We had a bit of a rough Christmas around here. Okay, a bit is an understatement.
On Thursday, I hosted about 15 of my coworkers and some of their children for our team holiday party. Macky and Mowie stayed upstairs the entire time and after Darwin got kicked a few times (he tends to cling to people’s feet and they don’t notice), he was sent upstairs as well. All was fine and dandy until 6am Friday morning, when Macky had a seizure.
We weren’t that concerned, since he’s been having seizures for nearly 3 years, but we were a little worried since he just had one around Halloween. He’s pretty much been having two a year since started having them, so we knew these two were strangely close together. But, we went about our day getting ready for Christmas Eve and finishing up some last minute things. Mike’s dad even came over to run some wires to the new office.
Around 10pm we were in full on baking mode. We cut out some sugar cookies and had 3 trays of them in the oven. I even made a sugar cookie Mike and I, complete with baby.
Then Macky had a second seizure. We waited for him to come out of it and cleaned him up (they last about 30 seconds… the longest 30 seconds of our lives) and by then our sugar cookies were burnt. At this point we were very concerned, as Macky has only had a cluster of seizures once during his first episode and we thought that was because we stressed him further by bringing him to the neurologist. When he had a seizure around Halloween, it was the morning after we had my family over to tell them I was pregnant. Though Macky never appears stressed when people are over (he let my 1 year old neice hug him and he loved it), we thought it was best to not have people over again on Christmas Eve. So at 10pm the night before, we decided not to host.
Macky slept attached to my body for that entire night. Macky does not cuddle– he always sleeps in the same room as us but he is not a cuddler. At one point I literally moved my feet 6 inches and he moved to keep contact with me. I thought maybe he just had a rough day and was being clingy. At 6am once again, he had another seizure. He must have known it was coming and wanted me to know when it happened.
At this point, we were terrified. We knew he needed medical attention, but Macky has had some awful vet experiences in the past. His brother Sunny also suffered from seizures and once had a seizure while in a carrier with Macky. Macky was so traumatized from the experience that ever since then, whenever we put him in a carrier he would have a seizure himself. We brought him for a routine vet visit several months after Sunny passed away and the vet compared his behavior to post-traumatic stress disorder. He was also labeled as the worst cat the vet practice had ever handled. My sweet little Macky had turned into a ferocious beast.
Needless to say, we avoided bringing him to the vet after that day. We recently had a mobile vet come to the house (and by recently I mean about 2 weeks ago) to perform his check up and he was given a clean bill of health. It was now Christmas Eve and we knew that Macky needed the emergency vet. He needed to be started on meds and watched overnight. We’ve dealt with seizures for more than 3 years between Macky and Sunny and have done our research. We knew what was coming next and we were just worried about whether Macky could handle the stress of going to the vet and staying there. We weren’t sure if he’d need an MRI or if the car ride would trigger more seizures, with the ultimate fear being that he would not come out of them. We knew the right thing to do was to bring him to the vet, but given Macky’s history, we decided to give him one more shot. Thankfully, he bounces right back after his seizures, but we knew that the more he had in a short period, the more we risked permanent effects. So at that point, we decided we would not be attending Christmas Eve dinner as we had to watch Macky.
He played all day and acted relatively normal. We noticed that he was not letting himself fall asleep. Around 4pm on Christmas Eve, he finally laid on the couch to take a snooze when he immediately had his 4th seizure. We think that he was having them every time he fell into a deep sleep.
We knew this was our and his limit and he had to the go to the vet. Thankfully, we had a few hours to mentally prepare for it. We knew his health was the most important and we just had to suck up our fears and hope for the best. I gave him a pep talk before we left and promised him that he would eventually come home. He was even purring as we said our goodbyes, gave him hugs and put him in the carrier.
Then something amazing happened– he didn’t even put up a fight.
Then something else amazing happened– he didn’t bang his head against the carrier or have any seizures in the car.
We got to the emergency vet and felt like we could conquer the world. But, despite the fact that we called before we brought him to warn them that he may be extremely stressed and seizing, we were told there were many people ahead of us and we could wait in the waiting room with him, or they could take him in the back. Knowing that he is a lot worse when we’re not around to calm him, we decided to sit with him in the waiting room.
And he was silent. Silent but alert. He watched all of the dogs and people go by. He even put his head down and relaxed.
We had to wait a whole hour before even seeing a vet. When we did, Macky walked out of the carrier on his own. He investigated the entire room and sat with me on the floor. When the vet came in, he let him examine him on the floor and even gave him a kiss. We were seriously floored with how unbelievably good he was not. Not just good, but friendly and sweet.
