Saturday, June 30, 2012

And So, It Has Come to This....

I never did get the definite answers I was hoping for from anyone at MedVet today, but here's the current situation/plan:  Lexie is stable and doing well.  She's eating and drinking (a lot, from what I'm told), and she's calm.  Her blood work so far has all come back normal, but Dr. Corbett said that whenever a dog receives a blood transfusion it's important to keep monitoring their blood counts.  Lou's incisions look pretty good, although there has been a little oozing from each eye.  Both Dr. Corbett and Dr. Miller acted like that was pretty normal, though.

The big issue, of course, is the fact that the gauze that is currently packed in Lexie's wounds needs to come out, but the question is when?  Dr. Corbett said that the gauze may actually be helping her blood clot right now, so they're afraid to take them out right away.  Her recommendation was to leave Lexie there at MedVet over the weekend so that they could continue to monitor her blood counts and keep her wounds clean, as well as watch for signs of infection in case her body starts to reject the gauze.  Then, they'd like to schedule her for surgery to remove the gauze on Monday, which is when all the other specialists will be on site, just in case any complications arise.  

I loved the sound of this plan, of course, but I was nervous to ask her how much it would cost.  (Keep in mind, at this point I have spent over $2,200 on Lexie's medical care, some of which has either been borrowed or generously donated by family.)  Dr. Corbett estimated that the surgery to remove Lexie's gauze is going to cost anywhere from $1200 to $2000.

I was immediately in tears.  I can't believe I've spent over $2,200 to get Lou ALL the way to this point, and yet she still needs one FINAL surgery.  Dr. Corbett sounded confident that, with all the specialists on site, Lexie has a good chance of making it through her surgery, and then she should be fine, but it's going to cost me up to another $2000, which may as well be $2 million at this point because I have NO idea how I'm going to come up with it!  Regardless, I told Dr. Corbett that I would leave Lexie in their care over the weekend and just somehow "figure out a way" to come up with the money to pay for her surgery.

So, my friends, it has come to this:  I am now accepting donations to help pay for Lexie's surgery, which is supposed to be scheduled for Monday, July 2, 2012.  Please understand how much I HATE asking anyone for help financially, but I've reached the point of desperation.  I cannot begin to tell you how much I will appreciate any amount you are able/willing to contribute, even if it's $5.  If you aren't able to help financially, I will equally appreciate all the prayers, good vibes, etc. that you can send our way.   In either case, thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Back to Ohio

Just about an hour after I posted my last blog about Lexie having Von Willenbrand's disease, Dr. Ellis called to tell me that not only was Lexie starting to bleed again (through all the gauze that they had packed in her wounds), but her latest blood work indicated that she DOESN'T have VW disease. Therefore, Dr. Ellis recommended we rush her back to MedVet in Worthington, Ohio to see another specialist who could hopefully diagnose the reason why her blood wasn't clotting. Dr. Ellis gave me another option of letting Lexie spend the night in our local ER for observation, but she was worried that Lou might not make it through the night. Because Justin had agreed to make up the hours he'd taken off work to be with me that day, he wouldn't be able to go to Ohio with me. So, I called my brother, Zach, and thankfully he agreed to go with me. I was terrified, however, to drive Lexie 3 hours to MedVet in her condition, and even Dr. Ellis said there was a chance Lou might not make it there. However, Dr. Ellis said that she felt the risk might be worth it because the specialists at MedVet would be much better at diagnosing her.

I should probably back up a little bit and explain that the issue was that Dr. Ellis and Dr. Ayers had to pack Lexie's eye sockets with gauze in order to slow the bleeding after her enucleation surgery, which means the gauze still has to be removed. So, the worry is that even if the bleeding stops right now, it could possibly start again when the wounds are re-opened and the gauze is removed. Therefore, we need to find out what's preventing her blood from clotting so we can fix it before unpacking her wounds.

Ok, so Zach and I went to pick up Lexie from Animal Care Clinic. I was afraid of how she'd look, but it was actually much better than I had expected. Dr. Ellis had wrapped Lou's head and eyes really well, and Lexie was even up and moving around. She was still my Lou, too, which pleased me more than I can even tell you. I had expected her to be this pitiful, lethargic, bleeding, dying, Franken-Dobie, but she wasn't anything close to that. I sat in the back seat with Lou as Zach drove us to Ohio. I am usually very careful about the speed limit, but I told Zach I didn't care if he got pulled over because we were racing against time at that point. 

