"I ain't dead yet, you fother mucker!"
There he is, back to normal, greeting the morning sun, cursing me out, bossing me around.
Welcome back, pal.
He has made a miraculous recovery but there is no guaranty that he will remain stable. His return to fair health was earned day by day; it was rough on him and tough on us. We cherish every moment of his current comfort and happiness.
Just before midnight Saturday three weeks ago (03/13/2021) Freak suffered Ataxia and things progressively worsened. He's nearly 18-years-old and it was somewhat difficult for us to be optimistic. When we got to the vet, the cat could no longer walk at all and he looked and acted stoned, drunk, or both. Seriously, he looked like a 1960's hippie that I once saw critically overdosed at a peace and love festivity during that era.
The cat was at the vet only for a few hours before they called for us to take him back home (Covid-19 era curbside drop-off and pick-up service doncha know). The vet said the cat was now blind and possibly had toxoplasmosis infecting his brain (when questioned, I answered that this cat is 100% indoors, we don't feed him raw meat, and he had no exposure to bird droppings, etc.). The vet recommended that the cat should be further examined by a neurologist but also said that the cat's age and condition made the scan procedure somehat risky. I declined but did ask how much that it would cost; $WOW$ and there was no money back guarantee that the exam would find anything to benefit the cat if he did survive the procedure.
An antibiotic that sometimes can cross cross the blood-brain barrier was prescribed for 14-days. If the cat's clinical signs didn't improve within the first 48-hours the vet advised us to switch to a prednisone regimen if we wanted to make one last desperate life saving effort before euthanizing. While we were on that subject, I insisted that there was no way I was going to have Freak euthanized without me being present for the procedure; the clinic agreed to let me be inside to hold him during his final breaths if it came to that. Kudos to them for understanding and agreeing to bend the rules.
Well, Freak's condition improved marginally each day; sometimes he acted like he was blind and there were some periods when he seemed to recover some ability to see. He often looked like he was navigating by familiarity of the surroundings aided by his whiskers, the sounds, and the smells. He was determined to relearn how to walk; he was ambulatory in short order but very wobbly; he fell down often and the litterbox was quite a challenge for him.
We kept him on the antibiotic for 9-days; that stuff was very hard on the cat. It made him miserable and turned his poop into wet sludge. We had to administer it every 12-hours. Just when he was starting to recover from the effects of the previous dose it was time to dose him again. On day #9 I recognized that he suddenly was losing ground and going into a depression; he was losing his will to live. I've been through this before many times during my cognizant years; when a creature or human decides that it's over there is no coming back.
Wife and I decided that we would take a chance and end the antibiotic treatment prematurely (by 5-days) since there was no solid evidence of toxoplasmosis infection complications. We knew that if our decision was wrong, ending the treatment prematurely could cause a rebound infection that was worse than the first; we hoped that the 9-days of treatment would be sufficient. We had no choice but to take the chance. Freak had suffered through enough medicinal abuse and had little fight left. I nixed the last ditch prednisone treatment option. All we could do at this point was to give him love, attention, nourishment, and a sense of normalcy. Yeah, I did some heavy-duty praying. I shed so many tears I started to show signs of dehydration (just kidding a bit). Seriously, I wasn't eating right and I wasn't drinking enough water. My weight dropped over 5-lbs in 3-weeks and my skin started to have the tecture of a prune. The constant flow of coffee I was consuming to clear the mental cobwebs caused by my lack of sleep acted like a diuretic.
So here's where we are now. Three full weeks after the attack, Freak's gait, his posture, his balance, and his vision are all pretty much back to normal. He still has a slight weakness in left hind leg and his tail doesn't flag like it did before the ataxia. He climbs and descends the stairs with ease. He JUMPS onto the couch and JUMPS onto the bed. He scurries after my wife whenever she leaves a room. He is back to owning this house and following the sun to different locations throughout the day. He does, however, have rare moments when he flashes a brief sign of one symptom or another that trips my anxiety switch. Time will tell.
How did Freak recover this far so quickly? What exactly caused his illness? Will his recovery continue? Will he have a sudden relapse? Well, we can only wait and speculate.
Random update 04/05/2021 01:10AM
Wife was upstairs with Freak and she shouted out the news that she caught Freak playing with a toy mouse under the bed. It may not sound like much, but to me that was another milestone..
Random update 04/05/2021 ~11:00PM
Wife said Freak took a tumble acending the second flight of stairs to our second floor; he was in a hurry to follow her and tried to clear the top two steps with one final jump. His ego and confidence are shaken but he appears unhurt.
Random update 04/06/2021 entered @ 12:45AM 04/07/2021
Still not getting much chance for sleep (me, not the cat). Freak seemed a bit sluggish today but nothing jumped out as critical. I managed to do ~12-hours of productive work between shopping, working in the yard, and working inside the house. Freak's lack of enthusiasm vanished as soon as I brought home a pair of chicken chalupas for my wife to have for dinner. He turned his nose up at his dinner plate and RAN to my wife and jumped all over her trying to get to the chalupas. Traditionally Maria has always pinched off bits of chicken from her dinners and tossed them to the shameless beggar --- it's a conditioned reflex for both of them. It was probably not the most nutritional thing for Freak to be eating right now (cat food canned chicken is fortified with essential cat nutrients, Taco Bell chicken probably is not) but it was kinda fun seeing him go nuts again. Considering that this cat's recovery is akin to walking a tightrope, the chalupa caper tripped my anxiety switch a bit but overall I think this nutritional indiscretion was probably good for all of us. Freak's charm isn't because of his urbane mannerisms, it's because he is borderline feral --- he reminds me of ME.
Random update 04/13/2021 is mixed news.
Saturday 04/10/2021 was four full weeks since Freak had the near fatal Ataxia episode. He was doing well until Sunday but his on-again / off again limited vision failed completely; he is now totally blind. He got over the initial panic and subsequent depression of going blind when his alleycat roots kicked in; he has extraordinary survival instincts. He has owned this house for 10-years and knows where the stairs are and where the furniture, water dishes, food dishes, upstairs and downstairs litterboxes are. He actually can (most of the time) jump up on furniture (we have provided steps for him to use ... which he does use when his confidence is shaken). On Monday 04/12/2021 we took him to his usual vet for a progress check. His blood work came back fine; there is no sign of infection. His kidneys are starting to show signs of failure (not unusual for cats his age); we are supposed to transition him to a special food for that. This vet prescribed a nutritional supplement for Freak's arthritis and an as-needed pain medication. We aim to let Freak live out his lifetime as long as he and / or the Almighty chooses. As an aside, my internet was down for around 5-days so I was not able to make updates to this blogpost (I was in a panic to pay some bills).
... to be continued ...
I'll finish composing and editing this bog post in increments (it will wind up being rather long, disjointed, with rambling prose and many photos that may not be pertinent ---- and it may be my last post for a while) ... but I'll finish it when I can ... I'm still physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. I gotta get some sleep ... 3-hour snoozes seem to be the best that I can do lately.
More soon ...