Keep Breathing

Erica K

Erica K
New Jersey, USA
September 26
I have a new blog: Grew up in Jackson Heights, New York, but now live in Jersey. Married and the proud owner (servant?) of 4 cats, including a little blind guy named Quincy. Jobs have included: English teacher in U.S. and abroad, cabaret performer and member of a NYC sketch comedy troupe; now a legal secretary and freelance writer. Other jobs: canvasser for NYPIRG/cannery worker in Naknek, Alaska (a fisherman told me it was "the ugliest part of Alaska")/dog kennel cleaner/member of the swine and poultry crew on a California farm. "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." Samuel Beckett


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MARCH 11, 2012 9:14PM

Lost Soap, Clueless Vet and Other Cocksuckers

Rate: 20 Flag

“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:

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Quincy is adorable, looks so soft and sweet. I haven't lost a pet in years and if Hayley Cat gets lethargic I stress out so it seems reasonable that you worry about yours.

I'm so sorry your mom is having such a struggle, I'm glad you're there but it must be hard to watch. I wish I had something brilliant or comforting to say.
Both of my parents were coherent before they died, so I don't know what you're going through with your mom. But I've seen enough friends go through it to know it's a long ache.

The vet in the middle of the night thing we've done a couple of times. No more.

And I recently wen't through the clueless doctor thing for myself ("We have to be thinking CANCER") so I can definitely relate.

As to your writing - it is good. You keep it simple, keep the story flowing. Sounds easy to do. It is not. I look forward to more.
Sorry you had to go through it. I am glad Quincy is doing better. It is so cool that you quoted Calamity Jane (I did it once). I think Deadwood is the best literary work I have ever seen on screen. R
What a beautiful cat, so sorry you had to go through all that BS. Every time I go to those 24 hour pet hospitals it costs a fortune and they tell me something that the vet does not confirm as correct the next day.
Once my cat almost died because they gave him an antihistamine and I told them he was allergic to them.
I think someone is stealing your mother's soap.
rated with love
When my mom was in a nursing home, I ended up telling her everything I brought was free. I won it at a raffle, or at bingo, or got it as a gift, etc. It seemed to make her feel better and she never found it odd that I won so many things in her size. She just thought she had a very lucky daughter.
Funny thing about your headline "Clueless Vets," I thought I'd be reading about the bar flies at VFW post or such. Appreciate the Deadwood mix clip.
I felt so badly about all of this and then I got to the last pictures and saw Quincy sleeping next to the Angry Birds pig and showed it to Steve who is playing it right now on his iPad. Maybe you should bop that thing around and pretend its some of these non caring people.
Love to your mum, you and Quincy.
Oh my. Hope that Quincy will be healthy from now on.
Go as blue as you need to--and you have plenty of cause. I wish I had the patience and understanding you give your mother. I hope you don't mind, but I plan to steal "clueless cocksuckers" and add it to my repertoire.
We had a kitten with a heart murmur -- Eddie -- who is three now & seems no the worse for wear, although he does still have a kind of "kitten" look about him. (I love Deadwood, I love that "Calamity Jane" quote, although I think my favorite Deadwood quote MIGHT be Al Swearingen saying "Life is just one vile fucking task after another." I don't completely believe this, but whenever Geo & I are having a bad day, we look at each other & sigh & repeat it.)
I'm sorry for your mother's troubles, and for yours, associated with hers. It has to be hard to know you're slowly losing your grasp on reality, and in such a situation, not being able to find something you know you had recently must be stressful all out of proportion to its importance.

Cats--weekends, late nights, early mornings--those the prime hours for them to go off color, isn't it? The crap you took at the vet's office would be hard to tolerate in the daylight, let alone in the wee hours.

And then taxes while sleep-deprived the next morning. Ew!

[r] Let me recover from the C-S video. Is there any other dialogue???? HAH!!!!

