It all started with a cough….a cough that occurred when JoJo was excited. Initially I didn’t think anything of it, as it was almost like he had something stuck in his throat, and at the worst maybe collapsed trachea. But it persisted, and got worse. JoJo was in perfect health, ideal weight, and not a care in the world. We knew he had a heart murmur from day one….but I was uneducated as to what that meant for a dog as I also have a heart murmur, and it is in no way detrimental to my health. So on the day we brought JoJo in for the cough, I had no idea I would be walking out with a death sentence. In fact, I had always been the most scared of cancer as a diagnosis…. turns out there are more options for treatment for cancer than there are for this horrible diagnosis we all know as MVD.
My vet took JoJo back for some x-rays and returned telling me that he was in heart failure and most likely would not make it more than 6 months, and that we would medicate with increased dosages as the disease worsened until the medication would no longer help. I was totally shocked and could not accept that. Basically I said, “oh, hell no”. It so happened that same day I had a cardiology appointment for myself and talked with my doctor about all the options available for humans with a similar condition. Once I heard the myriad of options, I was even more determined to find help. This was October 16, 2018 and JoJo had just turned 11 the prior month.
I frantically googled, called, googled some more, and found Mighty Hearts Project, made more calls, did more googling, drove my chosen cardiologist crazy, drove my vet crazy, and ended up starting the two quarantine procedures and scheduled surgery dates at both RVC and Jasmine for the beginning of May, about 6 months from the original diagnosis, the dreaded 6 months my vet had originally warned me of. JoJo was put on the cocktail of meds we are all familiar with by now, and he actually stopped coughing the same day he was diagnosed. I then started limiting his activity immediately, with the thought that the less his heart had to beat before the surgery, the better chance he would have. We didn’t allow visitors, closed all our blinds, and hunkered down to as little stimulation as possible. I made a checklist of everything that needed to be accomplished before May and did everything I could do in advance as soon as was humanly possible, hoping that I would get that option for an earlier date. On January 16th I got an e-mail offering me a date of February 18th. Needless to say by the end of the day I had flights and lodging in the works and my cardio and vet both informed and on deck for the next steps. I couldn’t have done this so quickly without their complete and generous cooperation and willingness to learn about what was happening.
JoJo had his surgery on February 18th and it was a success. No serious complications and we were back home in early March. The team at the RVC is hands down the best medical team I have ever dealt with human or otherwise. No contest. They made me feel a part of their family and that they really cared about JoJo and me as well. They went out of their way to make us both comfortable physically and emotionally, every step of the way. I will always cherish the time I spent at the RVC and in Harpenden at Harpenden House with Tony McFarland. All the people that were part of this journey, from the taxi drivers to the customs agents, it’s really quite amazing looking back on it…amazing and miraculous. We are now coming up on our 6 month check-up here in August. I will always be nervous about every single check-up that he has from here until our last day together, but I wouldn’t trade the time I have with him for anything. He is back to living his happy life. The best money I ever spent…..JoJo is currently on no medications and we are working him back up to his normal activity level. His heart is in normal size range and was from almost immediately after surgery.
I know I would not have been able to do this so quickly and efficiently without the help and support from the Mighty Hearts group and those who came before me in this journey. There is so much emotion involved in each and every step in this journey. At times it was quite overwhelming. The days leading up to surgery and the surgery day were by far the most difficult days. Some of the most difficult of my entire life if not the most! There is so much support here from this group. I can never repay… though I think of how to every day. How to pay back all the kindness from everyone that was part of JoJo’s journey. I keep spreading the word and supporting those trying to make this an option for all those in need.
Breed: Chihuahua Age: 11 Diagnosis:Stage C Surgery Date: February 18th, 2019 Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI Owner: Shanna Reynolds Primary Vet: Dr. John Drobish, Great Lakes Hospital for Animals Cardiologist: Dr. Christian Weder, Petcardia Veterinary Cardiology Surgical Team: RVC, Drs. Dan Brockman & Poppy Bristow