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Posts Tagged ‘pupdate’

On Adulthood, and Varied Shades of Morality

After spending months of horror in the hospital to treat cancer, my grandmother instituted a Do Not Resuscitate order. She had endured 80-something years on earth and survived the Nazi occupation of France, but after a hip replacement and cancer treatment, she’d be damned if she spent more time in the bloody hospital. She said she was tired, and she was done.

When she went into septic shock and coded at the hospital from an infection that had spread from her hip replacement into the rest of her body, the relative who brought her into the hospital panicked and insisted they resuscitate her. While that got my grandmother’s heart beating again, she did not regain consciousness. When the rest of the family arrived, distraught over my grandmother’s wishes not being followed, they endured a terrible couple of days of deliberations related to her care. Should they honor her wishes and let her die, even though she had been resuscitated  against her explicit order? Or should they continue care and put my 80-something grandmother into the exact situation she had nightmares about – six months to a year of treatments and rehab in the hospital to replace both her hips again and pump her full of antibiotics to clear the infection?

By all counts, it was a bitter conversation. My grandmother had five children, and they all had an opinion. In the end, it was decided that they would honor her preference and let her pass on instead of trying to extend her life against her wishes.

While I sat in the surgery room with my dog Drake yesterday with my spouse, giving the OK to end my dog’s care after eight long months of struggle against an antibiotic-resistant staph infection, I admit I thought of my grandmother. You hear a lot that care for animals and people is different. People have souls, or people are smarter, or people are people, and animals are animals, but I have heard that refrain before, and it’s generally from people who are trying to Other someone so they can feel better about their awful treatment. How many foreign cultures call those of other countries or races animals to justify what they do to them? We don’t like giving sentience to things that we want to murder, abuse, or eat.

So I thought of my grandmother, in part because Drake was also suffering from a horrific case of sepsis after the worst of his antibiotics had eaten its way through his stomach and lower GI tract, causing terrible lesions that were leaking fluid from his gut into the rest of his body. It was a horrible way to be living. But it was either try that or let the infection that had migrated into his spine slowly eat him from the inside out.

No matter what we did, he was being chewed up; devoured. The devourer had won, and I despised myself and the world for that.

Being an adult means making adult decisions. Decisions that have no clear line of right/wrong. The morality is muddied. In the case of my dog, my spouse and I were his caretakers, and he trusted us absolutely to make the right decisions for him. He endured months of treatment because he trusted that we were doing right by him. I have never met anyone more trusting except a very young child. Maybe it was that part that made it so difficult. While there are many dogs who retain their wild doggyness, for lack of a better word, Drake was fully socialized. He wanted nothing more than to please us. All we had to do was raise our voices, and he would cease whatever he was doing. Even his last day alive, he struggled hard to get up and relieve himself outside as he sagged in his harness, because that’s what we wanted of him. It broke my heart.

As I type this, the other side of my family is currently moving my dying grandfather into an assisted living facility. He’s become increasingly deranged and a danger to himself and others. Someone has to make the choice. Someone has to drawn the line.

Being that adult is awful.

I have had to make my own gray moral choices many times before. I’m thirty-six, and I did not get this far by being perfect. There are things that make it easier, of course. We use all kinds of logic to justify our choices. One would think that having more choices would make us happy, but in fact, when you’re an adult and you have more choices, it just makes you miserable. You will always doubt. You will always wonder. Was it really a gray choice or did I just not recognize the right choice from the wrong one? Why wasn’t it obvious? There have been studies done of parents who received this awful choice: your daughter is born prematurely, but has a 90% chance of dying within a few months from organ failure. Do you continue care? Parents in places like France, where the doctor previously would make the choice, felt awful in the short term but better in the long term, because they didn’t have to live with the choice. In the U.S., parents who were presented the choices as if they had equal chances of success felt the absolute worst in the moment and in the long run. Those who fared best, long-term, were the ones who were told the choices and then given the doctor’s recommendation. Being overwhelmed by adult choices doesn’t make us feel better, but worse. Sometimes it makes us feel so bad that in cases where we don’t need to make a choice at all – like buying jam – we choose to do nothing instead of make a choice, fearing that whatever choice we make will be wrong.

But in big life decisions, there are very rarely do-overs. There are very rarely instances where you don’t make a choice. Choosing a new job opportunity is making a choice between the unknown and the status quo. Choosing to finish a novel is choosing between having a novel and the status quo. We are constantly choosing, as adults: the status quo, or the unknown? And then these, the worst choices, the gray choices, which are not always life or death, because eventually every one of our choices leads to that ultimate end, to death. Instead these choices are to continue care in the hopes of extending life, or ending care and letting the inevitable come a little sooner.

Gray choices. Hard choices. Shitty choices. Adult choices.

Folks often wonder why I write such gray, conflicted characters who have impossible choices. But the truth is that being an adult is full of impossible choices. As a kid you often have other people’s choices thrust upon you, which creates its own sort of horror. But as an adult you don’t get to say, “That was someone else’s bad decision.” As an adult, you have to live with it. While most of us are very good at rationalizing our choices (we would die of regret otherwise, and yes, some still do), you still wake up at 3 a.m. sometimes, as I did last night, wondering what the point of it all was, and why fight when this is always the end, the same end, for all of us, eventually.