Erica, Thanks for another slice of life! Well done. You certainly have your hands full. And yes, how did these adolescent docs every get their stethescopes? I am partial to English lavendar myself. How sad the guilt for continually losing it. Quincy, cool looking cat with a great name! I am in a zombie sleep deprived state but glad I caught this as always! you take care of your precious self. best, libby
I think you're being unfair to cocksuckers, Erica, altho it's cool to see that word in a title. As to the sort of deliberate deadheads you describe here, I'm partial to "moronic asshole." Glad things are better and that Quincy is out of the woods.
No brilliant or comforting statement needed, L'Heure. Your reading and commenting is enough. Thank you.

Luminous, I do so weary of the medical profession. It's just another business these days, compassion and integrity often absent.
Thoth, I agree on Deadwood. Minus the cursing, they were so well-spoken. I wish people today expressed themselves that eloquently.

Thanks, Romantic. You might be right.
Jlsathre, what a great idea! Maybe i'll start telling Mom her soap was won in a raffle too.

Jmac, I realize the title may cause some misinterpretation.
Sorry to hear about yet more misery but I am happy Quincy is better, despite veterinarians.
Linda, isn't Angry Birds addictive? Lorin got me hooked on it and got me a mini red angry bird (forgot the name) for my key chain. A young cashier at the grocery store told me yesterday, "That's so cool." Thanks for the warm thoughts. xo

Sheila, me too. Thanks.

beauty, steal away!

Suzie, I have many a Swearengen quote that keeps me going. A favorite of mine and Lorin's is: "The world ends when you're dead. Until then you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man and give some back."

Shiral, yes, it was a surreal experience indeed.

Libby, yes, there's more dialogue than that--check it out! Best show ever on TV.

Chicken Maaan, I meant no offense to your roosters, LOL.

Mary, I take it in stride. One day at at a time.
Something so sweetly absurd about a baby animal with gingivitis or asthma or even a murmur. The word murmur sounds cute to me for some reason. I was diagnosed with one once and then a few year later I got some exam. I told them I was told I have a heart murmur. The doctor said, " No way. No murmur. Never had one and don't have one now." So who you gonna trust?

Bedside manner? Still impossible for many doctor cocksuckers. You'd think it cost them big bucks to display some tact or humanity.
Having to see Real Green at that time would have sunk me but you a survivor, dear. Poor Lorin can't smoke. I'm not kidding. With these stresss levels( your mother and the four cats!) smoking is a necessity.

Really enjoyed reading this and very glad that momma has her soap, and Quincy is doing fine.

Jlsathre's advice is probably sound. White lies can be a good thing.
fernsy, yes, no bedside manner. I got the feeling she viewed Quincy as a test subject and was almost hoping he had some awful disease or cancer so she could experiment on him. I got the feeling she had no cats of her own. Anyway, it's all theatre of the absurd, and it continues unabated.
I’m sorry you all had such a tough night! That vet was ridiculously insensitive and plain old stupid. Maybe there is somewhere you could post a review on them? They need to learn how to treat people and animals in distress!

We lost two of our cats last year and I understand the fear that strikes when one of ours isn’t well. You were hurt four fold and I’m so sorry for the loss of your cats. It was so reassuring to see Quincy curled up and happy. He's so pretty!

I’m sorry for your hardship with your mother. You are a good daughter, and even though she stresses about things, I hope you can find some comfort in knowing her life is made so much better because of you.
I don't think I should post anything about the young, clueless vet because we have gone to this hospital for a few years and they have some excellent, more experienced and compassionate veterinarians.
Thank you, as always, for your warm words of support.
You have a lot going on, and I feel for you. The soap ordeal is the kind of thing that would break my heart when my Mom was in a care center. It's a huge deal for your mom to have that soap, dammit, and you know she's not losing it. Soap turns up, you know. I love jlsathre's suggestion about saying you won a case of it... And I am glad that Quincy is better.
@Erica K

Good looking out for Quincy, he can count himself lucky to have such a friend. As for cocksuckers, there sure are a lot of them around I don't know what to do about it though.
Onislandtime, yes, the saga of the soap is ongoing and it all boils down to her losing control, as she herself said. Thanks for stopping by.

Anthony, there's no stopping those cocksuckers!