Well, wouldn't you know that apparently the Storm of the Century just HAD to come through Ohio and WV right at that moment? Although we lucked out and only drove through heavy wind and some rain, the rest of Ohio was hit HARD. During the entire drive through half the state, we saw downed trees, branches, and the majority of towns we drove through were without power. The whole time, Lexie was so good. She just laid down beside me and slept most of the way. She was breathing pretty hard, though, which worried me, and I kept a close eye on her breathing the entire time. Then, when we were about an hour away from MedVet, we hit stand still traffic. After about 30 minutes of not moving, I started to panic, but then we finally started to move again. Just as we were about to take the exit to 270 toward Columbus, the exit was shut down! We ended up having to re-route through some town that had a billion stop lights, but the power was out so we had to do a four-way stop at every single one! I seriously thought I might have a heart attack at that point. 

Finally, 4 hours after we left Huntington, we arrived at MedVet. When I got Lexie out of the car, I could see a spot of blood where her head had been resting. They took her straight back, though, so I was relieved she was at least receiving medical attention. However, I told Zach when we sat in the waiting room that I wasn't expecting good news.

 When we finally spoke to the vet on duty that night, Dr. Miller, I was both relieved and surprised when she told me Lexie looked good and seemed stable. She said she wanted to do a blood panel since Lexie had had a transfusion that day and keep her overnight for observation. Then, in the morning, Lexie would be seen by an internal medicine specialist who could try to figure out why her blood won't clot. It was after midnight at that point, and Zach and I were both too tired to drive, so we got a room at a nearby hotel.

I called MedVet first thing this morning and they said Lexie did well through the night and all of her blood work looked good. So, now I'm just waiting to hear from the other specialist after he has a chance to examine her. I'm crossing my fingers for some actual answers today.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Surgical Complications

If you're religious, I'm asking for prayers.  If you're not religious or of some different religion/faith, I'm asking for good vibes, VERY positive thoughts, chants, or whatever you can do to help my Lou survive this surgery.

Dr. Ellis called me a little before 1:00 p.m. to tell me that there had been a complication during Lexie's enucleation procedure, and I could tell by the tone of her voice that it was serious.  She said that Lou has Von Willebrand's disease, which is a blood clotting disorder found commonly in Dobermans.  Apparently, this blood disorder can develop at any time and is not always detectable on blood tests.  According to, "Typically the platelet count will be normal (unless your dog has experienced recent, massive bleeding), and coagulation tests will show normal results."

Dr. Ellis said that they were having a hard time getting Lexie's bleeding to stop, but they had called in another local veterinarian, Dr. Ayers, to start working on her.  However, Dr. Ellis did not sound hopeful and even added, "I just wanted you to be aware of what's going on because it's critical.  Lexie has lost a LOT of blood, to the point that she's becoming weak...."  She told me that they were prepared to give her a transfusion if necessary, and told me to keep my phone close by.

I was covering the front office when I received this devastating phone call, and it was all I could do to try to hold myself together because there were patients in our waiting room.  Thank goodness my boss just happened to walk up front at that time, because as soon as I saw her I said, "I'm sorry, but I need to go."  I told her what was happening, and she said it was okay for me to take off the rest of the day.

I drove straight home, still trying to hold it together, because I felt like I was going to explode, and I didn't want to do that in the tiny waiting room at Animal Care Clinic.  Besides, they were still working on Lexie, so it's not like I could go back and see her anyway.  Luckily, Justin was home on his lunch break, and as soon as I walked through the door I cried, "She's dying!" then basically just crumbled to the floor sobbing.  Justin rushed over to me and helped me sit at the bottom of our stairs, then asked what was going on.  As I was explaining the situation to him, Dr. Ellis called back.  She said that they had begun a blood transfusion and would keep me posted.

Justin, unfortunately, had to get back to work, but he managed to work it out with his employer so that he could come home and make up his hours tomorrow morning.  So, we sat on the couch for what seemed like an eternity waiting for the phone to ring again.  I was in a complete zombie state at that point, just trying to block out all thoughts until I heard back from the vet.  

