So I emailed the resident surgeon and the vet student who mostly took care of Chester at WSU to thank them again on Thanksgiving. I got back a crazy email. Here's an excerpt:
Hey Roya,
Good to hear from you.  Its actually quite funny you emailed...I was going to email you.  You will never guess what happened last week.  We had a 1 year old, yellow domestic long hair cat come in with a chronic diaphragmatic hernia.  I will tell you Chester was the first one I had.  This was my second.  His name?  Are you ready? Che...ezer...not far off from Chester...yes, Cheezer.  His history was also unknown...found in a garbage can...but no known history of trauma.  Similar overall signs.  Surgery - almost the same - not exactly.  However...blood pressure...also sucked.  Post-op - yup, on all the same drugs Chester had to be on...for the same number of days.  Hospitalization time...the same.  Guess what else...the foot.  Yes, the foot had the same problem at the same time - about 5 days out from surgery developed a fever with a swollen foot in the limb the arterial catheter was in and he stopped using it - a couple footpads had changed color and had flaky texture like Chester's.  We discussed this with anesthesia.  I have never seen in before - now Chester and Cheezer...both chronic hernias.  Anesthesia may quit placing them.  I have a guess about the reason, but still no clear obvious cause...and why in just these two cases?  From now on I have a different way to talk to owners about this surgery - they better be committed.  Chester and Cheezer should be thankful on Thanksgiving they have owners who would do anything for them. I will tell you...Cheezer too was a very sweet cat - though I don't think he got as much love as Chester did.
That is so crazy! Especially the name part. Cheezer is probably the only variation of Cheese we haven't called Chester. Apparently everyone just kept calling him Chester2. That made us laugh.
Poor little Cheezer though! I told the doctor to feel free to share with his family how amazing Chester is doing now and how worth it it will be for them in the end. I hope his foot recovers more than Chester's did. Luckily, he is closer to the WSU team for them to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. Chester had a great team everywhere he went, including here at home, but it will probably be much easier for the same team for put together pieces of what went on in their own patient. There has to be something about chronic hernia cases that makes you intolerant to anesthesia. Which...is actually to Chester's benefit. Maybe now that he's had time with two inflated lungs if anything else were to happen and he should need surgery (far, far in the future...and even then please please no) maybe he would fare better.
Anyway, I thought you all would get a kick out of that story too. Luckily for Cheezer, he went to exactly the right place with the right experienced surgeons. Ones who I know for certain fought as hard as they could for him. I'm sure he will be doing just as amazingly as Chester in a few short months. So now we officially have two identical success stories.


Edit: for those of you with super cute pups...check this website out! http://shelterpups.com/b4aftr.php
all proceeds go to help shelter dogs
 
 
I know tomorrow is no longer my Thanksgiving, but I've been feeling pretty nostalgic and thankful lately anyway.
It still blows me away how far Chester has come. There were plenty of times I felt stupid for dragging us all into this mess, for making him undergo surgery in the first place when he was already alive and seemed ok. He almost died several times, lost two toes, and had a whole hell of a lot of stress put on him all because of me. And there were many times when things were looking bad that I would think "Ugh, I've done more harm than good and this is so not worth it."

But let me tell you, it was worth it. It was worth every single thing that we, as a family encountered. Seeing just how different this little guy's life is makes everything else look insignificant.
Chester 9 months ago
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Upper Respiratory infections ALL THE TIME
  • Breathing super fast and super laboured
  • Could only lay in one position
  • Could not go on his back, his only functioning lung would be squished
  • Could not eat

  • Had trouble using the potty

  • Didn't move much/slept all day and all night
  • Was afraid of everything

  • Needed constant care and attention and reassurance
  • Never initiated playing. When he would play it would be for no longer than 5 seconds at a time
Chester Today
  • Only breathes through his nose
  • Hasn't had an infection in 4 months
  • Breathes slowly and calmly
  • Lays however and wherever he wants to
  • Rolls on his back as a sign of affection, or play
  • Eats everything I put in front of him in the time it takes me to put the food down and turn around. Then whines all day for more
  • Hasn't had a single instance of bladder troubles since the first surgery
  • Barely sits still
  • Sleeps on top of the bed, completely unbothered by an all day session of carpet cleaning
  • Cuddles when he wants to, but is perfectly fine by himself, too
  • Plays constantly, with every toy in his arsenal, and runs laps around the apartment all day
You've all seen his past photos, so these are both recent ones
By just seeing the cat he is today, I can't imagine the pain he was feeling before. So today I am thankful for him, and his health, and everyone who contributed to him and his health. Everyone who kept him alive and gave him a life that is immeasurably better than he could have had otherwise. 
And one that makes our own lives worthwhile. 
Everything about him is perfectly healed. He's a full-on cat these days. Complete with chewing on my computer cords and pouncing on our heads at 4 am. And knocking everything off my dresser...just for fun. I'll take his rambunctiousness and mischief any day over the poor soul he was before. He is indeed the luckiest (albeit most expensive) cat in the world. And I'm so glad he's ours for years to come. I can only hope that you all have the same wonderful animals to call your own. (If not, he is available for cuddles)
 
 
First off, let me apologize for taking so long to update this. Chester and I were busy moving and resettling, but we are mostly settled now. He likes this new place quite a lot and he is getting so much better about changes and new things and new people. He is much more resilient when scared and can be perfectly happy 10 seconds later.
Picture
His favourite part about this place by far is the big open window with the busy street below for ample people watching. In fact, he people watches so much that he barely notices Gyan or I sometimes. He can't get enough.
When he takes a break though, there are plenty of new smells and things to check out. Not to mention things to play with.
I think he's become a kitten once again with all the stored up energy that he couldn't access for so long. His rambunctiousness is off the charts these days.
He's still mamma's little cuddler though. There's this expression of pure bliss he reserves for times where he can be sandwiched between Gyan and I and loved from all angles.  He has even started to like being held, though I doubt he would admit to it.
He can now jump like a real cat again too! Though this isn't always in my benefit as he tends to come up on the counter when I make dinner to check out what's going on. But he couldn't jump for so long, I have a hard time reprimanding him for it.

Basically, he is now your everyday, ordinary cat who is especially loving and not very picky about food. (So, the best cat ever.) Only he has a few scars and a little back foot with some bald patches. Other than that, you would never guess he had a rough past. 
He's happy as can be now that there is sun and love and food and safety. I think his only issue is that Gyan and I have gotten back to our lives and he no longer has someone watching his every move and catering to his every need 24 hours a day. Now he has to compete with work and socializing and such. As spoiled as he is now, I can see how this would be a big shock to his system considering he was the only thing in our life for two seasons. We're doing our best to make sure he isn't too lonely. No one wants a lonely kitty.
 

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    Chester is a 4ish year old orange tabby with a huge medical bill and an equally huge ability to love. His attitude is no small entity either.
    He goes by the names Chester, Cheetoh, Cheese, Cheeselog, Whiney-pants, and Scarf Cat, among others.

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