Heart Failure!?!

We loved her so much!

In the fall of 2009 we noticed that Daisy was coughing and breathing heavy in the evening.  I monitored her for a few days, thinking it was due to a lot of activity, but it didn’t go away.  I was confident that she didn’t have kennel cough because we vaccinated her for everything and she wasn’t around any new dogs.  Not kennel cough, but something was wrong.  I made an appointment for her to get a check-up with her vet.

I went in thinking “this will cost us $150 bucks and I’ll leave with a medicine to fix her right up”.  Daisy loved her vet and she was no different that day.  She was so excited to see all the staff.  Her excitement actually helped.  She started coughing and you could see her heavy breathing.  The doctor listened to her heart and lungs and took some blood.  She told me right away it was not kennel cough.  Yep, that’s what I was thinking.  But, she was worried.  WHAT?  Worried about what?  Just give me an overpriced drug and I’ll be on my way.  Ah, no.

The vet referred us to a specialist.  A Vet Cardiologist.  “Something is wrong with her heart.  You need to take her in as soon as possible.  I’ll call the cardiologist and help you get in next week.”  Stunned, I took the phone number and left.

Ok, time to re-group.  Daisy will be fine.  This will just cost us a little more.  No worries, it’s only money… and everyone knows the running joke: when a vet sees me, they think “cha-ching!”  🙂  I went in with a positive attitude and my credit card.

They took Daisy in the back and performed an ultrasound on her heart.  The cardiologist came back with Daisy.  He was a very kind, soft-spoken man.  Old enough to look like he’s been doing this for a while and young enough to trust he is updated on all the newest research and techniques.  I instantly trusted him – a very good thing.

The doctor began explaining what he found with the ultrasound and what her blood test results indicated.  I need to remind you that I am educated heavily in science… how the hearts works was a topic I taught to my former 7th graders.  At the time, I was working in a medical school, having daily conversations about how the body works.  But, right then, as he was talking to me, I couldn’t process a thing.  It was like he was speaking in a different language.  To be honest, most of that day is a blur.

But, I vividly remember asking him how long she had left to live.  I was thinking he just said a bunch of mumbo-jumbo… get to the point… she’s 5 years old, what do we have left?  5 years?

He had this look on his face.  I can see it clear as day.  He was sad and did not want to answer my question.  He said, in the most quiet and kind voice, “6 months“.

WHAT?  6 months!?!  Yes, 6 months, she is in heart failure.  He told me there were medications to make her breathing easier and to make her last days comfortable.  I asked about surgery, can we fix it?  No.  He explained that she would need 2 valves repaired, at $13,000 each and that half of the patients die on the table.  He said he could not perform the surgery on her, in good conscience.  And for a split second I thought, I’ll pay you $26,000 – just save her!  But, then I truly understood what he was saying to me.  There was nothing we could have done to prevent this, nothing to do to cure it, all we could do was love her and enjoy her while we still had her with us.

I left with a list of drugs to get at the pharmacy and a strict no exercise or excitement rule for Daisy.

I remember sitting in my car, in the parking lot, crying.  I remember calling Marcus.  I know I was not making much sense, too much crying.  Lots of crying.  And then there was Daisy, popping over the seat to give me a wet kiss and to see what was wrong.

Right up to the very end she was kissing and loving us!