Finally, Dr. Ellis called around 3:30 p.m. to say that they had given Lexie about a pint of blood, but the only way they could get the bleeding to stop was to pack the wounds.  Dr. Ellis said that she was getting ready to call the local hospitals to see if she could get this stuff (she never told me the name of it or what it is exactly) that will hopefully help Lexie's blood clot.  They are hoping that it will prevent her from bleeding again when they unpack her wounds tomorrow.  

So, that's where it all stands at this point.  Dr. Ellis said that Lexie was resting comfortably, but didn't want me to come see her because she didn't want Lou to get all worked up.  She also said that she'd try to call me with an update later tonight, probably around 10:00 p.m.

Again, I'm asking for LOTS of prayers, good vibes, magic spells, good energy, etc. to help my Lou pull through this.  She's been with me through SO much, and I simply cannot imagine my life without her in it.  At least, not yet, and not like this.  

The Morning of Surgery

I just dropped Lexie off at the vet for her bilateral enucleation surgery.  I’m such a bundle of mixed emotions right now.  I’m crying, of course, because my Lou is never going to be able to look at me again.  She’ll never greet me at the door with one of her stuffed animals in her mouth, enticing me to chase her around the living room and dining room ever again.   (My favorite part of that game, by the way, was when I’d be chasing her around through the dining room, kitchen, and living room, but then I’d stop and quietly reverse directions.  She’d sense that I stopped chasing her, so she’d get really quiet and sneaky, too, and try to find me.  Then, it became a game of “who can sneak up on whom first” before resuming the game of chase.)  I’m going to miss watching her look out our living room window and getting that “stranger danger” face if a passer-by happened to linger in front of our house a little too long.  I’m going to miss the way she’d always be the first of my girls to come back inside after being let out, just so she could sit in the doorway with me and watchfully wait for Sam and Jocie to come back inside.  If they took too long, she’d go back out into the yard and bark until they came in.

These are the things I am grieving, which I don’t think people think about when they tell me (repeatedly) that, “She’s going to be fine.  Dogs adjust SO well to being blind.”  While I understand that Lexie is going to be okay and adjust to being blind, there’s a part of her that is now gone forever, and I’m heartbroken over that.  I do appreciate it when people try to cheer me up and help me look on the bright side of this situation, but I need to be allowed to be sad and upset about it for a while, too.  Trust me, I can find the bright side to just about anything because I don’t see the point in wallowing in sadness or self-pity for very long.  However, it takes a good dose of crying and, yes, even a little bit of the aforementioned wallowing for me to get it all out of my system and get to that place where I simply don’t WANT to be sad anymore.  I’m not there yet, but I'm getting there.

I took a couple photos of Lou this morning to always remind me that I made the right decision in regard to her bilateral enucleation.  Just look at the side-by-side comparison above.   I took the photo on the left the day I decided I didn’t want to have her left eye removed because it looked practically normal compared to her right eye.  The photo on the right was taken this morning, just four days later.

On a more upbeat note, I will say that I wasn’t AS emotional as I thought I’d be when I left her at the Animal Care Clinic this morning.  I did give each of her eyes a little kiss good-bye, but because I know her eyes are causing her pain, in a small, weird way I’m actually kind of happy for Lou this morning.  I am just so anxious for her feel better.  I’m also looking forward to watching her adjust and learn new things, including new games that we can play together once she’s all healed.   Yeah, I’d say that I’m to the point right now where I just want all of this pain to end (hers AND mine) so we can start moving on.  In the meantime, this is going to be a looooooong day...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Background - Part Three to Present Day: The Enucleation Decision

When Dr. Ellis called me Monday afternoon, just as I was leaving to go pick up Lou from the vet, she reported that Lexie's right eye pressure was 46, which is the highest it's ever been, but surprisingly her left eye pressure was normal.  She said she spoke with Dr. Corbett, and Dr. Corbett said that there is only one medication left that we haven't tried, but it's extremely hard to find and it's very expensive.  Then, Dr. Ellis told me that, because Lexie has not responded well to ANY of her treatments, and because her eye pressures have continued to build and fluctuate, Dr. Corbett had advised enucleation, and Dr. Ellis agreed.  My heart sank.

