This post is by Liane Kupferberg Carter a mother of two adult sons, one of whom has autism and epilepsy. Liane is a journalist whose articles and essays have appeared in more than 40 publications. As a community activist, she has worked with both national and local organizations.
I get the news moments before my 21-year-old son Mickey gets home. The biopsy is back: Our 14-year-old cat Fudge has lymphoma.
I still manage to greet Mickey cheerfully when he walks through the door. But he knows me too well. “Do you have sad news for me? Is Fudge dead?”
So much for the myth that people with autism have no empathy.
We try a course of chemo. She responds better than we expect. But late one Sunday night, Fudge suddenly pees on the carpet. She has never done this. She staggers, and looks spacey. Something is very, very wrong. When I pick her up, she is limp.
“Is Fudge dying?” Mickey asks.
“No,” I lie, trying to shield him. “She’s feeling sick. The vet will try to make her better.” Inwardly I cringe; what if I’m wrong? But she may yet pull through. Why alarm him until we must? We call the animal specialty hospital. I place a soft towel in her carrier, and carefully tuck her in. Marc drives her to the pet emergency room, and waits while they run blood work. The vet determines that her kidney values are elevated, and that she is dehydrated and anemic. They admit her to the ICU.
We try to coax Mickey to join us when we visit Fudge the next day, but he’s having none of it, so we leave him with a sitter. As we get out of the car, Marc tells me, “I signed a DNR last night.”
“I guess I should have asked you,” he says.
“Yes, you should have.”
“Would you really want her intubated, or shocked with paddles?”
I shudder. “No.”
How do you visit a pet in the hospital? Are you supposed to show up with flowers? A box of fish-flavored treats? As we enter the facility my heart starts hammering. They take us into the overly bright ICU, and I am assaulted by the sound of so many dogs barking. Fudge is frightened by loud noises; couldn’t they keep the cats in a quieter room? I see technicians in green scrubs. Steel examining tables. Floor-to-ceiling metal cages; Fudge crouches in one of them, connected to a beeping monitor. She looks diminished. Forlorn. Or is she drugged? Her eyes are dilated. “You can’t touch her without gloves,” the tech warns, pointing to a sign. Fudge sniffs my gloved hand but looks away. Please, open the cage so I can hold her, I want to say. I can’t even reach my fingers far enough through the bars to touch her. I will myself not to cry.
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