A couple of days ago I drew up a calendar on a whiteboard Maggie uses to keep track of her yoga clients. The calendar shows the dates from December 23 (the day before we found out Addie was suffering from aflatoxicity) to January 4th (one day after the vet said she would be lucky to live until).
It’s been a week, and with three days to go, Addie’s still putting up a good fight. She’s looking a bit worse for wear though, and despite us doing our best to clean her, smells of a rather horrible combination of stomach juices and sweet glucose water we have to feed her. Additionally, her liver failing has caused her to now be suffering from ascites, or fluid in the abdomen.
The ascites is creating pressure on her diaphragm, which is causing her breathing to be a bit laboured. Whether it’s the ascites or another side-effect of liver failure, she’s also continually having stomach/GI cramping, causing her to suffer quite a bit of discomfort.
The hardest thing remains keeping food and medicine in her stomach. The SAMe tablets that she’s on take a long time to dissolve, and it’s a rare thing indeed for her to go through long periods where she doesn’t add a new technicoloured stain to her bedsheet.
Though the above may seem like she’s in bad shape, and she is, I’m still hopeful. She’s been in roughly the same shape for the last two days or so, and the ascites swelling has gone down a bit. She looks tired, and is no doubt in pain, but we’re not throwing in the towel yet.
Obviously the question of when we surrender is close on both Maggie’s and my mind. Maggie asked me today when we will have to make the tough decision to put Addie down so as not to force her to suffer needlessly. My answer centers around that last bit. Needlessly.
She’s young and she’s tough. She has the will to survive this, or she would have already given up. Now, I understand that it may come down to her just not having the physical strength to beat this, but I feel we need to make sure that we give her every opportunity to win.
It’s impossible not to anthropomorphise a bit here, so let me dive in.
I look at Addie’s situation as if it were me. There are a lot of situations where if I was in a lot of pain I would want to die and would hope (if I was not able to express it) that people who love me would help me do so. All of those situations revolve around chronic, unmanageable, quality of life destroying pain.
In the short-term, it would suck, but I would be more than willing to suffer the pain, a lot of pain, to keep my life. Of course, there’s nothing good about it. It’s pain, it’s illness, it’s discomfort, it’s humiliating, it’s tiring, it’s messy. And it’s hard to watch someone (or some dog) endure. But me not wanting to watch as my dog fights for her life is not reason enough, in my mind, for us to make the decision to end it. Not yet.
Maggie, quite logically, asked then how we’ll know it’s time. I really can’t say, other than to say that we’ll just know. I think we’ll know when she’s stopped fighting. She asked if I thought we were unnaturally keeping her alive through the use of medicine/IVs, but I don’t think so. She’s not on machines. Her body is still doing everything itself, and the IVs, nutrients and pills we’re giving her all work to keep it that way.
Basically, what it comes down to for me is – if she’s willing to fight, I’m going to keep fighting for her too. Human or not, I don’t think it’s my right to take that away from her.
The Lighter Side…
It’s New Year’s Eve – let me leave this with a less-heavy message. I’m off to cook up some steaks and baked potatoes, cork a bottle of wine, heat up some mulled wine, kick back and greet the new year with a cigar.
Wishing everyone a very happy new year and a prosperous 2009. 新年快乐!