When I arrived at the vet just a few minutes later, Dr. Ellis was waiting on me.  I could tell that she was truly sorry that we weren't able to save Lexie's eyes, but I know in my heart that we did all that we could do.  After all those trips to the vet in both Huntington and Ohio and all that medication, at no point did Lexie's eyes look like they were steadily improving.  One day they might have looked a little better than the day before, but then just as quickly one or both of her eyes would look much worse.  So, at this point, it just kind of feels like this is what's meant to be.  However, just as I was wrapping my brain around the concept of having Lexie's eyes surgically removed, Dr. Ellis said, "It's your decision whether or not you want to remove both eyes, or just the right."  

Whoa.  Wait.  What?

I have to CHOOSE whether or not Lexie has her left eye removed?!?!?!  I asked Dr. Ellis for her opinion, and she recommended that I have them both removed in one surgery.  She said with the way her eye pressures had been fluctuating, she was almost certain that Lexie's left eye would have to be removed eventually anyway.  She told me to think about it, though, and call her in the morning with my decision.  She said that Lexie's right eye was definitely causing her pain, so the sooner the surgery, the better.

I had read online somewhere that it's very important for owners of newly blinded dogs to stay upbeat because your sadness can make your dog even sadder.  So, the first thing I did when we got home from the vet was I went up to my bedroom and bawled for about an hour.  I couldn't stand the thought of my Lou never looking at me with those big, brown, sparkly eyes ever again.  Then, I started toiling over the decision to remover her left eye.  After all, the pressure in that eye had been normal, which meant it wasn't causing her pain, it looked a LOT better than her right eye, and I could tell she could still at least see shadow and light.  How could I possibly decide to remove her left eye when it looked so good and still seemed to have some function?

Regardless, I knew that the logical decision was to have both eyes removed at once since the chances are very good that her left eye would need to be removed eventually.  So, that night I made up my mind that I would schedule her for a double-enucleation on Friday (so I could be home with her over the weekend).  However, the decision didn't sit well with me all night and, in fact, I awoke at 4:30 the next morning literally in tears over it.

So, the next day I thought it over and finally decided that my heart simply would not let me live with the decision to remove her left eye for all of the reasons stated above.  If it looked as bad as her right eye and/or I knew it was causing her pain, it wouldn't even be a question, but as it was I decided I would let her keep her left eye until it became medically necessary to have it removed.  The moment I made that decision, I felt a million times better.

I continued to feel good about my decision, in fact, until yesterday.  I have been Googling all sorts of things regarding canine blindness, helping a dog adjust, enucleation photos to prepare myself for how she'll look after surgery, etc., and somehow I stumbled upon a blog, very similar to this one, written by a woman who's dog had undergone two separate enucleations.  She said that the second surgery was actually much harder on her dog because he had grown so accustomed to being able to see shadows and light out of his one good eye after his first enucleation.  Therefore, when he awoke to total darkness after his second surgery, it really freaked him out.

Reading this really made me doubt my decision to save Lou's left eye.  Was I really prolonging her quality of life, or was I just trying to avoid the inevitable for my own selfish reasons?  I fully admit that one of the main reasons I didn't want to have her left eye removed was because I wanted her to still be able to look at me with at least one eye, even if she couldn't really see me.  Again, I just couldn't stand the thought of her NEVER being able to look at me ever again.  However, I knew deep down in my heart that her left eye would have to be removed at some point.  I was even a little worried that her left eye might take a turn for the worse immediately after her right eye is removed, and she'd end up having back-to-back surgeries.

I went home from work yesterday toiling, once again, over this decision, but as soon as I got home I realized that the decision had already been made for me.  Lexie's left eye had gotten MUCH worse while I had been at work.  It is now just as cloudy as her right eye, bulging a little bit, and she was even pawing at her eye, which is a sign of pain.  I know this may sound awful, but I was actually kind of relieved to not have to struggle with this decision anymore.  Knowing my Lou is in pain takes away any other option, as far as I'm concerned.  Both of her eyes simply have to be removed.

