Around the first part of December of 2010, Main Lady found a nice new cat. I blogged about Emma here and here. On Friday, January 28, 2011 Main Lady took Emma over to the veterinarian to have surgery on her empty eye socket, which needed cleaning and closing so as to avoid infection, and to be spayed.
Emma didn't survive.
And that's the short of it.
Every once in a while life just fucking sucks.
Main Lady had a real sense of foreboding about taking Emma over to the vet. I should have counseled her to forgo or postpone the surgery, but I didn't. Instead I reassured Main Lady that it was a fairly routine procedure and I was sure everything would be okay. Now, my background is such that I know about animals, veterinarians and surgery, and I know that operations are not always successful. I therefore prefer to avoid surgery for my pets if it's at all possible. That said, I had my own cat Dante fixed because I did not want to put up with the behavior of a Tom cat when a female is in heat, and that was my decision, but I gave it a lot of thought first.
I got the call from Main Lady Friday afternoon around 3:00, asking me to come over to the veterinarian's office. She was crying so hard she really couldn't talk, so I expected the worst. I put my car under me and got over to the vet's office without fracturing any speed laws too badly. I found the vet (who did the surgery) and three technicians crowded around Emma trying to get several more IVs started. The story I get from the vet is that the surgery went fine, without too many complications. When Emma was supposed to be waking up her heart stopped. The vet got the heart started again, and Emma wouldn't breathe. The vet put her on a respirator and began trying to decide what to do for an encore, because now she's pretty much out of options. While everyone is watching the cat, the vet makes eye contact with me and shakes her head no. At this point Main Lady decided to call Cottontail.
Now Cottontail is a veterinarian with two fairly rare specialties: acute trauma and internal medicine. While serving her internship for internal medicine, Cottontail sewed up police dogs that had bitten off more than they could chew and would often be able to save them. Actually, there is no 'often' to it; Cottontail never lost a dog. The thing was, Dr. Cottontail had gotten up at four in the morning to take her husband Que Bee One to the airport so he could catch a flight to L.A., then she went in to work at her office in Eastern Pennsylvania. I'll give everyone credit, Cottontail attended to Emma over the phone, advising the local vet on a few procedures the local vet didn't know how to do. Cottontail then told the folks at her clinic in Eastern Pennsylvania that she had important work elsewhere before packing up her two dogs and heading for Sylvania. Cottontail coordinated via cell phone from her car, calling another expert she knew to gain any new ideas. The local vet and her staff cooperated fully. Cottontail got into town around 2:00 AM and stayed at the vet's office until around 6.
They put Emma in an incubator and kept it full of oxygen. It looked like Emma would recover, as she was getting a little stronger all the time, but it turned out that the recovery was only temporary. Emma's heart stopped for good today around 3:00 PM.
When I asked the obvious question about what went wrong, I got evasive answers. The local vet suggests that Emma had an adverse delayed reaction to the anesthetic. Cottontail speculates that Emma was missing one eye, and that might have indicated brain damage that was there from the beginning, meaning Emma wasn't healthy to begin with, and so this is a natural outcome.
My problem is that I know too much. I know, for instance, that Emma was a playful, energetic little preadolescent with a good appetite and regular litter box habits, and I know that if an animal is sick one or more of those properties is missing. I also know that by far the most common problem with surgery involves over-anesthetizing the patient. Then there's the local vet, who said that there weren't too many complications during surgery; not that this was a textbook case with a surprise ending. Then there's Cottontail. I've known Cottontail for years, and I know that she applies her own belief system and agenda to her professional life at the expense of everyone else's. For instance, I know that Cottontail believes that all animals should be spayed and neutered without exception. I also know that Cottontail will prevaricate and possibly fabricate rather than tell the whole story. So, as good a vet as Cottontail is, and make no mistake, she is very, very good at what she does, there is the rest of the package to deal with. When Cottontail was asked about the real cause of Emma's death, she started hedging. When asked for an opinion, she hedged some more and she did so in a way to protect the local vet.
I have thought about naming names and putting blame where it belongs, and I've rejected it. First of all, I don't feel like revealing my real identity. I suppose someone who was interested and persistent enough might find out who I really am, but I doubt such people take an interest in what I write. Secondly, I don't think it would help or change anything. The local vet was giving Main Lady her best efforts. Every once in a while the best you have isn't good enough, and when that happens we should all have the good sense to shrug it off, go home and have a drink.
I think Main Lady will get another cat very soon, and she can be satisfied that she provided a nice home for little Emma for a few weeks.