Bad news - can anything make the wait any easier?
June 25, 2008 9:01 PM   Subscribe

Hints on easing the wait for bad news. With complications, and a story about my cat.

My cat Livingstone was hit by a car yesterday. At least, that's what the vet thinks. What I know is that instead of bounding up like his playful furry self, demanding pats and food when I got home from work about 5:30pm, he was hiding out in his safe place (under our bed).

About 7pm he came out into the loungeroom, where I was watching TV, and vomited twice on the carpet. I cleaned it up, and moved him to a comfy spot. He stayed there a while, without moving, washing or doing much of anything, and then went back under the bed. There was no sign of any physical injury.

This morning he was still very lethargic. He'd moved twice during the night, but not more than 3 feet from our bed. During the night he also made a few whining/gurgling noises which were slightly unusual. I got up and patted him, but he didn't respond very much.

I was really worried that he had eaten something poisonous, and took him to the vet as soon as it opened (8am). The vet thought that was probably right, took obs, and said that he looked really sick (pale, low core temperature, depressed breathing) and would start him on maintenance immediately and call me back.

When he did, about 10:00am, he told me that he hadn't eaten anything, but that he'd suffered a severe impact (probably been hit by a car), had a large inguinal hernia, and was very unstable. He said he would almost certainly need surgical repair, but couldn't tell me exactly what until he had opened him up to see what damage had been done - and that there was no prospect of doing that today, given his condition, because the surgery would kill him.

He's going to call me back this afternoon in a few hours to tell me whether Livingstone is stable enough to be operated upon.

I'm going out of my mind while I wait to know whether he will live or die.

I understand that he is probably suffering from (at least) hemorrhagic shock. I understand that there's no way to know, at this point, whether he's going to make it.

I'm extremely familiar with the symptoms of anxiety, because I've had chronic anxiety for years. I've been on Lexapro for about two years now, and have some Xanax for controlling panic attacks (long term panic disorder). I can feel myself trying *really* hard to panic, and equally feel myself reflexively shutting it down. It's getting harder and harder to do.

I've also lost a much-loved cat before in the same way, and that flattened me for a good four months while I dealt with the concomitant grief and depression.

I know I have to wait. I know I've done everything I can for Livingstone. I know that grief and pathological depression / anxiety/ panic are not the same. I know that if it's really bad, I'll have to go back and see my doctor again.

Does anyone have any advice on easing the burden of waiting? Similarly, if he doesn't make it, can anyone suggest ways I could start preparing myself to deal with that, that might help ease the pain?

I'm not out of control. But I know what's down there, and I don't want to go down there again.

Any advice appreciated.
posted by MadMage to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've lost many pets over the years and it's never easy. If this is his time to go, you can take comfort in the fact that you gave Livingstone a great life that many animals never get to experience. So many animals are homeless, abused, or live out their life in cages at shelters. As far as waiting, that's the hardest part I think...the unknown. Try to engage your mind in something that will take your thoughts away from the situation. What works for me is reading books, doing crossword puzzles, etc. all while listening to music. The more things to distract me, the better. I hope Livingstone pulls through, please keep us updated on his condition.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:18 PM on June 25, 2008

I am so sorry that you and Livingstone are going through this. Know that you're doing the best thing possible for someone who is clearly a part of your family.

As far as waiting, have you tried deep breathing/meditation? I know when I get close to a panic attack -- say I'm in a crowded store, or something -- deep breathing can help. Make sure you are breathing consciously and not making yourself hyperventilate.

Also, get up and moving around. Clean your house or reorganize something, or go for a walk. Keeping busy can distract you a little bit.

I hope everything turns out well for you both. Please update the thread when you know more!
posted by sugarfish at 9:22 PM on June 25, 2008

I'm sorry to hear about your cat - it's a nightmare for any pet owner, and I'm so sorry that this has happened.

As to how to ease the burden of waiting - it's going to suck, you already know that, and there isn't much that you can do to make it suck less. That being said, be sure to eat something, keep hydrated, stay away from alcohol, and get some sleep. That's about it. Try to keep to as much of a regular schedule as far as meals and sleep go, and be sure to take time to breathe and relax as much as you can.

There is absolutely nothing you can do to prepare for the pain of potentially losing your companion, and, quite frankly, trying to do so will make it worse. Just keep hoping for the best, try and think of the good times you have had, and take care of yourself. Call a friend, if possible, to be there with you while you wait.

I hope for the best.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:22 PM on June 25, 2008

I also am really sorry to hear about Livingstone.

Try to keep yourself busy while you are waiting for the news, that seems to work best for me. I second calling a friend to be with you, having someone close by may help.

I hope for the best for both you and Livingstone...Keep us posted.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 10:01 PM on June 25, 2008

I've been where you are. Try to think about positive things - like the fact that Livingstone managed to make it home, and that you (being a good pet owner) recognized that something was wrong right away, and got him to the vet as soon as you could. You're doing the best you can for him, and Livingstone knows this, trust me.

I wouldn't advise trying to prep yourself for bad news - it never works, and (for me at least), it always makes things feel so much worse in the interim. If you can, call a friend to be there with you. Like everyone else said - please keep us posted!
posted by Liosliath at 10:24 PM on June 25, 2008

OP here.

Livingstone is still alive, so far. I went and spent some time patting him and talking to him this afternoon. He has improved insofar as he can sit up, a little.

The vet says she still doesn't know exactly what internal damage there is, but it looks from his bloodwork as though he has massive muscle damage, kidney and liver damage. She is waiting to see whether he is able to pass urine. If he can't, then there isn't any hope.

I should know more tomorrow morning.

