2016 Can Die in a Fire

The last couple months of 2015 were some of the most stressful in my life, even over moving internationally and buying my first house. I can’t disclose exactly why – just know things were…busy. “Busy” is a nice way of putting it. When Christmas break finally rolled around, we took it easy and I thought that 2016 would be different. 2016 would be better.

I started a post for the New Year, ready to recap 2015 and highlight my hopes for 2016. It’s still in my drafts, and will never be finished. 2016 started off abysmally, in terms of world news and entertainment. Riots, deaths from cancer, insane politicians gaining foothold with barbaric policies. It was (is!) a nightmare.

The karmic steamroller continued on, closer to home. The issues that plagued the end of 2015 were still present, but my husband and I stood vigilant, resilient. We would not let this best us now! But it didn’t have to – something else did.

It was a Monday afternoon when I noticed a sore on the dog. Concerned she had done something to herself AGAIN (this was just as she finished a round of painkillers for spraining her tiny wrist), I kept an eye on it. That night, I decided to give it another look before bed. Completely separate to the sore, a fist-sized deep red spot appeared on her stomach – within the space of 2-3 hours. We called the out of hours, and were advised to take her first thing in the morning to our vet.

We both took Tuesday off – they had no early appointments, unfortunately. We took her in – they wanted to keep her there for observation and do some bloodwork. I felt better – if anything happened, she was with them and they’d know what to do. I received another call, asking if they could shave her stomach to do an ultrasound – please, shave the dog! Just find out what’s happening.

They called us to pick her up and talk. Her initial bloodworks showed her platelets were very low, and her red blood cells were on the low-side of normal. They were sending some bloodwork away to a lab to see if they could find a cause. Thus began a regiment of steroids, antibiotics, stomach settlers and…I’m not sure what the rest were for. Their suspicion was that she had IMHA – Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia. The problem is that it can be primary or secondary: if it is primary, the condition is the problem itself and you can treat it with immunosuppressants for the rest of her life. If it is secondary, it means it is a symptom of something else and treating the cause will treat it.

She went back in each day for another round of tests to check her levels, see if they were improving or not. On Thursday, they upped her dosage of steroids because they weren’t seeing improvement. Her whole stomach had developed into one large bruise (what the red spot turned out to be). They might need to do a bone marrow biopsy, but wanted to give her a rest because she had gone through so many tests. It was around this time that the toll finally hit her. Up until this point, she was normal, and loved that everyone was fussing over her. We did our best to keep her calm and not over-exert herself, but she didn’t seem to realise she wasn’t well. But on Thursday, she was slowing down. Her red blood cell count had begun to drop as well, so they ordered a blood transfusion and chemotherapy, in the hopes they would jump-start her system into making platelets and red blood cells again. As the bloodworks hadn’t found anything, they believed it was a case of primary IMHA. We had told them Thursday morning she hadn’t eaten for us, but they had for her so they gave us some wet food. She wouldn’t have any of it for the evening with us though. It was the first time we had to force her to take her medication, and there was no colour left to her gums and tongue.

The transfusion was on Friday. My husband took her in – I had to work. By this point, she wouldn’t walk. Where once sitting in the vets with other dogs excited her, she sat still on my husband’s lap, silent. She again wouldn’t eat that morning. We had to force-feed her her medication a second time. They took her in and would let us know later how the transfusion went. I received a call at 2pm to say they were halfway through the transfusion and she was doing great – as well as they could have hoped. I was happy – but I couldn’t ignore the fact that only a couple hours earlier (coincidentally, when her transfusion started), I felt the worse stomach-churning twisting nerves of my life – I chocked it up to anxiety, worrying.

We picked her up and she had perked up a bit. They said it went really well, and we should start seeing an improvement in her right away. She walked herself to the car, and seemed glad to see us. Her gums and tongue had become pink again, albeit not as vibrant as usual but an improvement. When we got home though, things weren’t right. She was able to walk herself about, but it only seemed to be to get away from everything, to sleep alone in a dark corner. She wouldn’t eat still. We had to force her pills again – this time, she didn’t like it, but barely put up a fight like before.

Saturday at 5am, we took her out to the toilet and brought her back upstairs. I tried to fall back asleep, but I couldn’t. All I could hear was her inconsistent breathing. Because of the lack of red blood cells to carry oxygen, she had to breath heavier to draw in more air. But it was becoming off – heavy heavy heavy, faint faint, FAST-FAST-FAST-FAST, faint faint, heavy heavy… We tried moving her to different spots of the room, laying on different things, putting her in different positions to try and help her breathe better, but none of it was working. Finally, my heart couldn’t take it anymore and we called the out of hours.

They ran through all the tests again. The out of hours didn’t have her previous results, so all they knew was her RBC was at 17%. Blood transfusions aim for 20%, so whether this was good or bad, they couldn’t tell us without her previous results. Things went on long enough that our normal vets were opening. We were given a medical report, and they called the vet to let them know we were on our way.

We got their just before the vet did. When we told him her RBC was 17%, I could see his face fall. It was 20% yesterday, he said. It shouldn’t have fallen – if anything, it should have gone up. They re-ran the test – in 2 hours, it had fallen another 4%. She was only 4% off of a critical episode. She hadn’t eaten in over 48 hours. She was struggling to breathe. We had to make the decision. Looking at her, we know where things sat. She had given up and had had enough. She just wanted to sleep…

So on Saturday at 9:55am, we let her sleep.

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We are not doing well, you can imagine. You might remember, Eryn came to our home only after living in for two months. It was only after we couldn’t bring her home that we truly realised how much our lives revolved around her. Every piece of furniture was arranged around when we moved in, knowing we would get her. Her toys and bedding are in every room. We could hear sounds outside that normally would have made her bark, but are followed by silence. Our entire routine of life centred on making sure she had what she needed first, us second. Our vets used to compliment and tell us we were doing things right, and we swelled with pride like she was our child that won the science fair. And she was our baby, more than we ever thought possible. It hurts so much more, knowing only a month before, we had a serious talk and decided we didn’t want kids yet – she was all we needed for now. And now, we don’t have her. She was only two, and she was everything to us.

We didn’t go back to work straight away. Coincidentally, we had those days booked off as holiday – for my husband’s 30th birthday. We’ve since returned to work, but neither of us is really right. I’m sure at some point, we’ll only think about the good things. She was loved, and we know that. She was happy, and we know that.

But right now? Fuck 2016.

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