lundi 19 juillet 2010

ENVA d'Alfort, Day 8, Thursday


The surgical team at the Institute Montsouris, or IMM Recherche - CERA, has been able to move Baccarat's surgery up to Thursday. Five days sooner.

The studies undertaken here are large animal veterinary, as I understand it, but it is part of the Institut Mutualiste Montsouris, which is a human medical center in Paris. We are assured that they have state of the art technology and techniques, that the team operating on Baccarat operates on human beings in cardiovascular surgery, and that medically, we have the best possible care available.

This, I do not doubt. I knew that the moment we were referred to the Ecole National Vétérinaire d'Alfort.

This evening, after Dr. Gouni came to find Baccarat and I and give me the estimate for surgery, I was sitting at the edge of Baccarat's cage and listening to the older couple who had come to see the dog in the cage next to hers, a dog that lies there on its inflatable pad and twitches. She has neurological problems, among other things, they told me. Her chart said that she is sweet, but you must get her attention before touching her. Baccarat's chart said, under temperament, "Gentille", but today it read "Très gentille". Their dog had been operated on and was still recovering. They were older than I am. Well dressed. They bent into the cage, rather than sitting on the edge, as I did. She was worried. He seemed pragmatic, concerned, self-possessed. He exuded knowledge and confidence.

"Vous êtes médecin?" I asked. I already knew the answer.

"Oui," he nodded. Of course.

"En quoi?"

"Rhumatologie," he replied. I noted his suit without tie, shoes. The red thread at the lapel button hole indicating his membership in the Légion d'honneur. Something my husband, who wears jeans and long-sleeved cotton t-shirts to the hospital, to protect his arms from the polyester mix of the "blouse blanche", would refuse. I wondered how he had earned it, thinking he was probably a professor of medicine. I noted his well-coiffed, somewhat long gray hair and nodded.

"Mon mari aussi. Il est obstétricien-gynécologue." He nodded and looked from me to Baccarat.

"Elle va être opérée," said his wife, looking over from her dog. "Elle a une tumeur dans le coeur."

Her husband knew. I had told him while she talked to her dog. 18 years old, they had found her in a forest when she was 2, 16 years ago. I thought of Wisp, also found in the woods, and who is becoming mentally unstable since Baccarat has been hospitalized. This morning, walking up the stairs to clean Sam's room -- I know, don't tell me; I am hoping to install better habits before he gets his own place --, I smelled a smell. It was only when I got in the bathtub to take my shower before leaving for Maisons-Alfort that I noticed the smell again, particularly strong in the bathroom, and saw the pile of cat poop deposited in the corner between the tub and the window.

Damn it, said myself. Now what are we going to do?

"Clean it up and hope Baccarat makes it, because if she doesn't, we've got a serious problem developing."

"Elle a beaucoup de personalité," said the rhumatologist, "ça se voit dans ses yeux." His wife looked around again into Baccarat's cage.

"Elle est si belle," she said. "Elle a des yeux si communicatifs."

"C'est exactement ça," I said, nodding, and looking back at Baccarat.

It was only after they left and the student who has been caring for her since she arrived came and knelt next to me, after having asked with a big smile if I had been told, Baccarat would be operated on on Thursday, reaching in to caress her head, and said, before getting up to leave, "Vous pouvez rester le temps que vous voulez," that I broke down again. I stroked her head, while she lie there, resting, her eyes closed. She glanced at me. I reached for the scarf in my bag from the motorcycle and buried my face in it, wiping my tears.

The veterinarian on rotation in medical hospitalization came in. She had come to find me outdoors earlier and introduce herself, and now she stood there smiling at me. They hold us up, too. They encourage us, and they tell us to bring our families; we have to prepare ourselves, see our beloved animal before the surgery because, if it is very bad, it will be kinder not to wake her up only to suffer the pain of recovery for nothing.

I knew what she was going to say; my husband had anticipated it, and Dr. Gouni had said it. I said it before she had to. She smiled at me, and I looked at her eyelashes. The length of them. Their color. The spacing between them and their curve. Her eyes. I looked at her lips as she spoke and smiled. I wondered if I would be able to recognize her again, seeing all of her face at once. I could only see pieces of her. Could she tell how I was seeing her? I could hear her.

"Si," Dr. Gouni had said, "c'est très, très méchant, il serait peut-être mieux de ne pas --"

"La réveiller," I finished. "Je sais. Mon mari me l'a dit. Je fais confiance à l'équipe médicale et chirurgicale." She nodded.

If it is a not so very bad, but malignant, they will remove it, close and let her live out the time she has.

We know it is decided already. Prayers no longer serve any purpose. They never did. It is what it is, benign or malignant. Love and support are what we need. Caring eyes and compassion.

Hope will help until the phone rings sometime around 4 pm Thursday, but we are told that we must prepare ourselves. The new vet and I looked at Baccarat, and my eyes filled with tears again.

"On se demande seulement comment, comment cette chienne si pleine de vie et si jeune aurait pu avoir cette tumeur."

"Elle est déjà une chienne spéciale. Ca se voit dans ses yeux si expressifs. Elle va vers les gens. C'est clair qu'elle est bien avec les gens, et elle se bat. Elle ne se laisse pas aller, et cest très important," she said. She is right. Baccarat is fighting to stay with us. She is not giving up, lying down to let herself go.

"Je vais la laisser dormir, se reposer," I said.

"Oui, et nous allons bientôt faire ses soins du soir," she said, smiling again.

"Je serai là demain, et après demain, et mon fils aussi," I told her, "Mon mari est de garde à l'hôpital mercredi. C'est bête. Peut-être il va pouvoir me joindre demain soir." She nodded, and left me to say good-bye to Baccarat.

I had to stand and shut the glass door on her cage. She watched me, her eyes never leaving mine. I smiled. I wanted her to know that it was alright. That I believed it was alright.

"Je reviens demain, ma Bacs. Je t'aime."

I walked down the corridor, and on down the stairs, out to my motorcycle, waiting in the sun on the wide sidewalk along the avenue.

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