Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chewy the Hamster

On Sunday Anna asked me to look at her little hamster, Chewy, because her eye was tearing.  There was a swelling on the right side of her face/neck causing the problem.  The swelling was pretty soft and movable.  I figured she had an abcess or a cheek pouch impaction - that hamster is always shoving huge things in her cheek pouch.  I promised to take her to work the next day to lance the abcess.

When I got there the next day, the hamster's swelling was worse.   I gassed her down, then explored her cheek pouch with an otoscope.  It was empty and otherwise normal.  I felt this swelling, which felt much firmer now, not so fluidy.  I aspirated it with a needle and no pus.  Clearly this wasn't an abcess; it was a tumor.

This was going to be a big task, so I decided I needed to bring Chewy home and talk to Anna about it first, and also let her see her hamster before the big procedure.  "Yes, do it, if it will keep her from dying!" Anna said earnestly.  Well, maybe it will keep her from dying, and maybe not.  She might die under anesthesia.  Anna was tearful but still gave consent.

The next day after all my regular surgeries were done, and during my lunch hour, I sedated Chewy again.  The tumor had grown significantly again overnight.  Now it was pushing her mouth to the side.  With one technician holding a miniscule mask to her face, and another monitoring her heart and respiratory rates, I cut the skin over the tumor.

Sometimes there are benign, well-encapsulated tumors that peel right out.  A few times, when people are willing to spend money on their pocket pets, I have done these surgeries with great success.  This was not going to be one of those surgeries.  This massive tumor was irregular and had adhesions to everything.  It was extending under her eye and ear, into her oral cavity, down to her shoulder, shoving her trachea up and over like a snaking river.

Delicately I teased the tumor away from the vital structures.  I feared that if I hit a big vessel beneath (the carotid or jugular) she would rapidly bleed out.  My technician noted her heart rate slowing.  We added heat support and adjusted her gas.  It was frustrating that I could not intubate her and ensure her airway, or give her IV fluids, but of course that would be impossible with such a small creature.  After 45 minutes I had the mass about 3/4 of the way free, but Chewy developed a lot of edema (swelling) around her contorted trachea, and she expired.

The whole clinic was sad, for the little hamster and the girl who loved her.  When I got home, Anna burst out of the house, and I gave her the bad news.  She cried, hard, for about an hour.  When she had regained some composure, she said, "I know its not your fault, Mommy, I know you tried.  I'm glad she died while she was under anesthesia, so she wouldn't be in pain." Anna never ceases to amaze me. She also asked me to thank the technicians who assisted me and helped Chewy, and for the coworker who had made a precious clay momento with Chewy's pawprints.  She held her pawprint clay to her heart, and asked me if I would have her cremated ("I want to have her burned.").

Poor Chewy certainly couldn't have lived more than a few more days before that tumor would have choked her.  I was surprised how well Anna understood that.  Chewy was a "rescue" hamster that we got from a girl who basically ignored her once she became a teenager.  Skittish at first, she became quite friendly and curious, and let all kinds of children hold her.  She was in our home for only 4 months, but I think they were good ones.

14 comments:

mr man said...

So sad and so fast.

Condolences to Anna and the rest of the family.

I'm guessing the only thing that grows like that is a malignancy. It is truly amazing how our bodies can do that.

Lula said...

Aww, how sad for you guys. Poor Chewy, but I agree with your wise little girl: at least it was while she was not aware. Sorry for you all...

Anonymous said...

Wow, so sad. I am sending lots of love and sympathy to Anna.

The amazing part of this story, to me, is that you are teaching your children about life, death, your profession, well, just everything, through all that you do, every day, with your incredible skills, talent and compassion.

I love you so much! M/Nana

grandad says said...

So sorry Anna. I am sad for your loss.
Grandad

grandad says said...

So sorry Anna. I am very sad for your loss.
Grandad

Emily said...

I'm so sad for Anna. Sweet girl. She definitely gave Chewy a better life and lots of love and attention. It's amazing how much she changed in the four months Anna had her. I really enjoyed watching Chewy stretch contra-lateral legs and climbing up to the top of her cage.
RIP Chewy.

The Library Lady said...

So sorry for Anna's loss.

Both of you are just wonderful--you for what you did and Anna for how she handled what happened.

paula said...

Oh Anna, am so very, very sorry for your loss. Big hugs XXXXX

selfreliantguy said...

Sorry to hear about chewy. I have a cat named chewy also. Would really break my heart if something bad happens to him.

EdamameMommy said...

Awh, I'm crying now for sweet Anna and her Chewy. And I don't even like rodents.

Anonymous said...

Anna sounds like such a compassionate and brave girl. So sorry for her loss. I hope she can take comfort in knowing that she gave this little creature a lifetime of love in 4 months that little Chewy would have otherwise never experienced. Definitely the hardest part about having pets is that they don't live as long as we do. But they are still so worth it. You did good, Anna.
N.

Sinda said...

Big hugs to sweet Anna.

Lisa said...

Hugs from all of us.

Anonymous said...

I feel so very sorry for Anna yet proud of the way she handled it,Jennifer, with your help and understanding you have a wonderfully brave Daughter there..and I know that you are proud of her too.Poor little Chewy I like Hamsters and at least,Anna, Chewy is in Hamster Heaven now showing off his little operation scar no doubt. xx

Aunty Norma.x