So, now here we are.  Less than a month from the first sign of inflammation, it's the night before Lexie's scheduled enucleation surgery.  I'm still 100% certain this is the right decision, as her eyes both look really bad tonight and it doesn't even seem like she's seeing much shadow or light anymore.  At this point, I'm almost anxious for the surgery because I just don't want her to suffer anymore.  My hope is that once her eyes are removed she will be completely pain-free, and then hopefully I'll start to see her spunky little personality start to come back.  Right now, she's kind of depressed and obviously doesn't feel well, so she hasn't acted like "my Lou" in weeks.  I know it's going to take a while for her to recover from the surgery and adjust to complete blindness, but I'm fully confident in Lexie's ability to adapt.  In fact, I have a feeling this blind little Dobie is going to blow us all away with her amazing new abilities when it's all said and done.

In the meantime, I'm not gonna lie, tomorrow is probably going to be one of the toughest days of my life.  I will be dropping Lou off at the vet when they open at 8:00 a.m., then waiting on pins and needles while TRYING to work all day to hear how her surgery went.  I'm not sure if she's going to need to stay overnight, but thankfully my vet is open on Saturdays, so hopefully I can pick her up the next day at the latest.  I'm sure that I'm going to be incredibly sad and even a little bit horrified when I see her for the first time, but that won't stop me from babying the hell out of that little turd all weekend long.  In fact, I think I'll go baby her right now.

Background - Part Two: Blindsided By Glaucoma

After making the six-hour drive (round-trip) to see veterinary ophthalmologist, Dr. Corbett, at MedVet in Worthington, Ohio, Justin and I immediately began administering Lexie’s medications just as Dr. Corbett had prescribed:  three and a half antibiotic pills each morning, steroid drops in each eye every six hours, and her ibuprofen-type medication (I forget the name) twice a day.  We did this religiously for about four days without seeing any improvement in Lexie’s eyes, but I wasn’t really worried because Dr. Corbett had said we probably wouldn’t see improvement until after a week.

Then, on about the fifth day following Lexie’s trip to Ohio, Justin and I decided to take Lexie and her sisters, Jocie and Sam (see the Introduction section of my blog below), to visit his parents.  The girls had a blast running all over the fenced-in yard and exploring Justin’s parents’ home.  It was during that visit, however, that I noticed Lexie’s left eye was looking cloudier than usual.  Upon further inspection, I discovered the whites of her eyes were also extremely red.  I wondered if this was due to her blood pressure being elevated from all the excitement, and I hoped that the redness in her eyes would decrease after she went home, settled down, and had a good night’s sleep. 

Well, the next morning (Monday), not only were her eyes still very red, but her left eye had gotten even cloudier than the day before.  At that point, I felt it was time to call Dr. Corbett to schedule Lexie’s follow-up appointment.  After scheduling her appointment for that coming Wednesday, I spoke with one of the ophthalmology vet techs, and she recommended I take Lexie back to see Dr. Ellis, our local vet, to have her eye pressures read that day.  She said that what I was describing sounded like Lexie’s eye pressures might be building up, which is a sign of glaucoma.  Not only that, but those pressures can increase very quickly and cause Lexie to lose her sight within a matter of hours! 

I immediately called my brother, Zach, and asked if he could take Lexie to the vet for me after he got off work. He agreed, and about an hour or so later I received a call from Dr. Lilly at Animal Care Clinic, who was filling in for Dr. Ellis that week while she was on vacation.  Dr. Lilly said that Lexie’s eye pressures were dangerously high, and she told me I needed to take Lexie IMMEDIATELY back to MedVet in Ohio for emergency treatment.  She said she would call MedVet to let them know I was coming.  As soon as we hung up, I found my boss and tearfully explained to her that I probably wouldn’t be able to come into work the next day because I was about to rush my Doberman back to Ohio.  She said that was fine, but as soon as I got back to my desk I received another phone call.  Apparently, when Dr. Lilly called MedVet to tell them I was coming, she spoke with Dr. Corbett, who told her an immediate emergency visit was not necessary.  Instead, Dr. Corbett prescribed two new eye drops for me to give Lexie every eight hours, and I was to bring Lexie back to Animal Care Clinic the next day to have her eye pressures checked again.   If the eye pressures were decreased at that point, then it would be okay for us to just keep our Wednesday appointment.   Thankfully, the new eye drops were successful in bringing down her pressures, so that Wednesday Lou and I headed back to Ohio to see Dr. Corbett.

