Happy Winter-een-mas! Today is the first day of the holiday, and I've been getting a lot of questions the last couple of weeks whether or not I'd be celebrating it this year. The answer is yes, I had been planning to.
Not in the comic itself, because I feel like Winter-een-mas was always so much Ethan's thing, and he hasn't come back around into the comic yet. I didn't want to shoehorn it in and start mixing continuities by having the Players celebrate it. I had, however, planning a number of activities for the website. A gaming marathon on stream with some prizes, some community game days for League of Legends and Path of Exile. Unfortunately, I've been sidetracked by a personal matter.
If you've read the site for a while, you may recall that we have two Yorkshire terriers: Kaylee and Simon.
Kaylee just turned seven this week, and Simon turned six on Christmas day.
A little over a year ago, Simon was diagnosed with a collapsing trachea. It is, unfortunately, a common congenital disease in small dogs, especially Yorkies. There is no cure for it, and it is degenerative. Basically the structure of the trachea begins to soften and collapse. So if you imagine breathing through a straw, and then someone starts to pinch the straw in the middle, that's what it's like.
Simon's case started mild; when he would get excited, his airway would collapse a bit and he would "honk." The sound of the air vibrating through a smaller airway. We had a bronchoscopy done to determine the severity of the collapse and figure out our gameplan. His condition was rated mild-to-moderate: it was not yet actually impeding his ability to get oxygen, and only happened when he got worked up.
So we tried to manage things medically for the time being, and kept an eye on him. With a collapsing trachea, usually, there isn't a nice gradual decline. It'll be okay, okay, okay, and then bam, rapid deterioration. We didn't want to get to that point.
A few times Simon got into fits where he would get worked up, start honking, which just made him work harder to breath, which just made the situation worse, and so on. It was a self-perpetuating issue.
Last fall we decided that Simon was still very young, and we didn't want to wait until the end of his life, or until his trachea got really bad, to then say "Okay, now we'll do something to help you breath better." We wanted his quality of life to be as good as possible, so we brought him in for a stent procedure. This is a surgery where they go in endoscopically, and insert a mesh tube-like stent that expands in the airway, providing additional support to the trachea, and helping to keep it open.
Simon did amazing with the surgery, and we noticed an immediate difference. He no longer honked, he could breath like a normal dog, which also meant he wasn't putting the extra strain on his heart or other systems. It was an incredible relief.
For about a month.
We don't exactly know the order in which things happened, but a number of things took place. Simon got a chest infection; essentially pneumonia. He began coughing and developing a lot of mucus in his airway. Additionally, Simon's stent shortened. Just a centimeter or two, but this meant it was no longer supporting all of the airway, and the area in front of the stent began to collapse as well. We don't know if his coughing due to the pneumonia caused the stent to shorten, or if it was just a case shitty timing, but either way, Simon was suddenly back to struggling to breath.
Again, we tried to manage medically, with antibiotics, antitussives, and steroids, hoping to bring down the inflammation in his airway and clear up the pneumonia. It didn't work. Last weekend Simon's condition took a sudden downturn. Whereas before he was coughing and clearing his throat a lot, now he was struggling to breath. As he slept, his airway would close, and he would wake up startled because he couldn't breath, and have a panicked coughing fit to force his airway open.
We brought him to the referral center on Wednesday for another surgery, this time to stent his airway the old fashioned way: going in through an incision to suture supporting rings around the outside of his airway to hold open the small portion in front of the stent that was failing.
Simon again did well in surgery... but shortly afterwards, when they removed the breathing tube, he immediately began to turn blue and struggle. They reinserted the breathing tube, gave him more time to rest, and tried again with the same outcome.
The doctor said that Simon's trachea had lost all structure. Either due to the coughing, or simply the rapid progress of the disease. He likened it to a wet noodle. On top of all of the mucus in his airway from the pneumonia, he was unable to breath on his own. We were faced with an incredibly tough decision, and decided to try one last procedure to attempt to help him breath; a second internal mesh stent, higher up and overlapping the first.
It was a 50/50 shot, but Simon is only six and we didn't want to give up on him. The final stent placement went well, and when they extubated him, he was able to breath on his own with minimal effort. He stayed in oxygen overnight, and did really well. He had no more episodes, and while he wasn't out of the woods yet, things were looking cautiously optimistic.
Yesterday morning they took him off oxygen, and he continued to breath well, all things considered. He happily ate food, and has begun taking his medicine orally as opposed to intravenously.
Our focus now is to try and help him beat the pneumonia. Due to the collapse of his trachea, the anitbiotics were not able to remove the infection previously. We're hoping now that his airway is staying open, we can conquer the pneumonia.
Simon spent another night in the hospital last night, and if all continues to go well, we'll be able to take him home later today.
There is no cure for a collapsing trachea... we've hopefully bought Simon some time, but there's no telling how long we'll have him with us. A month, or a year. Who knows. But we love him dearly and we cherish every second we have with him.
So why am I telling you this? Well, for two reasons. First, because I want you to understand that while I had hoped to do a bunch of fun stuff for Winter-een-mas this year, I have been too preoccupied with Simon to prepare most of it like I had wanted. And if he comes home this weekend, I'm going to be focusing on taking care of him. Next week, if all is going well, I may still do a few community game days where we can all get together and play League or whatnot. The gaming marathon I'll just postpone until next month.
I'm telling you so you know that I didn't forget Winter-een-mas this year. I've just needed my attention for more precious things.
The second reason I'm telling you this, is because if you'd been eyeing any merchandise in the store, now would be an absolutely fantastic time to pick it up. Merchandise is part of how I make a living. Giving Simon every chance we can here has been incredibly expensive, and while we love him, and would do it again in a heartbeat, we weren't exactly prepared for this.
To be clear, I'm not asking for donations. Simon is my responsibility, not yours. And the surgery has already been done. Whether or not you pick up some merch is not the difference between Simon getting care or not. I don't want anyone guilted into buying something.
I've worked very hard to make this comic my living, and it is a business, and if you're giving me money, I want you getting something in return, be it a t-shirt, a book, a print, whatever. That's the arrangment I'm comfortable with.
To that effect, I'm also going to be offering a Limited Hand Signed and Numbered print of the players as their Roleplaying characters.
The image will be 8x10, printed on high quality matte photo paper, and mounted to a gray 11x14 photo mat, ready for framing. They are shipped in plastic sleeves, inside rigid cardboard mailers to prevent bending. Here's an idea of how it will look:
Each print will be signed and numbered, and I will even personalize them if you want. I'll probably offer these for about a week or ten days, and then they'll be gone, never to be offered again. They'll begin shipping as soon as orders close (since I need to know how many were ordered to number them properly).
I'll also do up a wallpaper of the image for you guys later this weekend.