Friday, June 6, 2014

Charlotte update

The last 24 hours has been such a whirlwind of challenges and decisions, I had to go back and read yesterday's blog post before writing this one because I didn't remember where I had left off. Charlotte is still at U of I and still alive for now, but they don't know what is wrong with her. They are giving her drugs that are supposed to help her blood clot -- both modern medicine and Chinese medicine.

After I posted yesterday's message, they completed two transfusions. The first one brought her PCV (packed cell volume) from 15 to 22, and the second transfusion brought it from 22 to 33. They thought that she would be in good shape at least until morning, but I got a phone call shortly before 10 p.m. with the news that her PCV had already dropped back down to 25! They felt that she must be hemorrhaging badly and said that if her PCV continued to drop that fast, she would be dead very soon. They asked for permission to do surgery immediately. I asked for a few minutes to discuss it with my family before deciding.

I called Katherine my daughter who had raised Charlotte and who had spent the whole day with her at the clinic. When I asked if we should go forward with the surgery, she simply replied, "It's Charlotte."

"Yeah, that says a lot, doesn't it," I replied.

And then Katherine offered to help pay the vet bills, which had already climbed to more than $750 and would completely eclipse $1000 with surgery. How could I say "no" at that point? I called the vet back and said to do the surgery. It seemed likely that Charlotte would need more blood, so in the dark of night, we went out into the pasture to find our two largest goats who would be the donors. Mike and Jonathan were lifting goats, and when Jonathan offered me one, I was about to take it until Mike yelled, reminding me that because of my gall bladder surgery I'm not supposed to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for two weeks. Jonathan headed down to the clinic with Cowboy and Etta in a dog crate on the back of the pickup, arriving shortly after midnight.

Katherine headed back to the vet hospital from her home in Urbana and sat in the waiting room until past 1 a.m. when they finished the surgery.

The verdict: nothing. They looked everywhere and could find nothing bleeding internally. The vet explained there are only three reasons for such a low PCV:
   1) blood is being lost
   2) red blood cells are being destroyed by the body, which can occur during an infection
   3) the body is not making red blood cells

Since they found nothing bleeding, #2 sounds like a viable option because Charlotte does have a raging infection that required IV antibiotics to treat. However, because her PCV was falling so rapidly, if her body was destroying red blood cells, the vet said that he would also expect her to be terribly jaundiced, which she is not.

Having just endured abdominal surgery myself, I was feeling really guilty for having put Charlotte through that for absolutely no good reason. Of course, I had to remind myself that had we not agreed to surgery and she died, I would have felt even more guilty. I feel like I am in a no-win situation right now. And I am in good company because the vets have no idea what is happening either. They can simply watch her symptoms and keep treating them as they occur.

The really strange thing is that her PCV actually stabilized after the surgery and sat at 24 from last night until this afternoon when it started to drop again. It is now down to 20. If it gets down to 17, they will do another transfusion using the blood from one of our goats.

Someone on Facebook suggested that this might be caused by something as simple as intestinal worms, but they did a fecal and said that there is no way that her worm load could possible explain the dramatic drop in PCV she has been experiencing.

I should have been taking notes when the vet called because she was sharing so much information. She went over all of the different blood work, basically saying, "if x, then y" such as the number of immature white blood cells is decreasing and the mature number is increasing, which means she is losing less blood than yesterday. They might think that she had a bleeding ulcer except that they would expect her appetite to be non-existent, and she does eat fairly well, although not as much as normal. Still, they are treating her with an ulcer drug (a gastro protectant), just in case. They ruled out so many possible causes, it was mind boggling.

Katherine will be heading back to the clinic first thing in the morning. The staff and students said that Charlotte's demeanor obviously brightens when she is there. And Katherine said that Charlotte seems to be the students' favorite patient at the moment. Everyone talks about how sweet she is. While Katherine is there, she milks her and she reads to her just as she did seven years ago when Charlotte was a baby living in Katherine's bedroom. When she reads to her, Katherine said that Charlotte lays her head on her lap and falls asleep. What does one read to a goat? Maureen Johnson's novel, The Madness Underneath: Book 2 on Kindle.

So, we just continue to wait ...

1 comment:

Spinners End Farm said...

It is so hard to put a price on our dear friends. It sounds like a beautiful bond Katherine and Charlotte have. Fingers crossed fervently here.

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