The very last time I spoke to Sean it was about a week before he passed away. He was so happy, telling me about the donations he was getting through the fundraising site he had set up for Chico two weeks earlier, how friends were calling and telling him to drop by their houses because they wanted to give him money for Chico, and that he had also just received in the mail the check I had sent to him as my donation. He had planned to use that check to open a bank account for Chico. Ever the optimist, even though at that point the donations only amounted to a few hundred dollars, one of the last things he said during our conversation was “I’ll finally be able to get Chico his surgery.”
This–and the fact that even more friends so generously supported and donated to Chico after Sean passed away–is why I never doubted for a minute that getting Chico his surgery was the right and only thing to do.
But this past Friday night, as Chico became sicker from his post-surgery complication, I regretted the surgery, doubting whether I had done the right thing after all. The morning of his surgery, Chico was his normal happy-dog self. He’s been a very different dog ever since.
Saturday morning, Chico was increasing listless. He hadn’t gotten better overnight, following the previous day’s treatment. So based on our vet’s referral, Mom and I took Chico to MedVet, an emergency animal hospital, for additional X-rays and an ultrasound. The internist, Dr. Alan Ralph, told us there was fluid in Chico’s belly and that the fluid contained white blood cells, which indicated inflammation or infection.
This was all such a bummer because it had become clear to us that Chico was indeed seeing out of his right eye. When I was packing up the car that morning, Chico was stretched out on the lawn, lying in the sun. Even though, he felt crappy, he still wanted to be outside. I noticed as I walked from house to car, loading his supplies (insulin, meds, food), his little head was slowly turning, following my movements. Then later, Dr. Ralph softly snapped his fingers in front of Chico’s left eye. There was no reaction, no blinking, as was the norm. But when he performed the same test in front of Chico’s right eye, Chico blinked several times. Yes, he was definitely seeing, but this good news was overshadowed by the complications we were facing.
After four hours at MedVet, during which Mom and I became increasingly distraught, waiting as Dr. Alan, the radiologist and the surgeon, Dr. Jennifer Lang, discussed Chico’s unusual case and the best approach, Chico was prepped for exploratory surgery. The surgery would determine what was blocking his small intestines and if there was a problem with his colon, which was showing up on the ultrasound as oddly positioned. Dr. Alan mentioned several scary possibilities of what could possibly be wrong with Chico (from a foreign-object blockage to a necrotic or twisted colon). Without the surgery to determine what was happening inside Chico’s digestive tract, the infection or inflammation would worsen, plus he’d never be able to defecate and that would be fatal.
When we finally left MedVet, Mom and I were emotionally and physically spent. We had spent more than $1100 between the vet visit yesterday and the emergency visit today. The intestinal surgery and post-op stay (3 to 5 days) would cost another $3000-$4000. All we could do was whip out the credit cards and hope we’d find a way to pay them off.
The doctors at MedVet moved quickly to take care of Chico once he was prepped for surgery. The surgery didn’t take long, and the doctors called frequently with updates.
Chico did very well in surgery. Dr. Lang found a blockage (no foreign objects, just lots of poop) in the small intestines. She easily removed the blockage without any additional cutting. His colon as it turns out is healthy and positioned right where it’s supposed to be. Dr. Lang took a biopsy of his small intestines to ensure there’s nothing else going on, but the root of the problem is that Chico’s small intestines just stopped moving. The small intestines normally move in a constant wavelike motion, called peristalsis, to digest food and move it through to the large intestines and colon.
All of Chico’s doctors are baffled as to why this happened, and Chico will need to take yet another medication to get his intestines moving again. But, still, Mom and I are relieved. We were afraid of something even more serious, and now at least we know Chico is no longer in pain. The little guy surely feels much better. And we can’t wait to visit him later today.