Thursday, August 28, 2008

Some Good News and Some Bad News

Just when I though things couldn't get any worse...they did. Things were looking up and I was finally able to turn off my hypervigilance long enough to make a new pair of hoop earrings.

Then I called Dr. Norwood's office to see whether he'd put in the referral to UGA and the other receptionist, Jocelyn got him to the phone. Dr. Norwood seemed unsure of himself when it came to talking to UGA about the need for Carmella to have this treatment and he wasn't sure whether they would be interested in a cure for Distemper, and maybe even less in trying it on one dog, even if it was going to save her life. The line between who does research and who does treatment in veterinary medicine is very fuzzy and nobody seems to be sure who is responsible for what. On one hand UGA might not do the treatment unless it already fell under a study they had planned, on the other, private practice vets won't do this because they consider it research. So where does that leave Carmella?

Dr. Norwood expressed frustration at "irresponsible owners" out there who don't spay and neuter their dogs and don't have them vaccinated, and when I said to him that even if most people did that then what are those who are currently infected supposed to do. They and the owners who are good owners should not be penalyzed for the actions of others, and the focus of vaccines and prevention left dogs like Carmella absolutely out in the cold. Also, I'm not so sure that the systemic/societal problem can be explained so simply as being due to "irresponsible dog owners", especially in this bad economy in which many are falling on hard times through no fault of their own. I wouldn't be surprised whether some dogs are not being vaccinated because their owners are in foreclosure or were laid off and they have to choose whether to pay vet bills or pay to move so they themselves don't become homeless and hungry. Whether the people who are not doing those things are irresponsible or not, the dogs did nothing to deserve being left up a creek without a paddle, and they deserve to be cured if they get sick.

As for Carmella, she could not be more loved or taken care of, and as much as I think it was wrong for the shelter I got her from to conceal that she was sick, the course of events did result in getting her a good owner and me, a great dog! I don't know if there are very many people who would go through this with her and had she ended up with someone else she may have been killed the first week as soon as they realized there was something more serious than kennel cough wrong with her. I have always believed that my finding her was divinely guided and that things happened to bring us together at just the right time.

Dr. Norwood related that it was a tough week and that three people had dropped dogs off on his office doorstep which he took home with him for lack of any other place to put them. He was going to try to find homes for them through the office first, and he'd found a home for one little poodle already, but the other two were going to be less desireable and a harder sell. He said that on occasion he had to take dogs to "animal control", that many times the no-kill shelters were full and would not take even one more.

While we were talking about the under-reporting/diagnosing of Distemper he made the statement that "animal control has its place". I disagree with that and I think it is a barbaric way for humans to deal with animals they don't know what to do with, and the killing of such animals for our convenience as a species is the ultimate in irresponsibility. Furthermore, I don't like when shelters refer to that as euthanasia because in reality it's not, and it implies that we humans are doing it to "put them out of their misery", when often the real misery is in the reality that nobody wants them and they are disposed of like heaps of garbage, nobody caring that they have feelings, that they breathe, eat, and drink, and they can love. Many dogs are put to death that are salvageable, either with nothing wrong with them or something that can be fixed. Imagine if every time we got a cold or the flu, or cancer (God forbid) the determination was made to kill us because it was costing too much in resources or nobody wanted to give us medical care. If that were legislated into law for humans you can imagine the public outrage that would ensue, the letter-writing, the demonstrations, even riots!

Carmella is stuck in a no-man's land and I told Dr. Norwood that waiting for each vet to make up his mind while she has to have "supportive care" in the meantime to maintain her "living with" the disease is more costly than if they'd have just treated her when I first asked them to. He said that most private practice vets were "bleeding hearts" and could not live with their conscience if something went wrong. He thought that was even more of a factor than their fear of liability. That just doesn't hold water because if most vets in private practice were that paralyzed from taking any action that could result in a dog's accidental death or injury then why don't they take the same position each time they are asked to do surgery? Every time an animal is put under general anesthesia he/she could die, and he/she could die from the procedure itself, or suffer complications, say for instance open heart surgery, traumatic injuries to internal organs that must be repaired, and a number of other medical procedures.

To me the risk/benefit analysis in this instant is a no-brainer: If they treat her Central Nervous System there is some risk involved, but if they don't they can almost guarantee with 100% accuracy that she will get worse, and eventually die of it. If something happened (and I sure hope it won't), but if it did, then at least they would not have sat around waiting for her to die because they didn't even try to save her. Doing nothing to save her is definitely worse. How could Doctor do-nothing vets like the ones who are able to do this procedure but merely chose/choose not to (and they know who they are) have a clear conscience just because they can say they did nothing to "actively" cause her death or possible harm. That is a rationalization if I ever saw one! Just a trick of the mind, a re-write of morality of sorts. It is no better than to wittness a car accident and to stand there not calling 911 while a man or woman bleeds to death, or even more to the point, if the wittness was a doctor and failed to do CPR or provide help that he had the knowledge and skill to provide in an emergency.

It is the same type of mind-set that allows women to be beaten by their abusive and violent husbands, children to be molested and raped, and allows corrupt judges and government officials to just keep on breaking the law with no consequences ever applied to them. Once we become a society built on excuses and expending more energy on new and creative ways to avoid doing, rather than on ways to do the most we can do to make the world a better place, we lose our humane-ness and our humanity completely.

