Wednesday, May 20, 2009
So this is what happened:
My sweet cockatiel Phoebe has been laying eggs. Lots of them.
A week ago, I began to get a worried after the fourth egg. I was concerned that laying eggs over and over and over again would be depleting her tiny little four-ounce body. I've been keeping a close eye on her recently.
Yesterday morning (which seems like a million years ago) I uncovered her cage and immediately noticed that she was not her usual self. Usually she's chirpy and active in the morning; instead, she was lethargic and quiet.
I gave Phoebe her breakfast. She took a couple bites and that was it.
I noticed her feathers were puffed up, which is a bad sign. Along with the puffiness of feathers, there were other indications that she was "egg-bound"-- meaning an egg gets stuck and cannot pass out.
I did the Puritan Work Ethic Thing: I went to work and hoped she could pass the egg (her eighth!) and she would feel better.
Arriving home from work, Phoebe was obviously deteriorating. She hadn't passed the egg.
I went into crisis mode and called an emergency vet and described her symptoms to the nurse on-call, who thought Phoebe was egg-bound too.
Typically when a small bird is egg-bound you must get them to the vet within an hour's time or it is likely they'll die. The strain on their body is too great, then they go into shock. After going into shock, it snowballs from there-- they stop eating, they stop drinking, they have difficulty breathing.
So I got Phoebe into a little travel cage lined with towels and took her to the animal ER.
Phoebe was placed in an incubator right away, as the oxygen would help her breathing. An hour later, the doctor came into the little waiting room and said, "I suspect she's egg-bound." She asked me, "How old is Phoebe?" I answered, "I have no idea. She just showed up on my porch one day, fully-grown." "Oh my God!" the doctor said. "She found you!"
Indeed she did.
A nurse came in an hour later (Entertainment Weekly and People long since read and re-read). "This is what we recommend she have done," said the nurse, handing me a list/invoice.
The list included an x-ray (to determine if indeed she was egg-bound), a tiny little IV for nourishment/water, overnight stay, morphine for pain, etc.-- a bunch of things, totaling a little less than $600.00.
I started crying. I said to the nurse, "There is no way I can afford this. I can afford the initial exam ($100), but not the rest. Can I do a payment plan?" The nurse said she'd ask (whoever it is that decides these horrible things).
Another hour and a half. Entertainment Weekly and People. Again. And again. Checking out the art on the walls. Brochures for dog drugs and pet insurance. All. Read. Several. Times. Over.
The nurse returned. She doesn't say no, but what she does say is, "We will give her a morphine shot for pain, but that's all we can do." I said, "Okay, give her the shot. I'm going to take her home."
So I got the drugged-up Phoebe, paid the bill and left. I placed Phoebe, in her soft, towel-filled box, in the passenger seat. I got behind the wheel and burst into frustrated, angry and bitter tears.
Was she egg-bound? Was her body depleted? I didn't know if she would live or die. I didn't know anything about her condition. I did know, however, that I just spent $104.00 to remain completely ignorant.
I drove home and took Phoebe upstairs. I gave her a little warm bottom-bath hoping it would help her pass the egg.
I put some peanut butter on her beak so she could eat something. No dice. There is nothing sadder than a sick animal who lets food dribble off of their mouth without tasting it, or showing interest in eating it.
This is how much I love Phoebe-- I put a little lubricant on her "vent", hoping it would make the egg come out easier, if indeed that was the problem (because I still didn't fucking know).
I held Phoebe in my hands where she dozed for an hour or so, between my breasts, near my heartbeat.
I put her in her cage, making sure the room was quiet and dark. I banished the cats. I covered the birds. I shut the door. Phoebe needed rest.
Last night I slept, not knowing if Phoebe would be dead on the bottom of her cage in the morning.
I woke up at 5:15 and looked at her cage, shrouded in blankets, and didn't to know what was under there. Phoebe wasn't making a sound.
At 5:30 I climbed out of bed.
I lifted the cage cover and there she was. Sitting in her food dish. Looking at me.
She was still sick, but she was alive. I have her another bath, gave her breakfast (with veggies she normally likes) and did the Puritan Work Ethic Thing-- I went to work.
All day today was a struggle-- a real bugger.
I asked the Hamlet firemen for a syringe (thank you, Larry!) so I could get some baby food on the way home and feed Phoebe that way.
I didn't think she'd be alive when I got home.
I opened the door to the apartment and it was silent inside. Usually Phoebe greets me, chirping like mad when I walk in the door.
I went into the bedroom and looked around the corner.
Phoebe was sitting in her dish, alive. She chirped softly at me.
And guess what? On the floor of her cage was egg number EIGHT.
For the first time in ten years, I got on my knees and thanked God. I was so fucking relieved. I instantly got a headache too. Isn't that weird?
Phoebe is not out of the woods yet.
I attempted to feed her with the syringe (which she hated).
I removed the egg from her cage and put it in the little dish in my kitchen with the other eggs-- a new arrival-- company for the seven brothers and sisters.
I covered Phoebe so she could rest.