So its no secret that my bestie in the village is my cat, Kitty. I got her only a few weeks after arriving in Balng'ombe (It's a boy but I call her a she because it just sounds right).
Anyway, Kitty died on Saturday rather unexpectedly, and it just really hurts.
I had been in Dedza teaching the newer group about how to make sanitary pads. I noticed that Kitty was looking a little strange before I left- her nose was pale and she seemed extra hot. But she was young, and still active and I just figured it was something she could fight off.
I came back four days later from Dedza to find her sprawled out on my bed, too pale to be ok (her gums and sclera were pure white....not good). In the morning she seemed a bit better and took a little walk around my garden, but by noon I knew she needed to see a vet, stat. I scrambled around making phone calls (most Malawians knock off pretty early on Fridays and I was a good hour and half outside of the city..)
A nice Belgian vet agreed to stay in late to see me. I assured her that I could be there in an hour, then stuffed Kitty in a basket and ran out the door. I bribed/compensated my Imam friend to take me out the 5Km to the road right away. He can't drive on the paved road though because his car doesn't have license plates. So I started hitching. Immediately I got picked up by a trucker, who agreed to take me into town, even directly to the general area where I needed to go (I was crying by this point).
Once in the neighborhood, I called the vet again to get directions. It was a jumble of turns that I couldn't write down fast enought before my phone ran out of call time. Houses and streets in Lilongwe don't really have names or numbers. There are numbered areas, and then the houses in that area are numbered according to the order they were built in. So, for instance, a house may say 3/34, which means that it was the thirty-fourth house built in area 3. Very helpful, I know.
I tried to walk to this vets house, but got utterly lost, burst into fresh tears and tried hitching again. A lovely Malawian businessman picked me up (complete with moaning cat). We couldn't find the vet, but he felt so sorry for me that he kept stopping and asking people if they knew where it was. Finally one guy did- he actually got into the car with us and showed us the way. This driver wouldn't even accept any money for gas...sometimes I am shocked by the kindness here.
Miraculously, I did in fact make it to the vets within the hour that I had promised. She said that Kitty was severely anemic and was in septic shock. She tried to start an IV, but Kitty literally wouldn't even bleed... at all. She gave her some anti-parascitic shots and then started giving normal saline subcutaneously (just injecting it under the skin). After a few minutes of this, Kitty had a seizure and went into full on shock. Because of my background as a nurse I knew that Kitty was dying but I had no idea what to do about it. Helplessness is the worst.
Kitty stopped breathing for a minute, and her heart started beating erradically. The doctor was about to say she had died when her heart just shuddered and restarted, and soon enough she was breathing and conscious again. The vet couldn't keep her overnight, so she gave me a bunch of syringes and fluid and told me to keep giving her the saline shots. Total bill: about $9.
At this point the vet realized that I had in fact hitchiked to her house and had no way of finding my way out of her neighborhood. So she drove me to the city where I frantically called my friend, Mary, and asked if my cat and I could stay for awhile.
That night, at Mary's house, Kitty was in and out of consciousness. She would see me and there would be a glint of recognition but then her eyes would glaze over and she would be out again. I stayed up giving her the saline shots, and even managed to get her to take some antibiotic pills and water. At one point she was well enough to hop up onto the bed. We snuggled ferociously.
In the morning she was moaning and wheezing again. She couldn't stand up. I laid next to her in the bed as she lost consciousness for the last time. There were about ten minutes of agonal respirations. Then I could feel her heart slow down, speed up, then flutter and stop. I held her for another two hours.
Fortunately Mary's neighbor is an animal lover (a large animal vet.) Since his housing is a bit more permanent than ours, he offered a nice gravesite in his yard. I tucked Kitty and her blanket in a box, and said goodbye.
Now I'm in Lilongwe, getting ready to return to an empty house.