Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Isabella's been having a tough time the last few days (and consequently, so have I, dammit). I took her to the vet, practically a drive-by, to have blood drawn. In and out. No appointment necessary. No big deal. Or so I thought.

Then the next day she stopped eating and started looking all mopey. Now I admit it takes me a while to catch on, but I finally noticed the pattern: go to vet, cat gets sick. Three out of the last four times. I sort of assume that the stress makes her (as yet undiagnosed) chronic pancreatitis flare up. This time I didn't worry so much. As part of a conversation with the vet about how to possibly prevent this in the future I picked up a bag of fluids. A cat that won't eat can quickly become dehydrated, so it's a plus to have to fluids on hand just in case.

But I figured that she'd snap back quick and the fluid, tubing, and needles could stay tucked in the bag in the closet.

Wrong again. Four days later Isabella had still eaten very little despite the staggering array of options I put before her at every opportunity. She looked like crap. The bag of fluid sat untouched and I had to admit the truth: I was chicken. I knew she needed an infusion. I knew it was supposedly pretty straightforward. And in the name of all things holy, we know I've poked literally thousands of holes into that cat already. What was the big deal with one more?

The problem was this:

This 18 gauge harpoon is the tool I was given to get the fluids out of the bag and into the cat. Oh. My. God. I could not imagine poking that thing-- the size of a screwdriver for pity's sake -- through Isabella's skin and living to tell the tale. Much less getting her to sit quietly with it jammed between her shoulder blades for as long as it took for the fluid to infuse.

I repeat: Oh. My. God.

But I kept looking at my miserable cat and knew that I had something that would make her feel better close at hand. So I sucked up the courage and I did it. I set up the tubes and the fluids and harpoon. I arranged the cat. And I rammed that baby home. Isabella uttered a small squeal of protest, and then settled down and just waited. Didn't move, didn't cry, didn't even try to hurt me.

The fluid took about a minute, possibly the longest minute of my life, to flow in. When it was finally done. I pulled out the needle, so anxious to un-impale my cat that I forgot to turn off the fluid. The free needle sent a stream of lactated ringers across the walls, Isabella's back, and my front as I fumbled to find the squeezy valve. Isabella, naturally, tried to flee the deluge, and in my haste to get out of her way, I shoved the uncapped, very sharp, very thick needle into my thumb, adding blood into the mix of fluids flying about. Getting the fluid stopped at last, I yanked the needle off the tubing and sent it flying out of the bathroom and across the hall where it promptly disappeared. Nevermind that a minute ago it was a big as a fence spike, now that uncapped 18g needle was perfectly invisible.

Sigh. In the end, I think Isabella came out more unscathed than me. And I'm not looking forward to next time, even though I've now got some smaller needles.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Piece of cake

Today on the Feline Diabetes Message Board I commented that taking care of Isabella's diabetes is a piece of cake. That may come as a surprise to people who are new to the diabetes game. It can seem overwhelming at first. It was overwhelming at first, but now, after two years, I've got it down. It's part science, part art, part obsessive-compulsiveness, but you too can manage your kitties diabetes and have a life. A regular life. Really!

Here's how diabetes fits into my day:

6am: wake up! Feed cats (OK, I admit I don't like this part. I never get to sleep in, even on the weekends. That sorta sucks.)
6:30ish: test Isabella's blood glucose and give insulin. This takes maybe five minutes. Less if I get blood readily. There are still times that she just won't bleed in spite of poking her full of tiny holes. And yes, she sits there and lets me poke the holes.
7:00am: off to work for me, off to naps for the kits.
4:15pm: home from work and feed cats again. If I'm smart, I pee before I leave work because they get really cranky if I run to the bathroom before popping the lid off the cat food.
4:30pm: test Isabella's blood sugar. This test is really just to satisfy my curiosity.
6:30pm: test blood sugar and give insulin. This is the test that matters because it tells me that she's OK to get insulin - not too low in the sugar department.
9:00pm: one last meal for the cats. This is the one that lets me sleep all night without listening to whining. Brilliant!

That's it. No big deal at all. If I'm home I may test her more just to see what's happening, but it's not required. I can and do shift her shot times if I have to be somewhere, but for the most part she stays on an every-twelve-hours insulin schedule. When I travel, I hire a sitter to come twice a day to feed and give insulin. I've asked the sitter to keep the 12-hour schedule, but I honestly don't know if she does. I just try not to worry about little things like that because Isabella has always done fine when I've gone away.

I admit that I lost plenty of sleep at first. I admit that I used to wait until the stroke of 6:30 before giving insulin (what if I was 10 minutes early? Or late? Gasp!) And I know I'm lucky to have a pretty predictable schedule that allows for a tidy routine. Some people have more chaos to work around. But regardless, taking care of feline diabetes takes about ten minutes a day. It really is a piece of cake.