(Des Moines, IA) In an unplanned press conference this morning, KCAT reporters learned that Lotus Clark, the eight-month old Maine Coon kitten being parented by Sheree Clark, actually chased a ping-pong ball on Saturday.
Though ordinarily not a newsworthy event, the ping-pong occasion is evidence of Lotus’ recovery from an illness that had lasted for several weeks. The cause of the illness remains unknown, but was marked by a gradual—and then rapid—decline in the mobility of the kitten. While at first simply showing a tendency to tire more easily, a pivotal downturn came on a weekend evening in mid-March, when the young cat became unable to walk more than a few steps. An emergency trip to the veterinarian ultimately led to a referral to veterinary specialists at Iowa State University, as well as a consultation with Michigan State University, as experts sought to find the cause of the mystery ailment.
At the lowest point in his illness, Lotus became unable to successfully navigate the litter box by himself, relying on Sheree for assistance. (At Lotus’ request, additional details about this facet of his condition are not available.)
In a tearful statement to KCAT, Sheree recounts, “I was beside myself not knowing where to turn. Lotus is ordinarily so congenial and to see him being lethargic and disinterested was just torture…it was like having a pet turtle or something.”
This mornings’ breakthrough came after weeks of at-home care by Clark, guidance by the veterinary team and support from friends of the Clark family. Diet modifications, supplements, physical therapy, rest and sunshine, as well as weekly acupuncture treatments combined to restore the kitten to what Sheree estimates is “about an 85% recovery.” She has confidence in full restoration of the prowess of the male cat. “Well,” she adds, I mean he is neutered, so…let’s say substantial restoration of his abilities.”
Asked what his plans are now that he is once again agile, Lotus responded by kicking the vent cover off the duct in Clark’s kitchen. “Be careful what you wish for,” murmured his Mom.
Although written tongue-in-cheek, the above is actually a true story (including the part about the vent cover!). If you follow me on social media you might have noticed that my posts about Lotus had decreased. I was in such a funk and so desperate trying to figure out what was wrong with him, I couldn’t even talk about it, except to a very few close friends.
With a lot of luck, patience, prayer and support, I am confident enough to now say I think we are on the other side of the challenge. I wanted to share this news as a means of celebration and also to be able to acknowledge a few of the cadre of professionals who showed such huge hearts and compassion as Lotus and I maneuvered through the medical and informational maze. Thank you from both of us to Dr. Kim Wilke (+ team), Iowa Veterinary Wellness; Dr. Jennifer Loewen, Iowa State University; Dr. John Fyfe, Michigan State University; April Lawrence, Boneapatreat, as well as my friends who let me cancel plans so I could be at home more, and who listened while I lamented and worried.
In addition to gratitude to those who’ve supported me, I want to document what I have learned through this process. I do this as much for me as for anyone reading this, because I have an uncanny ability to “forget” my epiphanies. As a result of this heartache experience I have learned, or perhaps re-learned:
The absolute importance of being present. I am a recovering multi-tasker. I check emails at stoplights, read while on the treadmill, listen to audio books while I prepare dinner. But when I was with Lotus or his care team, I was all in. I had the razor focus to ask questions that led to better decisions about the protocol we ultimately developed for him. I even turned the radio off when the two of us traveled to our appointment at Iowa State, and I talked to him quietly as I drove. Similarly, I avoided the alluring temptations of distraction. I didn’t over-exercise or indulge in fantasy escape. No mind-numbing wine or food-induced comas. And I deliberately did not post about it on Facebook because I knew it would create drama and take me away from the real focus. Through these strategies, I felt connected and oddly capable, which gave me peace and a presence of mind I’ve not enjoyed for a while.
Care giving is tough work. I have never had children. I have not had to attend to aging relatives. I always thought taking care of others was a tough mission, but until I had a first hand look at what it means to anticipate needs and be on call (and on high alert) 24/7, I had no clue. I know I had it easy compared to some. My assignment was a brief one. My ward was/is a cheerful and uncomplaining kitten and I work from my home. Yet, I saw very clearly that the act of compassionate care giving requires time, selflessness and love. I have new (and high) regard for those who provide such service in long-term situations.
Progress is incremental, and sometimes slow. The ping-pong ball moment was not the first indicator that Lotus was making headway, but for me it was the first real sign that he was (dare I say it?) out of the woods. Before that he was able to almost sit up in the litter box, and before that he walked three full steps before he needed to rest. I clung to each little glimpse of increased strength and stamina and to every new accomplishment. I hope to remember that lesson in weeks to come as I become impatient with myself and how long it takes for me to achieve, complete, master and sometimes even get around to certain things. Sometimes, the schedule that happens is not the one that I drew up.
It’s horrible to feel helpless when someone you love is not well. When all you care about is getting “normal” back. You want answers, solutions…you want the pain to stop—for everyone. If you are in such a place right now, my heart truly goes out to you. I am sending you a prayer to find a place of stillness and peace and surrender in your heart, so that you can be present when your presence is needed. I hope you’ll be a compassionate caregiver who also knows you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others. And I hope you will see and celebrate progress in whatever timeframe it decides to present itself.
I didn’t set out for this post to be so long, and since it is a celebration, I would like to end on a happy note, which, for me means a recipe. This one is anti-inflammatory, in commemoration of the lessening of the pain both Lotus and I have experienced. Cheers and gratitude!
Yield: 1 serving
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 frozen banana, peeled
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon chia seeds
2 leaves romaine lettuce OR 1 cup spinach
Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.