An Open Letter to the Veterinarian who concluded my Baby George, “One in a Million”
Happy New Year y’all! And a Happy New Year it has truly been thus far. Only twenty-five days in and things have sincerely been looking up! This is exactly how I wanted to preface my first post of 2018. Things sincerely are at an all time high. I have not been this happy for as long as I can remember.
With that being said, my youngest furbaby, George, who passed away on September 19th of last year, would be celebrating his tenth birthday tomorrow. As many of you know, his big brother, Bambino, died ten days later of what couldn’t have been anything other than broken heart syndrome.
Yes, my heart is broken and heavy in their absence. Though, I am also feeling stronger and wiser than I have ever in my life. It is this strength and wisdom that allows me to post this open letter, on The Road Linds Travels. I am mailing this to his primary veterinarian and the medical director of the vet in the next few days. Along with this letter, they will receive photos of George’s radiographs that clearly exhibit the buildup of air in his body. They will also receive copies of the medical bills, as well as photos of my beloved furbabies in their happy and healthy state.
Procrastination and Feelings of Guilt
I have put writing this letter off for so long for obvious reasons – the pain has been unbearable. I have also hesitated writing this because I feared feeling bad about holding the appropriate parties responsible for this tragic accident. Do I believe this doctor purposely killed my baby? Of course not. But, I do believe that there was a lack of care and concern, which ultimately resulted in negligence. I’m happy to report that there is no bone in my body that feels “bad” or guilty. In fact, after finishing writing this letter that you are about to read, there is a sense of relief. It was actually cathartic.
The night I decided to begin the letter, I heard Bambino’s “meow” as I was drying off from a shower. It was clear as day. I would recognize that sweet sound anywhere! It had become as familiar, in the past twelve years, as the back of my hand. The following evening that I finished it, I heard him jumping off the counter in the kitchen like the mischievous feline that he was. I knew this was his way of comforting me. He was letting me know this needed to be done to honor and defend his baby brother. I did it for Bambino, too. I also do it for anyone who has ever lost a dearly beloved animal.
An Open Letter
I write this in conjunction with the utmost grief and pain one can possibly imagine without enduring the loss I have bore in the past few months. I write this with immense strength from past experience and trauma but by no means without feeling the significance of this loss. George was my baby for nine years. He was the balance, the light, and the joy in what I deemed my “furmily.” As his tenth birthday passes, I write this in his memory and in his defense.
He was my cuddle bug, my lap cat, the sweetest, quintessential model cat who defeated all of the stupid “cats are assholes” stereotypes with just the innocence in his eyes. I brought George to you for a simple dental cleaning procedure on September 15th, 2017. Three days and some hours later, he died in the early morning hours of September 19th.
I don’t expect anyone to understand the bond or dynamics of my family but I know you can imagine. You said yourself that you’re a cat guardian. You said yourself and I quote, “I feel personally responsible for the death of your animal.” You’re right.
Little did you and I know that ten days later after George’s death, you’d not only be responsible for the passing of my youngest furbaby but my oldest, Bambino, as well. His heart was too broken to survive without his baby brother’s beautiful beating heart. I know you see multiple animals day in and day out, so I’ve enclosed a photo of them. I think it’s important for you to put faces to their names.
These boys were “one in a million” as you stated in the second phone call after previously verbally taking responsibility for George’s death. George and Bambino are irreplaceable. They were one in a million to me, their mother. They were not the stupid statistical one in a million as you tried justifying in our phone call.
If you went to sleep at night with the look of your cat’s terrified face behind a glass window in an oxygen chamber only to see him dead the next day, I wonder how you might feel. I am haunted by it. It was the face of complete terror and disbelief that his mother would leave him in such a foreign place. I can barely breathe or forgive myself when I think about it for even a mere second.
Do you know I had to reschedule his dental cleaning? Do you remember that I brought my frightened, stressed animal into that hospital you work at only to receive a phone call hours later informing me that your tool needed repairing so I’d have to bring him in at a later date? But not to worry, you guys were going to give me a discount on my final bill!
My instincts told me not to follow through with the reschedule, to wait it out. I shoved my instincts aside, telling myself that I was exhibiting tell tale signs of the “overprotective” mother. Can you imagine the guilt I carry with me every single day after realizing that it was my motherly instincts all along? I wasn’t just being overprotective.
