Monday, April 26, 2010

Too Much

Last week I saw a cat in sad shape.  He'd lost a LOT of weight - 6 lbs off a formerly 18 lbs cat.  He was ravenous and drinking lots of water.  Worst of all was his fur coat - it was falling out in huge clumps, revealing thin, dandruffy skin under the orangey fluff.  He was friendly but looked terrible.

"He always loses some fur in the spring," the owner told me, "But I went out of town for a couple weeks and I came back to him looking like this!"  My techs were pretty concerned.  "What do you think is wrong with him?" two of them asked me.  Could be diabetes, hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal lymphosarcoma... any number of things.  But my money was on diabetes based on his symptoms.  I even watched him walk around the room to see if he had diabetic neuropathy.  I sent blood and urine to the lab.

His results the next day confirmed Diabetes.  I called the owner, explaining the basics.  I asked her for a pharmacy so that I could call a prescription of insulin and needles in for her cat, and asked her to bring the prescription and the cat for an appointment later that day so we could go over insulin administration.  "Can I bring my children?  My son is 10, I think it would be good for him to learn so he can help me," she said.  Of course, I encouraged her to bring her kids to learn more about what was happening with their cat.

At the time of the appointment, I went into the room to find the happy cat on the table.  Also sitting on the table was a 6 year old girl looking at me with solemn eyes, and a chubby 10 year old boy who was avoiding all eye contact.  He really looked like he didn't want to be there.  Nevertheless, I think this stuff is cool, and started enthusiastically describing how insulin is the hormone, the thing that gets glucose into the cells, and without it the cells feel like they are starving.  That's why their cat was losing weight and hungry all the time.  Now he needed injections of this hormone that his pancreas was no longer producing.

"I'll give the first injection of insulin, then you can practice with a syringe of saline," I told the mom.  This is the standard training scenario to get owners familiar with giving little injections to their cats.  The needles are super tiny, so that the pet usually never feels it.  In fact, many cats seem to associate the injections with feeling better, and I recommend people give them at meal times so the cat is distracted anyway.  It is serious stuff, though, and overdosing on insulin can be rapidly fatal.

"Here's how you pull up two units," I demonstrated.

"Honey, you need to watch this," the mom said to her son.

"Mom, I don't want to," the boy softly whined, and suddenly tears coursed down his cheeks.

"You need to do this when I am out of town," mom said firmly.

"Mom, I can't..." he said.  His little sister looked at him, and tears welled up in her eyes, too.  He punched her, hard, on the knee.

Woah.  I give injections all day to animals, but I remember how nervous I was the first time.  Now I'd rather give an injection than a pill to a cat, but I don't want to force an unwilling little boy to give a "painful shot" to his sweet pet.  As mom continued to tell her son that he needed to do this, that remember its a small needle he probably won't feel, it will make him feel better, he'll die without it...  all I could think of was the large number of ADULTS that balk at giving their pets shots upon hearing the diagnosis of diabetes.  This was too much to put on this poor kid.

"You know, giving these shots is a big responsibility," I said.  "It needs to be done by an adult.  You said his grandparents will be staying with the kids when you're gone, and maybe they can be the ones to do it.  We can train them if they'd like.  We also have staff members who will come to your house and administer medications.  As a last resort, we also have diabetic patients who board with us, and we give them their injections here.  If he wants to help you, that's great, but its too much to trust to a kid."

"Oh, okay!" mom said, seeming flustered.  Then I demonstrated the insulin injection.  Mom had a turn with the saline; she did fine.  Then she asked her son if he wanted to try.

He seemed like he did.  So, I gave him a syringe of saline, repeated the steps of tenting the skin, burying the needle, then pushing the plunger.  He tented the skin, poked in the needle.  Then the cat shifted his weight, and the boy nervously bobbled his hand, the needle came out.  No big deal, but then he lost it.   He started crying and did not want to try again.  I thought over all he did great, but felt terrible for helping put him in this scary situation with needles.

Again, I offered to mom to have a technician come out to give the injections or board the cat, and repeated it was too much for a child.  "Oh no, I'm sure their grandparents can do it.  They are not old.  They are actually pretty young!" she cackled.  I walked them up front and scheduled a recheck in 5-7 days.  I hope that she heard me when I talked about how dangerous and immediately life threatening hypoglycemia can be, and that this is too much to entrust to a child.

Monday, April 19, 2010

How Much do I Love You?

