I’m Back!

Just in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been quiet for a long time. I know it’s easy to play the 101 excuses game, but I really have a valid excuse. First off, I had surgery 3 ½ weeks ago and I’m finally feeling like a human. Although the surgery was considered successful, I have to deal with a long-term side effect. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty. But let’s just say that my normal lifestyle is somewhat modified.

My wife is also dealing with several medical issues. And no matter how many specialists examine her, the end result seems to be the same: They shrug their shoulders and scratch the back of their heads, puzzled that they cannot figure out what’s going on. It’s one thing to have a medical issue that requires therapy, medication, or some other treatment. But when it appears that your condition is a phantom, where do you go from here?

The icing on the cake has to do with our cat, Benjamin. He just celebrated his 18th birthday and he is in remarkably good health. To look at him and watch his activities, you’d think he was 10 years old. Until last week.

Ben needed extensive dental work, which for an 18 year old cat is not uncommon. No matter how diligently you care for a cat, it ain’t easy to make them floss or brush their teeth. Consequently, many well-cared-for cats suffer from gum disease. Ben made it through the surgery fine—so we thought. It’s a rare situation, but once in a while, a cat will have an unusual reaction to anesthesia. Ben had an extreme reaction. So much so that when we picked him up, he was completely disoriented, crippled and blind. Can you even begin to imagine our shock?

The doctor explained that in his 20 years practicing medicine, he had never seen such a dramatic reaction to anesthesia. This fact gave us no comfort. The vet said it was entirely possible that Ben would fully recover from this condition in 48 hours. When we took him home and witnessed firsthand how utterly pathetic he was, we decided to consult a neurologist. The vet told us flat out that the way Ben was in two weeks is the way he’ll be for the rest of his life.

For five days, my wife and I took turns staying with Ben 24 hours a day. My wife contributed much more than I did.  Her dedication to Ben was incredible. She was literally a zombie. Thus far, Ben has regained his motor skills but still stumbles around and his legs are weak. His sight has not been restored, but amazingly, he negotiates himself around the apartment so well, if you observed him, you’d never believe he was blind. He’s in better spirits and has a decent appetite. But he’s gone from a very affectionate, responsive cat to a beloved pet my wife and I can hardly recognize.

We give him plenty of attention and affection, and do everything possible to comfort him. But we may be faced with a tough decision if he doesn’t bounce back. We had to euthanize his sister two years ago because of kidney failure, and I can tell you without a trace of reservation that it was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. In fact, I was so distraught that I missed three days of work.

If you’re not a cat lover, you may find it hard to understand how a human could grieve so much for an animal. But if you are a cat lover, you know exactly what I mean. I pray every day that Ben fully recovers, but I’m quietly agonizing the countdown to the two-week assessment.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “I’m Back!

  1. Angela

    Hello, I can empathise totally. I hope that he recovers and that you and your wife get to devote a few more years to his wellbeing and happiness! Our cat, Maurice (pronounced in what I’d think of as a NY Jewish accent), is 17 this year and, like your Ben, generally wears his years pretty well. He has the usual problems that come with age – a touch of arthritis, hearing loss – and an increasing need to remind us that he’s around by yowling at the top of his voice. He’s also had trouble with his teeth which we put off resolving for quite a while (a few months) because we had a few financial problems. I’m happy to say (and relieved since reading your blog) that he underwent a succesful procedure a couple of weeks back and was back to full fighting/shouting form within hours. We’ve had him since he was a few months old and, while I know that he can’t go on forever, I dread the day he takes his place on that extra-soft furry cushion in the sky.

    • dmannechino

      Thanks for the letter, Angela. I’m happy that your 17 year old companion is doing okay. Ben, I’m happy to say, has improved over the last two weeks. He’s gained some mobility and my wife and I think he can see some shadows. But, he’ll never be what he was. As long as he’s comfortable and his quality of life in fine, we hope to be with him for another few years. Best of luck with Maurice. Maybe when he and Ben transition to the Rainbow Bridge, they can become friends.

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