When we returned from Tokyo in mid-April, she was fine. In fact, my mom had put her on a diet while we were away – she loves food and she's always been a little on the chunky side, although we just like to think of her as sturdy! But when we saw her when we got home from our trip, she looked SO good! Check out the photographic evidence!
|Spring 2016 vs. Spring 2017|
That is the last time I can say with certainty that she felt really great. We noticed throughout the remainder of April and May that she just was not herself…it started happening only once in a while, but then became more frequent. She seemed uncomfortable and would stretch out on the floor for hours at a time, and her belly consistently looked bloated, even first thing in the morning before she ate anything. She was generally disinterested in everything and was just not the happy, tail-wagging dog she'd always been.
Thus began the summer of vet appointments. Essentially my mom and I took turns going to appointment after appointment throughout the entire summer – when I was away, she handled the appointments for me, and then when we met with the final surgeon in August, we went together so we could answer all of his questions about what had been going on all summer.
It started at our regular vet, where our favorite Dr. T. tried to figure out what was going on. When some of her bloodwork revealed a few areas of concern and it because apparent that she had some kind of tumor in her abdomen, Maddy was referred to another vet within the practice, who is completely wonderful and continued with a series of tests in hopes of finding some answers.
Unfortunately, the tests raised more questions than answers, including high blood pressure and possible Cushing's disease, so we were sent to a specialty practice. We met with a surgeon and Maddy had an ultrasound to determine the specific location of the tumor. The first tumor was on her spleen, a second tumor was found on her right adrenal gland, and it also appeared that her gallbladder was not functioning correctly. A lot for one little dog to deal with.
We then met with an internist and discussed our options moving forward, and I've got to be honest – I was very uneasy with how things were going. I decided to get a second opinion, and we made an appointment with an internist at another specialty practice. He looked at everything we'd done so far and felt that surgery would not only relieve Maddy's discomfort, but that the risk of the tumor on her spleen rupturing and resulting in further, potentially dire, complications made the decision to proceed with surgery a complete no-brainer. I was SO much more comfortable with his treatment of Maddy and his recommendations than I had been at the other veterinary practice!
We then met with the surgeon who could not have been more fantastic. His calm demeanor, his obvious level of knowledge and experience, and the way he spoke about Maddy were everything I'd been hoping for. There were certainly some risks – her high blood pressure, elevated adrenaline levels, and the anesthesia were all factors in the decision – but ultimately we needed to get that tumor out. Period. So we scheduled surgery to remove Maddy's spleen and gallbladder, and the surgeon told us he would take a look at her right adrenal gland during the operation.
I cannot even describe how nervous and worried and scared I was about this surgery. C and I dropped her off early on the morning of Wednesday, August 23 and those hours crawled by until we got a call from the surgeon at about 2 pm. He told us every had gone very well and that he removed her spleen with any issues and he examined her gallbladder, which appeared to be functioning just fine, so he opted not to remove it. All of this was music to our ears! He told us that no news was good news and that Maddy would probably be able to come home the next afternoon, so we booked a check-out appointment for 4 pm the next day.
I went to work on Thursday because it was Open House that afternoon and I would have just driven myself crazy sitting at home counting the minutes until we could pick her up. I was in a great mood and so looking forward to bringing her home! However, C got a call from the critical care doctor at about 9:30 that morning and it was not good news. They were worried about her blood pressure, they were worried about potential blood clots, she had fluid in her lungs, her red blood cell count was high but her protein levels were low, they discovered a heart murmur, and she was still in a lot of pain, so she was still on heavy-duty painkillers. She would not be coming home that day, so our check-out appointment turned into a visitation appointment.
C called me at school and filled me in and I felt so helpless that I just sat at my desk and cried. My amazing coworkers insisted they would handle Open House and that I should just pack up and go home, and oh my word, I love them so much. But I knew going home would do nothing and that Maddy was in good hands, so I stayed until the end of Open House. C picked me up and we drove to the veterinary hospital, where we were able to visit with her once they finished some testing, including an echocardiogram.
Maddy looked so pitiful when they brought her into the room. She was on oxygen, she had a heart monitor, a very long incision all the way down her abdomen, an IV for pain medication, and she not only had a cone of shame on, but they had put her in a little t-shirt to keep her incision covered.
We visited for about 30 minutes and we were able to get her to drink, but she would not eat anything for us. The doctor told us that they would be putting her on a feeding tube after we left because they were concerned that essentially she hadn't eaten since Tuesday night. It just about broke my heart to leave her there and come home.
Friday morning brought a little encouraging news because they'd been able to wean her off one of the serious painkillers. They called again on Friday afternoon and said that even though she was improving, she would not be able to come home that day. We decided to take Ginny with us to visit Maddy Friday night, which turned out to be great for Maddy, but not so great for Ginny, who was terrified the entire time. She did have her spinal surgery in the same building in 2014, so maybe that was part of it, but she was really afraid of Maddy. Maddy, on the other hand, was super excited to see Ginny – something we think really boosted her spirits. It was difficult to see Maddy with an oxygen tube going into one nostril and a feeding tube going into her other nostril (both of which were stitched to her face to help keep them in place), but she ate for us and wagged her tail, so we were excited about that progress!
Saturday morning, we got the call that she could come home later that day and when we got there, she seemed like a completely different dog from the one we left only 19 hours earlier. I'm convinced seeing Ginny contributed greatly to her recovery.
Once she was home, we kept her quiet and still so she could recover and she was on quite the variety of medication, including an injection I had to give her THREE TIMES A DAY. I hated it every single time! But we worked our way through the meds and things have been getting better each and every day.
On September 5, my mom and I took her to get her stitches out. The surgeon mentioned the possibility of another surgery in a few months to remove her right adrenal gland, but it would be a laparoscopic surgery, so there will hopefully be less recovery time. We are going to let her take it easy for a few months before we even entertain that idea because she has been through a lot.
The tumor was benign and the heart murmur is a non-issue, so all is good on those fronts. As far as her other issues, we won't know until her follow-up appointment with Dr. T. once her incision has completed healed, but we are keeping our fingers crossed that she won't have any other difficulties!
Finally, my mom. What on earth can I say about the most wonderful person ever? She has spent every single day since the beginning of June at my house each time I wasn't home, regardless of whether I was traveling or working or whatever. EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. If I couldn't be home with Maddy, my mom came over and stayed with her. She took her to appointments and gave her medications, and watched her like a hawk so that I would never have to worry. Since coming home from her surgery, the school year has started, and my mom has spent every school day from about 7 am until 5 pm taking care of Maddy while I've been at school.
HOW LUCKY AM I? HOW LUCKY IS MADDY? What would I ever do without her? I am at a loss for words right now and I am getting choked us as I type this. I love my mom SO much! Best.Mom.Ever.
Happy Tails to you!