Mom and Indie are smiling again

Mom and Indie are smiling again

posted in: General News | 0

Indie’s news is, for lack of better word, INCREDIBLE.
Lorri Emmerich and I were hugging and holding back tears (this time of joy) after today’s appointment!!!!!!!
I’m sorry, I know I’m jumping ahead of myself here, but I just want to start by saying that. So let me move backwards now and tell this tale from the beginning, but my heart is still beating a little extra fast every time I relive the doctor’s words, facial expressions, surprise, and joy during today’s appointment!

Recall that in a shocking turn of events, Indie was diagnosed with toxoplasmosis, the one thing none of ever even considered him having. It was just one part of his large blood panel, and is a condition rarely seen in dogs (and not at all an issue for other people or animals – cats are the famed carriers because only they possess the ability to spread it to others by pooping out disease-carrying organisms). His bloodwork turned, save for this one piece, yet we still thought little of it, just assuming it was delayed for some reason related to the lab.

After our last appointment with Dr. Wasserman – at which we had reluctantly found ourselves agreeing with the vet that Indie’s eye still looked terrible, was painful, and was non-visual – we were feeling hopeless.
He added in a few medications that could not be given previously – such as oral prednisone – but could be given now, due to Indie’s blastomycosis (a systemic fungal disease) test being negative. He tweaked a few of Indie’s existing medications, adding timolol to the dorzolamide Indie had been getting, helping to boost the power of this anti-glaucoma medication.
Yet, since none of us suspected the toxoplasmosis test would be positive, it seemed that we were fighting a losing battle. Indie’s IOP (intraocular pressure) was 25 to 26, which – considering the medications he was on to reduce pressure – were incredibly high.
Worse, was his presentation: he was completely blind in his one remaining eye, walking with hesitation, and bumping into every door, table stand, chair leg, and counter corner. It was heartbreaking to witness as he has always been the sweetest dog with the disposition of a golden retriever and an endless happy tail wag. His tail that day was held stiffly and uncertainly, and he looked so forlorn, with one hollow eye socket and one massively bulging, painful, blind, discharging eye.
Lorri and I fought tears as we sat outside in her car after the appointment, discussing the visit and its implications, and calling in to her regular vet for some final blood work and urine tests (again, nothing but negative results, and no answers).

Two days later, Dr. Wasserman called excitedly – the toxoplasmosis results were in, and Indie was positive. Who would think this would be something to celebrate! Yet to us, it was…if only because we finally had a possible answer as to Indie’s chronic, pervasive, spreading eye issues. And maybe we didn’t have the answer…perhaps he had this systemic disease but it was an incidental finding. Perhaps the chronic uveitis and glaucoma and spreading blindness was truly a separate disease state, some kind of malignant or severe glaucoma, due to some completely different cause such as past trauma. But – we had an answer, at long last. And a treatment: clindamycin, 300 mg, one capsule twice a day for four weeks.

Now – the ocular form of toxoplasmosis can be slow to respond to therapy, so Dr. Wasserman cautioned us to have patience. He also warned us that Indie had sustained so much damage to his right eye already, for so long, that perhaps it was now irreversible. Further, he reminded us that t was entirely possible that Indie might have toxoplasmosis, receive the four-week treatment, presumably be completely cured of it – all great news, of course – but find his eye completely unchanged, because of the chance that the eye issues and the toxoplasmosis might be entirely unrelated problems.

With these warnings at the forefront of our mind, we went forward with cautious optimism. Assuming the worst seemed safest, so as not to jinx anything. Yet hoping for the best…and throwing out as much good juju and prayers and healing wishes to the universe all the while…was how we proceeded.

For the past three weeks, Lorri and I touched base regularly, and day after day, our despondency grew. Indie’s eye no longer seemed painful after the first week of treatment – this was the bright spot of hope – but otherwise, remained unchanged. At times, in fact, it even seemed worse. Lorri reported it was swollen and bulgy a couple of times, though it would slowly reduce in the days following, However, the one thing that remained constant day after day was Indie’s lack of vision – as evidenced by his constant caution, his bumping into everything, his inability to see and alert to strangers that his brother Bolt would see, and his lack of confidence while out walking.

