ALMOST LOST KIKI -- file under stupid accidents
Our cats had been coughing lately, especially Kiki. She's the cute calico we rescued up here a few years ago. After a treatment of hairball medicine, the only one still coughing was Kiki. We thought it might be worms; one of our other cats once had worms and the cough sounded like that.
In palpating her belly, our vet commented that she was tensing her lower body muscles. He thought it might be connected to her breathing. I began to remember that she seemed to cough more when she was excited, or purring. Could it be asthma?
We thought about what do do next. He said we should try some cortisone for possible asthma, and it wouldn't hurt to worm a cat in a multiple-cat household. We could x-ray. I said we should start slow and go from there. Our vet is funny. He said, "Well, I can run the bill up as high as you want today." We both laughed.
The cortisone shot caused no trouble. She began to gag on the worm pill and then to slobber and finally to retch. We petted her, waiting for her to keep the pill or cat it up. Then the coughing started. "That's it, that's the cough," I said. Suddenly, she keeled over. The vet's face went flat; nobody had expected that.
He picked her up and rushed her into the operation room. I got out of the way. I felt my heart turn over when I saw her carry her across a hall wrapped in a towel, but he was only taking her for x-rays. He put her back on oxygen, and then leaving her with a technician, called me in to see her x-rays. They showed an airway no larger than a straw, and a small pool of vomit in the lungs. She'd inhaled vomit, then the muscles around her lungs had cramped hard, locking her lungs closed.
Each time she was taken off oxygen, the vet said, "She keeps trying to die." As she lay there, her chest and belly muscles roiling, I put my face down close to hers and spoke to her. Her wide black pupils shrunk, and her eyes focused on me. Each time the tech touched her, the pupils flared again. Apologizing to the tech, I asked her if she couldn't take her hands away, in case a stranger was stressing her. She did so, and Kiki focused on me again. A cat down the hall began to complain, and her attention flicked toward the sound; there was a cat she was going to have to beat up. Perhaps the distraction began to allow her muscles to relax. After about a half hour, the vet tried to take her off oxygen. She continued to struggle to breath, but the vet said it was much better.
When he thought she was "critical but stable," we placed her in a kennel, dark and quiet, and I called Dan. Ever tear somebody's heart out over the phone? To give her a chance to calm, I went and got the rest of my errands done, with my cell phone on (we live far away from town, and the chickens needed food and the house needed things). When I came back, she was much better. The vet gave her a shot of antibiotics, to give her lungs a chance against the vomit, and sent her home.
She's much better today, but we're watching her. She'll probably need cortisone once a month, but from now on everything she gets will be topical; we can't risk another vomiting episode. I told the vet's receptionist they were lucky I'd had a lot of cats and knew this was caused by accident and DNA, or I'd be going ballistic. "Broken heart, small soul," as my character Lt. Winzig once told me.
Damn dropping oxygen levels on the planet. Well, you know what they say: "Cure asthma -- shoot a logger."