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2014-01-23

Carefully given

Mikie Baker

Caregivers are a special sort. What they do is so important that they receive many little simple joys in return. I look back on the seven years I cared for Dearly Demented Mom and realize it was one of the richest times in my life. Still, when my job was over, I looked forward to putting myself first for a while.
That didn't last long as Stroke of Genius hit the scene and you know how men are - they can't find the glasses perched on the top of their head. Stroke gets the added bonus of being not only a hypochondriac but also a jumpy Nervous Nelly to boot. He requires constant caregiving.
Luckily, he's out of town at the moment on a rather extended stay that might just become permanent. The second he made his announcement, I thought how fun it would be to have my house back again all to myself and the four animals that run my life. I had visions of organized closets and a refrigerator that doesn't include junk food and moldy leftovers.
About the time I settled down into Non-Caregiver Bliss mode, Smokey Robison, the eldest of the felines on the Dancing Dog Ranch, decided to quit eating or do much of anything else. I waited a few days hoping he'd just learned some bad lessons from Stroke, but soon I realized that his health was at stake, so I hauled him off to the vet.
She did a thorough exam and announced, "Well, looks like we need a blood test," which to me means, "A blood test is expensive so this can't be good." Smokey and I patiently waited for the results (okay maybe he meowed at the top of his lungs) and the vet came back in with the results: the old man's kidneys weren't functioning very well anymore.
I went half deaf and seemed to snap back when I heard, "There's no cure for bad kidneys, but there are things you can do to prolong his life. It's not too hard and he can live another one to three years if you take very good care of him. Plus, it's not that expensive."
My life reminds me of Michael Corleone in "The Godfather," saying, "Just when I thought I was out ... they keep pulling me back in."
The vet said she'd be right back with everything I needed to not only make him more comfortable, but to help him live a few more years. Smokey hid in his cage and began to growl. I thought about leaving him and heading out the door, but that's just not in this caregiver's soul.
The cat expert came back in holding an IV drip system. Seems every other day I have the luxury of stabbing my cat with a needle to pump him with fluids. This process takes about five minutes and I have to hold him still the entire time. She made me practice and I could do it with her help, but today's my first day to try it on my own. I'm more nervous than a cat on a hot tin roof.
On my drive home I pondered my caregiving life. Seems I'm meant to be one - no matter what. If I could do it for mom, I can do it for the cat, though once he begins to really hate me, I think I'll discontinue his torture. If only I had had the forethought to make him sign a DNR before it came to all this. Oh well, cat caregiving it is.