Thursday, June 5, 2014
As I begin this blog post, I have no idea whether Charlotte will be alive or dead by the time I finish. The last couple days have been so long and blurry, I wasn't sure what day it was today.
Charlotte was having wimpy contractions starting around noon on Monday. She'd make a little, "meh, meh," every few minutes. Kat, Katy, and I sat out there with her eating our lunch, assuming she would kid fairly soon. She is a Sherri daughter, and these does always have short, easy labors. My biggest complaint about them is that it is impossible to get to the barn before a kid is born once you've heard one of these does let out a real scream. That is really a problem in the dead of winter when the risk of frostbite is a threat. Shortly before 2:00 I decided to head back inside and take a nap because I am still recovering from gall bladder surgery. To my surprise, I slept more than three hours. Then everyone was busy with evening chores and dinner.
At 9:00 I told Kat I wanted her to check Charlotte internally because I was worried that the wimpy contractions meant that there was a kid that was simply not properly engaged in the cervix. Maybe a kid was trying to come out sideways? When Kat checked her, she said that her cervix was closed like a Cheerio, which seemed impossible. It was obvious that Charlotte was getting tired. Wimpy contractions can be a sign of hypocalcemia, so I gave her an oral calcium drench, and she had a few strong contractions. Half an hour later, her cervix was open a couple centimeters, and Kat felt a spine and ribs. Obviously the kid could not be born ribs first, but there was nothing we could do to change the situation because the cervix was barely open. So, we waited.
Half an hour later, Kat checked again, and there had been no change in the cervix. If Charlotte had not looked so exhausted, it would have been easy for me to say that we should just wait patiently a little longer. But that was no the case. I told Kat how to manually dilate the cervix, which she tried for about 20 minutes to no avail. Still no change. I called the University of Illinois vet clinic at that point and told them we would be bringing her in. A c-section seemed the only answer.
We arrived at U of I shortly after midnight. Although it did not look like Charlotte was having contractions on the drive, she was fully dilated! She was not even pushing though. She was so tired, she had simply given up. The vet pulled out four bucklings -- three very healthy ones and one that needed a lot of help, but he eventually came around.
Once the three healthy kids had nursed and the other one had been tube fed some of Charlotte's colostrum, the vet said we could go, although I was skeptical. Charlotte's demeanor reminded me too much of Coco last year before she died. The vet was familiar with Coco's story, and she said that she really felt that Charlotte was just tired from such a long labor.
We drove home and arrived just as the sky was starting to lighten shortly before 5 a.m. Charlotte had never stood up on the two-hour drive, so we knew the kids needed more to eat because they can only nurse when mama stands up. Charlotte was ignoring her kids most of the time, so we decided to bring them into the house and put her in the barn and milk her out. After so much work, we didn't want to risk losing the kids to something as simple and avoidable as starvation. We fed the kids with syringes, dripping the colostrum into their mouths, making sure to get at least one ounce into each kid.
A few hours later, after everyone had a few hours of sleep, they took the kids out to be with Charlotte. We had given her another dose of oral calcium in the afternoon because I was still concerned about the possibility of hypocalcemia. Very high-producing does tend to be more prone to that, and it was the only reason I could imagine that she did not have strong contractions during her labor. However, it seemed as if everything was going to be fine.
Mike and Katy weighed the kids first thing in the morning, and they had each gained about three ounces, except for the one that had had difficulty at birth, and he gained only an ounce. Charlotte, however, was very lethargic. Everyone noticed that she was spending very little time standing, and she was not eating more than a few bites of grain before ignoring it, which is definitely not typical goat behavior. I had explained to Katy that if a goat ever refuses grain, it means something is wrong, so she let me know right away.
Because I am still recovering from gall bladder surgery and I still have a swollen knee, I asked Kat and Katy to check Charlotte's temperature. It was 101, which is too low for a goat and a symptom of hypocalcemia, so I told them to give her another dose of calcium and that I wanted to check her temperature again in a couple of hours. Two hours later, there had been no change. I remembered three years ago when Viola had classic symptoms of hypocalcemia but did not respond to treatment and then died from an infection. I had been kicking myself for not realizing sooner that the problem was bigger than a calcium deficiency, so I called U of I. The vet suggested that we bring her in.
Feeling that my middle-of-the-night trip to U of I had probably already set back my surgery recovery, I asked Kat to take her down there, which she did. One of the great things about U of I is the availability of diagnostic equipment and a lab that can help you get a diagnosis very quickly. Within a couple of hours they had determined that Charlotte had a raging infection, in addition to the hypocalcemia, so they started her on IV antibiotics and calcium.
We brought her baby bucks into the house and started bottlefeeding them. I went to bed Wednesday night thinking that everything was going to be fine.
Shortly before noon today I received a phone call from the vet at U of I. She said that Charlotte's hematocrit was falling dangerously fast. Without a blood transfusion, and if the bleeding continued, Charlotte would be dead in about seven hours. She asked for permission to do a blood transfusion and then surgery, if necessary. I could feel a lump forming in my throat, and I struggled to continue speaking normally. Yes, do the transfusion. Yes, do the surgery.
Kat just graduated from U of I, so she still has a house down there and is with Charlotte as I type. She is giving me updates regularly, which is helpful. At this moment, they are working on getting blood from two donor goats, as they don't have goat blood sitting in storage.
In the past few days, and especially in the past few hours, my brain and emotions have run the gamut from denial -- "Stop being so dramatic, she's not going to die!" -- to fatalistic -- "This is just how life is now."
I don't know what the next few hours will bring. Maybe everything won't be fine with Charlotte. Maybe she will recover. Life is just so painful right now, both emotionally and physically. After so many deaths last year and so much illness this year, I keep saying that it all has to end soon; right? But then I look at how many times I've said that and how everything just keeps getting heaped on me, and I know that there is no three strikes rule or five strikes rule or any such thing in real life. You just have to keep playing the hand that you are dealt, regardless of how unfair it seems at the time.