Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It's Time to Shoot up the Cat

It's been a year now since our 12 year old cat was diagnosed with feline diabetes. The diagnosis followed some really weird behavior from what had previously been an extremely low maintenance cat. Atlas had always been very self sufficient, determined to have as little contact with humans as possible. Literally all he required was readily available clumps of dry Meow Mix* and monthly litter box tray changes. Sometimes I didn't see him for days, which is impressive for an inside cat. Our house is 4400 square feet, with 6 bedrooms, so his habitat was expansive and time consuming.  He was always on the prowl, but nearly invisibly. 

I completely misinterpreted the first sign that something was wrong. The litter box no longer seemed to work very well. I absolutely loved the automatic Scoop Free Litter Box. The original purchase price was a little steep but it was worth it's weight in gold. A 3 months supply of litter trays with crystals arrived by mail and once a month I pulled out the old tray, threw it away, and slipped in a new one. It was low maintenance at its finest. But last summer, it started to smell. After checking out the mechanism of the contraption I decided it was old and a little rusty so I bought a new one, but the same thing happened. This time I decided that the trays of crystals were no longer as effective because a new company had taken over.

Over the next few months I spent a small fortune buying trays of crystals which eventually only lasted for less than a week as opposed to 30 days previously. And then Atlas started peeing on floors and furniture. He also became clingy, the weirdest part of all.  It was all a nightmare. It took forever to diagnose but long story short, he was diabetic and had been drinking inordinate amounts of toilet water and over saturating his litter box.  Part of the reason I finally figured it all out was that he was having trouble jumping up on the toilets.  We always knew he was doing it (making sure the kids closed toilet seats was on my list of priorities for about the first 5 minutes of parenting).  His access to the water source of 4 toilets in the house masked how much water he was actually drinking. 

My poor kitty was a mess:  the following me around, the meowing, the weakness in his back legs, his trouble jumping on things and all the urinating everywhere. Famously, I just thought he was getting old (that seems to be my go-to diagnosis for everything), but finally a 2nd blood test at the vet ($$$) exposed the glucose problems.

Everyone thought I was crazy to take on injecting insulin twice a day into a cat. The expense! The inconvenience! The futility! And believe me, I thought it was crazy too, but did it anyway. It was hard at first, especially all the vet appointments, which Atlas despised with a deep, deep vicious passion. The vet techs eventually stopped trying to treat him and had to call me in to take him away.

Apparently some cats are like this at the vet
Atlas is more like this

But slowly over the past year, it started to come together.  It took a year to get all of this under control: 
  • The Schedule - setting a time to give an insulin injection to a well fed cat at the same time morning and night with my schedule continues to be the biggest challenge. The iPhone alarm helps a lot. 
  • The Helpers - at first I tried to do it all myself but eventually I roped in neighbors and friends.  Everyone is now trained to shoot him up.  They are always surprised at how little notice he takes of the needle. 
  • The Vet Visits - we had to stop these even though the vet is not happy to keep dispensing insulin without directly observing the patient. The point of the visits was to monitor glucose levels to see if the insulin was working but since Atlas freaked out every time, it was impossible to get good readings.  And it was miserable for all involved. 
  • The Food - at first I was buying the very expensive dry diabetic food at the vet and forcing it on him. This made him a sad cat.  Eventually, we researched the best reasonably priced wet food we could buy at HEB and now he is a much happier cat.  Its not what the vet recommends but it seems to be working. 
  • The Groomimg - he'd stopped grooming so he was covered in mats. I found an awesome groomer who does house visits. He only bit her once and she only nicked him slightly but everyone considered it a success. 
  • The Insulin- the first vial I bought cost $137 and was supposed to last a year but only lasted 30 days.  The dosage increased 6 times while we were doing blood tests and I just couldn't afford it so the vet found a dealer (I guess) who provides me with insulin pens that last about 30 days for $30.  Walgreens interrogates me every time I go in to buy 100 packs of syringes. 
  • The Litter box - Tragically, I had to retire the automatic litter box.  This is much more of a pain than shooting him up twice a day. 
  • The Downstairs Confinement -  We slashed Atlas' habitat by 50% by blocking off the stairs and moving his new box downstairs. This helps in finding him. 
We knew it was all working when he started to jump up on furniture again, and now he is almost back to his normal self.  Only more social; we like to think it's appreciation. His back legs are straightening and his all consuming thirst has subsided. Yay insulin!!!

Actually we think he's just indestructible. 

