Goodbye, Artemis

Artemis breathed her last breath at 12.37pm AEDT today. It was a peaceful moment. I held her while she moved from this world into the next. I cried. I am crying now.

Artemis led a gloriously adventurous life, if perhaps short at a little over seven years. She hunted everything from moths and grasshoppers to rats and noisy miner birds, eating most of them. She even brought us the striped marsh frog from the garden pond — three times before she learned, the hard way, that it’s poisonous. She never did catch a currawong, and I’m glad of that.

Artemis used up one of her nine lives when her tail was crushed and eventually amputated.

Today I chose to take her ninth.

Dr Emily Payne from Pet Vets had shown me the ultrasound images and we’d discussed the questions I had this morning. Further imagery would be unlikely to give us any further information.

Artemis’ remaining kidney function was at most 50%. The left kidney was clearly not working at all, otherwise it would have been doing something useful while the right kidney was blocked by that kidney stone.

There’s no way to measure the function of the remaining kidney. There’s no magic test. One could perhaps conduct a biopsy and deduce the functioning, but the biopsy itself would cause damage. And if you’re going in for a biopsy, you might as well go in and tackle that kidney stone.

But even if surgery successfully removed the kidney stone — and obviously surgery brings it own risks, including damage or even destruction of that remaining kidney — what kidney function would remain? Most problems affecting one kidney also affect the other, either now or later. And as I mentioned yesterday, that the right kidney was a decent size was probably just because it was inflated by a back-up of urine. The urethra, for example, was bloated from a normal 0.4mm diameter to somewhere between 2 and 3mm!

All this had already been discussed with people at the University of Sydney. Everyone had agreed that the prognosis was “poor”. That’s one step above “grave”, when it’s three wishes and magic unicorn time, but only one small step.

I chose to end the story here because of that prognosis.

While I am moved by the outpourings of generosity, and I understand that some people want to “never give up” and “try every option”, I would prefer that such efforts were directed where they have more likelihood of producing a result. In Artemis’ case even the very best possible outcome, with that right kidney still somehow magically perfect, she’d still be only 20 percentage points of kidney function above serious long-term problems.

I don’t imagine for a moment that that kidney was somehow perfect. In all likelihood, it was the opposite.

At the risk of severe repetition, thank you again — thank you so much! — for all of your support. I could not have handled the last week without it.

The costs have been $109.10 for Pet Vetsรขโ‚ฌโ„ข initial work, $558.85 for the emergency hospital visit, and $1453.15 more at Pet Vets, a total of $2121.10. There was also an $11 cab fare. Your donations have covered this and more, thank you. They totalled, as I’ve mentioned before, somewhere around $3500. I will update this post tomorrow with the exact figures. Total donations were $3,714.48, and I have published the full accounting.

Some friends and even strangers have insisted that their donation was to me as much as to Artemis, given my need to move house at a difficult time, and for that I say another thank you.

Once I have deducted those personal gifts from the total, the remainder will be donated to the Cat Protection Society of NSW. It was they who gave Artemis her life, and I’d like to support their continuing work.

If for whatever reason you would prefer this not to happen, please just let me know and I will refund your donation immediately. If you paid via PayPal, please make sure you email using the same address you use for PayPal so I can find your donation quickly. If you paid by bank transfer, please send me the account details so I can transfer the funds back. You do not have to explain why. I understand this story did not end as we wished. I understand if you do not agree with my choices.

My sincere thanks also to Drs Emily Payne, Glen Kolenc and Meredith Gibbs and your team at Pet Vets. Your honesty and humanity has made an enormous difference this week.

Thanks also to Dr Helsa Teh and Dr Dharshinee Rajkumar and your colleagues at Sydney After-hours Veterinary Emergency Service for giving Artemis this unexpected extra week of life. I’m sorry I can’t thank everyone by name, but I forgot to gather them all.

I believe you will understand if I take the rest of the day off, although I will be reading your comments.

[Photo: Artemis photographed on 19 January 2009 by Trinn ('Pong) Suwannapha. There are more images from this day.]

[Update 15 January 2011: Post edited to include final totals of both costs and donations, and link to the accounting.]

63 Replies to “Goodbye, Artemis”

  1. Artemis was very lucky to have you. Please look after yourself and thank you for sharing your moments with us. Xxx

  2. So sorry to hear that. I completely empathise, having had to make that decision myself a few weeks ago.

    Good luck with the home-hunting.

  3. So sorry to hear it.

    We lost our beloved 13-year old Java on Boxing Day. She seemed in perfect health but had sudden kidney failure. There was nothing to be done, according to the lovely vet. Even if we put her through the horror and pain of more tests, the prognosis was very poor. I think in these situations, the number one goal is to relieve the suffering of our beloved pets, who depend on us to take care of their best interests. Take care of yourself, and take comfort in how much love you gave her during her life.

  4. In the bright, clear light of a warm summer’s day here in Sydney, reading back through the latest comments here is a fascinating experience. Thank you all for sharing.

    Today I’ve been concentrating on getting back into the flow of work — for some reason I seem to be a bit behind on billable hours — and if you’ve been following my Twitter stream you’ll know that I’ve struggled with but eventually achieved victory over a poorly-coded HTML layout that had to be turned into an email template. It all seems so decidedly… normal. Thank the gods!

    I’m going to leave the financial accounting until the weekend. I think Pet Vets may have left a few items off their invoice in yesterday’s intensity. I’ll probably spend tomorrow morning at my desk, since there’s some other things that need doing.

  5. Oh Stil, I have just caught up with Twitter after a couple of days and am so sad to hear about Artemis ๐Ÿ™

    You definitely did the right thing by her and have proved your love for her by having the courage to let her go. Cats very rarely show any discomfort, so when they do, you know they are in trouble ๐Ÿ™ In time, the terrible emptiness and sadness will be replaced by lovely memories.

    Both you and Pong were lucky to share time with the lovely Artemis and she will remain a part of your lives always. xxx

  6. So sorry to hear about Artemis. We lost our beloved 11-year old cattle dog x ‘Lucy’ in 2007 and it still hurts. Time and memories of better times do help eventually.

  7. @Avril and @Melissa Madsen: Thanks for your thoughts. I’m being a bit tardy in responding to comments here because, well, I’m needing to move on to the next little problem in my world and I’m running out of different ways to say thank you.

    People have asked about Apollo, the other cat. He’s been staying fairly close to me lately, and has been even more demanding of attention than usual, which is to be expected. However he does seem to be less stressed. He’s not over-grooming as much as he had been.

    Melissa, I did email you a thank-you directly but it bounced. Perhaps you typo’d the address?

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