We knew the day would come when we would need to have Thomas neutered, so I started the dialogue with my local vet when Thomas was getting his booster shots. I asked a number of questions. We set a date for this past Friday, January 18th.
Now and then during the time leading up to the procedure, I would think to myself or say to John as I watched Thomas play with such innocence and abandon, how unfortunate it is in a way that we must put animals in harms way through this surgery to do what must done to prevent more litters and diseases in cats. The procedure to spay is actually more invasive but the point here is that there are risks with anesthesia. I wondered if this event would change Thomas' personality. Would he gain a lot of weight. I did a little research online to inform myself and found that personality changes and weight gain are not the result of neutering or spaying, but that neutering can help to reduce a cat's aggressiveness and protect him from disease.
Fast forward to this past week. I called the vet clinic and spoke to the receptionist to confirm the appointment, but I also took the opportunity to ask a couple of questions. Would the vet be placing Thomas on an IV of saline for hydration? How late can I give food to Thomas the night before? No hydration would be needed if the cat is healthy was the response. No food after midnight. In the back of my mind was a small knawing doubt. I had sufficient confidence in my vet however, that everything was going to go well ... But still I worried.
Friday morning I was up bright and early to feed the other two cats. I kept Thomas in our bedroom while Max and Maggie had their breakfast. I went out and turned on the car so it could warm up and went to get a comforter for the ride to the clinic. At 8:30am, Thomas and I were on our way.
I got to the vet clinic for 9:00am and brought Thomas right in. The receptionist went and readied a cage for him. She lined the cage with a cumfy afghan and when I placed Thomas in the cage, he proceeded to go and make himself comfortable and nestled right in. I was pleased that he seemed very calm and seemed to be looking at me as if to say, "its okay Mum, I will be fine". "You can probably leave now". I signed some papers and spoke with the receptionist one last time. She said Thomas should be done by 10:00am. I asked her to call me around 11:00 if she is able, to let me know that everything went okay.
When I got back home it was my vet who called to say that Thomas came through the procedure very well and is currently 'sleeping it off'. I was happy and relieved. We talked about when I could come and she suggested anytime after 3pm. I started out for the clinic and arrived there just at 3pm, excited to see Thomas although I knew he would still be quite groggy. The receptionist greeted me and I asked how our patient is doing. I think she said fine but seemed preoccupied. She said she would go and get the vet. I didn't think anything of this.
My vet came out and said that she had called me again and left a message, but I must have left. And then she dropped a bomb .. "Thomas has had a reaction to the drug". What! Really? Oh, No!, I heard myself say. I followed her into the room and there was Thomas, very sedated and motionless. I tried to remain calm while I got my head around this. My vet proceeded to explain that when she checked in on Thomas at one point, she found his temperature had shot up to 45 (normal is 38), and his respiration had become very erratic. The anesthetic used was Ketamine with something else, which is generally safe but can produce respiratory distress as one side effect, in some animals. My vet immediately put Thomas on oxygen and gave him something to counteract or flush out the drug. They worked on him to get the fever down and when I arrived they said his fever had since come down to 39. I felt so bad for Thomas and annoyed that this could happen because of a drug that is supposed to remove pain and suffering during procedures. I understood now the knawing doubt I felt that something like this could and did happen. All of the joy that I felt earlier was now replaced with fear and uncertainty that Thomas might not make it. The vet suggested that he could die, but also said he is doing much better than he was moments ago.
My vet and I continued talking with me asking several questions. Why and how does this happen, symptoms, and where do we go from here? My vet suggested again that Thomas should stay overnight, but when I asked if someone would be there overnight, the response was no. I then said that no, I could not allow that for two reasons. If Thomas has another reaction, who would be there to save him? The vet said I could take him home and I said yes, this would be best as I have the number for emergency vets and hopefully someone is available to come at once. In addition, should Thomas take a turn for the worst and not survive, I would sooner he die at home than in a strange place. I asked for more details as to what I would be looking for in the next 12 hours. We went through the signs and then the vet got Thomas ready to leave with me. I was worried about the car ride home and what the next hours would bring. We started off but soon into the ride home, I saw Thomas wriggling out of the comforter and at one point proceeded to move to the back seat of the car. I thought, this is a good sign. Thomas was exhausted that night (despite his attempts to try and climb the stairs in our home) and slept with me the whole night. Before turning in I gave him a lick of food and some water which he seemed to relish. The next day he was absolutely famished. A sure sign that he was back to his old self was in seeing him trying to engage Max in some cat sumo? Amazing.
I cannot begin to describe the feeling of relief at seeing not only that Thomas has survived this ordeal but that it doesn't seem to have changed him one bit. Time will tell. A lessen for me in all of this is to be that much more diligent in placing greater emphasis on conversations with my vets about drugs that are to be used on my animals. Getting some blood work done on Thomas to see if he has any issues with his vital organs, to see if there is something that can contribute to his reacting to some drugs, to prevent this from happening again.