put weight on it. Today he jumped onto a chair for the first time since his embolism, so it was good to see. He's going to be on blood thinners and heart meds the rest of his life, which I hope is a long time.
I'm really grateful that I had health insurance on him. I use VPI, for all my pets and it's proven worthwhile for me. His bills so far are $1690, and it gives me some relief to know that about 80% will be covered. If you have pets, I highly recommend pet insurance.
Thanks for reading, and hug your pets for me.