Saturday, November 04, 2006

Saturday sadness

This Saturday at work soon turned CRAZY as I did a work-in splenectomy on top of the usual busy schedule. OK, you guys know I get a real adrenaline rush with these surgeries. It was a huge 100 lb dog with a burst bleeding tumor in his spleen. We suctioned of 5.5 liters of bloody fluid from his abdomen before we could get to work. That's more than a gallon, folks! The surgery went as well as it could, and we transfered him to the emergency clinic just 1 hour after closing time. Unfortunately, it's most likely a hemangiosarcoma, a very aggressive tumor that will come back after just 2-3 months. Its the same tumor that took our sweet Terlingua. Her emergency splenectomy was on a busy Saturday, too.

Last Saturday I had an urgent case, too, that turned tragic. A little old lady brought in her dog for coughing and lethargy. A heart murmur was detected in August, but she didn't have money to work it up. When he started coughing, she gave him benedryl, hoping it was just allergies. I knew immediately it wasn't. Xrays confirmed his heart was huge and his lungs were full of fluid. Congestive heart failure.

I gave him a massive dose of lasix and put him on oxygen. I told the little old lady the goal was to get him out of this crisis so we could send him home on oral medications, but he might have to be transfered to the Emergency Clinic for more treatment before he became stable.

The little old lady's adult son had driven her there, and he told me that she had just lost her husband, his father, to congestive heart failure just 2 years ago. Watching this big, strong man who had loomed so large in their lives decline to nothing over a short time was extremely difficult for all of them. They weren't sure their mom could watch her dog go through the same fate.

I did improve the poor dog's condition, but he still wasn't stable enough to go home. In the end, they decided to euthanize him. I was a little disappointed, medically, but I knew it was the right decision for this family. Her two adult sons came to be with the dog when I euthanized him; the dog was obviously happy to see them, and they were obviously sad to say goodbye to him. His death was swift, peaceful, merciful.

It was sad but I understood. The dog had a terrible long term prognosis; I could maybe eek a few more months out of him. Seeing him suffer and saying such a long goodbye would be too painful for his elderly owner, would bring up too many painful memories.

I saw her again at the clinic this week. As I held her hand, she thanked me for helping her sweet dog. She told me how much she missed him, how "fast" he'd gone downhill, but it was obvious she was already healing. I embraced her and told her she'd made the right decision, letting her dog go last week. And, I really meant it.


A.Norma said...

What a sad,sad story ,Jenn...and didn't the Owners do the right thing..I don't believe in a Pet suffering for just a couple of weeks or months longer...but I still don't envy you the task of the final outcome. :(

Anonymous said...

I always wanted to be a vet when I was younger, but I never followed through with that. Now I think I'm glad I didn't. It would be so hard, trying to put your personal feelings aside to help both the pets AND the owners make such tough decisions.

And I'm sorry about Terligua. She sounds like a wonderful girl.