Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Life in the ICU

We are now running a little private doggie-ICU in our house. Let me back up a bit and fill you in.

Our little furry-angel came home on Monday as planned. I was able to pick her up in Ventura after work and make the 100 mile trip north with no problems. I had her 'placed' in the front passenger seat on a nice pile of blanket, knowing she would be rather 'needy'. It was about 60 miles into the trip before I could take my hand off her for more than a moment without her trying to get up and crawl into my lap. I gather she was somewhat traumatized by the preceding week.

I had gone over the directions down in Ventura with the discharging Dr, but when I got home Jeannie and I both went thru everything. She is to be 'incarcerated' with the cone of shame at least until the drain comes out. The drain is a tiny tube coming out the end of the sutures near her tail. It has a sharp needle at the end and that goes into one of those small vacuum tubes they use to do blood samples in. I brought home about 200 of those (the drain is in for at least thru next Monday). That tube needs to be changed every 2 hours.

Here's our little darling in her 'daytime' sequestration zone. You can see how happy 
she is wearing the cone of shame.

She also has SIX medications to be taken at various times. So Jeannie made a list of all the meds and their frequency, then we made a chart of time starting at 6am, and every 2 hours it lists what meds are to be taken (the dosage I wrote on the pill-bottles with a sharpie so I can see it in the middle of the night). Also she is to eat small amounts several times a day, so we scheduled that in for every 6 hours. We stopped at Wallyworld and bought a battery-operated alarm clock (you know...the round kind that is SUPER easy to set? Those are getting harder to find).

So....Jeannie and I put our heads together and here is the daily schedule we came up with:

6am: replace drain tube, medication 2, 4 and 5
8am: drain tube, medication 3 (dissolve in water)
10am: drain tube, medication 6, small meal
noon: drain tube, no meds
2pm: drain tube, med 3
4pm: drain tube, med 4, small meal
6pm: drain tube, med 1,2,and 5
8pm: drain tube, med 3
10pm: drain tube, med 6, small meal
midnight: drain tube, med 4
2am: drain tube, med 3
4am: drain tube, no meds, small meal

I have been taking the 'night shift' wake-ups (Jeannie wouldn't do very well at this getting up and doing stuff, then going back to sleep). So I take it thru the night starting with 10pm, thru 4am, and Jeannie has been working at home so she takes over @ 6am (I leave for work around 5:15am) and I pick it back up (or we share) after I come home from work. Sure glad there are two of us...this would be BRUTAL if you were alone trying to manage this amount of care.

PG's in good spirits though, other than wearing the cone of shame I mean. I sneak it off during the night and at eating times, but any time I catch her licking the sutures or going ANYWHERE near the drain it's back to cone. And Jeannie wants me to have it on her when I leave because she's working and can't be watching her all the time.

At night I have her sequestered next to the bed....I used our awesome doggie-gate (variable length to fit in doorways, etc) and have the area on my side of the bed blocked in, and she has a nice bed in there. This way I can get up when the alarm goes off I can turn on the closet light which shines right where she is laying. I go get a new tube (I numbered a whole bunch 1 thru 50 I think, and on a piece of paper I went down the list writing the day/times in 2 hour intervals...thus later on I can see that tube # 15 was from which day and 2 hour time period...this might be important later). So I grab the next numbered tube and go swap it out with the current one. Then I look at our handy job chart and see what needs to be done...pills, meals. One of the pills needs to be dissolved in 10ml of water, then have 10 more ml added (this is the directions, I don't understand it either). Then I suck it into a turkey-baster hypodermic (without the needle, but I do have a piece of my aquarium airline tubing on the end). Then I have to get her to sit-up (hard to do in the middle of the night actually) and stick the tube inside her cheek (no way she will unclench and let me put it in her mouth). If I hold her nose up and gently squeeze, she will start swallowing the water/med. Though last night she sat there (at the 2am shift) NOT swallowing until it ran out her mouth...she had an evil look on her face saying "you can't make me drink this!". Jeannie heard me having troubles and came over and helped hold she eventually capitulated and drank the remaining fluid (what wasn't on me or the floor).

Giving her pills has been relatively easy...we just wrap it in a piece or 2 of chicken, squish it together like a little chicken patty and she has been pretty good at NOT playing the "I can smell the pill and get it out of there yet eat the chicken" game she usually plays. Not sure how long this stroke of luck will hold, but we are enjoying it while it lasts (she's not a very good patient).

And here you see some of the damage. You can see the suture lines running across (up?) the thigh. You can also see the vacuum tube holster (in the white gauze) up above the hip. The gauze wraps up over the tube after you stick it with the needle and then put it back into the holster...that keeps it from falling out when she is lying down or moving around. You can also see just how happy the poor baby is wearing the cone of shame (not to mention having her leg cut wide open).

Then she needs to go outside every now and then for business...she hops around quite well, even with the hurt leg all bandaged up (they wrapped up from just above the knee to just the tip of the paw...this is because she has no feeling down there and will hurt the foot, so the wrapping holds it in a 'standing' position so she can put it down and us it. Above the knee has feeling.....we are waiting to see if the feeling comes back...the surgeon said if it doesn't they will likely want to take the leg. So we are praying on that first.