My mother-in-law, Marion, made Anna a Queen-sized Afgan for her birthday.  Anna chose the colors months ago, and Oma's been hard at work.  She made one for Anthony years ago in totally 1970s colors: yellow, orange, and brown.  It is a favorite whenever we are sick with fever or just need serious warmth on a cold night.

It came with this poem:

How much do I Love you?
Let me count the ways.

320 double crochets per row.
4 rows per color stripe equals 1280 double crochets per color.
32 color stripes in your Afghan equals 40960 double crochets.
20 minutes to work a row, 80 minutes per color stripe.
There are 32 color stripes for a total of 2560 minutes or 42.6 hours.
16 balls of yard at 7 ounces equals 112 ounces or 7 pounds.
Each ball is 364 yards times 16 equals 5824 yards which equals 3.31 miles of yarn.
That is how much I love you.

Enjoy your Afgan for a long time and think of me some time.
Happy Birthday.  Love, Oma
Anna and Henley put it right to work, snuggling under it to watch a movie.  Anna has slept on it or under it every night since!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Celebrating Anna's Birthday

Anna started her birthday weekend by going on an adventure with Auntie Emily to get her ears pierced. It's something she's wanted for a long time, but she's been too afraid of the pain. Talking to Emily, she got courage, and they decided to go spur of the moment.

She was so chuffed, and I think she picked the most adorable pair of starter earrings!

Then, it was time to party! The theme was Harry Potter. Anna finished reading the entire series the Tuesday before the party. She asked her dad to make a "Golden Snitch" cake.

Anna dressed like Hermione, even with the wild hair! All the kids got "robes" to wear but Anna had an entire English school uniform.

Anna requested lots of crafts, so the kids decorated wands with glitter glue and notebooks for all their Hogwarts classes. We also repotted Mandrakes.

Mandrakes are a magical plant that can make a potion which cures people who have been petrified. They scream, though, when repotted, so the kids stuffed cotton in their ears and covered them up when the transfer occurred.

Then we had potions. A like-minded dad stepped in as Professor Snape and read the ingredients for The Draught of Peace. That's me in the limp wizard's hat.

The Draught was really just a root beer float. Colin approves.

Emily models the Griffyndor scarf I knitted for Anna (she was too busy to wear it), and my mom shows how windy it was!

Happy cousins after another successful party. We've had 8 parties in a row at that park, and each one of them has had glorious weather!

After the party, Anna also got her new bike. Fortunately she loves it, and has already been on some long bike rides!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Sweet Anna, Poor Anthony

Anna turned 9 last week, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around that fact.  We had a fabulous party for her at the park -- this year she chose a Harry Potter theme  -- and although you are clamoring for pictures and I do want to show them to you, Anthony has been gone most of the past 3 weeks and hasn't downloaded the great photos from his fabulous camera.  So no birthday post yet.

Anthony has been traveling a lot for work.  He recently got a promotion (yea!) which means more money (yea!) and more responsibility (boo!).  The kids and I have found our stride, and can manage decently through the week while he is gone.  It is becoming harder and harder, though, to maintain the blog when I have to feed the kids, clean the kitchen, administer the bedtime routine, make the lunches, get dinner ready the night before Wesley comes, answer emails, check Facebook.... oh, forget it.  By then its usually 10pm, and time for bed.

Poor Anthony got a terrible virus on one of his plane rides last week.  Although he was home for the weekend, it mostly was like he was still gone.  He spent most of the time either on the couch or in the bed, and all of the time he was miserable.  I know he really wanted to get out and plant tomatoes in the garden, help Anna ride her new bike, and have nice conversations with me, but none of that happened.  Today he got back on a plane with a clogged, congested ear, fearful he might blow out his eardrum.  I miss him a lot, and we are all looking forward to his return.

But back to Anna, who has grown so tall and remains beautiful inside and out.  Several moms said to me in the last week, "Anna has such a cheerful attitude, she's always positive, she brings all of us up!"  The ballet moms were telling me how at their last exam practice, Anna's smile was huge and radiant, and how they wished their girls would smile like that.  I felt a little bad for the other sweet, quiet girls, whose moms were wishing they were different.  Then I thought how often I wished Anna were different, more organized and tidy, and how I often squash her sunny attitude when I am trying to impress upon her the gravity of some transgression she has made.  Is it a mother's curse to want a daughter to be different, to constantly point out to her where she could improve, especially compared to others?  Argh.  I will try to see Anna as the sunny, creative, loving, generous, free spirit that she is, and love her simply, and wholly, as I did when she was born nine years ago.