Continued from Part 4.
Actually, you don’t need Dr. Couto’s cell phone number to contact him with a question, his email address is all you need and he’s amazing about getting back to people within 24 hours even if he’s lecturing abroad. He has a very full schedule and yet he makes every one of his patients a priority. The only real advantage I had, in this case, was that I knew he was at home because I had just talked to him the day before. I knew he could help.
At the same time I sent the text to Dr. Couto I emailed Cristina at Ohio State – she runs the blood bank and works with the surgeons to schedule the surgeries for the 4 Legs 4 Hounds dogs and I knew she could tell me how fast I could get Lena in at OSU and, more importantly, which surgeons were available. The next 10 minutes happened in the blink of an eye. Dr. Couto called the new specialty clinic where he had just started seeing patients, University Veterinary Specialists in McMurray, PA, to see if Dr. Kupanoff, their part-time surgeon, was on site that week. She was! He sent me the number and had already filled them in on our situation. I was on the phone with them less than 30 seconds later. Ashley was very helpful and got us scheduled with Dr. Kupanoff at 11 AM the next morning.
I texted Dr. Couto the good news and he then made sure the surgeon had his amputation protocol, including aminocaproic acid. Minutes later I got an email from Cristina telling me we could take Lena to OSU at any time and that they always had surgeons on call for emergencies. Since Lena was “stable” (more vet speak for “not in any imminent danger”) they likely would have just kept her sedated until morning anyway, so we opted to keep the appointment with UVS. We had a plan. Surgery was scheduled in less than 18 hours — a significant improvement from the 5+ day wait we had just 10 minutes earlier. I took a minute to enjoy that little victory.
Then I called our vet to get Lena’s recent records, rads and blood work put on a disc so UVS wouldn’t be starting from scratch (this would save both time and money as they wouldn’t need to do additional x-rays). When I picked up the disc that evening they also gave me some pain med’s for Lena. These would turn out to be very important.
That night Lena ate her dinner like one of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park, reinforcing our recent change of heart.
We didn’t have much of a plan to get through that night because we had been lulled into a false sense of security; since she was doing so well I never really thought about what we were doing: we were caring for a dog with an un-mended broken leg. I opted to sleep on the floor with her to make sure she didn’t do anything to hurt herself and to keep her as comfortable as possible… while lying down she couldn’t so much as shift her weight without causing pain. So I carefully carried her into the bedroom and put her on the comfy bed Suzie had made up for her. More screaming and more apologizing. Damn it. I hated being the cause of her pain. Every time she screamed, part of me died. As I settled in on the floor next to her she quieted down and I thought (hoped?) she’d just go to sleep. What we had failed to consider, however, was that the “good” drugs she was on while staying with the vet the night before had worn off and the Tramadol we had just wasn’t strong enough to deal with the kind of pain a broken leg brings. On top of that, she couldn’t have any Rimadyl before the surgery for the same reason people can’t take NSAIDs before an operation. Plus, in retrospect, I think the McDonalds was working its way through her and she likely had an upset stomach on top of everything else.
This was one of the longest nights of my life, possibly second only to the night I sat up while Suzie lay unconscious from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, waiting for the surgery in the morning that would determine if she would live or die. But that’s another story. This night was filled with whimpering and screaming and more than one call to the vet’s emergency number. And absolutely no sleep for either Lena or I. Suzie was sleeping upstairs because she would be driving in the morning – not that she got much sleep either. I gave Lena the most pain meds we were allowed as often as we were allowed. It offered little respite. [Note: I highly suggest if you ever find yourself in a similar situation that you leave your dog at the vet for the night so they can properly manage the pain. Everyone will be happier for it.]
As long as I was petting Lena she was quiet, but every time my hand stopped moving she started whimpering. If I didn’t start petting again the whimpering turned into whining and eventually into screaming. I found myself checking the clock every few minutes to see how many hours had passed. At one point I came to the conclusion that she was just uncomfortable from lying in one position for too long so I decided to shift her a bit. It’s easy to see how bad of an idea that was looking back on it now, but I was tired. The resulting scream brought Suzie running downstairs. Now I was apologizing to both of them.
Morning got there several weeks later. Getting her in the car was a repeat of Wednesday … lots of screaming and apologizing. It sucked. The 2.5 hour drive to SUV sucked even more. She was lying in the back of the SUV in a position that made it awkward for me to console her, much less hold her still around curves, but we managed. By the time we got there I was a wreck both physically and mentally and Suzie was worn out from worry and stress and her heart ached for her little girl. But the bright spot that kept us going was the knowledge that Lena would soon be on the road to recovery.
Or so we thought.