Rodney

What follows is upsetting. Read it at your own risk.

My cat, Rodney, underwent major abdominal surgery on Monday February 9th, to have his colon removed (for mega-colon). I picked him up on Tuesday the 10th, but worried about him, so brought him back for observation on Wednesday the 11th. After that things went well. He was increasingly active, and would always give me a purr. We had another appointment on the 20th, for a checkup, and everything seemed to be fine. No infection, incision healing nicely.

Of course, since I used the phrase “seemed to be”, you know that it was not so; something I did not know at the time.

Rodney often would walk around the house and howl a bit. He’s done this for years. So, when he started doing this early this morning (Friday the 27th), I went up to him, and petted him, and he started purring, and I figured we were done with that.

He went up to the cat door, which I keep closed in the winter, and given that the weather was warm, I opened it up. He went out.

When I looked up, from my chair, he was at the back door, scratching his paw on the glass, wanting me to open the door. I try to avoid coddling the critters in that way, because it can lead to endless trips across the room, especially at night. After a while, he wandered around the house, to come back in through the cat door. I noted that he had had mud on his paws when he was pawing at the door, but didn’t realize until later that there was no mud out there.

When he came back inside, he lay down in front of the wood stove, and I walked over to him.

It was then that I noticed the blood on the floor.

Scared, I gently rolled him over on his back.

And there it was.

A fist sized piece of his guts, extruding from a tear in his abdomen.

I remember screaming “Oh, No! Oh, No! Oh, No!”

I tried to put him in a box, but he jumped out. and walked away. I ran to the upstairs storage area where I keep his carrier, and returned, closing the door to the garage, in case he headed out there.

And then I couldn’t find him.

I looked all over, and then heard him vomiting under a fish tank. I grabbed him and dragged him out, trying to be gentle. He wrestled away from me, and ran to the other end of the house. I was astonished that he was that mobile, and terrified that I would not be able to catch him, or that he would injure himself further. I cornered him and threw him into the cat carrier. Gently. But I was going insane with fear.

There was blood everywhere. And cat guts. There were at least two separate pieces of cat guts that had come off during his running around and our struggles. One was fairly small, but one was perhaps half the size of a banana. I was sure that he was dying. I was stunned, shocked, horrified. I shoved the parrots into their cages, dragged some clothes on, and called my vet’s office.

I explained the situation, and said I would go right there. Given that this vet is 45 minutes away, that was not a great plan, but it was the only one I could come up with in a minute. They explained that the surgeon was not there. I called another vet that was more local. They did not open for another hour. The original vet called back and said that the surgeon would come in. I got in the car and drove. I had no idea whether Rodney would be alive when I arrived there.

The first 15 minutes were OK. Rodney howled a bit, but he was sitting up, which was better than his collapsing in a coma. Better loud than silent. He vomited two or three times during the drive, which I knew to be a sign of shock. Not good. Not good.

After the first 15 minutes, I began to think too much. I was crying a bit and driving with one hand on the cat carrier and the other on the wheel. At a light, I called a friend. Then the driving became too much, and I hung up. I tried to stay focused on the immediate task, not allowing myself to think of what might happen next. I passed quite a few cars, carefully, but very fast. I did not obey the speed limits.

I arrived at the vets in record time and ran in with the cat carrier. I handed it to them, and said that I didn’t even want to look inside. I didn’t want to know. I sat down and started crying hysterically, suddenly dizzy. They took me into another room, and rubbed my back a bit. I cried for quite a while. At one point I realized that my fly was open: I had not even dressed myself properly. What else had I forgotten? Was the wood stove door open? The garage door?

A series of people attended to me. When the surgeon arrived, he was fairly up-beat, saying that he’s seen worse situations result in recovery. I explained that if it was time for Rodney to be killed, then that was what should happen. Whatever was best for him. I didn’t feel as if I was in any state to make decisions. I was crying again.

The surgeon went to see Rodney, and came back, saying that things were not as bad as he had thought. I paced in the parking lot for an hour or so, and then the surgeon sat down with me to explain the situation.

He had explored all of Rodney’s internal organs, carefully, and none were missing or damaged. The guts that I had found on the floor were pieces of fatty tissue (he told me the name, since forgotten) that were not necessary for survival. He had found a single blood vessel that needed to be tied off, and a few places that needed an internal stitch or two, but basically what he saw was healthy and intact tissue. The blood supply to the intestine was good, and the intestine looked healthy. The original surgery had not been compromised. The exposure to infection was significant, but not necessarily a death sentence for Rodney. Rodney’s blood level was actually within normal, which was astonishing given what he’d been through. All in all, the situation was as good as could possibly be expected after such an event.

We talked about how this problem had come about. The original incision had come apart: he had not been attacked by some animal or cut. The surgeon had looked to see signs that he had made a mistake, but had found none. This was complicated by the fact that the sutures that had been used were designed to dissolve at about 3 weeks, so they were disappearing. We talked about the cat door, and whether something had cut him or caught on him, but we agreed that this should not have caused this kind of trauma. In the end, we did not come up with any clear cause.

Then he explained that if Rodney survived the afternoon [what?!?], and if he did not get a raging abdominal infection [what?!?], then Rodney would be OK. So, basically, things are fairly good, but I won’t know the real outcome until Monday the 2nd or so.

I’m exhausted, dizzy, and crying all of the time. I had just come through a breakup with a girlfriend. A month ago, she decided, unilaterally, that it would be best for us both if we stopped communicating altogether. So I’ve been very, very alone. A month ago, I was a real wreck. On the verge of a breakdown. Crying spontaneously, sometimes in situations that scared other people. As of this morning, I was getting better. Not great, but better.

But this is a real punch in the stomach. I know I can manage it, and will get over it, but I’m exhausted, drained, dizzy, and stunned. The shock of seeing Rodney’s guts, and even holding them in my hands, will not leave me quickly or easily. The event was traumatic for us both. As has been the case throughout the last year of Rodney’s illness, I imagine that it will be worse for me than for him. He’ll probably arrive back fairly happy-go-lucky. He lives in the moment; I do not.

Anyway. That was my morning. How was yours?

Later.  It’s Sunday, and Rodney is doing as well as can be expected.  I hope to take him home on Monday, if an infection has not developed.

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