Willing To Try Anything To Save Sammy

Growing up in Kalihi, I had a dog named Taro and he lived in our yard under the mango tree. I remember bathing him on the weekends, then dusting off dead fleas after we wrestled in the yard. I loved that dog. But, as time went by, he slowed down and one day he did not wake from his sleep.

Today, veterinary care is so advanced that I’m convinced Taro could have lived a bit longer than he did. Would I have wanted that? Sure. I see my clients contemplate these very thoughts all the time.

Mitzi brought in her 15-year-old cat Sammy for her usual checkup. Most cats come in once a year for a physical, but Sammy showed up every four months to monitor her ongoing kidney disease.

“How’s Sammy doing?” I asked.

Mitzi frowned. “Well, Doc, Sammy is starting to become very particular about her food. She just doesn’t like that special diet that you put her on for her kidney problem.”

“Well, that special diet is low in protein and good for her kidneys.” I replied. “Let’s take a blood sample and see if her disease has gotten worse. We’ll run the test in-house and have her results in minutes.”

Fifteen minutes went by quickly, but for Mitzi, I’m sure it seemed like hours. When I told her that Sammy’s kidneys were getting worse, she seemed resolved to do something about it.

“Did I tell you how Sammy saved my life twice? No, wait, maybe it was three times.”

As I nodded, Mitzi continued, “Now it’s my turn to save her life.”

Two weeks later, Mitzi returned to our hospital with a new kitty named Socks she had adopted from the local shelter.

“Socks is very cute, but where’s Sammy?” I asked.

“Not to worry, Doc. Sammy is at home. I did some research and found out that there are veterinarians on the Mainland who will do kidney transplants. Did you know that?”

“Yes, but in order for the surgery to occur, you need to fly in the surgical team from the Mainland. Also, you need a kidney donor … oh!”

Looking at Socks, I now got the picture.

“My research led me to Socks,” continued Mitzi. “I adopted her and I will care for her the rest of her life, but she will be the kidney donor. Socks will give Sammy a second chance at life.”

After doing my exam on Socks, Mitzi and I had a long talk about what she was planning to do. Most importantly, we discussed the moral and ethical issues that surrounded her decision to donate Socks’s kidney. I mean, was it really her decision to make?

Two weeks later, Mitzi returned with Sammy and Socks. She said they were best buddies, like long-lost sisters. Two months later, Sammy died and Mitzi mourned for her.

In the end, Mitzi toiled over the decision to volunteer Socks’ kidney. She really wished that she could have saved Sammy. After all, Mitzi now tells people the story of how Sammy saved her life four times — and now she had Socks.

Dr. John Kaya is director of the Windward Community College veterinary technician program and associate veterinarian for VCA University Animal Hospital.