Daemon’s Travail, Chapter 1
Daemon will be 13 on July 1, 2010. Under normal circumstances, that’s plenty of cause for celebration. But with the recent complications to Daemon’s life, it’s more than special.
On Sunday morning, May 30, I got up at 5 AM and let the dogs out of their crates and into the yard. Daemon was lying on his side in his crate and didn’t move. I ascertained that he was indeed still among the living and surmised that he was sleeping in, which he sometimes does. However, by 6 AM with all the shuffle of letting the other dogs in, he still hadn’t moved. When I checked him out I discovered that his front legs were being held rigidly and his rear legs were relaxed. Manipulating his front legs caused him to cry out.
I commenced to drag him out of the crate, which also caused him to whine. Movement of his neck was painful. He lay on the floor, totally still. I called the Emergency clinic. I had no idea what I was dealing with but knew it was bad and it was far beyond anything I could deal with.
I got Ken out of bed; he found a board, onto which we loaded Daemon and carried him to my van.
Long story short, Daemon was found to have a tetraparesis (muscular weakness affecting all four extremities, also called quadriparesis) of spinal origin. Spinal x-rays showed no gross abnormalities. Other diagnostic studies suggested were a myelogram and an MRI, but I demurred. Since we couldn’t/wouldn’t subject our old guy to neurosurgery, the only treatment could be non-surgical, and that treatment would be the same, whatever was going on – intensive steroids, pain relief, good nursing care and time.
Here, by the way, is a plug for the Prince William Emergency Veterinary Center and Dr. Kent Smith. We arrived there at 7 AM on Sunday of a holiday weekend. Dr. Kent was quick to get to Daemon, examine him, accomplish the necessary radiography and dealing with Daemon’s distraught mom (that would be me, of course). I left the emergency clinic at about 8:30, still distraught and downhearted but feeling that Daemon was in very good hands. His entire hospitalization there only served to increase my admiration for PWEVC, Dr. Kent and the staff there. Good, caring care and good communication.
By Tuesday Daemon had managed to get himself sternal, was no longer painful, was eating and looking better. He still couldn’t move his hind legs, but did have the ability to move his front legs a little. He was off all medications except for steroids. He had a urinary catheter for cleanliness and to monitor his intake and output. He had to leave the emergency clinic, since they aren’t set up for nursing care after the emergent event has been taken care of.
Here I was faced with a difficult decision. The cost of his two days in the emergency clinic was in the region of $2000. I felt we could not manage him with a urinary catheter and getting him up and down multiple times a day. He still was unable to move his legs to any purpose. I was concerned about bringing him home and managing him in the middle of our pack of nutty dogs. I didn’t think the chaos would be good for him, and knew it would make me crazier than usual. I really wanted a good situation for him. My local vet doesn’t have 24-hour care, and 24-hour care is expensive. I also wasn’t sure that he’d made much progress and thought he wouldn’t be able to make much more. Nobody could make any promises, of course; nor did I expect them to. Crystal balls are not accepted veterinary equipment – though I think they’d appreciate being able to use them if they were real.
When I went to pick Daemon up on Tuesday morning I was fully prepared to put him in our van and bring him home for an hour or so in the grass under a tree, and then take him to my local vet for euthanasia. I just didn’t have much hope or confidence in his ability to gain sufficient functionality to have a happy life.
Other people felt differently. On Monday evening his notes state: “Daemon is in good spirits… He is no longer rigid in his forelimbs. He will get himself up sternally. He will move himself around in his cage. My hope is the owner will continue oral Prednisone and supportive care for at least 48 – 96 hours. The owner is concerned about being able to do his nursing care.”
And on Tuesday morning, “Dr. Bradley with VSRP came over to evaluate Daemon. He supports continued supportive care and oral steroids. I asked Dr. Bradley if Daemon could be hospitalized at VSRP and he agreed.”
On Tuesday morning when I arrived I was told of Dr. Bradley’s agreement to care for Daemon in his hospital. I don’t believe this is their standard procedure; I think they generally care for their post-surgical patients until they’re well enough to go home, and that this was an exceptional case and Dr. Bradley in his goodness agreed to do this. Perhaps he knew he was saving Daemon’s life – because like a drowning person I immediately grabbed for the hand that was held out to me. Lisa and Mark came over from VSRP and carried Daemon to his new digs.