About six weeks ago a man brought his fourteen year old cat named Einstein into my hospital for an examination. He obviously cared about Einstein and believed that he had suffered some sort of a wound to his face and jaw region.
I had to tell him then that the chance was overwhelming that the lesion wasn’t a wound, but rather a nasty malignant tumor that had reached a state beyond feasible removal. We attempted to “treat the treatable” with antibiotics and steroids, but as originally predicted the treatment had no effect.
This gentleman had to euthanize Einstein last Friday. He was understandably upset; a real grown man does often cry when they suffer a genuine heartfelt loss. While we were in the actual process of calmly restraining the patient, finding a vein, and giving the lethal injection, Einstein’s owner spoke with me. He never stopped caressing his cat in the process.
Einstein’s owner had been to Vietnam on four different active engagement deployments. He had been bayoneted and shot. He had thought that after every single active engagement completed, he had finished his obligated active service duty and that he would be allowed to head home to finish his enrollment in a non-war zone. He was not “exactly” given the option.
He also related a near death experience that he had at the hospital a few years ago while suffering an aortic dissection or aortic rupture. Only a tiny percentage of people survive such a condition. He told me that while he was lying there waiting to be rushed somewhere for surgery, he kept trying to joke with the nurses and the doctors attending to him. He was more relaxed than they were and apparently they had been extremely alarmed. He said “Dr. Cribb, after everything I had been through in Vietnam, after all of that carnage and pain, I thought to myself, if I have to go, this bleeding out thing isn’t such a bad way to make my exit.”
And during the caressing, and the shedding of tears, and the melancholy smiles of shared understanding over his conversation and experiences, Einstein passed away peacefully in silence. There was a feeling of lightness in that room afterwards, sad but still light. We continued to share a few more words about all of it within that lightness for a moment or two, but eventually it became time to part. With a somber smile and a steady hand, Einstein’s owner scooped him up in a blanket and took him home for burial.
Dr. Cribb 2018