No money in the whole world could ever bring my babies back. I still forked out over seven hundred plus dollars to clean a soon-to-be dead cat’s teeth. Lest I forget the twenty-five hundred or so later I managed to come up with to try and save their lives! Thousands of dollars couldn’t prevent the air in George’s chest cavity from sending him into pneumothorax, resulting in the collapse of his healthy nine-year-old lungs. And unfortunately, thousands of dollars also couldn’t prevent my oldest from seizing and gasping for air in the middle of the night, ultimately dying from broken heart syndrome.
Tracheal injury occurs in cats from blunt force trauma. When I look up the textbook definition of “blunt force trauma,” it states this as physical trauma to a body part, either by impact, injury, or physical attack. You verbally stated that you were the one who “personally inserted the intubation tube” into my baby’s throat. The emergency room’s veterinarians at Animal Specialty Group informed me how delicate animals’ tracheas are – especially felines’, they stressed. Were you aware of this, Dr. ********? As an educated veterinarian, did you know that felines’ tracheas are especially fragile compared to other animals?
I also recall you telling me you weren’t aware that a hole in the trachea could cause a build up of air in the chest cavity. This air in his chest cavity is the very thing that ultimately led to the death of my sweet baby boy. His lungs were collapsing when I received a phone call at one ‘o’ clock in the morning that a second chest tube was being inserted into my poor baby because I had signed a piece of paper instructing the doctors to do everything in their power to save his life. In fact, it was the same piece of paper I signed before he went under for a basic dental cleaning with you.
The problem with this piece of paper, however, is that in the dire circumstances caused by the blunt force trauma to his trachea, struggling to keep him alive ultimately became a selfish endeavor. As quickly as I could wrap my brain around this unthinkable tragedy and the fact that I was about to lose my baby, I instructed the doctor to let my Georgie go. I didn’t get to say goodbye, to reassure him that his mother didn’t just abandon him, a feeling I’m all too familiar with. I hope you’ve never or don’t ever have to experience that feeling. I’ll carry that with me for the rest of my life.
Less than a week later, it meant so much to me when I received a handwritten card in the mail from the emergency room veterinarian who treated my baby George. He was expressing his sincerest condolences for not being able to save my son’s life. (Insert name of the animal hospital here – omitted for privacy) and George’s actual doctor? ****Crickets****
Perhaps one of the worst parts of this entire unexpected drama was that I was hours away from calling you. I was going to call you Monday morning to let you know he’d been coughing irregularly. He’d been doing so ever since bringing him home from your “care.” I told myself that this was normal and surely he’d be fine. It was a simple dental cleaning after all. I made it to one ‘o’ clock Monday morning when I awoke to a nine-year-old, otherwise healthy, cat blown up like a balloon. He was having difficulty breathing and clearly suffering.
In fact, in terms of “healthy,” I still have a voicemail you left on my cell phone on August 14th, 2017. You told me that George’s blood work and urinalysis was, and I quote, “beautiful…really great blood work. Haven’t seen it that good in a really long time.” One month and five days later, my healthy, sweet baby boy was dead. And ten days after that, his healthy big brother was also dead. I know Bambino died from a broken heart – a broken heart caused by the pain of losing his baby brother, the balance in both of our lives.
I think the only thing that brings me any semblance of comfort in the untimely absence of my babies is knowing they are together. They have each other. I lost everything. After twelve years of being greeted by a furry companion, a companion who’d been with me through all of my life’s ups and downs, who’d moved across the country with me twice, and gave me more comfort and peace than any human has ever accomplished, I lost it all in a matter of ten days.
I do not expect you to understand what this must feel like. I’m not even certain I have sufficiently provided the accurate words to describe what this feels like. What I can tell you is that the loss is so great and so damaging that I have chosen to keep myself distracted for the past four plus months.
I have procrastinated this much needed letter that I am writing right now due to the debilitating darkness that I am transported to in the thought of my babies’ last few hours on this Earth. I have put this off to spare my deeply broken heart, a heart that will forever carry two abysmal holes to its last beat because some doctor was negligent in her procedure. Do not bother responding as there is nothing at this point that you can do or say that will make me feel any better or even begin to remedy the situation. I can only hope that you’ll never have to tell another mother that her baby was, “one in a million.”