Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Feeling An Animal's Pain

January hasn't been good to my family and me.  We lost two animals in the span of one week.  The first was a rescue we took in not even a month before.  She was a beautiful little Panther Chameleon that my son named Rainbow.  She had a lot of sass and was always giving me the side eye, which I loved. One day I noticed her acting really odd and I took her out of her terrarium and examined her.  I realized she was showing signs of stomatitis (mouth rot) which can be deadly.  The unfortunate thing is that once you realize an animal has it, it's probably so progressed that medical intervention won't help.  But that still didn't stop me from getting her the medical attention she needed.  She received a shot of antibiotics, and I syringe fed her liquid food, water, and antibiotics every hour.  No matter how much energy and love I put into her treatment, it didn't help.  I watched her get weaker and more sick as the week progressed.  She suffered immensely and I cried and felt my heart breaking for her as I held her in my arms, wrapped in a soft little towel.

The odd thing about this week, though, was while she was ill and I was caring for her around the clock, I ended up in the emergency room.  The day after I realized something wasn't right with her, I began experiencing an awful pain around the carotid artery area and in my jaw.  The pain became so severe that I could barely function.  I was seeing spots, couldn't carry on a full conversation, and my head pounded so badly that I felt like I was going to die.  I even had a thought at one point where I wondered if I was experiencing the pain Rainbow was feeling since mouth rot usually spreads to the jaw area and then to the lungs.  And from what I hear, it's excruciating.  But then I thought "Nah" and went back to my own personal suffering.

When I went to the hospital, the ER staff hooked me up to an EKG, took x-rays of my face and chest, and acted like this was a serious thing.  But they couldn't find anything wrong with me.  The doctor told me he was "guessing" I had a lymph node infection, prescribed antibiotics and Motrin, and sent me on my way.  The antibiotics and Motrin didn't help.  I suffered right along with poor Rainbow.  And then, when she passed away a few days later, my pain disappeared.  Poof.  Just like that.  I thought to myself "Huh.  That's never happened before!"  I knew right then and there that I had somehow felt her pain.  She somehow projected her feelings and pain onto me and I inadvertently absorbed it and felt it right along with her.  I was blown away.

Two days later, I began having other problems.  This time it was my heart.  My chest began hurting so badly that I told my husband that if I died or passed out to tell the ER it was my heart.  I would have to lay down randomly due to the pain and discomfort.  I would just lay there rubbing my chest, not moving, and willing it all to go away.  I seriously thought I was in major trouble.  This happened for several days and into the next weekend.

On the one week anniversary of Rainbow's death, I noticed my cat, Lubie breathing funny.  He was gasping and panting and was wild eyed.  I snatched him up and rushed him to the emergency vet.  His prognosis was not good.  His heart had filled with fluid and he was suffocating.  The Dr. said he wouldn't survive the drive home.  So he was hooked up to steroids while I held an oxygen tube up to his nose trying to alleviate his discomfort and give him some air.  It didn't work, though.  He died an hour later.  I sat there with him in my arms, alone in the examination room, crying over his body.  I was devastated.  I had that sweet, clingy boy for over ten years.  It was all so sudden.  I went home in a daze, cried the rest of the night, and woke up the next day with puffy eyes and a shattered heart.

Once I was able to think more clearly and adjust to this loss, I noticed my heart pain was no more.  Just like with my bizarre face pain, my chest no longer hurt.  And it hasn't since.  It's been ten days and still no jaw pain and no chest pain.  I knew that that was the second time I felt an animal's pain so openly and fully.

I know it's extremely easy to brush these occurrences off as mere coincidences.  But I never ignore signs that are so clear.   These "coincidences" were too raw and too powerful.  I can't ignore what I experienced.  In a way, I feel like it was a gift to both of them; to be there with them and feel what they feel.  It was empathy at its most purest form.  Neither of them were alone when they died, and I somehow was able to give them that empathy and say "I understand.  I know what you're going through.  I know it hurts, I feel it too, and I am sorry."  I hope that it helped them in some way.

In the future, I hope to have the ability to notice when bizarre maladies occur in my body, and understand that they aren't my own.   I hope I am able to figure out where the actual pain is coming from so I can help the next animal in a better way.  If I am meant to feel these things, I am fine with that.  I just want to be able to put it to good use and be of some help.

As crazy as some of my experiences are (well ok, most of my experiences!), I take them in stride.  I understand that it's all part of my journey.  I try not to ignore them or "poo-poo" them away.  I acknowledge them, contemplate them, and try to understand them.  Discomfort and all.
It's the least I can do, and I really am ok with that.

It's good to remember that we are all interconnected, and sometimes we simply need to tap into that connection and allow ourselves to be amazed by what we experience.   It's a powerful thing.

Thank you for reading my blog.

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