Artemis is gravely ill, generosity astounds

What a week! If you were following my Twitter stream this evening, you’d already know that one of the cats, Artemis, is gravely ill tonight. She is in hospital. My cashflows are thoroughly depleted. And I am severely stressed. But I am also astounded by people’s generosity of spirit.

In writing all this, I run the risk of alienating those who want to see a supposed-professional’s website full of serious things like my media work and serious commentary, or at least mildly amusing satire, not that supposedly lowest-of-low, “cat blogging”. My good friend Nick Hodge has already written this week about professional versus personal social media projections and the risks of letting them intermingle.

But you know what? Fuck all that!

If I am to be an honest human — and I would like to think I strive to be one — then what I write about should be what is on my mind. And this is what dominates my mind today. If you don’t like it, well, stop reading now and pop back another time. Maybe next week.

And if you think less of me for writing about the personal issues that happen to be dominating my life, well, fuck you too.

So, to Artemis…

Yesterday we thought she had food poisoning of some sort, and figured she’d recover today after spending the night flaked out on the bed. But her appetite did not return, and late this afternoon she took a turn for the worst. No energy, unable to stand on her own feet, weak pulse.

I got her to our local vet just as they were closing, but she was too ill to stay overnight unattended, so we took her to the Sydney After-hours Veterinary Emergency Service at the University of Sydney’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Initial treatment with fluids restored some of Artemis’ strength. She’s sitting up again.

The initial consultation revealed symptoms of small kidneys and possibly infected bladder, which could mean anything from kidney disease of some sort to a urinary tract infection. Comprehensive urine and blood tests will be required. Some bleeding was also revealed in her mouth, with unusual tissue growth. This can be indicative of mouth cancer, although someone on Twitter did say something about kidney problems causing mouth ulcers. However the vet flagged the likelihood of cancer. A biopsy will be needed, but at the moment Artemis isn’t strong enough for the anaesthetic needed for that.

Now all this couldn’t have come at a worse time.

As I wrote the other day, I’m already in the difficult position of having to find a new home when I’m skint. One of my tasks over the next few days is to figure out how to get sufficient cash in while we’re in the slow-income post-holiday period to enable househunting and moving before 3 February.

This evening, however, I emptied my bank account and my wallet into as much as I could muster to cover the required 50% deposit for the estimated treatment costs.

That wasn’t enough for the full recommended option that included all the analyses for this first night. It was enough for the consultation and hospital cover, fluids, initial essential treatment and some methodone. That’s $640, of which I’ve paid half. So Artemis is alive, and my task now is to figure out the next steps — including paying the rest of that, deciding the course of action from here, and then paying for that.

As far as I understand the options from here, Artemis will need at least a few days in hospital, plus those tests to properly diagnose her condition, including the potential cancer. I imagine all that won’t be less than an additional $1000. If it is cancer, and operable, then that’s a jaw section to be removed. I don’t see that being under another $1000, given that when her tail was crushed in an accident in 2007 and had to be removed that cost around $1000, and the jaw sounds more complicated.

So there’s my challenge for tomorrow. Pay for the initial treatment and investigations. Then, once they’re done, figure out how to cover the rest of the problems once they’re revealed or, face the other potential decision, consider whether it’s all too hard, too much of a burden on everyone including the Furry One herself, and go for The Long Green Sleep.

I must be honest here and say that I am overwhelmed.

People might imagine that because I have a reasonably high profile and have travelled overseas twice last year that I have a respectable income. I do not. The media work I do pays very little. The geek-for hire work I do is relatively low in volume. The overseas trips were paid for by others — Microsoft and, to name names.

And my total volume of work, and hence income, is patchy because over the years I’ve had an on-again off-again battle with depression — something I don’t make a big deal of because, well, it’s as boring as all fuck. But several nastier-than-usual bouts over the past few years, each representing stretches of some weeks without any real income, have left me with zero cash reserves and no credit cards. Like most people with even less income than me, I pay as I go and pray there’ll be no unexpected glitches.

Like having to move house.

Or sick pets.

As it approaches midnight on this Wednesday night, I am not depressed. But I do have a very large question mark sitting in front of me.

However I am overwhelmed by people’s generosity, and generosity of spirit.

Friends have offered to sort out what happens tomorrow morning. We still have to work out the details, but at least tomorrow is OK.

What has astounded me, though, is the generosity of strangers. On the left-hand side of my website there’s a PayPal donation button. People have used it occasionally over the years. However in the past three days there’s been five donations totalling over $200 — all but one from complete strangers. People I barely know have been offering help on Twitter this evening — logistics, cold hard cash, or both. The other day, when I first mentioned my accommodation problem, people offered to help cover the bond on new premises until the old one is refunded, as well as other kinds of support.

I am surprised, pleased, feeling supported but nevertheless overwhelmed. And today has been the first day in the last few weeks that I’ve been able to focus well enough.

Tonight several people suggested that I set up a microfinance donation thingo to cover Artemis’ treatment. That is an option, and I’ll consider it properly in the morning, because I am certainly in no position to pay back loans of the magnitude required.

