Chapter 39 – Kidney Close Call #2 March 2015


Bundled up for winter

In mid-March 2015, 17 year-old Gabby was drinking a lot more.  She also seemed a bit lethargic.  I knew that one day I would have to put her on subcutaneous fluids to keep her kidneys hydrated and her bloodstream clean, and it seemed that day had come.  I took her to the ER and they saw she was bit dehydrated, but bloodwork was fine.  We put her on subcutaneous fluids twice a day.
She had a good day, then a bad day, then a good day. She started becoming a pickier eater and I had to cook her fresh food to encourage her to eat.  I bumped into Dr. Della Penna at Wendy’s drive-thru, of all places, and she said to give it another day and to give her Pepcid.  That seemed to help. 

The next day she was great in the morning.  I went out and later on in the day when I came back home, she didn’t want to leave her crate  She did not seem well.  It was back to the ER.

Bad news: they took a urine sample as well as blood this time.  She had a urinary tract infection that had worked its way to the kidneys, possibly damaging them.  She would need three days in the hospital for treatment and evaluation.

When she was admitted to the hospital, her creatinine was 3.2.  This is high but will not kill the dog.  She received antibiotics and IV fluid treatment.  The IV fluid treatment helps the kidneys reduce the creatinine level in her blood, just like the year before.

After one day of treatment the creatinine was at 1.8 again.  This was a good sign that she would get better.  The infection cleared quickly.


Gabby on day 2 in the hospital

On day 2 she looked better.  She still wasn’t eating much.  It was no surprise, given what she had been through and the fact she was in an unfamiliar environment.

When she was released from the hospital on Friday she was eating really well!  Unfortunately, her creatinine had gone up to 2.7.  The reading of 2.7 is not so bad, but what is very bad is that her condition got worse when she was in the hospital receiving IV fluid treatment.  This meant her kidneys were probably damaged from the infection.  I was told that now there are three possibilities, and we would find out on Thursday when we tested her again:

1) Her number will go down when she is at home.
2) She will stay at 2.7 for a while and this will be her new normal value.
3) Her number will go higher than 2.7. This would probably mean her kidneys would quickly fail. Her life would be over within days or weeks.

The first few days home she was fine, but then she started slowing down again. I took her to the emergency hospital for the test again on Thursday, dreading the results.  Her new number was 3.7.

This was worse than when she first went into the hospital.  This was VERY bad news. Her kidneys were deteriorating. I asked the emergency hospital doctor if it was possible for the creatinine number to go down now.  She said, “No, not really, and if they did the change would be very small.” I asked if we were getting close to the end, and she said yes.

She said, “She can’t be on IV fluids all the time.”
“I know,” I replied.  Gabby SEEMED OK, but the numbers told a different tale.
They gave her some extra subcutaneous fluid and sent us on our way. 
I called Doc Slobody after I left the hospital.  He said to bring her in the next day.  Things were going in the wrong direction, but there were drugs we could use to help her and maybe extend her life and keep the number at 3.7 for a while.  
Neil Hamilton and “The Devil’s Hand”

Now, I need to wind the clock back a bit to the previous Saturday, the day after I brought Gabby home from the hospital.


That Saturday I watched the film, “The Devil’s Hand” with actor Neil Hamilton.  It is an old (and not very scary) horror movie from 1961. I saw it on television when I was ten years old and wanted to see it again. I had been trying to find it for about ten years, and did not even know the title.  I just remembered a specific scene from it, which made finding it an ordeal!  I finally found it on Amazon and watched it.   Gabby was cuddled up on the floor with me under the comforter as we watched it that Saturday night. It was good fun, especially the music for the title screen.


Neil Hamilton as Commissioner Gordon

One man in the film looked familiar, and I realized he was the Neil Hamilton who had played Commissioner Gordon in the 1960s “Batman” TV show. After the movie I read about him on the Internet.  He was a devout Catholic and told a story of how he believes his life was saved by a saint called St. John Bosco.

Hamilton had once been one of Hollywood’s leading men. In his prime, he had a house full of servants and received thousands of fan letters every day. He lost his fortune due to some bad investments and a lack of new leading roles as he aged. He was reduced to shopping at secondhand stores to clothe his family.

He finally gave in to despair and decided to kill himself. There was a cliff nearby he knew he could jump from and commit suicide, and he was walking up the hill to jump and end it all. 

St. John Bosco
On the way up the hill he met an acquaintance, a priest named Benjamin Bowling who was a chaplain at UCLA.  He told the priest his story, and the priest gave him a novena created by St. John Bosco. He convinced Hamilton to give prayer a chance, and not to kill himself.

