Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Nine Lives Used

Monday, 14th September 2001

It's Monday, and I've suspected the events of this afternoon were coming ever since a rather upsetting chat with my wife on Saturday afternoon, 12th Sept.

Whilst she was at work [she's a theatre nurse], Saturday morning just gone (approx 09.45 hrs), whilst I was still in bed, the phone rang.

Usually, during the day, we ignore the house phone when it rings, on the basis that it's probably some noddy tele-sales irritant trying to flog us something we don't need - added to which, if it's someone with anything important to  impart, then they'll be bound to leave a message – and anyone who really wants us that badly will have our mobile numbers.

Phone rang the first time, I ignored it and went back to sleep; phone rang again, immediately, for a second time, and I'm thinking that these tele-sales wallahs are persistent to phone straight away, after not getting any response at their first attempt - but ditto, I ignore it and roll over again; phone rang immediately for a third time - so I thought, OK, this must be Fiona, my wife, and she must need something to go for three attempts on the bounce.

I answer the phone and sure enough it's a female voice, though not Fiona's, asking me do I have a cat? I'm about to read her the Riot Act (“just what the bloody hell are you doing phoning at such an ungodly-early-hour on a Saturday!!!” type fulmination) for trying to - I assume - flog me some cat-related product or service, when something imperceptible in her voice, a polite tremor almost, makes me change my mind and answer her simply, "yes, why, is there a problem?"

She informs me that she has got my number from the name-tag on the collar around one of our cat's necks (we have two), and that it is currently lying, motionless, on the grass verge about 200 yards from our house - 'mewing but motionless'. She assumes it's been hit by a car. She'd been out walking her dog and come cross the poor wee tyke.

I thank her sincerely for her time, trouble and kindness in letting us know, and make to get out of bed, tossing back the duvet in a rush and race to get some kit on.

First-things-first - how am I going to carry or move this badly injured cat without causing her more pain?

Cat-carrying box - like the one you use to take cats to the vet – we’ve got two in the garage. OK! Good to go!

Jog down the road and come across cat lying on her left side, motionless.

She sees me, as I approach, and half-rallies, but just briefly, as she recognises me and gives me a kind of "well this is a fine to do, have you seen the mess I've gone and got myself into?" mew. I stroke her head and lift her as gently as I'm able to into the cat box (with one or two attendant, though unavoidable, mews of pain). There's no blood or missing limbs, and no horridly contorted shape to her, so I assume the damage to her is crush damage and is internal.

I get her home in about a minute and call Fiona at work. Tell her I'm going to take her straight to the vet and will keep her abreast as and when I know anything new. I phone the vet to warn them of an urgent case in-coming and they say fine, and just to tell the reception when I arrive and the vet will see me immediately.

True to their word, the nurse takes the cat-box from me the moment I get there and takes it into an anteroom for an initial inspection, telling me as she goes that the vet will be along shortly. All this whilst I stare politely at all the other people in the waiting room, with their motley collection of guinea pigs, rabbits, and dogs – the latter apparently having no concept of why they’re there, or where they are, and just want to play. To a man and woman, they all give me that knowing "good luck mate" look, like they know what's happened, in that circumstantial mental transference which is designed to all but offer the cat a last cigarette.

Again, true to their word, I'm called through to find the vet and veterinary nurse continuing with their inspection.

Considering the nature of her injuries, the cat's rather calm and collected - until the vet tries to examine her hindquarters - basically everything from the midriff backwards and including the tail. He, the vet, feels the bones in her back legs, which illicit an almost whining cry of a mew, and he nods as his fingers feel a series of injuries with which they must by now be more than familiar.

He then turns to me and tells me that, from his initial examination, he can feel that both her femurs are snapped and spiral (compound) fractured; her pelvis is crushed at both sides and possible snapped also, her tail appears to be detached from the spine completely, she cannot move or articulate her hindquarters independently at all; and there's a strong possibility of nerve damage across the entire area, but this can only be determined with further examination and X-rays; if this does prove to be the case, then there is a strong possibility that she will be disabled and/or paralysed in a number of ways - including not being able to walk or perform normal bodily and toilet functions herself.