THEN there is the matter of the malignant cancer inside her thigh. The surgeon said it's a low-grade tumor, but right now it's still releasing fluid (part of the stuff that gets sucked out of the drain). The rest of the fluid is from the leg healing after the damage done by being so pressurized for 7 or 8 days from the bleeding tumor. It has been slowing down in quantity...last week at the surgical center they were changing the tube every hour. Sooner or later we will have to address the cancer...for now we have changed her diet to NO sugars of any kind (all the online info says that's what tumors feed on, so you can starve them). She's getting chicken right now, and I hope to add in broccoli, cauliflower, and maybe some other veggies..maybe some sweet-potatoes. The problem is she's a finicky eater. VERY finicky. I tried to get her to eat some strawberry pieces last night, no luck. However the other two (Sweet Pea and Sydney) will eat them! The surgeon did say the tumors might have been there some time (they are not very big) and only the bleeding got them discovered. But she did talk of radiation down the road (IF she gets feeling in the foot back).

And so we take it day by day. Today Jeannie got her into our local vet as the last few night-shift tubes didn't get any appreciable they could be clogged. It's now the end of the day and she's still there...and there is some misunderstanding over the 'clogged tubing' directions the vet has from the surgical center...they are working on that right now. This is not good, and I might be taking her back down to Venture tonight if this isn't resolved quite soon (as the vet closes in less than an hour). Scary stuff...stay tuned.


Sheesh...I hadn't even gotten this published yet when the phone was Jeannie at the vet...problems. She wanted me to zoom down there...turns out the vet hadn't done anything all day on PG...Jeannie had called the surgeon down in Ventura to ask what was going on as the Vet said they were waiting for some info from Ventura...our surgeon was LIVID and called the vet asking what was going on, and WHY hadn't anybody called her? The drain hadn't been working since around midnight, Jeannie got her in as soon as they opened, and now at 5pm they are looking into it...then the Vet (not actually OUR vet..she had the day off and couldn't be reached, so this was the 'other' vet in the office) got onto Jeannie's case about what to do if the drain is clogged...for her to come back and show the tech's what to do (like WE know??). So it was a huge blowup scene, and Jeannie is WAY TICKED at the vet, swearing never to return.

So...the end result: I zoomed down there, picked PG up and brought her home. Then we called the surgical center for info, and it turns out they were expecting PG down there TONIGHT (the vet forgot to tell me that part, she said they'd want to see her TOMORROW). So...I loaded up the car and moved to Beverly...Hills that gold, movie stars...(sorry, Beverly Hillbillies flashback...always loved to watch Jethro eat an entire box of Corn Flakes in that GIGANTIC bowl). OK, it was just me and PG on a SPEED run down to Ventura...again. Got her down there around 8:30 and they were expecting her...checked her back in (don't think they gave her room away's only been 2 days)....they will verify the drain is working, and if it IS clogged will have to get a new one in there (hope that doesn't mean surgery again) they'll be keeping her at least overnight...poor thing...we had just gotten her home!

All I know is that I'm beat...but at least I don't need to get up every 2 hours there is that. But I'd take it to have her home where she belongs.

And that's the story THUS far. Stay tuned...there's lots more to come I'm sure! I"m beat...time for bed. I might just get up at midnight, 2am and 4am just for kicks....NOT!


  1. Good lord, Matt, I'm worn out just reading it. Miss Daisy the Yellow dog doesn't understand why I keep getting up from the computer, wiping my eyes and going to the fridge and getting her TWO hot dogs. She ain't complaining, though.

    This will all work out, Matt. Strength and Power, Brother.


    1. Hey TJ...yes, it's hard when your kid/best friend is hurting, and it hurts even more knowing she doesn't understand what's going on. Heartbreaking...that's for sure. But she's a fighter (she IS the alpha of our little pack after all). We just need to be there doing what we can. It's the best we can do.

  2. OH, forgot to reply to you Cathy...I tried to email you the other day in response to your query (about your son coming up to Santa Maria for Firefighting school). I guess the email addx I had for you is old as it came back undeliverable...not sure how we can do this without either of us putting our email addx out there for the world (not that the world comes by here, not even a small village, more like a hut of people). Any ideas?

    1. If you are friends on facebook you can send a private message there.


  3. Thursday update: I drove back down to Ventura this afternoon and picked up PG..she is now home again. And the DRAIN IS GONE! Apparently whatever was going on causing all the fluid is mostly over...they cleared the drain last night and verified there wasn't anything there (so the drain wasn't likely clogged...the fluid-producing events just stopped). So I don't have to get up EVERY 2 hours...just midnight and 2am (for meds, those are still on the schedule). Hopefully those will run out in another week or so. Until then I'll keep on keeping on. She looks pretty good, and her anemia is way better (she lost a lot of blood between that huge clot and then surgery and whatnot in the last few weeks...but her numbers are nearly normal again as of last night).

  4. Thanks to everyone for your kind sympathy. It is still a weird feeling -- Cathy I know you went through this with your Dad, and I with my Dad about 2 years ago. Still going through papers, etc.

    No drain = progress! Let's hope the feeling returns. We used to think that once a nerve was damaged, there was no going back, but now know that isn't always true--but recovery can be VERY slow.

    Give PG an extra hug from me. I lost my little cat several weeks ago after nearly 20 years at my side. Definitely leaves a void.


    1. Hey Rae...losing your kitty of 20 years AND your mother in a short span..that's harsh! You certainly have my thoughts and prayers for your own peace and strength.

      We've only had PG for 11 years now, which is still quite a long time...amazing that cats can live so long, yet animals like Great Danes only go about 7'd think it would be the other way around. We have no idea how long to expect PG to live..she's mid size (part whippet/terrier) so I would easily expect she could go well past 15..(other than this she acts like she's about 5 or 6).