The vet was incredible. We went to the same emergency and speciality hospital that Darwin goes to for his chemo treatments. When Macky had his first seizure, we went to a different speciality hospital and saw a neurologist who told us not to get our hopes up that Macky was just epileptic. Typically, cats only have seizures when there is an underlying illness such as a tumor or a virus. In fact, most of our struggles with treating Macky and Sunny were because not many vets have even seen a cat who has had seizures. When Sunny had his first, his primary vet told us it was probably an asthma attack and sent us to a cardiologist. This emergency vet took the seizures for what they were– just seizures. He said that some cats just have seizures and if Macky has had them for almost 3 years, chances are he is just epileptic. He was also the first vet to tell us that if Sunny, Macky’s litter mate, also had seizures, the chances are even higher that they both had some form of hereditary epilepsy.
His plan was just what we predicted, to start him on meds and keep him overnight. We told him that we never put Macky on meds before because phenobarbital (the typical seizure meds in cats and humans) causes liver damage and we were concerned because he is so young. He told us that in the past few years, many new drugs have come out with fewer side effects that have been effective. So he started him on Keppra and said that he would need 3 doses, 8 hours apart, for it to work. Macky had one more seizure while at the vet around 3am on Christmas morning.
On Christmas, I spoke to the vet and he said he wanted to keep him that night as well since he wanted to see him seizure free for 24 hours. We agreed with this, as the last thing I wanted was to have him come home, on meds, and still be seizing. He said that if the seizures didn’t stop, they would have to play around with dosage and meds. This speciality vet just opened a huge new office and only added a neurologist to the team 6 weeks ago. She was scheduled to be in on Monday morning, so he also figured that if Macky stayed until Monday morning she could look at him.
Thankfully, Macky hasn’t had a seizure since he started the Keppra. The neurologist (who was also amazing), agreed with the treatment plan and said he passed his exam with flying colors. His blood work was perfectly normal as well. We were able to pick him up on Monday morning.
Those two nights without him were incredibly hard for us. Macky is the leader of the pack around here and without him around, Mowie and Darwin had no clue what to do with themselves. They did not say a peep. No one woke us up for breakfast. No one told them to stand outside of the bathroom door and greet us when we come out of the shower. There were no paws running on the hardwoods above us. There were no under the breath calls of “eeer??”. Macky is extremely vocal and has so much personality that we missed him more than you could even imagine. Plus, we were told that if anything happened to him in the middle of the night, we’d get a phone call. I swear I woke up every hour to check my phone and make sure I didn’t miss a bad call. Plus we were incredibly worried about his stress levels there.
Yet every time I called, the vet would tell me how relaxed he was and that he was eating as normal. We could not believe how well he was taking everything. One time I called and told the receptionist that I was calling to check on my cat. Her response was immediately “Are you Macky’s mom?” I had only called the front desk once the day before so I didn’t think it was my voice she recognized, so I figured that either a) Macky had a reputation already or b) Macky was the only cat staying there on Christmas. Turns out it was a.
On Monday, when we picked up Macky, the vet tech told us that he had a big fan club in the back. Mind you, this animal hospital is ginormous. I won’t even try to guess the square footage, but when Darwin first stayed there we were given a tour and I would seriously get lost. They have something like 35 vets, 50 vet techs and 15 receptionists that work there. And they knew Macky.
Darwin had his routine appointment with the oncologist later on Monday and Mike mentioned to her that we were at the hospital over the weekend with our other cat. She immediately asked who he was and when he said Macky, her face lit up. She had met him and knew him. She told Mike how incredibly friendly and playful he was and how everyone there loved him. It was such a huge relief to us to know that he did so well while he was there. She also reassured us that the medicine he was put on is the right choice for him. She told us of other cats she knew who did well on it and said he would be just fine. It felt great to hear it from someone who we trust so much, since she has saved Darwin’s life.
Thankfully, our horrible Christmas had a happy ending and Macky is doing well. Had we known that there were other drug options and he would do so well, we would have brought him to a new neurologist sooner. We feel like we have a new life ahead of us now, one which we will no longer live in fear of not being able to bring him to the vet in an emergency and one which we will no longer fear what is causing his seizures. We finally have people who we trust to care for him, people who believe us when we say that we honestly feel in our hearts that we were given two epileptic brothers 5 years ago.
So yes, we are the crazy people who lost a 2 year old epileptic cat to parvo, have his epileptic brother who is just 5 and a 4 year old cat with kidney cancer– all of which are incredibly rare illnesses given their ages. Months ago, when I was sobbing at the vet after finding out that Darwin had cancer, I said something along the lines of “bad things always happen to our cats”. The oncologist looked at me and said something I will never forget, she said that the animals who need the most love always find the people who are willing to give it. And I like to think of our experiences that way
Waking up to this face this morning was the best birthday gift I could ever ask for.