This was one of the last pictures I took of my mom's rescue kitten, Angel, before she was prepped for her spay...
On Tuesday, October 28, 2015 as I was working reception, I was called into the operating room where Angel was being spayed. A routine, everyday operation my vet has performed likely over a thousand times in her career. Everything was done right. She was intubated and breathing well throughout her entire operation. She was closely monitored by the vet tech, getting fluids, and everything was going perfect until the end. As her oxygen was slowly tapered off, her heart stopped. Just like that. Several measures were taken to start her heart back up before I even got in there. I was in shock and in denial. This wasn't happening. No. Angel wasn't going to die. This was surreal. Her heart was going to start again, I knew it. I prayed like never before. I held her paw and talked to her. Panic started to overtake me and I started to yell at her, as if raising my voice might reach her deep within and start up her heart again. I'm sure she had CPR for over 20 mins. Likely much longer than most vets would even attempt. No one wanted to give up.
Angel was healthy. This wasn't making any sense at all. She ran, she played, she ate, she drank, she pooped, she peed... Everything about her was normal, except...
Two weeks prior, she was to be spayed but when we ran routine bloodwork she had a high WBC and ESOs (ESOs can indicate parasites or allergies). Not a huge deal really, she was put on antibiotics and now two weeks later I'm pleading for her life. She never woke up. My mom. How was I going to tell my mom? We were all crying over Angel. I started sobbing and had to leave the surgical room. I collapsed on the floor just wanting a miracle so bad. My mom lost her husband of 40 years just 10 years ago. My mom was innocent, Angel was innocent. Angel was only 6 months old. This wasn't happening. I'm having a nightmare. Please wake me up.
Dr. Sharon comes out and I know she's exhausted every effort. I know she did everything in her power, even more so because it was me. My mom's kitten. A kitten Sharon had looked after since she was two weeks old. Angel is carried out and laid on a table. I walk over to her and I pick her up. Now I'm starting to wail. I go into Sharon's office and I start massaging her heart, willing it to start up again, her usual pink nose and gums are turning grey but I don't stop I could have sworn I heard her take a breath but when I looked at her I knew I was mistaken. I massaged her heart even harder now thinking maybe I'm just not doing it right, maybe I'm not praying hard enough. How can this happen to my mom, one of the most God-fearing, gentle, and innocent people of all? Why her? Why not me? I felt so hopeless and I'm sure my sobs could be heard all over the block. I just couldn't let her go.
I finally realized my nightmare is real. Angel is gone. She's gone. Angel is, an angel. So perfect, and gone. I walk out front not wanting to lay her back down. I don't want her to be cold. Dr. Sharon and Melissa both have tears in their eyes. They can't believe it either. I know I can't take this news to my mom so I selfishly ask Sharon if she would please do an autopsy. She mentioned sending her out but I needed answers now or no one, especially my mom, would have any closure. I still feel awful asking Sharon to do it after all she did to save her. I knew it wasn't anything relating to the procedure. Sharon is the best veterinarian I know and it broke my heart seeing her so upset as well. I felt so guilty that this happened to her with one of "my" cats. I know it's no ones fault but we are family and the pain was so much deeper and closer to all our hearts.
Sharon agreed and I gave my Angel to her and waited outside the room. I doubt it was even five minutes. The cause of her death was very evident now. Her lungs were dead. Only 10% (if that even) of her lungs were functioning. Just a small sliver of pink was showing on the very bottom of her lobes, the rest, were the colour of liver. Necrosis. Her lungs were dead. How was that even possible when she was so vibrant and full of life? She was extremely playful, had a great appetite, and had no digestive issues.
