There’s a crazy phenomenon that sometimes happens when a person loses a limb. The nervous system thinks the limb is still there, so that the person continues to have the sensation of having it. I mean, to the point of the former owner freaking out because they want to put on a sock because the foot is cold, but the foot persists in not being present. This is called a Phantom Limb.
But since the limb has really been amputated, the limb also feels the pain of that, and of the injury or disease that lead to the amputation. This can become a terrible situation if the limb doesn’t get used to being amputated and settle down. How can you relieve the pain of something that doesn’t exist?
I just realized that I am suffering from Phantom Limb Pain.
Some of my readers know that I am caring for my beautiful Belgian Malinois, Atina, who is dying of kidney disease. She is now 19 months old, and starting to slow way down. I’m enjoying her delightful self for now, and I will take care of her until it is time for her to go.
I just received the final pathology report. It is terrible.
For those who don’t toss around medical terminology on a daily basis, let me give you your word of the day: nephron.
A nephron is the basic operating unit of the kidney. It has three parts, which all have different essential tasks in maintaining the balance of fluids and electrolytes (like sodium and potassium) in our bodies. In addition, special cells called podocytes keep our serum proteins from leaking out. These are the parts of the kidney that maintain fluid and electrolyte homeostasis, in a delicate and incredibly intelligent system of checks and balances. Any disturbance of kidney function can lead to a disruption in the system, depending upon which area of the kidney is damaged. And that can lead to illness and death.
Atina’s biopsy shows that 90% of her nephrons are fetal, which means that kidney development was arrested before three weeks of life. The pathologist writes that this could be due to disease or toxins being transmitted to the pup through the mom’s milk. The remaining 10% of normal nephrons are becoming ballooned out of shape from having to process all that pee by themselves, and their podocytes are starting to detach, which is why her urine is full of protein. Soon those few functioning nephrons will die, and then Atina will die.
I stopped by the vet’s yesterday for another reason, and just for kicks had Atina stand on the scale. She’s gained three more pounds…of fluid.
When I first got her, she weighed 55 pounds of skin and bones. She looked like a sick cow. With treatment and lots of love, she put on ten pounds and was looking and acting like a normal, healthy, happy, bratty adolescent Malinois. I started her in Service Dog training and she was doing great. I had this spark of hope…
Then she started looking weird and puffy. Despite treatment, her blood pressure was sky high (another kidney function thing), and she went back to drinking gallon after gallon of water, and peeing like a waterfall many times a day, and even needing to go out at night sometimes. And her weight keeps creeping up, and her appetite keeps slowing down…
I’m glad she’s with me, and that I’ve had the honor to be her very own human and caregiver, friend and mutual aid society. We are passionately in love. She’s asleep now, but if she knew that I am crying she would rush to my bed and throw herself on top of me, causing various injuries. Since I know that they are love bites, scratches, and bruises, I take them in the spirit in which they were inflicted. And once her initial exuberance settles down, she cuddles and kisses and lets me cry in her fur.
Aside from the love injuries, I have been injured in many ways since becoming Atina’s personal angel.
I needed a service dog to guide me through the next ten or so years of my life. Instead I got a very sweet invalid dog, with whom I fell in love, from whom I will be parted very soon.
This beautiful sick girl of mine cost me $12,000 up front, and more than $10,000 in medical expenses so far. I have used up most of my financial and emotional resources, and at the end of the day, I won’t have a dog, and I won’t have the money, and since even now I keep myself alive by force of will, Atina’s death may sever the thread I’m hanging on.
Everyone says, “Sue the bitch (who sold you the dog)!” Easier said than done.
Yesterday I had a telephone consultation with an attorney from the State Bar Association’s referral service. He listened to the “short version,” told me he had no experience with cases like this but would be happy to litigate it, outlined the essential steps, reminded me that his hourly fee is $210 (a bargain, actually), that the case would cost a minimum of $20,000 to litigate, that we would surely win, that the first thing he needs to do is to examine the purchase contact and look at some other things, and that in order to do so he needs a $5,000 retainer.
Phantom Limb Pain.
Before I became a disabled person, back in the days when I went to work every evening, relished in healing the sick, lame, and halt, and also in bringing home the bacon and frying it in the pan: if someone needed a legal spanking I had only to pick up the phone, and if my own attorney couldn’t do it, he knew someone who could. Retainer fees? Not a problem. Not a question. Not required! Don’t even offer! They knew I was good for it, and besides, they might need my expert witness services one day…or their kid might need to be sewed up on a Sunday… But now all I have to offer is
Phantom Limb Pain
as I am cut off from myself, and I can’t get back what is gone
I can feel it, even see it, but it’s gone
And now I have to beg some abogado, please, please
If you think my case is so straight-forward, please take it on contingency, or reduced fees, or even pro bono
I have Phantom Limb Pain, don’t you see
I’m not what I once was
I find myself in reduced
I am among the lame and halt now
As one day you yourself might be
As odd as that might seem
No one ever dreams it will be them
Believe me, Mr. Esquire, Sir, The Hon.,
no one ever
believes that it can get worse
But it can get worse
And then it can turn into
Phantom Limb Pain