Saturday, January 26, 2013

Kids Vs. Pets

Tuesday, early evening, C starts coughing, but it isn't too bad.

Wednesday morning, upon waking, C is wheezing and can't catch her breath even when sitting still and just talking.

The diagnosis from the doctor is Pneumonia. The second time she has been diagnosed with it in 8 weeks. The same thing happened last time: a simple cough into Pneumonia within 24 hours. C is also referred to an allergist/asthma specialist. We think it's "just" asthma since it since it's mostly just wheezing and asthma is known for complicating even the simplest of colds.

But in the back of my mind I wonder, "what if?" What if it's the pets?

We've had Sierra since early 2004, before we were married. 

 Zoey joined our family in 2006.
C and B have adored our pets. Sierra and Zoey have snuggled up with all of us when we've been sick, have stood guard faithfully next to baby carriers, occasionally help with after dinner clean-up (Sierra is known for finishing uneaten meat and Zoey "hoovers" the floor), and have provided C and B with entertainment and a sense of responsibility (C and B fight to feed them when the bowls are empty, and to give them treats).

And now?

Now they have to find new homes.

And I am heartbroken. So is One Ordinary Dad. So is C. B doesn't get it yet, but I know he's going to go looking for one of his furry buddies sometime in the next few weeks and be upset when he can't find them.

Yes, there is asthma, and there are seasonal allergies, but C's pet dander reaction was off the charts.

The doctor measured C's oxygen in take. It was low. Almost scary low. And while she is recovering from Pneumonia, the doctor said it still shouldn't be that low. In other words, my girl has been struggling to breathe in her own house. Because she hasn't had a visible reaction and because her "struggle" to breathe isn't really visible under normal health conditions (it's not like she's walking around the house panting), we've never known.

We asked what it would take to keep the pets. In short:
  1. C would have to have a regular allergy shot-- best case it would be once a month, worst case it would be 2 or 3 times a week, the doctor said he would start her at once a week and see how she responded. 
  2. Both pets would need to be bathed TWICE a week. 
  3. All carpets (we have hardwood and lots of rugs) would need to be cleaned once a week. 
  4. All slipcovers, comforters, decorative pillows and throws would need to be washed once a week. 
  5. Our HVAC needs a special HEPA filter and that filter would need to be changed once a month. 
  6. We'd have to spray our furniture and floors once a week with tannic acid (an anti-allergen that kills pet dander and costs $20-$30/bottle with one bottle being enough for 1, possibly 2, applications. 
And none of that is guaranteed to work. We could try it all for a month and have C's levels retested to see if it's effective, but if it's not, we'd still be where we are right now.

This weekend, Zoey is going to live with family. My grandmother and uncle have always watched Zoey when we've been out of town and have grown to love her. They live close by and C and B can stop by and hang out with her whenever they want (C can still be around animals, she just can't live with animals). We're still trying to find a home for a cat and fear she may be harder to place.

Once both pets are gone, we have a lot of cleaning ahead of us. We still need the HEPA filter (but don't have to change it as often as we would if we were trying to keep our pets). And we need to do one application of tannic acid to kill the lingering dander. We will need to clean carpets and wash slipcovers, comforters, decorative pillows/throws, and vacuum every nook and cranny. And we'll need to clean out all of our air ducts.

And then all should be well. C should be breathing easier. We'll go to get her levels checked again. She'll go in once a year to have things checked. If she doesn't react as strongly to pet dander in the future, we might be able to explore having another cat or dog in the future. 

But in the meantime, in the now, my heart is broken. I am devastated. We all are. But C is a human. She doesn't want weekly shots (we asked and were willing to try). C grew inside of me for almost 42 weeks and is a physical piece of me that Zoey and Sierra are not.

I know there are those out there who think we should go for it, who think we should fight to keep our pets. But the thing is, One Ordinary Dad has walked this road before. He had the same diagnosis when he was C's age and he knows what it's like to wheeze and have trouble breathing. He doesn't want that for C and neither do I. Clearly One Ordinary Dad's issues lessened over time and we can only hope and pray that the same will happen for C.

~One Ordinary Mom

PS...C's fifth birthday is coming up. We may have felt slightly guilty that we have to give up our beloved pets and gone a little overboard on her present, getting her one of these.  It's a little out of our birthday budget, but she asked for a camera and video camera (this does both) and does enjoy our iPads, so this has the best of all three worlds and will hopefully last her into second or third grade, at which point we may be looking at a more sophisticated device and e-reader (yikes).

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