Monday, August 25, 2008

Strike Two! Still Waiting...

I gave it till around 3:00 pm today before checking my e-mail to see whether there was any word from the Board Certified female neuro vet located in Sandy Springs. Nothing, so I decided to call her. Surprisingly she herself picked up the phone. Hoping this was a good sign I proceeded to introduce myself and ask if she'd received my e-mail and she said,

"Yes, you're the one who wants the injection in the dog's CNS."

"Can you do it?"

"No, I couldn't" she said through what sounded like a heavy Asian accent of some kind. "I would have to see studies, or citations or something."

"He's tried and tried to publish, but they won't let him in", I said. "You can talk to him yourself. I have his number and e-mail address."

"That is not sufficient" she remarked blithely, as if blowing away a puff of smoke from a cigarette.

Was is really that easy to just turn one's back and walk away? Apparently for her it was all in a day's work. Right away I sensed she'd go home tonight and not miss a moment of sleep over Carmella, and then came that big cop-out, that ever-familiar, convenient rationalization.

"Dogs don't always progress. She might not? Maybe." It was more of a question than a statement, a futil and impotent attempt to veil her own inadequacy.

"Well she already has started to. This morning I took her out and the jerking was happening this time as she was standing on her leg. That didn't happen before, and this time it was pretty major. She had to lift up her paw several times."

Almost immediately, the vet started talking over me as if she believed if she drowned out the truth with her own voice that somehow absolved her of her guilt. Like a baby hiding behind a blanket, she told herself that the problem didn't exist because she didn't see it.

"You can bring her in, but I can't do it. It would be unethical." Bring her in and do what? I thought. Give her Phenobarbital to mask the problem, give her a valium to relax her while she slowly deteriorates and dies? So that you can lie to yourself and pretend you're helping her? So that you can charge me another $75.00 for an office visit just to refuse in-person what you have over the phone and deny her the one thing that will kill the virus and save her life? Hell no! I thought, enraged at the ludicrousy of the moment. "Unethical" my ruby red one! You want to know what's unethical? Unethical is when you have the training and the skills to save a life but you choose not to. Unethical is letting a dog twist in the wind while a deadly virus slowly shuts down every brain function one-by-one, stripping her myelin from each nerve like the shucking of the outer covering of a bundle of telephone wires with a wire-cutter! Unethical is letting fear for your own ass decide how you practice medicine instead of compassion for a living thing!

"How is that unethical? I have pictures of her improvement from the first shot already?"

"She's not even my patient".

You're right, I thought, and she won't ever be either with that attitude.

"You should really have a University work with her, not a private practice vet. There's a vet at UGA who knows alot about Distemper, not Marc Kent, not Platt..."

I looked at my list of Board Certified neuro vets. "Dr. Scott Schatzberg?"

"Yes, that's it, Schatzberg. Ask him. He should know whether the treatment you are seeking has any merit."

Her statement left me cold. I didn't need someone to tell me whether it has merit. I've seen it! So I'm expected to leave my brain and all my senses at the door? Obviously if it's never been published it's less likely he would have heard about it unless he'd heard by word of mouth.

Soon we got off the phone after she wished me "good luck" with my dog, and suddenly I was crying. Yea right, I thought. Good luck. The expression had a sardonic sound to it. Knowing that good luck is really what people do and does not just magically appear I was not about to fall for that one. It has routinely become what people say these days from afar when they risk nothing and don't get involved. Notice that a husband accompanying his wife to the hospital and just before surgery doesn't say "Good luck". The reason for that is that he is going to know what she knows as it happens, with her every step of the way. Short of accompanying her inside the OR he is going to be there, taking on the problem by her side. In all likelihood he will be the first person she sees in the recovery room after the medical personnel.

As soon as I regained my composure I put in a call to Dr. Schatzberg. I tried several times and got just an answering machine and the name on it sounded like it said Dr. Nonn, not Schatzberg, so I wondered if he might be on vacation and that another doctor might be covering for him.

Then I sent off an e-mail. There seemed to be two lines and first I tried it with just what was on the first line and got no "undeliverable" messages back, but when I tried it with both lines it did come back as "undeliverable" so I'm still not sure whether he got either of them. I will call again tomorrow.

Here is a re-print of my e-mail below:


Dear Dr. Schatzberg,

I adopted a puppy from an animal shelter that I named Carmella, and she turned out to have Distemper. I looked far and wide to find out the best treatment available and came across Dr. Alson Sears’ protocol using Newcastle Disease Virus Vaccine (the LaSota strain) off-label, which is as far as I know the only thing that has really eradicated the virus successfully in dogs. My regular vet tried it on her (an IV to treat the virus in the body) and it worked quite well. When she was first diagnosed they didn’t know if she’d even make it through the weekend, but the treatment really brought her back! The only problem is that she also needs to have it injected into the spinal area, the Foramen Magnum, because it does not cross the blood-brain barrier when injected in the body. Her Central Nervous System is still infected, and although she is dramatically better in every other way, her neuro symptoms are gradually getting worse. My vet has never done a spinal tap before, so although he would do it if he had the skills he does not feel qualified. I have had a hard time finding a vet who is both qualified and willing to do this, and it appears that there are only two board certified neuro vets in Atlanta (and about 4 listed in Athens).

