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So This Is Christmas

Posted by December 27, 2011


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.


Our Lips are Sealed

Posted by December 15, 2011


Earlier this week, I posted on Lil House that Mike and I will be finding out the gender of our baby next week, but we will not be telling a soul. I know this sounds a little unconventional since most people go one way or another, so I figured I’d share some of the logic behind our decision.

I always said I did not want to find out the gender of my future babies. I didn’t think it was something I’d want to know since, as I mentioned on the house blog, I never planned to paint a nursery pink or blue,¬†I figured I’d create a registry full of practical items that can be used for multiple kids and I could have a boy and girl name ready on standby. I like surprises and I’m a patient person, I figured it was a given that I would not find out.

I also have this fascination with gender issues. I have a degree in psychology, I’m one week away from having a master’s degree with a heavy dose of educational psychology and I once considered going for a PhD in psychology with a focus on gender studies. I have taken courses in psych of women, psych of men (yes, my college offered this!), psych of gender, child psych and psych of learning. Through all of these classes, I’ve learned that gender differences are such a part of our culture and are ingrained in kids. I thought if I didn’t know the gender of my baby, I could protect my little one from this crazy world of expectations for just a little bit longer.

Then there’s Mike, who I wouldn’t call impatient, but he is less patient than I am. Early on, he was eager to find out the gender whereas I felt like I could wait. Before I was even pregnant, I had mentioned that I could see the practical use in us knowing the gender (though I admit they are often sort of superficial like nursery colors, names and clothing choices), but I didn’t think that anyone else needed to know. I personally have enjoyed the few surprise births that I’ve been exposed to. I think that as a family member or friend, it is way more exciting to get the phone call that the baby is a boy or girl on the day they are born.

So before I was pregnant, Mike proposed an idea. Why don’t we find out and keep it a secret?

At first I felt incredibly guilty about this. I thought people were going to be angry. I thought we wouldn’t be able to hold it in. Over the past 4.5 months we have gone back and forth with our decision, trying to figure out if we should just not find out at all. But as our appointment has gotten closer, I find myself wanting to know. My it-shouldn’t-matter self wants to pick out a name, shop and just know. I think part of this comes from the fact that I want everything ready when the baby gets here, since I have to go back to work fairly quickly. I won’t have much time for tweaking, shopping or anything else after the fact.

As we were on the fence, I asked other people about their experiences. Most influential were the opinions of two moms who had 3 children each. They both found out the gender of their first one, were surprised for their second and then found out again for their third. I heard the stories and the reasonings and decided just this week that we were going to find out.

That settled that issue, but then there’s the element of not telling anyone. Not even our parents, best friends, no. one. We decided we couldn’t tell some people and not all, so it was all or nothing. And all was honestly never an option for us.

Why we decided to do this wasn’t because we’re mean, or shady, or weird (maybe weird). In an age of oversharing, we love the idea of keeping something to ourselves. While we are addicted to Facebook, Twitter and blogging (obviously we have 2 now), we still remain relatively private people. Yes, my entire newsfeed knows that I am not a fan of Chobani, but some things I want to keep to myself. Mike and I have always been this way- we got engaged while on vacation and I didn’t tell my friends until we got home. Not that I wasn’t excited to tell them, but I wanted to enjoy my vacation with Mike rather than spending the remainder on the phone. We also kept our baby a secret for nearly 13 weeks. We like the idea of enjoying our personal moments together before telling the world.

So next week, I plan to take the day off from work, go to our ultrasound, then spend the day cut off from the world with our little secret. Maybe we’ll get breakfast, maybe we’ll do some Christmas shopping or maybe we’ll just plain spend some time together. Nothing is more fun then having something to share with someone you love, something that know one else knows.

I don’t think for one second that feeling that way is wrong, in fact, it makes me all giddy with excitement.