Frankly, and unsurprisingly, given the litany of abuse her body's received, the prognosis is not good.

I know the poor wee moggy was probably still in shock from whatever vehicle hit her, and I've seen badly, and even terminally badly, injured cats before - but it never ceases to amaze me the amount of sheer physical damage they can suffer and still stay silent. She just stared at me whilst the vet gave me the laundry list of likely damage to her.

The vet tells me that there are, even with this carnage, options.

He explains that there is an operation which would at least rebuild the damage, involving plates, screws, hinges and all manner of associated devices one normally associates with the building trade.

But he's then very honest with me and says that even with all that, there's no guarantee that she's not paralysed from the damage and trauma already inflicted - the tail would have to come off for a start, and, in all likelihood, at least one of her legs. So leaving an incontinent, paralysed, three-legged cat with no tail. What kind of life is that? I know cats are infinitely adaptable, but there are limits, even for them.

I could have made the decision there and then to have her put down - but knew that Fiona would want to have the overriding say on whatever was to happen next.  I knew which way this flag was now flying, but the final say was hers, and I'd accept (agree with it or not) whatever she wanted to do. So I phoned her at work again and gave her the update.

She said that she wanted to see the cat at least, before any decision was made.

So, the vet gave the cat the appropriate levels of painkillers and placed her in a cage for further examination, observation and X-ray once I'd left.

Fiona and I discussed it, calmly, that night at home. We even countenanced the silly expense (neither of the cats in insured) it would have cost to have her 'rebuilt'; but the one thing which made up our mind was the fact that the cat would be paralysed and couldn't physically go to the toilet herself any more.

Even though the vet was open the next day, Sunday, he said there was nothing practical to be done, other than observation, and to see [once her shock of the trauma had subsided completely] if she regained any movement at all in her hindquarters. He would call us and update us at the close of the day to update us with any news - regardless of what that was.

There was no change in her condition.

So Monday came, and we got to the vet's just prior to the requested time of 13.50 hrs.

He took us into the anteroom and explained that, along with there being no visible or meaningful change to her condition or prognosis, he was also at the limit of what he could achieve with painkillers, and that they were no longer having much effect. If we hadn't made up our minds prior to this, this informed us that there was only one humane thing to do. He asked the nurse to bring the cat through from the observation area, and thus convinced, we informed the vet of our wishes as to how to proceed.

We saw the cat in her basket - she recognised us immediately, and gave a mew of recognition. The vet prepared the lethal dose.

We kissed the cat and wished it well.

There are very few things in life which upset me - but seeing Fiona upset is one of them, in fact, it's the one which upsets me the most. So seeing her crying and utterly distraught got to me. In nearly thirteen years of being together, and ten of those years being married, I've only ever once seen her as upset as this. It is not an experience I want to revisit.

The vet found the vein he'd been using to deliver painkillers and injected a dose designed to A) stop her heart and B) be a muscle relaxant. It took effect in less than 10 seconds. The cat's eyes were open and its pupils completely dilated, as if she was finally, having got to see us one last time, letting out all the light she'd brought into our lives. Her heart stopped. She was gone.

At least she's in no more pain.


1 comment:

  1. As an update, if you remember, we had Ives put down on the Monday, 14th Sept - and then on Friday, 18th Sept, I went to the same cat sanctuary, from which we got Hilts & Ives when they were only 8 weeks old, and got us a new kitten, well 10 weeks old at least, to be a companion to Hilts.

    Her name is Spud, she's adorable, has grown well. She and Hilts are now firm friends; although Hilts does object somewhat to being constantly ambushed when she's least expecting it.


Feel free to comment on this post

Related Posts with Thumbnails