Thankfully, we ran her bloodwork for all the major diseases. It's an expensive test, but the results have brought peace of mind a second time. She was 100% FIV, FIP, and FeLV NEGATIVE. Knowing this however, makes things harder to understand. Why did this happen? All literature and research I've been pouring over for the past 24 hours have yielded no results. Research is my forte but this time I don't think I will ever know or find out why her lungs were essentially dead and with Angel having no symptoms whatsoever. All I found was ONE other case where this happened. One. No name for this condition, no closure, no answer. Sharon suspects it's genetic as her sister Dorothy passed away from a bad heart when she was only about four weeks old.
Spanky, her brother, also had a high WBC when I did his bloodwork. I hadn't yet rescheduled his neuter and now I'm scared. He will be getting an X-ray to see if he has the same condition. The other two brothers have already been neutered and recovered well and quickly. I can't help but be worried about Spanky. He sleeps more than Angel did, he has a weepy eye... He's extra special after having survived the raccoon attack.
I have been questioning everything for the past few days. I feel responsible and so guilty over Angel's death. I gave Angel to my mom. I gave her a kitten that was sick and dying. Had Angel survived the operation, her condition would have been fatal. She likely wouldn't have made it to her first birthday.
I lost a big part of my heart that day. I'm tired and I feel so broken that something I did has hurt my mom so much. I know there was no way of knowing. I know it's not my fault. The pain I feel inside is unbearable. I haven't stopped crying.
I'm sorry for laying all my thoughts and emotions out on the table for all of you, I am. I'm just having such an awful time coming to terms with this. I look at all my rescues and try to be happy for them but right now I just can't get Angel out of my head. I don't know how to get over this.
I wanted to share a little bit about my rescue, plus how and why I operate the way I do.
I take enormous pride in my rescue cats and kittens. What this means to me (and them), is that I do everything possible to ensure their health, safety, and future home will be 100% purrfect. For this reason, my adoption process does NOT happen fast. It can take days, sometimes even weeks. My ELM team spends endless hours with each of our rescues just so we can assess their personalities, their likes, their dislikes, and what kind of home they would best be suited.
We often laugh or joke around with potential adopters when they "have an eye on someone" as we know, they will more than likely end up with someone else. Each cat and kitten at ELM is unique and they all have their own "needs", funny quirks, and characteristics that would be wonderful with one family, yet not so wonderful with another.
This is part of the reason why I have (two) questionnaires, why our team likes to talk to potential adopters on the phone, email, and text. To us, communication is important and another factor we take pride in. We are 100% brutally honest. We disclose all information, we provide full disclosure with our vet, and I've had to share the disappointment with prospective adopters that who I have in our care at this time, may not be a good fit with their family dynamic.
Now all that being said, we all know Christmas is a week away. I am unable to promise any adoption in time for Christmas and I don't endorse giving any pet as a Christmas gift. Of course we do have adoptions during this time, but it is after questionnaires have been filled out, I've met with the potential adopter or talked at length with them over the phone. This is all about what our rescues NEED and not what a potential adopter WANTS. As harsh as that sounds, it reinforces my "policy" that all our rescues are placed in the right home so they are never abandoned, abused, tossed away, or neglected ever again.
I have had many adopters compliment me on how I operate, some have even remained with my vet due to her dedication and thoroughness with all of my rescues. I am a non-profit rescue. Translated, this means I do not make a profit, and because of this, I don't turn around kittens "ASAP" or the same day a kitten is seen. I don't scoop up kittens and leave their moms behind (and am still guilt ridden over Mookie's family). I take them all. I ensure mom is fixed and that this was her last litter.
Long story short, rescue is not a fast process, neither is the adoption. I hope everyone can understand I do what I do because I care, not because I am trying to be difficult or unreasonable, I truly want what's best for everyone, but my rescues will always be my first and top priority.
Thank you everyone for your continued support and being my village. My rescues depend on you and many of you have been very encouraging, selfless, comforting, loving, and my friends. For that, I will forever be grateful ❤️
A mom of 3 that loves Jesus Christ, my children, cats, and of course, all that God created. Thank you for checking us out here at ELM!