Holy Motherfucking Shit. The Battle of the Bulge in my Spine--Grover Edition: Part One

Thursday, May 25, 2017 | 0 Comment(s)

(If you go back in the archives to Sept. 1, 2010, you can read a number of pieces regarding my personal battle with back issues, the first of which shares its title with this post.

Today was the first day in a week that I didn't get woken up by the vet calling to give me an update on the status of Grover, my power animal and companion.

Hi, I'm Grover. This is me.

In truth, I was only woken up by the call the first morning.

If you are unfortunate enough to have a serious veterinary medical emergency in the greater (and I do mean greater) Massachusetts area, you will be directed to the Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital. And, as hospitals go -- not animal hospitals mind you -- but all hospitals, this 24-hour facility is the bomb. It is the bee knees -- which, for the record, they could probably fix.  They have three staff neurosurgeons, an MRI machine, and surgical facilities. This is all comforting information to be told when your pup's back legs randomly stop functioning properly at 4pm on a Monday afternoon.

Once your pet is admitted to the Vet Hospital, the doctors assigned to your case calls you, religiously, both after morning rounds and again in the late afternoon/evening. In my experience, when your pet is gone for a week, as Grover was, these calls become your everything. These calls are the reason you set your alarm for wayyyyyy earlier than you need to wake up, in order to be cognizant when Dr. Silver calls and tells you that while the surgery went well, Grover is now paralyzed from the midsection back. She will tell you that, while frustrating, this is normal in about 20% of cases.

Of course, all you will be able to picture is your best friend (wife excluded) with a limp back end and those longing lonely eyes staring up at you confused. The puppy you promised you would take care of and love forever is paralyzed. You'll tell Dr. Silver that you are coming to visit, 5 hour trip be damned.

Dr. Silver will tell you in a calm knowing tone that while you can, of course, visit your pet at any time, they are trying to keep Grover as immobile as possible right now, and if I think he would get excited and wiggly seeing me, then it is probably best to just wait until he has gotten better before coming to see him.

You will, most probably, start crying. Composing yourself, you will tell Dr. Silver that you never want your love for Grover to impede his prognosis in any way. You will thank her for her professionalism and understanding. You will hang up the phone and then you will cry a lot more.

You will wait all day on the couch like teenagers waiting for their crush to call. You won't be able to focus on anything but the hours until the afternoon call. When the phone does eventually ring, Dr. Silver tells you there hasn't been any progress throughout the day. They are putting a catheter in to releave some of his urinary discomfort. They expect he will show some movement tomorrow. She can sense your deflation, and you can sense her frustration.

You'll set your alarm for early the next morning even though you know you won't be getting any sleep.

There is only one kind of injury our pup Grover gets, and it is the "fluke" variety. Every diagnosis he's received over his seven years has begun with a vet saying some version of, "This rarely happens in pitbulls, this rarely happens in dogs this age," and our personal favorite, "this rarely EVER happens!" The most likely cause of Grover injury is whatever is least likely to happen. This is not great on his high anxiety human companions.

When your vet sends you to another vet, it is never a good sign. Granted, his back legs not working was a pretty damn loud alarm that all things were not good. Once we arrived in Woburn, the doctors gave Grover a brief check-up, and the neurologist told us that she suspected one of two potential causes of Grover's current disability.

The first option, and the one they were leaning towards, was a spinal seizure, which sounds absolutely fucking terrible, but actually has various non-surgical treatments. The vets were leaning towards this prognosis as the other option was known to be quite painful for the animal, and Grover was showing no signs of pain.

This second prognosis involved Grover slipping a disc in his back, and then that disc applying pressure on his spinal column, causing the paralysis. Once again, the vet said that they believed that this was less likely, as dogs who slip discs usually cry and express more symptoms of pain. Grover, was stoned-faced, even smiley at times.

The plan was for us to leave Grover in Woburn , and they would get him an MRI the next morning. My first morning phone call, the one that woke me up from a deep sleep, had Dr. Silver calling with Grover's MRI results.

"Well, it turns out that Grover's case is a little bit fluky." (I'm unsurprised) "It looks like he did indeed slip a disc in his back." (If you recall, I also slipped a disc 5 years ago - perhaps it's hereditary) "It's strange actually, because usually discs that slips are degenerated and his is healthy and liquid. This case is also unique in that dogs his size rarely slip a disc this high up there spine, it's usually further down."

I, my mind still a bit cloudy, does some Grover health buzz-word BINGO.
The less likely of the two prognoses. Check. Fluky. Check. Strange. Check. Unique. Check.

"Sounds right," I reply to Dr. Silver.

"We're planning on surgery for tomorrow morning," she replies, "I'll talk to you later this evening."

Coming Next Time: Home Day!

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