In October 2011, our 6 year old German Shepherd named Kindersley became suddenly very ill. He went from being healthy and playful to almost non-responsive in the span of about 12 hours. After a very long night of trying to get him to drink water and respond, first thing in the morning on Wednesday we brought him to our regular vet who said that he was in liver failure and dying because of steroids that he is on for his extensive skin allergies and recommended that we should bring him to the University of Minnesota right away to try to taper off the steroids, but that it was not hopeful. We brought him to the VMC right away where they took a history and took him away for testing in a big wagon. Several hours later on Wednesday afternoon, we met with Dr. Polzin and fourth year student Jami Johnson to discuss Kindersley's condition and next steps. To our surprise, they felt that it may be leptospirosis, a bacterial infection, that we were dealing with that had attacked his liver and his kidneys and possibly other organs. Kindersley was in extremely bad shape because his urine production had ceased and his liver was not doing well at all and was admitted to the ICU. Dr. Polzin and Jami explained all of this to us in clear terms and provided a realistic picture of what we might expect if it was, in fact leptospirosis and were very patient with the the fact that we were very emotional about how sick our little boy was. We made the decision to start treatment with antibiotics right away for suspected leptospirosis in order to halt the damage the bacteria was doing to his organs and with the somewhat slim hope that his organs would be able to recover from the initial assault. Thursday was an extremely difficult day as he was on day 1 of his treatment and he was not doing well at all. We did not want Kindersley to suffer and seeing him so sick was breaking our hearts--I wasn't sure how much longer I could ask him to fight for us and wanted to discuss with Dr. Polzin whether or not he felt we should keep trying. Dr. Polzin reaffirmed that he had only been on antibiotics for 12 hours and that it would be prudent to at least give him another 12-24 hours to see if there was any response. Thursday night was a terrible night as we were pretty certain that we were losing him. On Friday morning, we brought his bed and his favorite ball so he could have those things with him when we put him to sleep. To our amazement, Kindersley was actually up on his feet and wagging his tail to greet us that morning and although his labs still indicated severe kidney and liver damage, his clinical signs had improved a bit overnight--it was truly a cautiously wonderful moment! The next three days marked slow but steady improvement and we got the hang of visiting him as much as was allowed with his IV, urinary catheter, and his feeding tube. The dots on the floor that we followed to and from the ICU every day were gradually coming into better focus as there were less tears each day as things began to look up!
Kindersley ended up being a resident in the ICU for 14 days and we were blessed with unbelievable care and phenomenal people who facilitated his recovery. We truly believe that he would not have made it if he would have been anywhere else and we are thankful every day for the incredible staff who not only set forth his treatment plan and carried out his treatment plan, but to all those who stopped by to sit with him, talk with him, and give him love when it wasn't visiting hours and we weren't able to be there. The ICU staff truly became Kindersley's VMC family and it is because of them that we still have him with us today. Although we are extremely lucky that things worked out how they did for us and we still get more time to enjoy Kindersley, we know that the VMC would have taken care of making Kindersley as comfortable as possible with his best interests in mind even if the time for him had come to leave us.
Dr. Polzin's guidance whipped Kindersley's kidneys and liver back into shape with the help of Dr. Greene, Dr. Crain, and Dr. Schafgans. Their transitions of care were seamless and we were confident that each of the residents were fully up to date on Kindersley's care at all times and more than capable of managing his case with kindness and competency. We are also appreciative of Dr. Greene patiently answering our questions after Kindersley was discharged. In addition, I knew that Kindersley was in fantastic hands from the outstanding care of the two fourth year students who worked with him during his stay--Jami Johnson and Ingrid Balsa. There are really no words to express how appreciative we are of Jami and Ingrid and the care and attention they gave Kindersley throughout his stay. We could not have asked for two smarter, more conscientious, and competent people to manage Kindersley from day to day. The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine should be extremely proud of the caliber of students they have in their program if it is to be judged by Jami and Ingrid's
ability. They will make wonderful additions to the veterinary profession when they graduate and we were proud to know them and have Kindersley be a small part of their education, even though it was under stressful circumstances for us!
Lastly, we would like to recognize the absolutely amazing ICU staff who attended to Kindersley 24 hours a day for each of the 14 days that he was a patient. We will never be able to express the gratitude we feel for the care, concern, and tenderness that each and every member of the staff showed both Kinderlsey and his family during a very difficult time. They were so patient and accommodating to us during visiting time and didn't complain when they had to unhook his IVs and feeding tube so he could go outside with us and always gave us a blanket for him to sit with us in the visiting area. The staff and technicians who took care of Kindersley are truly such special people to do what they do with incredible professionalism and kindness. We were blessed and lucky to have Laura, Janet, Mandy, Kelsey, Chandra, Laurel, Rose, and all of the others who cared for Kinderlsey. We are so appreciative of each of you who touched our lives.
All of Kindersley's lab values are completely within normal range now and he has no lasting affects of his bout with leptospirosis. He is happy, healthy, and has lots of energy to devote to his favorite activity--playing ball! On Christmas Day, we celebrated Kindersley's 7th birthday and we start the New Year with him--all thanks to the ICU and Internal Medicine crew at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center!
Most sincerely and with gratitude and appreciation,
Stacey Ness and Toni Ness