Sunday, March 30, 2008

Friday night at the emergency room

Sometimes by Friday, especially if I have PMS, I'm tired, achy, and depressed, and my only aspiration is to spend a long evening in bed. On one of these evenings when I was young, I fell asleep at 7:00 p.m. and woke up at 10:00 a.m., with perhaps a dimly remembered bathroom break in the wee hours. I never sleep like that any more.

One some of these Fridays, life has thrown a curve or two. One Friday I left work and immediately felt light-headed and nauseated; by the time I got on the bus it took an enormous effort not to vomit. I held out for a block after I'd gotten off the bus, then threw up violently on the sidewalk in front of a small business's doorway. The rest of the weekend was spent in similar activities, although I did make it to a member event at the Shedd Aquarium, where I told my guest, "Don't take it personally if I run off abruptly several times.

On another Friday, Dracula with Bela Lugosi was scheduled on AMC. I had never seen it and spent the day in delightful anticipation. (I was able to get excited about such things then.) I was going to relax with coffee or tea and be swept up into the world of Dracula and 1930s horror films. I couldn't wait.

But when I walked in the door of my studio, something seemed amiss. It's easy to laugh now, but when I saw the pile of underclothes on the floor, I thought only that the cable people had had to move the chest of drawers for some inexplicable reason (the cable ran through the closet in another area). It was only when I looked for the television, which for once was to be the star attraction, that what had happened sank in—I'd been burglarized. No Dracula, only the police and a long, lonely, frightening weekend of cleaning up, documenting the loss, and experiencing the horrible sensation of violation that people have when uninvited strangers have been in their home and through their things.

Yesterday I was exhausted, discouraged, and in pain. I should have known that I was due for an adventure.

After polishing off a cuppa PG Tips (thanks for the tip, Stephen!), I noticed Hodge in the litterbox—it's hard to miss the ginger stripey tail sticking out.

And I also noticed he squatted for at least 10 to 15 minutes without doing anything.

Then he started to yowl, which he does sometimes for no reason, but the combination of straining and yowling did not bode well. Unlike humans, cats don't sit on their toilets reading Sports Illustrated, so I began to worry that his urinary problems had come to a head, or, more accurately, to a plug.

It was about 9:00 p.m., and I wanted nothing more than to rest my aching body, but when the veterinarian didn't answer the emergency number I had to face the idea of going to the emergency clinic, which is northwest to my southwest—across town.

I left a message for the veterinarian, then debated with my conscience for a while. On the one hand, he's probably strained before and I wasn't here to witness it. On the other, I didn't want to wake up Saturday morning to a cat dead from kidney damage. The emergency clinic agreed; the woman on the phone said to bring him in.

Then began a series of events typical of what happens to me when I'm tired, in pain, and distracted—my mind goes. I got to the fifth floor in the elevator when I realized I was wearing shoes from two different pairs. I may not dress well, but this was weird and uncomfortable, so I had to go back and change, all the while thinking irrationally that the delay was going to result in Hodge's death.

As I walked to the corner, I saw two cabs pass; of course, when I arrived, there were no more for what seemed like a long time. When one came (going on the wrong direction), I crossed the intersection, nearly tripping myself with the strap from the Sherpa bag that had wrapped itself around my ankle. As I untangled it mid-intersection, I realized that I had crossed against the light both westbound and northbound. Traffic was light.

The taxi driver told me that he resents how much money his grown daughter spent on her cat's surgery and medical care. "Hmmm," was all I could say. Aside from the cab fare (significant), I was wondering what the damage was going to be.

At the emergency clinic, a technician tried to feel Hodge's bladder, but quickly decided he wasn't the cooperative type, noting especially his sharp back claws that he was using on her. "We'll take him to the back and have one of the veterinarians take a look," she said.

By now, it was 10:30 p.m., and I called J. to let him know that my life isn't entirely dull, even if it's rarely exciting in a positive way. He kept repeating, "Poor Hodge," although that's a better adjective for me, especially after I paid for the cab and this little adventure in emergency medicine. I saw Hodge through a window, being grasped firmly away from the victim's body. Later I saw that in the clinical notes his neurological system was described as "fractious."

According to the veterinarian, Hodge has a bladder full of crystals and a case of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), but he wasn't blocked and didn't have an infection. The crystals showed up as bright spots on the x-ray, although as a nearsighted novice I couldn't tell. The veterinarian recommended a prescription diet and monitoring because he may become blocked. In short, I could have waited and saved myself $295 in emergency clinic services and $62 in cab fare, but then there was that question of my conscience.

While I was waiting for him to be discharged, an assistant came out with a ginger stripey cat in a crate and handed him to the woman next to to me, who seemed stressed and upset; apparently something had happened to her cat earlier in the day, and he was very ill.

I was confused at first but of course there millions of ginger stripeys in the world. Still, there was something about that face, that look, and that attitude . . . the other woman, too, looked more closely, and just as she said, "This is not my Jeffrey" with a slight accent, I said, "Excuse me, I think that may be my cat." After we confirmed our suspicions (she noted that her cat doesn't have a white demarcation between head and saddle), she asked me worriedly (because Hodge was in Jeffrey's crate, on Jeffrey's blanket), "What is he here for?" I assured here that his problem is chemical, not contagious. Next, she got the idea that Jeffrey and Hodge may have gotten each other's treatments, so we (the assistants and I) told her that they had simply put Hodge into the wrong carrier. She worried that Jeffrey had been through so much already, and I told her that it appeared Jeffrey had not been disturbed in the least, that he was still in the cat ward.

In the meantime, Hodge had returned, this time in my Sherpa bag. I asked the woman about Jeffrey's temperament ("He's so sweet") and to prove to her that I was taking the correct cat I opened the top flap enough for Hodge to notice, at which point he hissed, swatted, and snapped. She agreed that was definitely not Jeffrey.

She does not know how lucky she is that not only did I recognize that face, but I was willing to admit it.

So, with Hodge full of subcutaneous fluids, my wallet emptied, and my credit card bursting with debt, we took a cab home, where we arrived a little after midnight. I could sleep only until 6:30 a.m., and, really, who needs more than five and one-half hours sleep after a week of faked happiness?

No more male cats.

And, if I were smart, which I vow I will be, I would make that simply: No more males.


  1. Yee, gods.
    When I saw the title of the post, I was worried YOU had ended up needing an ER.

  2. Oh, that wouldn't have bothered me. :)