Trapped! The Grooming. 

me and my baby

the faces of Atlas...all look pretty much the same


*Apparently Meow Mix practically causes diabetes in cats but no one freaking told me.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

From Me To You is back for the Holidays!


Have you ever taken your kid to the store, pretended not to "look" while they picked out your gift AND while you stood in line and paid for it, then went home and wrapped it yourself?!  I know I have, but there is no need for that anymore!

Back for its 3rd year, the Big Brothers Big Sisters holiday gift store for kids, From Me To You, opens December 5th!  The concept is simple: parents sit, relax, watch Christmas movies and drink hot cocoa while their kids shop, assisted by helper elves, in the store where the gifts are displayed on shelves.  Parents make a donation which the kids use to select gifts for mom, dad, grandparents, siblings and friends.  They leave the store with a backpack full of under the tree ready wrapped gifts. All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters, a proven youth mentoring organization that provides role models for kids facing adversity.   

the Grand Opening!
is Saturday, December 5 from 1:00 - 5:00 pm

at 202 Baltimore Ave. | Near the intersection of McCullough & N. St. Mary'

Store hours will be after school and weekends through Dec. 20.  

Call 210-225-6322 for more details.  

Click here for the story of the store's beginnings.
And here for the two posts my dear friend Colleen Pence of San Antonio Mom Blogs did about the store in 2013 and 2014.    
Check it out on the Big Brothers Big Sisters website and Facebook page for more information. 
Wrap presents and take pictures with Santa!
Browse the shelves with a helper elf. 
Free hot chocolate!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tomorrow, I'm on the Table! #eek

At the ripe old age of nearly half a century, I'm about to have my first real surgery, and under the surface, I'm a basket case. I say "real surgery" because I've gone under the knife 3 times before, but it was for C-Sections, and there was no anesthesia except for the first time when I was 22 and I can't even remember back that far.

I'm terrified of all of it. From the initial diagnosis to getting cleared for surgery, it's been a quiet nightmare in my head.  The health care system is a giant, cold, complex, antiseptic, uncaring, set of people, machines, tests and tubes, waiting rooms, paperwork and bills that make me feel powerless, confused, undecided, frustrated and fearful at best. 

The doctors no longer look at you when they meet with you. Their attention is actually only 5% on you and 95% on the laptop or tablet or PC that they tap at and type in incessantly while you talk, hoping they'll actually make eye contact, and pay attention. They ask the same questions you've already been asked when you called to make the appointment, when you checked in with the receptionist, and when you were seen by the tech. They all tapped and typed in your answers as well, so you wonder, eloquently, in your head: "WTF?!" 

Everyone outside of the health care system has advice. Contradictory advice. The hardest to hear is the advice that this could all go away if I just had more of a commitment to alternative therapies like diet and natural supplements and meditation and whatever else. So let me get this straight:  I'm pretty much putting up with all the machines and the tests and the tubes and the bills and the impending surgery, and you're saying that I just need think my way back to health with positive thoughts and herbal tea? Of course then I was wishing that it were true so badly that, hopeful goofball that I am, I actually googled it. However, I concluded that I'd be dead before I figured all that out. It takes major research and commitment. There's a mineral or a food and/or a vitamin with potential healing properties for every minute of every day and every ailment known to man. I know everyone means well, and I really appreciate the concern.  I never know what to say to people when something like this happens, so I'm just glad people care enough to say anything. 

My favorite parts of this horror story so far have been the very beginning, "Getting the Diagnosis," and the most recent phase, "Getting Cleared for Surgery." 

The Diagnosis:
Me, at work, in the office kitchen, answering an unknown number (Never a good idea, am I right?!) on my cell phone: "Hello?"
Doctor Office Clerk: "Ms Bankhurst? 
Me: "Yes?" 
Clerk: "We have the results of your biopsy, and it's not good news. It looks like it's cancer." 
Me: "Looks like?"
Clerk: "The doctor is referring you to an endocrinologist." 
Me: "What exactly does 'looks like'  mean?" 
Clerk: "Do you have a pen? I have the number for his appointment line." 
Me: "Gah." 

The Clearing For Surgery Call:
Surgery Scheduler: "Ms Bankhurst? 
Me: "Yes."
Surgery Scheduler: "We have the results of your pre-op EKG. It's abnormal."
Me: "What does that mean?"
SS: "The doctor wants me to ask you a few questions to make sure you don't need a cardiac clearance for surgery. Do you or your family members have a history of heart problems or diabetes? Do you get short of breath running up the stairs?" 
Me: "Yes."*
SS: "Ok, I'll get back to you." 