On the morning he finished the novena, he was shaving and heard a voice say, “Go see Dan Kelly at Universal Studios today.”  He thought he was going crazy, hearing voices! When he was at the top of the heap he had been incredibly rude to Dan Kelly.  Now Dan Kelly was head of casting at Universal, and Hamilton thought Dan Kelly was the last person in Hollywood who would help him.

He told his wife about the voice, and she encouraged him to go see Dan Kelly.  

He did… and got a role, his first in years, which solved all his problems.  He never had trouble finding work again.

If not for that chance encounter and the voice telling him to see Dan Kelly, he would have killed himself that day. Neil Hamilton spent the rest of his acting career telling people about how wonderful this saint was, how he made a miracle for him.

Neil Hamilton himself tells the story much better than I can. You can read more at these links.  It is a remarkable story!

Driving to Ohio

Early the next morning, Friday, I drove to Ohio to see Doc Slobody.  It was a very difficult and sad drive to make with Gabby sleeping next to me on the passenger seat. I looked at her, remembering all the good times we had… it really sunk in more than ever how special she was, and much I loved her.  I realized if she was much sicker that morning and her creatinine had gotten worse and gone up to 6 or 7, I may be going home without her.

When I got to Doc Slobody’s office I thought of Neil Hamilton and the story of St. John Bosco helping him. I first must interject that though I was raised Catholic until my teen years, I believe a personal relationship and seeking out God in faith is much more important than anything else in your spiritual life. I have faith in God and his mercy, much more than organized religion. But I have always believed the Catholic teaching that people in Heaven can pray for us just like our friends on Earth do.
Before Gabby and I got out of the car I addressed St. John Bosco and asked that he please pray for Gabby. I loved her very much and though she is old, she had a very good and fairly active life until she got sick.  I wasn’t ready to say goodbye…not now, not this way.  Please help us somehow… you did it for Neil Hamilton, after all… I knew I was grasping at straws here, but it was all I could do.
When I went into the Meadowlands office, Mandi took blood for the bloodwork. She is a very warm and kind person and consoled me, which really helped me feel better. The least I hoped for was Gabby did not get worse and was not higher than 3.7.  I prayed and hoped that perhaps there would be a small improvement, even down to 3.5, or it would be fantastic if she was 3.2.  I started to think, “what if she would be 2.9 or 2.7?” Then I stopped these thoughts.  For her to go to 2.9 or 2.7 was not realistic at all. I was dreaming! The best we could hope for was for it to stay the same, or perhaps have a very small improvement.
Doc came in to see me and started going over the bloodwork results.  “Phosphorus is fine,” he said. “We will use an aluminum hydroxide phosphate binder to ease the load on her kidneys, though. BUN is just a little high, but it usually is with her.  I am not worried about that right now… we will put her on azodyl…”

I was standing there in suspense.  What about the most important number, the creatinine?, “What is her creatinine?” I prepared myself for the answer, hoping it was not higher, and dreaming it might be just a little bit lower.

He looked at the paper and said,  “Her creatinine is 1.8.”
I looked at the paper and saw 1.8.  “1.8?” I said.  I looked again “1.8!!!!”  I could not believe it!  I almost fell over.  It was back to her normal again. To drop so much overnight, without being in the hospital without IV fluid treatment, seemed miraculous.  She had been going up while being treated!  It was impossible!!!  

How did this happen? At that moment I had a very spiritual feeling, like there was a special presence and energy in the room, a very positive energy. Perhaps this St. John Bosco was looking over us because it felt like Heaven had opened up for a moment and was shining down on us.

The doctor gave me the new medicines and advice for caring for Gabby.  We upped her subcutaneous fluids to make sure the kidneys could keep doing the job. He was very positive about everything.
I called the Emergency Hospital doctor on the way home.  She really likes Gabby and me.
I told her, “Do you know how Gabby was at 3.7 yesterday?  This morning she was at 1.8.”

“What???” she said.  “How did that happen?  How could it happen?  How did we do that? If I had a 1.8 yesterday I would have been dancing around the hospital!  That is amazing, I am very happy!!!”

Back to normal again!


Dinner in bed again!

Within a week Gabby was pushing her big Kong around the house again. She was happy and gaining some weight.  We were still sleeping on the floor, and that would likely be the case for the rest of her life whether it was three weeks or three years.  I knew the number would likely be between those figures and her time was drawing near, but I was glad Gabby and I would have more time together.