At this point, I was starting to feel like the butt of some sort of cruel joke.  Wasn’t it just a week ago that I had been SO happy and relieved to hear an that Lexie WASN’T going blind?  What was all this talk about glaucoma and having to lower her eye pressures so that she wouldn’t go blind within a matter of hours??!?!   Dr. Corbett never mentioned the possibility of glaucoma developing, nor did she tell me anything about this serious, sight-threatening condition!  Were there signs I could have been watching for?  Was Lexie at a greater risk of going blind now because I didn’t realize she was developing glaucoma? 

I was bursting with questions when we arrived for our follow-up appointment at MedVet on Wednesday, June 20, 2012.  Dr. Corbett was just as nice as ever and seemed genuinely disappointed that Lexie’s condition had taken a turn for the worse.  After examining her, Dr. Corbett explained to me that Lou had apparently developed glaucoma secondary to her anterior uveitis.  Here is what happened (at least, how I understood it):

Dogs have a sort of “drain” in their eyes, which allow fluids to, well, drain from their eyeballs.    If that drain becomes clogged for some reason, the fluid cannot escape and then pressure begins to build up in the eyes.   If that pressure builds up too high, it causes permanent vision loss.  That, in a layman’s nutshell, is glaucoma. 

Now, there are two different kinds of glaucoma:  primary and secondary.  Secondary glaucoma is when it develops due to another underlying condition, such as anterior uveitis.  In Lexie’s case, her anterior uveitis had caused her eyeballs to become inflamed, and the swelling is what caused the drains in her eyes to clog.  Dr. Corbett explained that if we could successfully determine the cause of her anterior uveitis, we could hopefully treat it, which would then get rid of the inflammation and allow those drains in her eyes to re-open; thus, also getting rid of the glaucoma. 

First thing was first, and that was determining the cause of Lexie’s anterior uveitis.  We had already ruled out an eye injury, and we had been treating her with medication as though the cause was either a tick bite or an autoimmune disorder, but we still hadn’t ruled out cancer, fungal infection, or disease of her internal organs. Therefore, Lexie underwent a chest X-ray and abdominal ultrasound, both of which thankfully came back completely normal.  As relieved as I was to find out she did not have cancer or anything else wrong internally, that only brought us right back to square one:  assuming her anterior uveitis was caused by a tick bite or autoimmune disorder.

Dr. Corbett decided to treat Lou much more aggressively for the next two weeks by adding an oral steroid, Prednisone, on a tapering dose, maintaining the antibiotics and steroidal eye drops, and also adding three different eye drops to treat her glaucoma, which were intended to help stabilize and maintain the pressures in Lexie’s eyes at a safe level.  Dr. Corbett told me that after two weeks of this aggressive treatment, we would have a much better idea of Lexie’s long-term prognosis, which we would discuss at her next follow-up visit. 

I was very careful with the wording of my questions, but basically I told Dr. Corbett that when I left there the last time, I left under the impression that there was not any danger of Lexie going blind, so I just wanted to make sure that I had a full understanding about what was going on with Lexie’s condition so that I hopefully wouldn’t experience any further heartbreaks or disappointments.   Dr. Corbett never acknowledged or apologized for the fact that she did not at least give me a heads up about the possibility of Lou developing secondary glaucoma, but I did appreciate how nice Dr. Corbett was and how she made me feel as though she had all the time in the world to answer my questions.   I also felt confident that Lexie was receiving the best possible care at MedVet.

This time, as I made the three-hour drive back to Huntington from Worthington, I was relieved that at least Lexie’s condition wasn’t life-threatening and still slightly hopeful that her new aggressive treatment would cure her anterior uveitis and glaucoma, but overall I was just extremely saddened and disappointed by the fact that there was now actually a strong possibility that Lexie could go blind. 

