First, Abby. A young yorkie, whose lungs filled with fluid after a routine anesthetic procedure at its regular vet. It arrived by ambulance from another clinic, being manually ventilated with an ambu-bag. We had the ventilator set up and ready, but the poor thing lived only long enough for the owners to say goodnight and leave. stephinextremis came back to tell us that the owners decided before they left to make Abby a "DNR" - that is, if she died, to let her go. Moments after Steph walked away, the heart rate on the started to slow, and when it came to a stop, we turned off the ventilator.
Zephyr was nexy. A 16 year old husky with two types of cancer, one of our frequent flyers. She came in Monday with a GDV (twisted stomach) which required an additional surgery. The owners were encouraged to consider euthanasia, since she was already suffering from a terminal cancer. They elected to try the surgery.
I took care of Zephyr all monday night, trying to keep her pain under control. When I left Tuesday morning, I did not expect her to live through the day. It was a surprise to see her there when I came in tonight. At 12:10, I picked up her cage card to do her midnight treatments. A comment was made about how she was the dog that just refused to die. A co-worker and I looked in on her, and then I walked over to the treatment table for supplies. As my back turned, my co-worker said, "She's not breathing!" She had stopped breathing. Her heart was still going, but slowly, and we let her go.
It was the most peaceful death I've ever seen there - silent, painless, and without any chaos. She simply died, and we were glad to see her released from pain.
As we were removing Zephyr's catheters and leads, I heard from the other side of the room, "Not another one!" And this was poor Kodi, who I had just started a blood transfusion on. She probably had lung cancer, though the diagnosis was not yet for certain. Blood poured from her mouth, then from the endotracheal tube that we placed. Two rounds of atropine and epinephrine had no effect. Her lungs failed and her heart stopped.
There were a few hours of relative calm.
Barney, the baby chihuahua, was doing fine. His diagnosis of pneumonia didn't stop him from bounding around his cage in isolation, barking and whining at the sounds of the other dogs. A new tech, Kelly, had been assigned to his care. She fed him at three a.m., tucked him in into a blanket, and returned to check his vitals at four.
Whatever stores of energy that dog had been operating on ran out. In the hour he had been left alone, he totally decompensated. Kelly called to me from iso, alarmed at his weakness. I went in there, we found that his heartrate was slow and irregular, respirations were irregular, and his temperature was too low to register on a digital thermometer. His SPO2 (measurement of how much of his blood was carrying oxygen) was 76% - should have been 98-100%. Recheck x-rays showed that his lungs looked horrible, and the owner elected to euthanize. Probably the most humane thing, but it was hard to reconcile - the puppy that had been bouncing around an hour before now was not capable of survival.
Mozart suffered all night, and we all cursed the owner who couldn't let the poor thing go. I made sure to stick my hand in his oxygen cage every time he walked by, to scratch him behind the ears and under the chin. Mozart would push his head against my hand and purr. He had a bad heart disease, and fluid in his lungs because of it. It didn't help that he was 27 pounds.
He struggled to breathe through the night, and hung in there, but never got any better. I talked to the owner in the morning - a woman who sounded young, who was hoping for any good news about Mozart, and I had none to give. No, he wasn't breathing better, no, he couldn't sleep, no, it didn't look like he was going to be able to go home anytime soon. She talked about coming in to visit him later, and maybe making a decision about putting him to sleep. I told her that while I couldn't tell her whether she should or shouldn't, it wouldn't be an unfair choice for Mozart.
She called back moments later, sobbing. She called to tell me that she was going to come in to put Mozart to sleep, so that he wouldn't suffer. She told me about Mozart's sister, who suffered from the same disease. She told me how she had owned the pair since they were kittens, and they had never been separated before. She told me how special Mozart was, and how much she loved him, and how hard it was for her to admit that she had to let him go.
I didn't cry, but it was hard.
Before I left in the morning, just a few minutes later, I stopped by Mozart's cage, talked to him, scratched his head, and he purred and kneaded his paws. She was right ... he was a very special cat.
Some of my shifts are heartbreaking.