Carmella's neurological disease-progression is like an evil weed that won't stay hidden from view and it dawned on Dr. Norwood as we were on the phone that this "every vet for himself", passing the buck stuff could not continue or it would be Carmella (and me) who would pay the price. As much as he blanched at the thought of approaching UGA or having to take a strong stand in the face of an industry that just didn't want to hear it, buck up he must. There is an emergency brewing and this could be put off no longer. Gone were the days that he could console himself with the thought that "maybe" she wouldn't get worse. He asked whether Dr. Sears could talk to UGA because he himself didn't know anybody there and he theorized that they wouldn't listen to his opinion because he was not as familiar with the biochemistry as Dr. Sears is, and is certainly no expert. He seemed to worry that he wouldn't come across as if he knew his stuff when faced with these board certified neuro vets from a school like UGA.

Then he said that maybe he could think of somebody at Tuskegee, his Alma Mator, then once she was treated and showing signs of recovery her case could be presented as the impetus for some of these vet schools to do clinical trials on this cure.

I came away from the conversation with renewed hope that maybe finally something would work out in the end.

Then soon after, I found out that I don't have a way to get there. I thought how ironic it would be if the one person who would and could do this injection turned out to be a vet at Tuskegee and then of all F'ing things I had no way to get there. Bear in mind that because of a disability I can no longer drive. I had to stop years ago because I was having accidents, each more serious than the one before. Greyhound does not allow dogs, and from what I've been able to deduce the closest airport is 42.3 miles away (Montgomery Dannelly Fld Airport) and it's a small one, not even on most of the airfare sites, so even so, it looks as if one would have to access at least 42.3 miles by car any way you slice it. I was able to find the nearest hotel (only a little more than a mile from the University), and by today's standards it's not bad, but it's still not cheap! So if that is where Carmella's answer lies it's going to take alot more money, and then someone who could pick me and possibly a friend up at the airport. I was shocked to find that the lowers faires were over $500 for what amounts to about an hour-long airplane ride. It's not like we'd be traceling to California! That is almost a month's income for me when I'm not making any sales.

I went online to see if there were any organizations that might be able to help and did find a few that say they help with vet expenses but I don't know if that applies also to getting there for specific treatment or just covers the treatment itself. That is what I'll be working on tomorrow. Then Carmella goes to see Dr. Norwood at 4:30 so that he can document her worsened condition. Hopefully by then we will find out if he's had any luck with any of the vets at Tuskegee. If that's a no-go, then we can go back to persuing UGA although he wasn't sure if they'd be interested since he has never gotten a call for research subjects on anything to do with Distemper. He just may need to talk to Dr. Sears again and take notes that he can use when he talks to the referral coordinator. This is one of those "feel the fear and do it anyway" situations. I've been doing that all along. Now it's some other people's turns.

If you would like to do something to help Carmella please take a look at my Etsy store, make a purchase and help save a dog.


blackfeatherfarm said...

Hi, are you certain that Carmella has distemper? I am sure you have read up on it, but distemper runs its course in about 3 weeks and either the dog survives, with permanent immunity or dies. There are other symptoms as well. I was just wondering, is she a rare case somehow? Maybe I am confused, but let me know.

Giftbearer said...

Hi Tracey,

Yes, she definitely has it, and nothing I've read says it runs its course in 3 weeks. Parvo has a much shorter course and dogs often die in 3 days depending on which strain, but not distemper. The virus on surfaces like the floor, blankets, etc. does remain infectious for 3 weeks after a dog has been in the environment, and bleach will kill it in the environment. No other disease but distemper has pad deterioration. My vet knew for sure when Carmella started showing those symptoms, along with antibody tests.

There are some dogs that do live past a few weeks but it is thought never to go away, and is considered progressive.

What does make Carmella a rare case is that very few dogs get treated with NDV to be able to see this kind of improvement. She may have already been dead by now had I not found it when I did because she was systemically infected and going downhill fast. Most owners don't have the stamina to search or even know where to look to find out what to do. Generally vets give "supportive care" or they kill the dog. It took quite alot of digging for me to find this, and I've spent hours reading research papers about what has been studied about the disease.

The CDC lists 13 different strains of Distemper. Each one has a slightly different way of acting in the body and in the brain. Some strains are fast-progressing and others are slower-progressing.

fluffnflowers said...

Many healthy thoughts for you and your new baby. I can't imagine how heartbreaking it has been for you to find a great dog and have to be concerned with her illness. If you're willing to drive down to middle Georgia, I could possibly recommend a vet who's willing to do some 'experimentation', if you can't find anyone else to give something a try. Just email me and I'd be happy to send you that rec, if you're interested.

I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for your beast! She looks like a beautiful animal.

Giftbearer said...

Hi Fluffnflowers,

Bless you! I sent you a convo on Etsy.

jill Q said...

Hi Tracey,
What a generous & sweet gesture to donate the proceeds from a necklace to help Carmella! Would love it if you'd post a photo link when it's complete.

I've also learned quite a bit about distemper, and Carmella's pad deterioration confirms the diagnosis 100%.

This disease never really runs its course - it often goes into hiding, and the pet owner is lulled into a false hope that all is well, but the virus is always there waiting . . .

In one specific instance, even the amazing Dr. Sears's innovative treatment couldn't help a dog once the virus showed up again almost eight years later, in what's called Old Dog Encephalitis, which is end-stage neuro symptoms. By that time it was too late.

Dogs that survive never have immunity, and it has not really gone away. Unfortunately, that misinformation can prevent people from getting the help that is needed for their dogs.

I commend Pippit for all the time, energy and love she's put into educating herself about this disease. And especially for the funds she's put forth in saving Carmella. She's a beauty, Pippit!