“Every day takes figuring out all over again how to fucking live.”
Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert) in Deadwood
On Monday, I called Mom and she told me she had “lost” another bar of Yardley English Lavendar soap. It is her favorite soap, so I bring a steady supply to the nursing home, in packs of four, along with the Herbal Essence shampoo she likes. It’s the little things in life.
I wasn’t mad at her for losing the soap, but she was so distraught, that once again, I felt helpless in the face of her continued degeneration.
“I feel so out of control,” she said. “They don’t want to give me any more.”
She has been misplacing or losing a bar of soap on average of every other day as of the past couple weeks. She brings her soap into the bathroom across the hall to wash her hands, and perhaps leaves it there or else some biddy bully is stealing it from her. I don’t think it’s her roommate—she only takes her cookies and potato chips, as far as I know. Maybe it’s the mean lady she got into a tiff with in the day room a couple weeks ago. Anyway, after work on Monday I took the bus to see her and brought another 4-bar pack of lavendar soap. When I arrived, she was already in bed and much calmer. I put her name on one bar, placed it in her top bureau drawer and gave the remaining bars to the nurse for safekeeping.
I keep telling her I don’t care if she loses the soap, that it costs about $1.39 a bar, but still, she is ashamed. I can’t take away the shame, but I strive to ease her pain and calm her in the face of such unseen enemies, as losing one’s brain, bit by bit.
* * *
My blind kitten Quincy had been hacking the past couple days and my husband and I thought he had swallowed a “foreign” object. Usually cats vomit such objects up in time so it isn’t a matter of grave concern. In his case though, it was. It went on for a couple days and then Saturday morning at 2:30 a.m. I awoke listening to him hacking away and got really scared. I imagined that he had swallowed a piece of wire or other sharp object and that it might be perforating his intestines. Some background: three of our cats died last year--including a kitten of an unexpected heart attack--and my mom’s cat had to be put down, so that makes 4. So maybe I’m a little more nervy when one of my pets gets sick than another pet owner might be. Anyway, the hacking wouldn’t stop and I shouted downstairs to my husband who had fallen asleep on the sofa.
We had a 10:00 a.m. appointment to get our taxes done, so we had to think quick.
“Lorin, he’s having another coughing fit,” I said.
“Let’s take him in.”
“Are you sure?” I said.
“What options do we have? You’ll be worrying all morning while we’re at the tax guy.”
“You’re right,” I said.
So it began.
We put Quincy in the cat carrier and whisked him off to the 24-hour animal hospital about 10 minutes away—7 minutes at 2:30 a.m. with no traffic.
We told the front desk lady our story and were asked to sit in the “Triage” area. I overheard the term “foreign body” mentioned. Within minutes, the triage nurse, bespectacled, lanky and bubbly as a glass of pink champagne, came to consult with us.
We told her our tale and she pressed a stethoscope to Q’s chest, and goo-gooed and gah-gahed over him.
“He’s so cuuuute, yes he is,” she said. Even I felt like puking.
“Okay, just stay here and the doctor will see you shortly,” she said.
Lorin went out for a smoke, and eventually I was escorted to Exam Room 15 to wait for the doc.
After 15 or 20 minutes (how busy can they be at 2:37 a.m.?), a wide-eyed, 20-something vet, Dr. S, bolted into the room.
“So, what seems to be the matter?” she said.
I told her the story. She listened to Quincy’s heart with a concerned look on her face.
“He’s up to date on all his shots and in perfect health,” I said. He normally sees another, less expensive and more experienced (47 years) vet who unfortunately does not work on weekends.
“He has a heart murmur and on a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being the most pronounced, his is a 3,” she said.
“What?” I said. “Dr. C has been treating him for months and never mentioned a heart murmur.”
“I don’t like what I’m hearing in his chest,” she said. “I’d like to do a chest x-ray.”
“Okay,” I said.
“Hopefully it won’t be anything too bad,” she said. “Do you have anywhere to go?”
“No, not at 3:00 a.m.,” I said.
Jesus, what about bedside manner? This woman was scaring the crap out of me!
Lorin returned from his smoke and I broke the news. He was very angry.
“Why don’t they ever listen?” he said.
“I don’t know. She took him into the other room to take his temperature and check under his tongue—she was concerned about his gingivitis too—and said they would do a chest x-ray. She said they may not get to him for an hour.”
We drove to a 24-hour diner for some slop food and coffee. We both needed fuel but felt zombie-like. The pop music from hell and garish lights created the perfect surreal ambience. In one song, a whiny-voiced woman repeatedly sang, “hello,” until I thought I’d scream. I was so grateful to no longer be working the third shift.
At 4:35 a.m., we returned to the hospital and were told that Quincy was on his way to be x-rayed and were instructed to sit in the waiting area with the giant HD TV showing a program called Real Green about green living. I lay down on the cushioned bench and shut my eyes, and Lorin sat upright, also closing his eyes.
At 5:00 a.m., we were escorted into another exam room with a giant scale, we presumed for dogs, and waited another 5 to 10 minutes.
Dr. S burst into the room and showed us Q’s x-rays.
He had no “foreign body” lodged in his esophagus or stomach, but did have inflammation in his lungs. She said he had a slightly enlarged heart, but it wasn’t “too bad.” WTF?
She pre-diagnosed him as asthmatic. She said the radiologist would be in later in the day and could more properly analyze the films, but in the meantime, she prescribed Theophylline, a bronchodilator and gave him a couple puffs of something before we left. A 9-month old kitten with asthma? I suppose anything is possible. Dr. S asked if anyone in the household smoked, and I said Lorin did.
Lorin said he would not smoke in the main part of the house so as not to afflict Quincy further.
Late Saturday night Dr. S called and said that the radiologist believed Quincy had bronchitis or a mild case of pneumonia and prescribed an antibiotic for him. It would be ready on Sunday.
After one dose, he is already feeling better.
What is the lesson to be learned from all this?
I have no clue. All I know is that I don’t appreciate doctors, including veterinarians, not listening to their patients (or their patient’s owners) and assuming they know best. I also don’t appreciate being told “I hope it’s nothing really bad” when I have my pet examined. Aren’t budding doctors required to take Psychology 101 in college these days?
Anyway, all’s well that ends well. Quincy’s doing better. Mom is calmer now that she has her soap. But I do grow tired of clueless cocksuckers!
From my favorite show, Deadwood: