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Remembering Stella

A Heartbreaking Account of the Day I Lost My Sweet Baby Girl...

Content Warning: Sensitive Subject Matter

Life Before Stella & Oliver ...

Before Stella and Oliver entered my life, I was facing a difficult period. The inner turmoil I was going through remained hidden from everyone. In the years leading up to their arrival, I endured an overwhelming amount of loss, an unbearable wave of grief that I had never experienced before. It became unbearable, and I reached a point where I couldn't endure the pain any longer. On January 28, 2021, I made the decision to end my life. At that moment, I felt nothing; I was completely devoid of emotions. I sent a final text to a friend, telling him, "I can't do this anymore. I'm done." With no remorse, I gathered all my prescription pills, consumed a handful of sedatives, and lay on my bed, embracing the hope of never waking up.


Somehow, my friend had the foresight to call 911 upon receiving that message. What compelled him to make that call and insist on immediate help, I’m not sure but looking back I suppose it wasn’t my time. In what felt like mere minutes, I recall police officers pounding on my door, urging me to let them in. Despite my protests, claiming I was fine, little did I know that my friend was still connected with the 911 dispatcher, who informed him that the door was locked, and I was unwilling to open it. He insisted that they break down the door or he would take matters into his own hands. When the officers informed me they were going to break the door down, not wanting to damage my landlord's property, I reluctantly opened it. The paramedics arrived, and I was placed on a stretcher; I remember nothing beyond that point. I woke up in the ICU two days later, having spent five days in the hospital before being transferred to a mandatory 72-hour hold. I was given the option to enter an intensive therapy and counseling program. Initially, I had no desire to do so, but I soon realized it was the safest choice. After five weeks of therapy, being properly diagnosed, and on the right medications, I started feeling better. More stable. It was not an easy journey, but I was determined to put in the effort to make life worth living again. It was during this period of healing that I felt the need for companionship and went online to search for a little furry friend. I never imagined I would become a cat mom to not just one, but two cats. Ironically, I had not been particularly fond of cats before this. After hours of searching, I stumbled upon Stella (her original name was Beatrice) and Oliver's profile. There was something about these two kitties that drew me in, something I couldn't ignore. Consequently, I made the decision to complete all the necessary paperwork to adopt this bonded pair from a rescue organization.


Being a new cat owner, I soon discovered that the experience was quite different from raising dogs. Unlike puppies, which often seek constant attention and affection, my two cats did not. During their initial days in their new home, they chose to hide under my bed, clearly apprehensive of their new surroundings. I wasn't entirely certain about my expectations, but there was a lingering concern that I might never gain their trust.


However, as time passed, the trust between us grew steadily, and these two cats became the center of my world. I could have never anticipated forming such a deep and profound bond with these feline companions. Don't get me wrong; I have a deep affection for dogs as well, but the love that developed between me and these two cats had a unique and profound quality. The connection and affection we shared was incredibly deep, the closest thing I’ve experienced to having children. Despite spending only about two years of life with Stella, I believe she came into my life for a reason and at the perfect time.

My Sweet Sweet Stella...


Let me begin by sharing what made Stella so special. Though our time together lasted just over two years, those years were filled with unforgettable moments of laughter and love. Comparing her to other cats is a bit challenging for since I had never owned a cat before. But when comparing her to her brother, Oliver, she was the complete opposite. Stella wasn't much of a cuddle bug like Ollie. She would come to you when it suited her, often after what felt like days of hibernation. The girl sure loved her sleep.

At first glance, she might have appeared shy and timid, but Stella was quite the opposite. If you met the two of them, you'd probably assume that Oliver was the outgoing, vocal, and fearless one, while Stella was the quiet and less adventurous one. However, Stella LOVED to travel and I found it absolutely endearing. Anytime I grabbed a suitcase, bag, or their stroller, she would come running fast! It's funny because she typically doesn't run for anything. I remember when I picked them up from their foster parent, she said: "Oliver likes to talk a lot, and Stella (whose name was Beatrice at the time) always has her tongue sticking out." It was really cute to see that she was exactly right. I miss seeing her little tongue sticking out. In the 2.5 years I had her, I only heard Stella meow once, and it was the softest, quietest little meow you can imagine. I actually got a bit worried and pulled the car over when I first heard it, thinking something was wrong or she was hurt. Then I realized it was the first time she had been apart from Oliver. I didn't want to bring him because it was an appointment just for her but I felt guilty for that.

Stella was truly the sweetest little soul, with a gentle and kind disposition. She was always laid-back, but then she had a way of surprising you with her actions. She brought immense happiness into my life. The very last time I saw her, she was sitting in the stroller, looking back at me as they took her for her procedure. Something nagged at me in that very moment. Interestingly, the day before, I had an uneasy feeling but brushed it off. Even though I had dogs before, I couldn't recall being so worried before a dental procedure. That image of her looking back at me will forever be in my mind. It was as if she was thinking, "Mommy, why aren't you coming with me?" I'm crying right now just thinking about it. She was special. She shouldn't have died that day. It was too soon. 

The Day That Changed Everything...

On August 8, 2023, I embarked on what I believed would be a routine visit to the veterinary clinic with my beloved cats, Stella and Oliver. My previous experiences with taking dogs for dental cleanings had always been uneventful, and I never harbored any concerns. However, this particular trip would soon shatter my sense of security and trust in the veterinary profession.


It all began when two separate veterinarians informed me that both Stella and Oliver required dental cleanings, with Stella potentially suffering from a condition called tooth resorption. The mere mention of Stella being in pain propelled me into immediate action. My primary vet, whom I held in high regard, provided me with a quote for the procedure, and I was left utterly shocked when I saw the nearly $3,000 price tag per cat. It was a staggering sum, one that I couldn't ignore.


Driven by the desire to explore alternative options, I turned to Yelp to contact various veterinary clinics. To my surprise, only two of them were willing to provide pricing information through messaging, while the others seemed reluctant to disclose such essential details. At the time, I couldn't help but find this lack of transparency rather rude.


Warm Springs Pet Hospital emerged as a beacon of hope by swiftly responding with a quote that was a mere fraction of what my primary vet had proposed. Eager to save on costs, I scheduled an appointment for the following day, even though I couldn't shake off an unusual feeling of nervousness that had settled in the pit of my stomach.


While at work, I confided in a friend about my unease regarding the dental cleanings. It was a sensation I had never experienced before, and I attributed it to my inexperience with feline care. As I provided Stella and Oliver's information to the Warm Springs staff, they informed me that Stella's records were already on file, a memory that momentarily eased my anxiety. After all, she had undergone a successful cracked tooth extraction there just the year before.


With astonishing speed, they secured an appointment for my cats the next day, aligning perfectly with my limited time off from work. I assumed that everything would proceed smoothly, trusting in the expertise of these experienced veterinarians. Little did I know that this would mark the last time I would see Stella alive.


Upon my arrival at 8:15 am for their appointment, I inquired if they had reviewed the lab work from the other vet. To my dismay, they hadn't even verified whether they had received the information, leaving me with lingering doubts about their thoroughness. What if I hadn't brought it up? Would they have proceeded without checking?


My concerns grew, but I brushed them aside, reminding myself they are the experts. I blindly trusted them, as many pet parents do. A technician approached me with a form laden with pricing-related questions and add-ons, and I dutifully signed it. They assured me that they would contact me before proceeding with any extractions, and I agreed to their terms. It seemed that I wouldn't have the opportunity to meet the veterinarian, nor did they ask any questions about my cats' current status, if they were eating normal, any sneezing or coughing, etc., which I would later see that the vet added to the medical record patient assessment that they were within normal ranges for these things.


I did manage to convey my worry about Stella's increased eye discharge, and they promised to inform the vet. As they led Stella and Oliver away, Stella's eyes met mine with a look of uncertainty, as if asking, "Aren't you coming, Mom?" Little did I know that it would be the last exchange of glances between us.


Before leaving, a staff member came from the back and said that Stella was on the table and ready for the procedure. It all felt incredibly swift, raising more questions about their thoroughness. Nevertheless, I tried to quell my nerves with the thought that these were experienced professionals who knew what they were doing.


As I sat at my computer desk, I received two separate phone calls regarding extractions for Stella and Oliver, agreeing to everything as they assured me of their well-being. Then, at 11:31 am, my phone buzzed with texts stating that both Stella and Oliver were awake, alert, and recovering well, with a promise that I could pick them up in a couple of hours. Relief washed over me as I read those messages.


However, just ten minutes later, a phone call shattered my newfound sense of calm. The voice on the other end conveyed that there had been an emergency with Stella. At first, I assumed it was something fixable, a precautionary call to keep me informed. But the words that followed were like a dagger to my heart: "She went into cardiac arrest, and we've been performing CPR for 10 minutes with no response." Time seemed to stand still as they asked what I wanted to do.


Disbelief engulfed me, and the world around me ceased to make sense. I pleaded, "Do everything you can! Please don't let my baby die! Please!" before hanging up the phone. Panic took over, and I paced my apartment, repeating the words, "I can't handle this!" The pain was unbearable, and I felt utterly helpless, a torrent of emotions flooding my every thought.


Desperate for support, I called a friend who, despite being at work, rushed to my side, our manager understanding the urgency of the situation. She found me on the floor, overwhelmed by grief and shock. After gathering my composure, we made our way to the clinic, where my world would be forever changed.


Upon arrival, Dr. Debra Chen and a vet tech led me to a room, to discuss what happened. Dr. Chen began to explain the situation, hinting that there must have been an underlying issue with Stella since both cats had received the same treatment and should have had identical outcomes. I couldn't bring myself to look at her, consumed by grief and anger. I told her that I believed Stella's death was a result of their negligence, and my accusation hung heavily in the air.


Dr. Chen insisted that they had closely monitored the cats postoperatively, checking on them every five minutes. Later, I would discover that this was far from the truth. She mentioned that "with anesthesia, you never know," a response that seemed evasive and unwilling to accept responsibility for what had occurred. Her words left me profoundly upset, but I was too numb to react.


Instead of offering a sincere apology for the tragic loss, Dr. Chen spoke of their desire for patients to return home with their families. In my heartbroken state, I couldn't help but think that such a statement was both obvious and devoid of the empathy I so desperately needed. They offered to perform a necropsy, but I couldn't bear the thought of their hands touching my precious Stella any further. They had already caused enough harm.


Leaving the clinic with Stella's lifeless body, I wept inconsolably for what felt like an eternity. The pain I felt was overwhelming, and the reality of her loss struck me with a force I had never experienced before. It was, without a doubt, one of the darkest days of my life.


The heartache continued as I searched for a place to have Stella cremated, and I couldn't escape the heavy burden of guilt that weighed on me. I felt as though I had failed her, wondering if she would still be alive if I had chosen to go to my primary vet. This guilt would haunt me for the rest of my days.


As I reviewed Stella's records, I was shocked by the lack of documentation and what appeared to be unacceptable practices within the veterinary industry. It was the start of a painful journey, one that would reveal harsh truths about the profession and ignite a burning determination within me to seek justice for Stella. I had no idea that this journey would be so long and disheartening, but I vowed never to give up, to hold veterinarians accountable for their actions, and to ensure that animals are treated with the care and respect they deserve.


This fight for justice would become a lifelong commitment, driven by the memory of my beloved Stella and a fervent hope that no one else would have to endure the pain and loss that I had experienced.

My Journey to Justice After Losing Stella...


After losing Stella, I've embarked on a profound journey of discovery within the veterinary industry, shedding light on realities I was previously oblivious to. Along this path, I've come to a stark realization – the profound solitude that accompanies seeking justice for our precious pets, who, in the eyes of the law, are seen as mere property.


This journey has unveiled the unsettling side of an industry tainted by corruption, where the veterinary medical board, purportedly in place to safeguard our interests, often proves unhelpful. Despite my efforts, my filed complaint has led to a relentless cycle of uninformative follow-up emails, leaving me in the dark about any progress. The latest correspondence directed me to a form that outlines an astonishingly lengthy timeline for the investigation process, currently spanning a staggering 1,367 days from initiation to resolution in 2023.


My outreach to various media outlets has yielded no response, and even my attempt to seek assistance from my state senator's office resulted in a disheartening conclusion – it seems there is little that can be done to rectify the injustices within the system. Posting reviews and sharing my story on various platforms has been met with censorship or outright removal, leaving me feeling as though I'm battling a world that shields veterinarians, regardless of the harm they inflict on our treasured pets.


This frustrating and exasperating ordeal often feels like an insurmountable fight against a system devoid of accountability and enforcement. Veterinarians seem to operate with impunity, leaving us, the pet owners, feeling utterly powerless.


Despite these challenges, I've found solace and strength in joining forces with others who have suffered similar losses due to veterinary malpractice. Together, we stand united in our pursuit of justice, determined to bring about change and hold those responsible accountable for their actions

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