Phoebe was the runt of a litter of TEN. She was checked out by a vet prior to her arrival into my life and was deemed healthy. My friend Lisa (who adopted Phoebe's sister and best friend Maggie) and I drove to upstate NY to pick up Phoebe and two of her siblings. Phoebe was adorable- she was a little smaller than the others at 7.5 lbs at almost 8 weeks.
As the owner of a 2 year old Boston Terrier (Kayla) and a rescued cat (Bailey), I thought I had all my pet owner ducks in a row. I had even decided to make sure Phoebe's Pet Insurance was in place prior to her arrival, but
when I took Phoebe for her first checkup with my own Vet, it was discovered she had a very strong mechanical heart murmur and I was heart broken! My tiny little helpless puppy!
My vet informed me that Phoebe needed to see a cardiologist ASAP. (I didn't even know they had dog cardiologists.) I took her to 2 cardiologists who diagnosed her with Patent Ductus Arterios, "PDA", which in layman's terms is a hole in her heart. Devistated I began discussing my options with Phoebe's cardiologist. The alternatives were that my sweet puppy would have less than a year to live or she would need to have surgery to close the hole in her heart so she would have a chance.
I chose the surgery, but In the back of my mind I was thinking how smart I was because the majority of the cost of Phoebe's surgery would be covered by my Pet Insurance.
Phoebe had a surgery in which they placed 5 coils in her heart to close the hole. After her first checkup, much to the dismay of my cardiologist and myself, we discovered the coils were only able to close 90% of the hole. Additionally my Pet Insurance refused to cover ANY of the cost of surgery. They claimed that PDA was congenital, and therefore not covered. My argument was: How could it be congenital when the first vet she saw cleared her as healthy?
The Prognosis?: Phoebe would only live of a couple of years if we were lucky and I would suffer a very expensive medical bill in addition to the loss of my beloved pet.
Not being one to give up, I had to ask what more I could do, and more surgery was the answer. I figured I would continue to fight with the Pet Insurance to get them to cover what I believe I was entitled to as a policy holder and to proceed forward with the second surgery.
The second surgery did not go as planned. Phoebe's aorta ruptured and she almost died. She needed a blood and plasma transfusion and through the excellent medical care of the Drs. Sammarco, Phoebe pulled through. Despite this giant win, the previous prognosis had not changed from the first surgery and now I was I was in even more debt. As if that weren't enough, I was devastated to learn that it would not be possible to place more coils in Phoebe's heart, everything that could be done was done and she had a couple of years to live if I was lucky.
Refusing to give up on this little life that was entrusted to me, I could not believe that nothing more could be done. Luckily Phoebe's cardiologist felt the same way and began to research options. The answer was one more surgery. This would be different and more complicated. They would have to "crack the chest" and perform open heart surgery in an attempt to "tie" off the hole. I was so happy that there was still a possibility of saving Phoebe that I figured somehow I would find the money. What was important here was to do everything in my power to save my puppy.
I'm sure you can imagine my agony at deciding what to do. Do I put this poor puppy through another procedure when she almost died during the second surgery or do I let her live the couple of years she has left and keep her as comfortable as possible? Euthanizing her was NEVER an option in my mind. After many sleepless nights and endless consultations with the best dog cardiologist out there, I decided to go for the surgery and give Phoebe a fighting chance at a normal life.
The next surgeon I was introduced to was Dr. Davis. My initial consultation with him was two days after I buried my Grandmother. I just couldn't lose someone else I loved so much in such a short period of time. In my mind I thought there was no way God would be that cruel I just had to have faith. Dr. Davis was a very calm and reassuring man. After speaking with him, I decided to go for the third surgery.
Phoebe pulled through but we had a long road to recovery. She was bandaged which as you can imagine she hated and there was a lot of swelling. There were many nights that Phoebe and I hopped in the car at 11PM and headed back down the parkway to have her wound site drained and to be re-bandaged. Thanks to the unending patience and kindness of the wonderful staff at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital, Phoebe made a full recovery.
I am sure my story is not unique. The symptoms may be but the story is not. I did what any pet owner in my position would do- anything in my power to save my pet. While the cost of the three surgeries was extensive, I would have taken on any debt in the world to save Phoebe.
This foundation was started with the goal of being to help as many people as possible who are in the same situation I was in- agonizing over what to do to help save their pet and wondering how in the world that was going to be financially possible. Helping hands healing hearts (both human and dog in my case) became my mantra. So here is how it all started...
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