And then I get up, and I take the drugs that prolong my own life for a few years more, a few years more, maybe even more yet, and I get back to work. I am lucky to be alive to make these choices, for myself and for those in my care. I know this. But it’s only fair to note that some days all this responsibility feels like a curse, when you’re holding this giant dog’s paw in your hand, this animal who has trusted you absolutely for nearly two years, and you nod, and you say, “OK,” after spending eight months of your life fighting. I am a fighter. I don’t like to give up. But it was not me who had to endure that surgery, a surgery I likely wouldn’t have survived either, with my equally shitty immune system.

Sometimes, when you say “OK,” I think you realize that it’s you on the table, that it soon will be you on the table, and someone else you love and trust will need to make that choice, and you hope it’s the right one.

 

Drake the Dog has Passed Away.

Thank you to everyone who has supported Drake the Dog’s very long ordeal. For the last eight months, caring for Drake after his double ACL surgery and infections has basically been our whole lives, especially for my spouse. It was a full time job, and my spouse endured it with goodwill and cheer and sheer stubbornness that kept Drake going longer than should have been possible. We poured every ounce of money I made on my writing, and from fan donations, and then some, into his continued treatment, confident that soon, just another week, another week, he’d get over the worst of it, and be on the road to recovery.

We had known that the long-term antibiotics we had to use to treat Drake’s enduring antibiotic-resistant staph infection, which migrated to his spine, could eventually destroy his organs and kill him, but youth was on his side. We carried on, reassured that because he was still very young (just a year and a half) that he could endure it. After all, he’d come so far, and we only had a few weeks left…

But with just 5 weeks left to go in his treatment, after a grueling eight months of surgery and rehab and increasingly potent drug cocktails, his body couldn’t take anymore.

When we took Drake in tonight because he’d stopped eating and drinking and wouldn’t get up, we were quoted a surgery starting at $4,000, on top of everything else we’d done, and we said yes, fine, because we didn’t know what we were dealing with. What had happened to him? He was up and walking around no problem a week ago….

When the doctor opened him up tonight after realizing Drake had sepsis, he found that there were lesions eating through Drake’s stomach and lower GI tract, and there was additional damage to his gallbladder. It was all a rotten, infected disaster caused by the worst of his antibiotics basically eating through his system. For a dog in perfect health, his chances of surviving a surgery that would have involved cutting up his stomach and bits of his guts and retying his gallbladder elsewhere and sewing everything together again would have been 10%. But Drake was not even in OK shape. In his current state, the doctor admitted that Drake’s chances of surviving the surgery for longer than a week or two were basically 0%. This doctor has been with us from the beginning, and promised when to let us know he had reached the end of what he could do.

And he had reached the end.

They kept Drake alive long enough for us to say goodbye to him.

I have never met a better dog. Drake put up with eight months of constant pain and medication and craziness with good cheer and humor. Everyone who met him loved him. We loved him best of all.

As two people with chronic problems, my spouse and I know that you can’t always save everyone. But after dealing with the things we have in our lives, we sure as hell were going to try. Drake put up an incredible effort, and we shuffled our entire lives around his care, but Drake could never catch a break. Not once. Like so many things in life, it was wickedly unfair and cruel in the way that only life can be. You always think hey, if we can just be great caregivers, and come up with the money for the drugs and surgeries, we can save him. But the infection was stronger than us, and stronger than Drake, and it makes me incredibly angry and sad to type that, because it’s an admission that the world is bigger and scarier than we are, and sometimes when the train is moving, you can’t stop it.

I wanted to see Drake running along the beach again, after his double ACL surgery made it possible for him to walk again. That was all I wanted to see, back in November. I just wanted him to live long enough to see him run on the beach again. I will never see that. But hopefully he did, even if only in his dreams.

We love you, buddy.

Thank you again to everyone for your well wishes and support. It means a lot to us.

Pupdate: Drake the Dog Enters Round Three, GoFundMe

I’m not a fan of crowdfunding unless times are truly dire, but my spouse laid out the credit card bills and finally put his foot down and created a GoFundMe page for Drake the Dog.

Most of you know Drake’s ongoing saga – two surgeries, an antiobotic-resistant staph infection in his legs, and then after months of treatments, discovering that the infection had moved into his spine. We’ve found two antiobotics that will treat it, but the first one makes him sick after a week or two so he stops eating and drinking. The second costs about $1500 per week. We have been cycling between these two options week after week, and we have about two months left.

This is one of the reasons I cancelled going to Readercon. We simply don’t have the money to burn. No, we are not starving, but we are racking up debt faster than the pet insurance can reimburse us. Pet insurance is great if you’re only spending, like $2,000 on your dog’s surgery. Less great when you’re out $15,000 and climbing. We’re about at our cap, and, as noted – at least two months to go.

I’ve burned myself out trying to monetize my fiction – I’m behind on Patreon stories and anthology stories and though it pained me, I also turned down a potential publishing deal because it was just.. not the best deal for that project. I can only monetize my time so much before my brain implodes. My spouse recognized this and just went ahead and put up the page.

So tho I am loathe to point you there,  if you are willing to directly help out saving Drake, do jump over to his GoFundMe page.

And thank you.