Thank you for your kind wishes, and I will let you know what happens when I know more.
posted by MadMage at 12:37 AM on June 26, 2008

Some great advice above and I would second The Light Fantastic's advice about maybe having a friend with you whilst you wait and really looking after yourself during this awful time. When you visit him, try and be as chilled as you can, he'll be picking up on your stress as well as experiencing his own.

I'm glad Livingston made it through the night, I hope he manages a pee and can be fixed up.
posted by Arqa at 3:19 AM on June 26, 2008

MadMage, I don't have much to suggest to you, except for this: when you feel feelings of anxiety or sadness or fear during this time, don't try to suppress them, push them down, or rigidly control them. Just say to yourself, "This feeling is a normal human reaction to what happened, and it's perfectly normal to feel it," and let it run its course.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that the story has a happy ending. If it doesn't, this unfortunately has happened before, and there are other threads about pet grief you can find on the site, so that you don't have to wait a week to have the community's help in dealing with it (plus, of course, you could always post here).
posted by WCityMike at 4:02 AM on June 26, 2008

I'm wishing you and Livingstone all the best.

If you think it might help you, you could try researching a bit about what might be wrong with him (from your latter post it looks like it was something he ate, so possibly it's ARF (acute kidney failure.) Then make a list of questions to take to the vet. This would help me, to *do* something instead of feeling like I'm just waiting.
posted by neblina_matinal at 4:36 AM on June 26, 2008

I was in a very, very similar situation almost two years ago now. I also suffer from anxiety and had to wait to hear of news of my cat, Bristol after she swallowed some sewing thread.

What I found worked best for me while waiting was to try to stay calm and grounded. I did this best by calling several people, catching up with them and talking things out. It helped to talk about Bristol to other people. I heavily relied on my Mom at this time.

I also wanted to make sure that no matter what happened, that I had done everything I could for Bristol in the end. This meant taking a day off work and just sitting with her on the floor of the vet's office for an hour here and there. The vet said that it meant a lot to Bristol to have me there - that she was much calmer and less frightened. In your case, I want to echo what Liosliath said - you really have done a lot to help him already and it sounds like you have been sitting with him, too.

This may or may not be your preference, but I also prayed a lot and had asked people to pray for me and Bristol.

After it's all said and done, the best thing you can do is to just make sure you take care of yourself. Make sure you eat healthy and get lots of sleep. You'll do nobody any good if you are a wreck. Admittedly, during the surgery I did take one Xanax. Just one. It did help, but please proceed with caution if you decide to do this. It is not really a good idea to take Xanax when faced with grief or situations like this.

For what it's worth, my cat survived and recovered fully (after swallowing 17 feet of thread and having a foot of intestine removed). I hope that everything goes well with Livingstone and that you are able to hang in there. I'm so sorry that you and he have to go through this. I wish you both the best and await your update!
posted by bristolcat at 10:43 AM on June 26, 2008

OP here.

I'd like to thank everyone for their kind advice, which has been really helpful.

The vet called this morning to say that Livingstone passed away during the night. I've been down to collect him. At least now I know, and can get on with doing what has to be done.

Thank you all, and I know that Livingstone would thank you too.
posted by MadMage at 4:19 PM on June 26, 2008

MadMage - I'm so sorry to hear that, and I wish I could give you a big hug. I looked at his photo, and what a lovely cat he was. Shiny fur, content expression, the whole works.

You might want to have a look at this question I asked - many of the poems are for dogs, but there's a lot of great stuff there. Jessamyn's is particularly nice.

When my cat passed away, I wasn't ready to have another one straight away. One thing that helped was making donations (monetary or supplies) to a local cat rescue group. I felt like that was something that would have pleased Samson. (my cat) It probably sounds silly, but it made me feel a tiny bit better, and that meant a lot at the time.
posted by Liosliath at 4:27 PM on June 26, 2008

I am so sorry.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:21 PM on June 26, 2008

Oh, MadMage, I am so sorry. He looks like quite a saucy boy -- it's very obvious, even from that one picture, that he was (and is) well-loved.

I know it's not much, but I am keeping you and yours in my thoughts tonight.
posted by sugarfish at 6:57 PM on June 26, 2008

I firmly believe you'll see him again someday. And I'm so very sorry for your loss. As a cat owner (or perhaps better said as one in reality owned by a cat), I can imagine how deeply in pain I would be should my cat die as yours did. The fact that he was a different species doesn't change the fact that you've lost a good friend in a very horrible way. Let yourself grieve and mourn as long as you need to.
posted by WCityMike at 8:13 PM on June 26, 2008

I'm so sorry for your loss. I agree with the others who have said to allow yourself time to grieve.

You are in my thoughts. Again, I'm sorry.
posted by whatideserve at 8:34 PM on June 26, 2008

I'm so sorry that lovely Livingstone didn't make it. He was a beautiful fella and that picture sure shows he had a very good life. Take good care of yourself and take as much time as you need to grieve.

Thinking of you.
posted by Arqa at 4:06 AM on June 27, 2008

I'm so, so sorry. He was beautiful.
posted by neblina_matinal at 7:43 AM on June 27, 2008

Oh MadMage, I'm so sorry! He was a handsome cat. It's never easy to lose a friend like this. I will be thinking of you as you grieve and remember Livingstone.
posted by bristolcat at 1:04 PM on June 27, 2008

MadMage, I was so sorry to hear that you lost Livingstone. He was a beautiful cat and it is obvious that he was a great character. I know that it seems stupid telling people that you are so sad because of an animal, but companion animals are part of our family and should be grieved for properly. Invite some friends around and hold a wake, where everyone tells their favorite story of Livingstone, over a drink or two. You may be comforted to look forward to the Rainbow Bridge -- it helps me a lot, when I miss our old dog ...
posted by Susurration at 1:22 PM on June 27, 2008

« Older stretching a nickel abroad   |   GUI Career Options Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.