The Next Day:
SS: "You're cleared for surgery." 
Me: "But what about that abnormal EKG?" 
SS: "The doctor says it's fine. Those things are not always accurate." 
Me: Gah.**

So, the end result of this 4 month journey is that tomorrow morning my thyroid is going to be removed. You can't live for very long without a thyroid, so I'll have to take thyroid medication for the rest of my life. Of course, since my thyroid has, (so I'm told, very scientifically, "worn out,") I'd have to take medication for the rest of my life whether it's removed or not. Either way, when the zombie apocalypse happens, I'm screwed --unless I've managed in the meantime to hoard a giant supply of synthroid. 

I know so much more than I ever wanted to know about the thyroid and how mine's failure to produce a hormone is probably responsible for a whole host of symptoms*** I've been putting up with for at least a year.  On the positive side, the meds will hopefully result in a reversal of those symptoms, but on the negative side, I'm having my throat slit open in the morning to find out for sure if it is actually cancer and if so, what kind and how far advanced it is in my poor worn out thyroid gland. 

People have been asking me how they can help, and I've decided that maybe scarves will help. I've never been much into that accessory, but if I (and my possibly abnormal EKG heart) live through this by-all-accounts-routine neck slicing tomorrow, I think I see lots of them in my near future.

How I will be feeling in the morning

*SS is the 5th person to ask me this question in this practice and I heard him typing and tapping away too..." 

**I've had heart palpitations since that day. 

***dry skin, weight gain, hair loss, and a bunch of other stuff I thought was just all about getting older.

Friday, November 13, 2015

25 things you don't get from an "overhead" percentage

On Tuesday, November 10th, MySanAntonio.com published a post entitled, "Records:  Salaries and expenses of San Antonio nonprofits and their CEO's." The purpose of the post was supposedly to inform potential holiday season donors about how the 28 featured organizations were spending the donations they receive.

My organization was featured in that post, and in the 48 hours that followed I got all kinds of messages basically expressing this: "OMG, did you see this article (with a helpful link)?"  I made the BIG mistake of reading the comments on the article.  Here is a sample of the most offensive ones:  
  • Most of the leaders of these non-profits are thieves. They have a cushy job with little oversight. These people are scum and will never get another penny from me.
  • If the non-profit execs want to continue to rape the public they need to move into the private sector.
  • Discouraging thing is all of the thousands of hours volunteers give to these charities, feeling good about helping, and the CEO's are in it for the big money.
  • The head of the Food Bank makes well over 300k per year. Obscene. I had been a donor for years, but I will not give one more penny.
  • … more than $300,000 to run the Food Bank? Basically a grocery store that exists (thankfully) to feed poor and destitute families? That's a bit much, folks.
  • Then they have the audacity to look you in the eye and ask you to give !!! **
Then I made the bigger mistake of getting caught up in trying to respond to all those comments. As I was driving to work today I was thinking about how sad it is that that post really did nothing at all to  adequately  inform potential holiday season donors about how the 28 featured organizations were spending the donations they receive. So, I thought I would list a few of the most important things anyone should know about my organization that I wish the media would do stories about instead. 

25 Things You Don't Know from Overhead, Salaries, & Admin %'s:
  1. How many kids are on our waiting list
  2. How long they have to wait
  3. The challenges they face on a daily basis
  4. How many volunteers we recruited
  5. How long it takes us to process them
  6. How many training sessions we did
  7. How many background checks we did
  8. How many references we called on volunteers
  9. How many home visits we made
  10. How many kids we serve
  11. If those kids do better in school
  12. If those kids are skipping school
  13. If those kids will be promoted to the next grade level
  14. If those kids are saying no to drugs, alcohol and tobacco
  15. If those kids got in trouble with authorities
  16. If those kids will graduate from high school
  17. If those kids are going to college
  18. If those kids are employable
  19. What the kids do with their mentors
  20. How many fundraisers we held
  21. How many donations we received
  22. How many staff we have
  23. Anything that we spend money on besides a CEO
  24. How satisfied anyone is with our services
  25. If we are moving the needle on any social problems our mission is intended to address
What Little You Do Know from that post:
  1. The Annual revenue of organization
  2. The CEO's Salary (the post doesn't say, but the numbers are actually salary and benefits added together)
  3. The Percentage of revenue classified as administrative
The question I am left with is: Which of all of these things would you really most want to know in order to make a decision to donate?  

You can donate to Big Brothers Big Sisters here.  Take it from me, the proud CEO and visionary leader of our mentoring movement, your investment in our organization will be a sound one. 

**I sent that one a donation link.