A bad day

Four weeks ago, on 09/27/10, we woke up to our lovely dog, Kai, having difficulty getting up and not wanting to eat.  He had been acting differently for a couple days, but that Monday morning seemed far worse.

I called our regular vet telling them we suspected an obstruction in his abdomen as his belly felt distended.  I let them know his other symptoms – heavy breathing, getting up with difficulty, not eating.  He was alert and responsive, but we knew the situation was not good as he has always been first up in the morning ready to go out and then eat a hearty breakfast.  Our regular vet said they could “maybe squeeze us in” and gave us an appointment several hours later.  I hung up feeling shocked and angry.  Our dog was in distress and they tried to “squeeze us in.”

My husband had mentioned a vet several of his co-workers used that was also a friend of a friend.  I called them and they told us to come right over.  This was a great sense of relief that we were going to get help and it was also one of many things that have happened to us since this day that have truly made us feel blessed.

Alpha Veterinary Care is in New Jersey so we had a bit of a drive there, but made it safely and Kai did well getting in and out of the car.  He used up most of his energy doing this, but did manage to walk from the waiting room to the exam room unaided. 

Kai was examined by Dr. Bruce Frey.  Dr. Frey outlined several possible reasons for his condition.  He recommended Kai have an x-ray and took him to the back area to have this done.  When they both came back, we looked at the x-ray which indicated it was not an obstruction, but was very hazy due to an accumulation of blood in the abdomen.  Dr. Frey let us know he was bleeding internally and showed us the samples of blood taken from each side of his belly.  Dr. Frey told us that the bleeding was likely due to cancer and suggested an ultrasound might give a better picture.  The u/s tech at Alpha had taken a new job elsewhere so they were without anyone that could do the testing and read the results.   We were referred to Valley Central Referral in Allentown, PA for the u/s.

We waited for quite awhile in the waiting room at Valley Central.  They get a mix of emergency cases as well as those cases that clinics may not be able to handle due to lack of equipment or doctor skill/knowledge.  We were given forms to fill out and also had to pay up front for the ultrasound – $1400.  The u/s showed cancer in the spleen and blood throughout the abdomen.  The doctors were unsure if the cancer was in any other organs.  The recommendation was surgery to remove the spleen and explore the surrounding area or euthanasia.  They then recommended an x-ray of the lungs to see if the cancer had spread there.  Thankfully it had not or we may have gone with the recommendation not to have surgery and to euthanize.

In Valley Central form, we were asked to pay in advance.  The surgery estimate was $2000-3000.  With the surgery, Kai was given 3 months to live.  With the surgery and chemo, he was given 7 months.  The surgeon was forthright letting us know if things looked really bad they would call and likely recommended euthanizing on the operating table.  He also told us  that Kai might not make it through the surgery, but the plan was to remove the spleen and stop the bleeding.  We consented and went home to wait to hear from the doctor.  On the way home we got a call from Valley Central saying our credit card would not go through.

When I got home I called Discover Card and because our existing balance was so high and we had big charges put on that day, they put a hold on our card.  After discussing things with the phone representative, a dog lover, they raised our limit to cover the surgery. 

Hours later we heard from the surgeon.  The spleen was removed as well as 4 liters of blood.  The cancer had spread to the liver into small tumors throughout.  The doctor suspected it was hemangiosarcoma, but would not know until the biopsy results came back.  Kai was in recovery but we could visit him he next day.  The next 48 hours were critical.

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