Sunday, September 29, 2013

It has been a really dreadful week

It's taken me a week to work up enough energy to write this post. Even then, I still feel so blindsided by life that I am copying, pasting, and editing something that I wrote to one of the mailing lists a few days ago.

The long and short of it is that a week ago today, both my mother-in-law and my dog passed away. We had our hearts broken twice in the space of one hour. Here is the timeline.

On Friday, 9/20, we got a call from my sister-in-law (my husband Mark's sister). My mother-in-law's health, which previously had been pretty stable, was suddenly failing acutely. Hospice, which is a service dedicated to end-of-life care, had been consulted and a hospital bed was being delivered to my MIL's house that afternoon. This all started happening so abruptly, everyone was blindsided, even my sister-in-law who lived nearby and saw her daily.

During the course of the same week, my little elderly Chihuahua, Mini, started showing signs of a reduced appetite. But until Friday, every time she seemed uninterested in food, I found something different that she WOULD eat.

Friday night was the time that I couldn't get Mini to eat anything but some nutrient gel from a feeding syringe. So it was time to see the vet.

We visited my mother-in-law on Friday night, and she was lucid enough to know everyone who visited. If we spoke to her, her responses were clear and made perfect sense. But her breathing was terribly labored and she was incredibly weak. It was clear something major was wrong.

On Saturday, 9/21, I took Mini to the vet. He diagnosed an infection and gave me meds, plus an even more potent nutrient gel to feed her. Then we went to see my mother-in-law; she slept through most of the visit thanks to the meds she was on. They'd had to provide morphine as she was getting extremely agitated and increasingly confused, trying to get out of bed even though she hasn't been able to stand unassisted in about seven years. She couldn't get comfortable and she was really having a hard time, so the meds were a necessity, but sadly that meant we couldn't really interact with her anymore.

On Sunday morning, I got up to find that my dog had taken an abrupt downturn. But I was able to get food and medicine into her. We went to Mass. Upon coming home, we saw that Mini was even worse, so we headed to the University of Pennsylvania emergency vet clinic.

At about 2:05 PM I was in a consultation room discussing Mini's condition with the vet, wile Mark remained in the waiting room. She said an emergency bloodwork showed Mini was in acute renal failure, and there was no real hope for Mini to have any more quality of life. As this news was being broken to me, Mark appeared in the doorway, and I gestured for him to come in. He said "Mom died." His sister had just called; my mother-in-law had just passed away at 2 PM. So of course we hugged as I reacted to this sad news.

Then I gave the vet a quick explanation of the fact that we actually had TWO family crises simultaneously: my mother-in-law's failing health and the dog's extreme sickness. I swear, I thought the vet was going to burst into tears right in front of me. Here she was, most likely doing the hardest part of her job (telling a pet owner their beloved pet has no hope), and suddenly she was witnessing the pet owners getting a massive amount of OTHER bad news right at the same time. God bless that nice vet -- it was clear that she cares a lot about both the pets and the people who come through the emergency clinic.

But the fact remained that there were no medical answers for what Mini was going through. So we made the merciful decision to have her put to sleep. Mark and I were with her right through till the end.

But between 2 and 3 PM on 9.22, the world lost my mother-in-law, a sweet, kind, loving woman, someone whose devout faith made her en even NICER person. And the world also lost a tiny little bundle of pure affection. I don't think I know which end is "up" right now.

Mark made me smile, though, when he said, "I bet Mini waited until Mom went first, so she would have a lap to sit in." I just bet she did. My mother-in-law loved people and animals, and Mini took her calling as a lap dog VERY seriously.

Anyway, do please send some prayers my family's way. We could all use it.

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