Recently I have been trying to get back into writing more often and although a friend once said I might be writing too much about Dylan and her fight with Canine Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (also referred to as Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia); this has been the only important thing going on in my life over the last 3 days. Most people can only imagine what it is like and quite frankly, without the experience of having been through it, the imagination cannot come close to the reality of immediate and impending death that Dylan and I have faced.
Monday was the start of our third trip heading directly into the face of death. It began with an early morning pee for Dylan, which is not a normal behaviour for her. Now Wednesday evening, I feel like I can breathe once again as I have finally begun to see signs that the prednisone she has been taking since Wednesday afternoon is working to stop the destruction of her red blood cells. Although I am in no way certain as of yet.
One problem with this disease is that it gives you signs that can make you very hopeful; they seem to be on the mend and then a moment later, a sign that leads to a feeling of complete helplessness and despair. Once again I have watched my Dog Dylan become so week she could barely stand, almost fainting, wobbling as though she had consumed too much alcohol; totally afraid she might end up like the first time when she suffered brain damage from the anemia, or worse, dead on my floor.
Watching your dog pee the remnants of her red blood cells in a dark red stream of pee is no picnic and knowing they are essential to her life is a truly crushing feeling. The contrast from the normal yellow mark in the snow is striking and not knowing if it will stop in time for her to have any life left, leaves me unable to think of anything else. I have felt my heart rate climb repeatedly over the last few days, as I am paralyzed by the anxiety of the moment.
I have worked under great stress many times in my life and nothing compares to facing my best friend’s impending death. The fact that this is our third trip down this path provides more knowledge and experience, but in no way does it alleviate the sense of helplessness. Death is coming is what you fear and stopping their immune system from killing them is an almost impossible challenge. So many dogs don’t make it!
Once the immune system has been stopped, you face a whole host of additional challenges, none of which are easy and all of which still leave death as a highly probable result. Red blood cell regeneration is our next challenge, assuming prednisone has in fact stopped the attack. Infection, liver and kidney issues in addition to regeneration are often significant challenges. In Dylan’s case, it is severe reactivity to prednisone; for others it might be the toxic cocktail of drugs used to stop the disease. In many, just stopping the immune system is a complicated and challenging process. Regeneration of RBC’s is in no way a given, even for Dylan who has fought through this twice before.
In all cases it is a journey of massive stress and this is certainly true for both Dylan and myself. I know what stress is and I have felt it many times under a variety of circumstances and facing these attacks of AIHA/IMHA is by far the worst and is quite frankly, unimaginable to most people. For now it is calm here, with just enough positive in Dylan’s symptoms to feel she is okay for the moment and that the critical danger may have passed.
I have no idea what tonight might bring, or how difficult it will be tomorrow, but for the moment I am happy and hopeful that Dylan will pull through. I “hope” that at 12 years of age she will have a quick and uneventful recovery, but there are certainly no guarantees and this does not at all mean that it will be easy. Getting her off the drugs safely means facing her potential death from anemia continuously until she is off the prednisone.