It is a real shame that the medical journals up till now have refused publishing Dr. Sears’ papers on this discovery, and I really think an academic institution should step in and do clinical trials on this treatment and begin to document and publish findings on its effectiveness. As of yet I have not been able to find anybody but Dr. Sears even attempting to look for a cure for distemper. I looked through PubMed the other night for several hours and although there are studies that circumstantially hint that this could work, most of the studies are aimed at testing better vaccines to prevent; not cure the disease. Somebody should be very interested in this, as I have pictures showing that after the initial shot by IV Carmella’s pads completely healed within just about 2 weeks after injection with NDV. This bird-based vaccine, mostly used in the poultry industry is manufactured by Merial right here in Georgia, and Dr. Sears has a formula that is a dog-based serum which he has given people permission to post online and to use to treat infected dogs. One vet I have spoken with tells me that he knows a vet in Alabama who uses the dog-based serum regularly in the body and reports great results with it. This is good, but these dogs need vets who are willing to test and treat in the Central Nervous System as well, and the most likely candidates to take on this challenge are neuro vets with an interest in research.

Maybe Merial would fund a study if you put in an application. It’s something to seriously consider. They seem to have done a fair amount on Distemper and may be very interested if their product could be proven to kill the virus; not just be used as a vaccine to prevent it. It might be worth testing both the NDV and dog-based formula. Publishing something would remove it from the virtual no-man’s land it currently sits in, and could be of great benefit to science and to Veterinary Medicine, not to mention having the potential to make a significant dent in the epidemics in shelters which probably cost billions of dollars nationwide.

It seems that given Carmella’s success with the first injection that as long as she gets this early enough she should have a good prognosis with the spinal injection as well. If ever there was a good candidate for a successful outcome it is her. Her secondary pneumonia is almost gone after several weeks of antibiotics (2 weeks of that with Azithromyacin), and she is otherwise healthy. Her weight is back up, and she is eating and drinking well. She has boundless energy, (unlike before the first shot when she was lethargic). She should be able to withstand anesthesia. I don’t want to wait until the symptoms are too extreme because then it might be too late to prevent permanent damage from the Distemper virus.

Currently she has mild to moderate chorea in the right front leg and sometimes shoulder which happens intermittently. So far it has not affected her activity overall and happens mostly when she’s at rest. In addition she has an occasional moment of clumsiness, but so far no seizures or overt paralysis. Even so, over the past day or so I’ve noticed a gradual worsening and this morning her right front leg was jerking perceptibly even while she was standing on it while I took her out for a walk and she had to lift her paw on a few occasions. (Some of the vets I’ve spoken with in recent weeks took the position that “maybe” it won’t progress but I think that ship has already sailed).

I hope you can help her, as I’ve run out of people to ask in the Atlanta area and I don’t know how much time we have before she gets even worse. She is a beautiful, loving dog and I want to do everything I can to save her.

If you’d like to speak with Dr. Sears to find out more about this treatment he developed I have two phone numbers for him and an e-mail address; (phone numbers removed from public view), and e-mail:
He and I have been in contact for a few weeks now. He is willing to speak with any vet I work with on this.

Please contact me as soon as possible. It would be a big load off my mind if you will do this. Carmella deserves this chance. She is a very special dog, and not only to me. When you meet her in person you will know what I mean.


Pippit Carlington

Buy exquisite art jewelry and save a dog! You can help Carmella by shopping in my Etsy store. Proceeds are going to pay her medical expenses. If I have to go to UGA for her to receive treatment that will likely be an added expense on top of what it is already , so your purchase is greatly appreciated at this time.


T.Allen-Mercado said...

With each post I share in your frustration-it seems criminal, heinous even that these veterinarians are unwilling to take on a challenge to save Carmella. Honestly, I'm shocked that they are able, under oath as well as ethically to refuse treatment. It baffles me.

Giftbearer said...

Yes, it's ironic how they can say it's unethical to treat but they think it's ethical to knowingly allow an animal to get worse. That should be considered clear-cut negligence!

What's worse, is that if they know how to do a spinal tap safely they can do this because they use the same needle once it's placed to inject the NDV. For a neuro vet who has probably done hundreds of spinal taps in his/her career it's not hard.

TheresaJ said...

My heart goes out to you and Carmella. She is a beautiful dog and it breaks my heart. My little Chihoo became ill this last week and we also spent a bit of time (and money) at the vet. She is not 100% yet, but we're working on it and hoping for the best. No tests were done as we are treating symptoms conservatively first, hoping she gets better and we don't have to go down the testing path.

Your letter was very well written and informative. I hope you get the response you're hoping for.

My thoughts are with both of you.

Giftbearer said...

Thanks, Theresa. I hope yours gets better too. :-)

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