And then, just this past Saturday (YES! Just two days ago!!), Lorri and her family watched as Indie, hanging out in the yard with Bolt and his family, appeared to see and visually track a dog being walked in the distance. They were elated! Lorri and I spoke Sunday and although I was SO over the moon to hear this news, it was hard to believe – there had been such a complete lack of progress throughout this whole process, and we were just two days from the appointment. She also described Indie watching as she moved a treat in a circle around his head. Again, I expressed my caution, asking her if he might possibly have keyed in to a distant sound of the dog, since their hearing is so much more acute than ours…or if he might have sensed Bolt’s reaction and been responding in such a perceptive way that he appeared to “see” the other dog…and with the treat, if he might not have been simply tracking the scent…?

I could hear the excitement in Lorri’s voice and my heart was turning backflips!!
However, it was so hard to let myself hope so high, for I knew how badly we all want Indie to recover his vision, how badly we want to save his remaining eye. I also know how well dogs can compensate, once they adjust – my own little Weeman was acutely blinded as a burn victim, and many who met him in his youth would actually argue with me that “he can’t be blind!” because he was able to “fake” it so well.
So I cautioned Lorri that we should still be prepared for any news today, and she agreed. Intellectually, we both knew how dangerous it is to hope so hard. But our hearts were betraying us…

Now I have stop here for a minute to give mad props to our eye specialist. An eye doctor must see dogs like our Indie day in and day out, and surely have developed some emotional armor to protect themselves from the sad stories they see all the time. But in all honestly, at our last appointment, Dr. Wasserman looked about as sad and helpless as we felt.
He has truly been the model of empathy and kindness and compassion from the very beginning – discoursing with us at length during each visit; giving us his cell phone number and encouraging us to call any time, any day if Indie experienced any major episodes or changes; and all along, not only offering an incredible discount to us but working with us so that as often as possible, we have been able to use our own antibiotics and medications and when not possible, he has guided us to websites where we have found all of Indie’s eye medications for totally slashed discount rates. But above all – he has seemed deeply saddened by Indie’s lack of response, and genuinely worried about our little guy.

So – today’s visit. We met in the waiting room about 10 minutes before Indie’s appointment. Lorri was bursting with excitement. We had been on the phone just one hour before as she excitedly told me, “He is looking at the window while I wait in this parking lot for my niece, and he is LOOKING at everybody! Like, watching them while they walk and watching them go all the way into their cars!” I was astonished and overwhelmed and SO EXCITED.
In the waiting room, he certainly seemed to be watching everyone around him, tracking movements – at least, at a distance (not so good up close), and avoiding obstacles with an ease that amazed me. Two days before, and for all this time, he had essentially been without sight. Now he was acting like an ordinary dog, albeit one missing an eye, and favoring one side. But still! Either this boy had learned to adjust and use his other senses at hyper-speed, sometime in the past 48 hours…or Indie really WAS responding, at last, to the antibiotic therapy – clearing his body of the toxoplasmosis, which was leading to a clearing of the ocular signs associated with it. It was too much to believe, too much to hope for!

The first thing Dr. Wasserman did when he came into the room was laugh with surprise and joy at Indie, who was acting, according to him, “like a new dog”. Indie turned properly as the doctor entered, approached him rapidly (no bumping into anything), sniffed his outstretched hand excitedly, and showed off his furiously-happy tail wag. He begged for treats, imploring the doctor with his one eye. Only one – but boy, can he work that one eye! (Dr. Wasserman caved quickly, and Indie had probably spoiled his dinner by the time the appointment was done, since he was very effective at coaxing everyone into giving him the juicy, beefy bone cookies they keep in the exam room)!

The doctor and his tech took Indie’s recent information down and were surprised to learn this was an abrupt change, less than two days’ before. Surprised – and very excited!

Indie went up on the exam table next to check his IOP (intraocular pressure). Since it had been 25 – 26 at our last visit, we were dreading the results. Lorri felt his eye was looking a little bulgy today, and he was due for pressure meds that she had had to hold off on because of the appointment timing. Despite all that – the instrument had trouble reading Indie’s IOP! Why would that happen, we asked the doctor curiously. “Because it’s so low!” he exclaimed happily. He finally obtained a pressure – of six! Six!!!! Lorri was standing by Indie to give him moral support since historically, he has hated having his pressures taken and has cried out in pain and moved so much. Not today, his tail was a-wagging and he was the perfect patient! But she had been standing beside the doctor anyway, just in case – I missed the moment, but still had to take a pic for her memory album, because every time the doctor would say something positive, as if he couldn’t see our antics, we would go crazy, exaggeratedly winking at one another and doing crazy outsized thumbs ups at one another. Yes, everyone in the room could see us, but we amply could not help ourselves!! We were just THAT excited!!!!