But all that is enough for now. The facts of the matter have tumbled out. I am exhausted. I’ll get a phone call between 6.30 and 7.30am tomorrow with further news. And right now Apollo, the other cat, is demanding attention. Loudly.

Thank you everyone, truly thank you, for your support tonight.

[Photo: Artemis with her prey, a noisy miner bird, from 23 May 2005.]

13 Replies to “Artemis is gravely ill, generosity astounds”

  1. 1 – “I have a reasonably high profile”: Do you think you have?
    2 – “What has astounded me, though, is the generosity of strangers.” Will this episode change your snark towards those strangers online?

  2. wow… life is a bitch isn’t it.

    but as they say…

    nope, I got nothing… but I’ll buy you a beer next time I am up your way…. so hang in there.

  3. I feel for you, having just gone through a similar process with my dog, Angus. Luckily for me (and Angus), it was not a metastasizing cancer and they got it all.

    You are doing all you can. That is all that matters. They are good people at Sydney Uni (I know a few of them…) and they will do their best.

  4. I would love to be able to offer financial support for you in this time, but being currently without gainful employment makes it hard. I can relate to your pain, however.

    One of my dogs, Xena (14 year old Maltese) was hospitalised just after I lost my job, and 3 blood transfusions later combined with a vet who should be Cannonised for her caring and not giving up, amounted to a $5000 bill. You manage – we did.

    I had to face the fact that, if Xena’s quality of like (even after treatment) was going to be less than acceptable, the kindest thing I could do was to opt for The Long Green Sleep. Not an easy decision to make when the little girl saved my life, twice.

    My point is you base your decision on what’s best for Artemis – to hell with the money, that can always be found somehow.

    I truly wish I could do more.


    P.S. I suffer from depression as well, so I really *do* know what it’s like.

  5. Dear Everyone, I am currently being overwhelmed with even more messages of support and — astoundingly! — donations though the PayPal button which have already exceeded a thousand dollars! I would be lying if I pretended that there weren’t tears in my eyes. Thank you.

    A few people have asked how they can donate without using PayPal. Direct deposit into my bank account works. It’s better to use my business account, Westpac Banking Corporation, BSB 032-036, account number 209160. The account name is Prussia.Net. However all donations will go directly towards Artemis’ bills and I will post a full accounting as everything progresses. I will arrange someone to audit that for you.

    I have also made this whole thing easier to track by adding this post to a new category, Artemis Medical Fund. There’s a separate RSS feed for just that category of posts.

    I’ll respond to everything else eventually — yes, even two questions’ good questions. Thank you to everyone who is sharing their own stories. More soon.

  6. Hoping for good news tomorrow morning.

    After losing three four-legged family members to cancer in one year (2008 was horrible) the following became clear:
    1. some people understand the bond and relationship we can have with pets and how a pet’s illness can be as upsetting as a two legged family member’s illness;
    2. the ones who don’t are bastards, ignore them.

  7. What a bummer! The description is very graphic for me as the person who used to live and bond with her. But that is life. I’m glad that you don’t fall into the loop of depression. Sympathy is the key, I find. I hope that these events will bring some new perspectives and take you to the next step.
    My two questions:

  8. Oops!

    My two questions:

    1 – Would this episode be an opportunity to prove your reasonably high profile?
    2 – Do you think the generosity of those strangers would be the persons whom you snarked at?

  9. The news overnight is that Artemis is stable and therefore in no immediate danger. She does not have feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia virus (FeLV). The next steps are to conduct the proper diagnoses of the two issues, as well as keep her in hospital for a couple of days while that’s done.

    The plan is to transfer her back to my local vet, Pet Vets, this morning. A friend offered to help me do that last night, and I’m just awaiting confirmation of the logistics.

    Meanwhile, overnight the donations have well exceeded $1500 and given some bank transfers that do not yet show in the account, it could well be close to $2000. Thank you very very much. This will probably cover the initial treatment and diagnoses and, if it’s a simple infection, the more obvious infectious problems. At the end of that we’ll know whether the other problem is mouth cancer or not, and the next steps will have to be decided.

    There’ll be a further update once we’ve done the transfer.

    Meanwhile, I did find some more photos of Artemis by ’Pong. Enjoy.

  10. I can donate a small amount as I can understand how things can close in on you. We had to have our dog Arcades put to sleep and shortly afterwards, my son had a stroke and is still in hospital having rehab. I found out about your plight from Bat and I have met you at a Rowany. All of Torlyon send their best wishes as we all have family members that have 4 legs.

  11. I can only but imagine what you’re going through. Five years ago my beloved feline mate Fidel Catstro was diagnosed (after some very expensive tests) with a genetic heart problem that was supposed to kill him within three months. Fortunately the memo advising of his impending death was very late in arriving and he led a great life for five more years. He dies suddenly of a related, untreatable heart condition in mid-September.

    The HRLady and I were fortunate enough to be able to afford the tests and treatment. I don’t know I would have done or how I would have felt if our financial position meant we could not do all that was necessary to diagnose and treat him.

    I’ve checked under all of the lounge cushions and found some coins to help the cause. A bank deposit is on its way.

    I hope Artemis is eventually OK.

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