Sunday, October 20, 2013

Strokes affect our feline family members too

More from Monica Vest Wheeler. She has given me permission to reproduce it here on this blog. Monica's blog is titled "Turning empathy into action" and can be reached using this link:  

She mostly writes about many different types of brain injuries and diseases, such as Alzheimer's, and occasionally writes one about stroke. She has published numerous books. According to her blog heading, Monica "...explores how we can lift ourselves and others by turning empathy into action … and the importance of the art of compassion in dealing with Alzheimer's, stroke, brain injuries and other life challenges." Monica is best known for her work on the Help ME Cope & Survive book series:

Monica is also a very active volunteer for Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp and arguably our best camp photographer. 

I hope you enjoy her writing and visit her blog. And be sure to browse her archived articles, too.

by Monica Vest Wheeler

After I poured the food into the bowl at 4 a.m. last Friday, I quickly stepped back, expecting to be bowled over by our cat, Clark, who could hear one morsel of food hitting ceramic from the far corners of our house and come running. I had learned the routine well after nearly 14 years.

I didn't hear the thundering of his paws. Instead, his sister, Lois, savored the rare opportunity to dine first and quietly as the proper little lady she was. Hmm … I walked into the living room where I saw Clark in his basket located near the front door to satisfy his insatiable curiosity on who was coming in and out. He looked up at me as he always did.

"What's wrong, Clark Bar?" He always responded to the name we had jokingly bestowed on him years earlier in homage to the candy. He was also our "spotted cow," with eight random black spots on a sea of white fur. It was then that I remembered hardly seeing him outside of his basket on Thursday as I had been rushing in and out to attend to the needs of my dad-in-law, Pepaw, whose Alzheimer's was a little scarier each day.

He protested as I lifted him out of his basket, but that wasn't unusual because he never was a holdable cat. I set him on the floor where he slowly walked forward. I studied him and noticed he was dragging his back legs or attempting to use them properly, but they weren't cooperating as they kept slipping. I carried him to his litter box in case he needed to go. He apparently didn't. He pulled himself out and started to scoot back to the living room, bypassing the food bowl.

I quickly left a phone message for the vet's office to call me first thing when they opened in another three or so hours. I then returned to the living room where Clark laid on his side on the floor. I sat down next to him and petted him. He didn't protest when I returned him gently to his basket.

I wondered … could it be a stroke?

I had certainly learned a lot about stroke in the couple years that I have been working on a book about coping with this leading adult disability. Yes, all the challenges that human survivors and their caregivers face, but could stroke have affected my feline baby, too?

The vet's staff called about 7, and I could get Clark in at 8. When I picked him up and set him in his traditional cardboard travel box, he looked around at the world with his usual curiosity during the five minute drive. I waited patiently as the vet took him out of the examining room to look at him closer.

When the vet returned, I could see it his face. Clark had "thrown" a clot and experienced something like a stroke affecting the back half of his body. I admitted that I had suspected the cause, and he nodded. I started to cry because I knew what was going to happen. I told the doctor how I had to go this day to look for the next phase of housing for my dad-in-law with Alzheimer's. And now my baby didn't have a good prognosis. His age, weight and numerous other factors were working against him as the vet gently explained the limited care options.

My heart and mind chose the right one. Keep him comfortable, I told the vet and his assistant as I needed to call my husband and son to visit our Clark Bar for the last time. I would return that afternoon to be there with him to release him from his pain.

Somehow my family understood me on the phone between my tears and loss of voice as I explained it was the best thing for our baby. They would each go to see him in the next few hours.

And then my sister-in-law and I went to look at facilities that could care for her dad's future needs. It wasn't easy or pretty to see what Alzheimer's had in store for Pepaw. Oh Lord, what a depressing day!

Late in the afternoon, my sister-in-law accompanied me as I said good-bye to my baby, Clark "Superman" Kent Wheeler. Free of the cage, he looked around the room and nuzzled noses with me and attempted to stand, but his back legs wouldn't cooperate. The vet told us that some symptoms had worsened during the day. We had made the right decision.

All of us laughed as I recounted the day when Clark became famous around the veterinary clinic as the "bat cat." About 11 years earlier, Clark had captured a bat that had gotten into our upstairs. When I discovered what the commotion was all about, Clark had the bat in his mouth and was shaking his head back and forth, beating that bat against the floor with each blow. I managed to get him to drop the bat, which I somehow bagged while freaking out at the same time.

Off to the vet we immediately went, the bat in a paper bag and Clark in his cage. They had to keep him until the bat could be tested for rabies. I wanted that to be done quickly, so the next day, I drove the bat head in a box to the testing center 45 minutes away so that Clark could be cleared to come back home sooner. No rabies, thank God! He was welcomed home as a hero for saving us from that bat!

But this day was the end of the earthly road for our hero Clark. I kissed him good-bye as he relaxed in eternal sleep. He was now free to run without pain and do all the things our beloved feline friends love in a special place in heaven.

Purr, baby, purr.

Written by Monica Vest Wheeler

Monica Vest Wheeler
Turning Empathy into Action
Find me now on Facebook
And on Twitter
Phone 1-309-682-8851
Phone toll-free 1-877-267-4640
Fax toll-free 1-877-636-0634
P.O. Box 276
Peoria, IL 61650-0276

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