And the good news just kept on coming…
Indie’s IOP was down to the incredible figure of SIX.
His eye looked so much less swollen, almost normal.
He did not seem to be experiencing any pain or discomfort whatsoever.
Inside his eye, all the nasty inflammation of before appears to have started clearing up.
His vision still leaves something to be desired – especially at close range – but he was reacting with a startle reflex up close at least, and definitely appeared to be visual and tracking at least somewhat at a distance.

In short – it appears that toxoplasmosis very likely WAS the cause of all of his eye ailments.
It also appears that he is responding to the combination of medications he is on that are both attacking the toxoplasmosis, as well as supporting his eye in every available way to aid in healing, as much as is possible, after such a sustained period of damage.
It also appears that he may – if he can keep on with this wonderful course – not only keep his right eye, but possibly recover some vision at least.
Last of all, he will hopefully be toxoplasmosis-free forever, once the medication is finished, and no longer in danger of a recurrence.

Now – can we guarantee all these things will come to pass…? No, not yet, unfortunately.
Indie JUST began this reversal of fortune less than two days ago. He needs to continue on this course and ultimately, wean off several of the medications while still remaining symptom-free.

To that end, we are scheduled for a recheck with Dr. Wasserman on Monday, April 18 at 10:15 a.m.
Between now and then – 4 weeks away – Indie will finish his current 4 week prescription of clindamycin, the antibiotic (he has one more week to go) and take an additional two weeks after that, just to be safe (a total of 6 weeks). This is due to him just beginning to respond to therapy. Usually 4 weeks is the prescribed course but in cases like Indie’s it doesn’t hurt to add a couple of weeks on to be sure the disease is as likely to be knocked out of his system as possible.
He will continue with prednisone once every other day, until his appointment – and will likely be finished with it at that time, if he stays on this course.
He will reduce his antibiotic/steroid eye drops to 3 times a day from 4.
He will reduce his anti-glaucoma eye meds from 3 times a day to 2. He will continue on them from now until two days before the appointment, stopping them at the beginning of that weekend. Dr. Wasserman would like to see his eye acting “healthy” despite the cessation of those important eye drops, which will help tell us if he is really healing as much as we hope he is.

Indie’s family, by the way – has been absolutely incredible from start to finish.
I just feel I have to throw this out there.
They have NEVER wavered in their amazing care of this boy, giving innumerable medications and complying with dozens of tests, instructions, and medication changes. They have diligently made our fundraising money work the hardest it possibly can, by going out of their way to hunt down coupons and save costs on every prescription possible. They have done more eye drops and ointments and pills than I can even begin to imagine, and they have done it all religiously, without complaint, as the regimen has changed regularly, requiring constant flexibility on their part.
As an example, if you want to look at just the current schedule until today’s appointment, this included for the past three weeks pills given every other day (prednisone), pills given once a day (doxycycline), capsules given twice a day (clindamycin), eye drops given three times a day, and eye drops given four times a day. It’s enough to make you dizzy just thinking about it! Not to mention the interrupted sleep that comes with medications that must be given every 4 or every 6 hours, as some of these have!
On top of that, Indie is not a fan of certain pills, especially antibiotics. They have had to get extremely creative in getting him to take his meds. Lorri had me in stitches today describing how she has finally “fooled” Indie by giving him a bunch of fake cream cheese meatballs and then shoving one in his mouth with a pill hidden inside, in between the phonies. But kidding aside – Lorri has allergies to many of Indie’s medications. So while we giggle about what it takes for her to trick him, I know the reality is that when he does bite down into one with disgust, or by accident, it releases its contents in her face, which I am sure is uncomfortable for Lorri, to say the least. Yet she has never mentioned that, other than as a funny vignette, because she and her family are just THAT devoted to indie, and this is all just part of trying to get Indie better, happier, no matter how much or how little vision ultimately results.

Today’s visit may not be an ironclad guarantee of things to come, but it sure was a tantalizing preview of the possibilities!
Indie-Man – WE LOVE YOU!! Keep up the amazing good work, buddy!
We are so very proud of you and your family!