Justin and I literally had to set alarms on our phones to remind us which medication Lexie needed at what time, but we continued to administer all of Lexie’s medications, just as Dr. Corbett prescribed, 24/7.  The cloudiness in Lexie’s eyes did actually clear up for a couple of days, which made me hopeful, but on Sunday night I noticed her right eye was starting to turn really red once again.  The next morning, her right eye was very cloudy, both eyes were extremely red, and her right eye even looked like it was bulging a little bit.  Even worse, it was obvious that she wasn’t seeing much more than shadows and light.  I called MedVet as soon as I got to work, and they advised me to take Lexie back to Animal Care Clinic to have her pressures read.  So, I left work, picked Lou up, and dropped her back off at Animal Care Clinic. 

Finally, just as I was leaving to go pick her up, Dr. Ellis called me.  I expected to hear a progress report on Lexie.  Hell, I was even expecting the report to be bad.   What I wasn't expecting was that Dr. Ellis was about to present me with the hardest decision I've ever had to make...

Background - Part One: It's "Only" Anterior Uveitis

It’s hard to believe it was only less than one month ago (the first week of June, 2012) when I first noticed something was wrong with Lexie’s left eye.   She happened to turn to look at me while her third eyelid was covering her eye, which was something I’d never seen her do before.    As soon as I jumped up to get a closer look, though, her eye went back to normal and she seemed to be perfectly fine.  I thought that maybe it was just a fluke, but it became obvious the next day that it wasn’t.   Her eyes were becoming increasingly red, so I made an appointment at the vet the next morning.  I thought that she was maybe having an allergic reaction to something, or perhaps had been scratched by one of the feral cats that sometime seek shelter under our deck.  I figured the vet would probably prescribe some medicine, which we’d probably have to give her for a couple of weeks, and then Lou would be back to normal in no time.

My boyfriend, Justin, and I took Lexie to see Dr. Ginger Ellis at Animal Care Clinic in Huntington, WV that Saturday.  I could immediately tell by Dr. Ellis’ concerned expression, however, that Lexie’s eye condition was something worse than I had anticipated.  She measured Lou’s eye pressures and was very relieved when her pressures were low, because she said that meant that this was not glaucoma.  After further examining her, Dr. Ellis said she believed Lexie had anterior uveitis, which is an inflammation that affects the front, or anterior, part of the eye.  She prescribed a steroid eye drop to give Lexie every six hours, along with an antibiotic, and told me that Lou’s eyes should start looking better by the next day.  If it didn’t, Dr. Ellis recommended I take her to the emergency vet, since it would be on a Sunday, in order to have blood work done because eye inflammation can also be a sign of something going on internally, like cancer.  I asked Dr. Ellis if we could just go ahead and do some blood work that day, just to save myself a little bit of worry.  She agreed, and thankfully Lexie’s blood work came back normal.

We immediately started administering the antibiotics and steroid drops to Lexie’s eyes as prescribed, but she did not look better the next day.   I didn’t rush her to the ER, though, because her blood work had come back normal at Dr. Ellis’ office.  So, I just continued to administer her medications over the next several days, thinking that eventually they would kick in and she’d start to look better, but she didn’t.  In fact, after a full week of treatment, Lexie’s eyes were starting to look worse.  Her left eye was noticeably worse than her right, but they were both very red, and she was holding them shut most of the time.   However, despite the fact that she was starting to actually look like a blind dog, she could obviously still see because she wasn’t bumping into anything, which I took as a positive sign.

At her follow-up appointment (one week after her initial diagnosis), Dr. Ellis frowned when she saw that Lexie’s condition had worsened, and after giving her a brief examination, she asked if she could refer us to an eye specialist in Ohio.  She said that she was afraid Lexie may be developing retinal detachment and could go blind very quickly, but because Dr. Ellis is not a veterinary ophthalmologist, she said she couldn’t really be sure.  That is why she wanted to make us a referral to a place called MedVet in Worthington, Ohio, which is a three-hour drive from Huntington.  I couldn’t believe we were actually discussing the possibility of my Lou going blind!  I was immediately in tears  because I wasn’t sure I would be able to afford any kind of extensive treatment that Lou may need.  Dr. Ellis and her assistant were both very sympathetic and talked to me about some possible financing options through Care Credit, if it came to that.  Her assistant held my hand and told me that dogs adjust very well to being blind, and told me about how her own dog adjusted very well after he had to have both of his eyes removed.  So, basically, I went home from the vet that day thinking that Lexie was most likely going blind, but still holding out hope that the specialist in Ohio would have better news for us. 

