Tuesday, February 15, 2011


That did not go as anyone had planned.

We drove Penny up to Austin bright and early in the morning, and got her in right on time for drop off.  We filled out her paperwork, gave them her x-ray from back in November and rabies certificate, and discussed with the vet what exactly was going to be done.  The surgical assistant actually came back out before we left and expressed to us that amputation was going to be the only option because of how bad the injury looked, and that they wouldn't do a spay at the same time.  I was really, really bummed, especially since they'd already taken her back, but I know the vet doesn't amputate lightly.  We headed out to our friend's apartment to wait out the surgery.

A couple of hours later I got a phone call saying how surprised they were to see the film was from a few months ago (seriously?  I thought we did this whole consultation thing over the phone before, and guess how long it takes to raise $900).  They said they had to redo the x-ray and discovered that an FHO was still impossible, but that they could do just a plate for, oh, between $900-$1,000.

I had a mild heart attack, quickly asked my fiance if we could find $100 somewhere, anywhere, and gave the go-ahead to save the leg.  Of course, what else would you do?  Electing for an amputation when fixing it was only $100 out of reach would be plain cruel.  We wanted to do anything we could to keep her on all four legs - that is the whole reason we're here.  Yeah.  Do it.  We'll make it work.

I did ask her, though - why did it get more expensive?  Our first quote was $600-900.  The woman said, and I quote:  "That was from back in November.  That was a 'guess-timate,' not a real estimate."  We will encounter difficulties with this definition later on, too.

Apparently just doing one piece of hardware was more expensive than doing...more...things...I'm not entirely sure how she managed to word that, but it sounded ridiculous even from her. So I asked - this is our quote, then?  It's going to be $900-1,000?  Yes.  Yes, it is.

I go to take a 2-hour nap (because at this point I've been up over 24 hours and I simply need to get things straight!), with visions of scary bills but a happy, four-legged Penny dancing over my head.

I wake up to find I've missed a phone call (Doh!), but that they called my fiance and said that Penny was all done.  He had apparently asked for the total bill, to which they responded...


Wow guys.  You thought an extra $100 was going to be hard for us to pull together, I had a breakdown when I heard we were $240 over the initial quote, and heck, $140 over the NEW quote.  I tried calling them, but apparently during pickup hours they just let their phone ring.  I'm not being rang the entire time we were there picking her up, too.

I knew this was going to be expensive, and I completely anticipated some extra costs (although I was initially told that $600-900 included followups, drugs, aftercare, etc.), because no estimate is spot-on.  But we did not COME with an extra $240 in our pockets.  After gas to Austin and back, $240 was more than we had in our combined bank accounts.  We could eat cardboard for the rest of the month and still not fill that gap.  I was extremely unhappy, and frankly, I felt let down.  I felt...well, lied to.  It took us months to raise that money.  We didn't even raise it all, half of our goal came from the amazing work of God's Little Creatures.  It felt like we were being told AFTER the fact that all of that generous giving, all of that pulling together, was not enough and now we were cornered.  Because they weren't answering the phones, and apparently the woman in charge of debating charges had gone home, GLC couldn't even call and dispute them, let alone pay them.  The person I spoke with kept pointing out that the new AND the old "quotes" were not real "estimates," and that they didn't include everything.  She insisted she hadn't spoken with me before when we did the consultation over the phone in was just all extremely frustrating.

And you know, don't get me wrong - the vet did everything right.  Yes, I wish the tech had reviewed Penny's file and information before we got there (so they'd know we set this all up in November and what the problem was), but at a low-cost clinic you roll with the punches.  They did EXACTLY what we asked them to - they fixed her leg.  They even managed to keep all four paws - something we didn't have high hopes for.

But what do you do when you arrive with emptied pockets, excited that you finally made it, to be told that they did the work but it'll cost more money?

You let your fiance take the care instructions, you put GLC on the phone with them, and you go outside and you have yourself a little cry.  Then you go back in, you pick up your little girl, and you take her home.

GLC will call them tomorrow and see what can be done.  Maybe the price can be negotiated, or maybe it doesn't have to be paid all at once.  All I know is that I owe God's Little Creatures and all the pets there somewhere in the ballpark of $700.  I wouldn't feel right still asking people for Penny's surgery after it's done with, so it's going to be a lot of hours finding ways to raise money and supplies instead of sleeping.  It's not like I would have stopped talking to them anyways, but Penny and I pretty much owe a lot to them right now.  They are...simply amazing people.

I don't honestly know how all this will work out, but I'm glad to have my girl home and through the worst of it.  She is in a lot of pain right now, but it should get better over the next few days.  She's in strict kennel confinement and is only allowed out to go to the bathroom, which is just fine by her so far because she's in so much pain she won't move unless you make her.  The sweetheart still does her best, though.  She's wearing an e-collar, and it's simply pathetic on her.  I think she thinks it's an added torture.  She gives you this look of "Seriously?  Whyyy?  I don't feel good, and you're putting this pokey plastic thing on my head?"

It beats pulling out her staples, though!

So what exactly did they do to her?

Penny got one plate and six screws.  The vet had to re-fracture and re-set the bone to make it work, but it looks loads better than it used to:

P.S. - Usually the film is the property of the vet and goes in the medical record...apparently in this case we just got to keep it.  I'm not arguing!  I'm happy to be able to maintain her record for myself, with all this craziness!
It should be very stable, but in the future if the plate causes any problems it can always be removed.  The spring-lookin' thing along the side are her staples.  They said she might have a limp, and I think it was the only time I laughed around them - if they could have seen her when we first got her!

She has a few more visits to them, at least two - one in two weeks to remove her staples and check the healing, and another two weeks later for checkup x-rays.  Hopefully these checkups will be our only other day-visits to the ATA!  Penny still needs a microchip and to be spayed to be completely done with her vetting in my book, but that's an issue for a later time - and in town, where the drive to recovery is 5 minutes, not 2 hours!

Despite how frustrating this day was, I'm happy that her operation is DONE.  I cannot wait for her big, ugly, painful ouchie to become just a scar and a memory.

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