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Days (and Nights) at Brigid's Crossing
A series of typical days and nights for Heather Burch

First Weekend in February

This weekend is like so many days and nights over many years. How is it that I never tire of it. I didn't say I didn't get tired—I do—in fact exhausted but I love helping these beautiful beings.

It is Sunday night and I am sitting on the floor of the visitor's room at SW Florida Vet Specialist. Actually I think it is the room where folks usually spend their last moments with their beloved pets while making the extremely difficult decision about whether to put them to sleep. So sad and painful to say goodbye to our beloved selfless loving friends.

Tonight though I am here supporting Martin, a sweet member of our feline family at Brigid's Crossing.


On Friday at noon, I received a 911 text from Gail, one of dedicated caregivers saying Martin had cried out and collapsed. Patti, one of our caregiver supervisors rushed him to the veterinarian. His temperature was 97, very low for a cat. Despite the fact that we are in Florida and it is hot to begin with, Patti drove with the heat on high to keep Martin warm. We had chaos for about 1/2 hour. Our regular vet is off on Friday and the vet office was shorthanded so they couldn't take Martin in. By that time Martin was open mouth breathing and we were all feeling the stress—trying to get Martin help. We decided it was best to get him on oxygen. Patti headed back to the Sanctuary and just as she was taking Martin out of the car I received a phone call from our regular vet office to say they had a cancellation and to come back. We were all worried if all of this moving around would push Martin over the edge. We were all praying it would work out okay. I quickly texted a friend who sent out requests for healing energy to be sent to Martin.

Martin's blood pressure was off the chart. He was quickly given a med to bring down the blood pressure but it remained high while his heart rate and temperature plummeted. No one knew what the cause could possibly be. When the blood results finished running it revealed a very high blood glucose level and lots of sugar in the urine—both signs of diabetes out of control.

Martin continued to cry out. He was now blind. We still didn't know if was diabetes. a stroke or some other neurological condition.

The decision was made to transfer him to SW FL Veterinary Specialists in Bonita Springs. We have worked with them on a number of cases involving cardiac issues and also diabetes.

I was scheduled to be in a conference call that had been scheduled for several weeks in Naples at 2:15 pm but when it is a life threatening situation it's not always an easy decision. We have had so many emergencies and difficult cases recently that I was feeling pressure to make the meeting on time bit I could not abandon Martin. Not wanting to disappoint anyone I hoped to do both but knew it may not be possible.

It was my turn to make the drive with the heat on high. Martin was agitated, crying out, panting and then mouth breathing. I was asking for help from all the benevolent beings. I wondered if he would make it and thank goodness he did.

Martin was taken in as an emergency and immediately placed in an oxygen chamber.

The internist reviewed the case and determined the high blood glucose levels were likely from stress and referred Martin to the cardiologist. His heart was slightly enlarged on the X-ray from earlier and it was thought he may have had a stroke. It turned out he has a mild case of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy but nothing to be the cause of his current condition. We discussed transferring him yet again to a neurologist but I was afraid we would lose him to the stress of another transfer.

We decided the most prudent decision was to stabilize him and see how he did overnight. Not knowing if he would make it through the night was worrisome and I was concerned I was making the right decision.

Meanwhile I had left the clinic and gone straight to my office to join the conference call. I managed to juggle it and calls coming in from the vet office.

I had taken another cat, Nicholas, from the Sanctuary to the same cardiologist at 10 am. By the time the call was complete and a few other business matters taken care of it was 7 pm and Nicholas was still there. I headed over to pick up Nicholas and get him home. The cardiologist determined Nicholas had only minor heart disease and was cleared to go under anesthesia for a dental procedure.

Martin made it through the night. Thank goodness! His blood pressure and heart rate normalized but he was still crying out and having extensive muscle spasms when he tried to move.


I spent 3 hours with him on Saturday night. I had packed some of his favorite foods but he seemed to not even know they were there. I was encouraged when Martin was responsive to me even if he couldn't see or hear. I used the flashlight on my iPhone to check and see if his pupils were responding to light. They were but not equally with both eyes. He had intense muscle spasms and struggled and cried out when he tried to move. Despite all of that he was able to curl up on my lap and later pull himself up onto my chest. He was much stronger than the day before but far from normal.

Reluctantly I left around midnight. I still had cats I am fostering for Brigid's Crossing to take care of. Two with upper respiratory infections, one feline leukemia cat who has lost her sight, two cats with pancreatitis, bladder infection and chronic kidney disease to take care of before I would go to be bed.

They say morning comes early in the swamp and we sit on the edge of the Everglades so we are no exception. The day started out with an update from the veterinarian at 8:30 am in the morning. Overnight Martin seemed stronger, drank water from a bowl but still no interest in food. His sodium levels were dropping and no one knew why. Sodium levels that are too high or too low are life threatening and there are risks in supplementing it in IV fluids but we had no choice. I gave the approval to proceed.


This is when he was able to pull himself up on my shoulder. What an angel!


I have been here since 7 pm so they hooked Martin up on his IV fluids with sodium and potassium supplemented.


Martin can not see or hear but he is comfortable and much improved.

Martin lifted his head for me just as I am getting ready to leave.

I am leaving to take care of all the kitties same as this morning. Will finish and get to bed at around 2 am. Hopefully eat somewhere along the way. The eating thing is a nuisance. Not that I dion't like food. I just have so much yet to do and I am afraid if I eat I will get sleepy. Can't do that!

I said a prayer for Martin and turned my attention to treating the same cats as the night before, juggling laundry, breakfast and multiple text messages and phone calls from caregivers about other cases under their care. We were shorthanded so I was helping take care of 5 feline leukemia cats. Peter has lymphocytic leukemia and is on chemotherapy. We love him—he is the only cat I have known who barks line a dog. He must have been raised with a dog before he was surrendered to us.

Arrived to take care of the FELV kitties around 11 pm (Sunday night).

Squint was the last kitty on my list because she has been doing better than any of the other kitties at this location. She is a feline leukemia kitty with lymphoma in her mediastinum that had grown into the base of her heart.


She has responded to well to chemotherapy. Tonight she seemed a little down and when I checked her gums they were none white. She has some respiratory effort as well so I knew right away she needed a blood transfusion right away. I checked our donor list for an appropriate donor. Jesse has not given blood since July of 2012. I located Jesse and took them both in carriers, called the Emergency Pet Hospital and took them both there. I am just leaving to take care if the fosters I have at home.


2:26 am
Just finished with my foster kitties. Priscilla, a FELV kitty with URTI is not responding well to treatment. Gizmo is responding to tx for upper respiratory tx but is dehydrated. Everyone else ok. I am going to bed. I have to be up at 7 am to pick up Squint and Jesse from the Emergency Pet Hospital.

7:00 am
Morning comes early in the swamp. I am up doing rounds with the kitties this morning. Patti is stopping at EPH this am to pick up Squint and Jesse. Hopefully she didn't have a transfusion reaction. We would have preferred to use packed red blood cells than whole blood from a donor but there was no choice.

In this case no news from EPH is good news.

And the days (and nights) continue...

Heather Burch
Director of Care
Brigid's Crossing

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Brigid's Crossing Foundation
PO Box 366955
Bonita Springs, FL 34136
Ph (239) 591-8425

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