A few days later, my roommate, Ashley, accompanied me and Lexie on our road trip to see Dr. Corbett, a veterinary ophthalmologist, at MedVet.   (Thankfully, I have a very nice boss who allowed me to take some time off from work in order to make the trip to Ohio.)  I was very impressed when we arrived at MedVet because it was SO much bigger than the little old Animal Care Clinic back home.  It felt more like a hospital, which was comforting in a way. 

Dr. Corbett and her vet tech were both very nice.  After a thorough examination of Lexie’s eyes, Dr. Corbett told us that Lexie’s retinas looked fine.  She then went on to explain anterior uveitis to us, which was Dr. Ellis’ original diagnosis, but I still wasn’t 100% sure if Lexie was in danger of going blind.  Finally, I mustered up the courage to ask, “Just to be clear, are you telling me that Lexie is NOT going blind?”  Dr. Corbett replied, “Correct.  She is not going blind.”  Ashley and I both cheered, and Ashley immediately began texting the good news to all of our concerned friends back home as I continued to listen to Dr. Corbett. 

She explained that anterior uveitis can be caused by a number of things, including tick bite, cancer, eye injury, a disease of the internal organs, fungal infection, or it could possibly be autoimmune-related.  She was able to rule out eye injury during Lexie’s exam that day, and I could have paid to have blood work done that would have definitely told us if it was caused by a tick bite, but when Dr. Corbett said that we were basically treating her for a tick bite anyway, I decided to save some money and not order that test.  So, that left cancer, internal organ disease, fungal infection, and autoimmune disorder as the remaining possible causes for her uveitis. 

Dr. Corbett recommended we treat Lexie’s condition as though it was caused by tick bite or an autoimmune disorder.  If her condition worsened or did not improve after two weeks of treatment, then she would order a chest X-ray and abdominal ultrasound to look for cancer, etc.  So, I was told to continue giving Lexie the same steroid eye drops and antibiotics she was already taking, but Dr. Corbett increased their dosages and added another ibuprofen-type medication to her regimen.  She told me that Lexie wouldn’t look better immediately, but after about a week I should start to see an improvement. 

Needless to say, I went home the happiest dog owner in the entire world that afternoon because I had been told by an actual veterinary ophthalmologist that Lexie was NOT going blind!!!!

If only I had known the heartbreak that lay ahead…

Introduction: Why I'm Blogging

My name is Courtney Bell, and I'm the proud mother of three beautiful canine daughters.  From left to right in the photo above:  Jocie, my oldest, is a Border Collie/Golden Retriever mix, Sam is a coonhound/Rottweiler mix, and my youngest is Lexie (aka "Lou"), who is a full-blooded Doberman (not registered).  Jocie is my goofball, Sam is my "human dog" (I swear she feels emotions and has intuition like a person), and Lexie my little turd.  I say that with love, of course, but there really is no better way to describe her. 

Lou is by far my most active, playful, and demanding dog.  When she wants to cuddle, you'd better scoot over and make room on HER couch or else she'll whine and groan until she gets her way.  If she thinks it's time to eat, even if it's an hour before dinner time, she'll pick up her food bowl and carry it around the house, tossing it at your feet until you finally fill it with food.  When she decides it's time to go out to pee, she "rallies the troops" and gets both of her sisters all excited to go outside.  In other words, Lexie rules the roost!

Over the span of just one month (June, 2012), Lexie developed sudden onset glaucoma and blindness, which was not only devastating to me and her, but also to everyone who knows her. While trying to learn more about Lou's condition, treatment, and long-term prognosis, as well as wanting to know the best methods for helping her adjust to blindness, I have searched the Internet for similar stories, but surprisingly I've found very few.  Therefore, I decided to start this blog, which will chronicle mine and Lexie's adjustment to her new life as a blind Dobe.  My hope is that other owners dealing with sudden canine blindness will be able to find some comfort, encouragement, and maybe even a little advice in our story.  Please feel free to email me directly if you have any questions or just want to share your own story: