A client came into the clinic with her ancient dog for an appointment. Fluffy really needed to cross the Rainbow Bridge… like, two months before. This dog was receiving subcutaneous fluids for renal failure, and the owner insisted that the poor creature was still running and frolicking at home. We all found this hard to believe, since we had to administer the treatment while Fluffy was in lateral recumbency. She had to be on her side; she could barely lift her head.

The judgement in the treatment room was strong. Murmurs grew against the client: how cruel it was that she insisted on treating Fluffy when she was clearly suffering, how we wished we could put the dog out of her misery. A couple of vets already gave her the “Come to Jesus” talk, but the client wouldn’t budge.

I felt so awful for your beloved dog, but not for the reasons you may think. I have the same disease as Fluffy.

Yes, the technician that gave Fluffy her SQs is in renal failure.

I’m on the kidney transplant list and doing my best to keep my head above water at work. Every time I have a patient with CKD, it haunts me a little. I scan their blood work and compare their numbers to mine. I take a history and note that my patient is vomiting a few times a week. I did the same thing when my numbers looked like hers, and I know what’s coming for her. Anemia is not kind. The insomnia, the nausea, and the confusion are crippling. The treatment options are just that, treatments. There is no cure. And the treatments are only temporary bandaids.

One shift we had three patients in a row that were newly diagnosed with CKD, first thing in the morning. I wanted to cry, seeing room after room of clients, their faces contorting at the news. I imagine mine did the same thing in front of my doctor when I found out I have CKD.

I also know how much it sucks to have a beloved pet with renal failure. The whole thing hit home for me when my old kitty went in for blood work a couple of months ago. Besides his other numerous issues (I’m a technician, and it’s nearly required by law that I have a pet with issues), his renal values are creeping up. The clumps in the litterbox grow larger, and the water bowl empties faster. I know it’s just a matter of time before I’m bringing him in for a date with the pink juice.

Last weekend was a bad one for my kitty: lots of vomit, lots of confused yowling. I thought we’d be lucky if we made it to Monday, and I checked to see who the weekend on call DVM was, just in case. While discussing euthanasia with my spouse, the cat jumped on my lap and head-butted me while purring. The little !@#!. I started to cry.

I couldn’t do it. He’s still around, and I’ve blown through a bottle of Nature’s Miracle.

Dear client, I’m sorry I judged you. I’m sorry for contributing to the negative clinic chatter about how selfish you are, and how the huge needle is just torture for Fluffy three times a week. I’m sorry you’re watching her go downhill, and there’s not much you can do at this late stage.

And I’m sorry for the technicians that have to watch the horror show every treatment. I wonder how my spouse will handle my treatment, when dialysis comes. I wonder if transplant will happen for me, and if I will ever work full time as an on the floor technician again, or if my days “teching” are gone forever. I wonder what I will feel like, when my BUN and creatinine rival your pet’s values. Will I be able to lift my head, or will I rest in lateral?

I’m sorry for us all. It’s a horrible disease.

I don’t know your personal reasons for keeping Fluffy alive, but I’m sure they are important to you. I’d love to hear the story of how Fluffy came into your life, and what she means to you. And yes, when you realize it’s time to free Fluffy from her suffering, I’ll be relieved for her, but I’ll also cry with you for your loss.

My illness has led me to be a more compassionate technician, and I’ve gotten quite comfortable discussing treatments and medications and diets with clients. I just need to remember what it looks like from the other side of the table, the client’s side.

Sincerely,

A Very Exhausted RVT

There I Said It

 


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