Here are some scenes from the too-short life of our Lester, brother to Larry, and family member to us all. As I blogged about earlier, Lester died suddenly at the vet after routine vaccines and under unusual circumstances. This was a vet we had used many times before but not always. He has been in business at least 20 years and is in a large, clean facility. Warsaw, Indiana is not a town with a "bad side."
Unfortunately, the vet acted aloof, uncaring and even defensive when we attempted to question him more about this. We felt something was amiss when we were told Lester was done with his shots and to come pick him up. He was not in the room, nor handed to us in the carrier at the desk like normal. The vet and staff acted odd, but then acted "surprised" when they "discovered" Lester had died.
After several hours to think, we visited three other vets in town to ask about shot reactions, and we called Purdue University, home to a renowned veterinary school, and also the most likely location in the state to due any kind of autopsy or research.
Although Lester had already been frozen, we were lucky enough to get his body back from the vet before the animal cremation service arrived. My first cat, Mookie, who lived to be 18, is buried in our back yard, but Paul did not prefer this for Lester, and I respected that.
After suspecting something was out of the ordinary, we were pretty sure Lester's body would be gone, but by calling Friday morning (before things got ugly), we were able to get him back. I am out of state, so I applaud my daughter for bravely picking Lester up and taking him to our other, more regular vet, who was busy the day all this happened. Paul was still beside himself and blaming himself, and I didn't want to ask him to get the body.
Adrienne, who can be squeamish, stepped up. Our regular vet could have done an autopsy if Lester hadn't already been frozen. But they did call Purdue for us and make arrangements, and they shipped him. When they called the other vet for the rest of Lester's records, he initially refused. I have no idea what kind of "records" or notes on the chart we got for last Thursday.
We later talked to Purdue twice, and one of the two people said she had never seen a vaccine reaction in all her years there. The other said it can happen; it happens to people, too. But it is extremely rare.
The other vets in town made several excellent points: a vet's normal policy is to monitor ALL animals after a vaccine is given; vaccines should not be given to sick animals (even one with a minor eye infection). We didn't even think of that, and as I was lamenting, I was reminded we shouldn't have had to. The veterinarian is supposed to think of that.
Another said a simple Benadryl injection could have stopped the reaction then and there. We didn't think of that either. Where was the veterinarian's crash cart for emergencies like this--since reactions can happen in surgery, too.
We asked the vet to pay for the autopsy at Purdue ($96) on principle. He got very testy and refused. Why wouldn't he want to know what happened, too? Why wouldn't he want to notify the pharmaceutical manufacturer of the vaccine and get them involved?
So, without any answers we have been forced to imagine all sorts of unpleasant and unthinkable things--from the simplest negligence, like injecting Lester and then everyone leaving for coffee to grabbing a dog- or horse-size dose, to accidentally snapping Lester's neck when grabbing the scruff. I am sorry to write these things. None of us can get them out of our minds because we don't know.
We have talked to the local animal shelter, and to a local attorney- not for money, but for answers. We are waiting until the results of the autopsy. So, although he never expected it, Lester, the sometimes basketball fan, is going to Purdue, home of the Boilermakers, sometimes a Hoosier Hysteria contender. We're pretty sure Lester was not a Purdue fan, and definitely is not now. However, if his senseless death can prevent this from happening again--whether it be a tainted vaccine, a mis-dosed shot, a negligent vet or worse--and if his death can help teach veterinary students, then we will be glad. Perhaps the results will help generate some answers since none are forthcoming locally.