Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Madelyn's Friends at the Furry Friends Jubliee this Sunday

Have you heard of Madelyn's Friends? Well, after we lost Lexi I began thinking about how wonderful it would be if there was a way to raise money for those pet owners who needed specialty/emergency veterinary care for their "kids", but couldn't afford it. We happened upon Madelyn's Friends Foundation, and that's exactly what the Foundation does. So, we contacted the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center to find out more and how we could help!

We are working the booth on Sunday, May 6, at the Furry Friends Jubilee in Carytown. We will be there helping to sell raffle tickets, dog washes, nail trims, tee-shirts, etc. to raise money for this wonderful cause. If you're in the area and want to stop by, the event is from 12 until 4 p.m. at the Cary Street location of the VESC.

If you're unable to attend, but want to donate or buy a raffle ticket, click here!

Now, here's a little more about Madelyn's Friends Foundation from the VESC website:

Why We Began Madelyn's Friends Foundation

Desiring to provide advanced quality of care to all of Richmond's community, the VESC and one of the owner's and hospital administrator, Laura Dean, created and applied for a non profit, Madelyn's Friends Foundation. The goal of this fund is to provide financial assistance for members of the community with a lower income comprehensive emergency and specialty care to the four-legged members of their family. Our hope is to ensure the appropriation of funds goes to those families and pets with true need.

Madelyn's Story

Madelyn was thrown off a truck on interstate 64 when she was just two months old. She needed emergency care and was brought to the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center by a Good Samaritan and received the special care that she needed, but still needed a home. At the time I was both a student a Virginia Commonwealth University and a part time receptionist at the VESC, and I knew that I could provide her the love and attention that she needed. But I also knew that I was living hand-to-mouth (as most students do) and feared that I would not be able to afford the necessary veterinary care that all pets need in their lifetimes. I was smitten, however, so I took her home knowing the challenges. Almost 12 years later she is still the love of my life and brings me joy every time she wags her tail, attempts to talk to me, plays dead, and kisses me awake in the morning.

Over the years she has required life saving care and treatments from both emergency and specialty veterinarians. Once she ingested a sock at 11 pm on a Saturday night and had to have emergency surgery. Another time she had a big lump that needed to be biopsied by an oncologist. And, of course, every few months as a puppy she got into something and terrified me with lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea at all hours of the day and night. The emergency and specialty care has saved her life, I'm certain, on so many occasions that I've lost count. Fortunately, in the years before I got out of school, I had the good fortune of my parents' financial assistance and was always able to provide the care that she needed. Even at the time, I realized that not everyone is so lucky. I always wanted to provide a fund to those like myself, who have a lot of love to give, but no funds to match it. I want to give to others what my parents gave to me... The gift of providing the necessary advanced care to the one who love's you unconditionally. The promise of a few more years with your best friend. The commitment to ensuring the quality of life that we expect for the members of our family. An opportunity for all of Madelyn's friends.

Overview of Need

Over our many years in practice we have observed first hand the challenges many people face providing emergency and specialty veterinary care to their pets. Veterinary medicine has shifted away from the need to maintain livestock as an agricultural necessity to the nurturing of a bond more similar to the one shared with a beloved family member. This change has created a demand for progressive veterinary health care that closely parallels human medicine in specialty scope, research, resources, modalities and expectations of care. In return, the cost to provide this level of care has proportionately climbed and the ability for some pet owners to finance these costs has become more challenging, and in some cases, prohibitive.

Veterinary medicine is not, however, like human medicine in a few important ways. First, there is not a common form of veterinary health insurance to support the rising costs of medical care. Secondly, veterinary hospitals do not receive subsidies from the government to help with the costs of indigent patient care. Another significant difference is that operating a 24-hour veterinary emergency and specialty care facility costs far more than a conventional veterinary day practice. Also, veterinary medicine, in response to the shift from agricultural to companion animal medicine, now also has board certification in most of the same specialties as human medicine. For a veterinarian to become nationally board certified in a specialty area they must complete at least one year of internship, apply and be accepted into a three-year nationally recognized residency program in the desired area and then take a national board examination for licensure in that area. Board certification is relatively new to veterinary health care. Since the creation of this necessity in veterinary medicine, general practitioners look to specialists and are often unable to perform some techniques, diagnostics and treatments specific to specialty areas of veterinary medicine. In many cases, pet owners are not willing to allow their family members treatment and care to be placed in the hands of someone without the proper training and expertise. As a result, previously untreatable diseases are now cured, but there is a cost associated with these specialty veterinary practices that must be covered by the devoted owners whose pets require them.

The costs to run a veterinary hospital are substantial. Emergency and specialty care bear the greatest brunt of this financial strain. As we know from reports in human medicine, the cost of medical care rises on average 16% every year. Though veterinary costs rise at an almost identical level, we do not have any financial assistance from the government, so we must sustain ourselves solely from the clients that can fund the care. Therefore, we often make disproportionately low fees related to the escalating costs associated with operation to keep prices low enough to provide care to most of the community. Providing the drugs and supplies that are common in day practices is only the first challenge faced by emergency and specialty practices. Because of the scarcity of specialists, the amount of training and school that they must complete after graduation, the demand from the day practitioners to have their support, and the supportive diagnostic modalities that are required to practice this level of medicine (e.g. CT scanner, ultrasound, endoscope, etc.), costs can become prohibitive to many pet owners. Because of the combined overhead costs associated with the operation of a specialty veterinary facility, and the inability to have fees at a proportionate level to rising costs, emergency and specialty practices often are financially unhealthy. All of these factors combine to create a risk of being put out of business by attempting to provide low cost or free care. This, of course, would damage jobs, and the ability to provide this much needed service to the community.

The purpose of this foundation is to raise and administer funds to help subsidize the cost of veterinary specialty and emergency care in the Richmond metropolitan area. Pets are no longer disposable to the community; they are caregivers, friends, protectors, rescuers, and therapists. Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) has a center for the human animal bond. Every year, a representative from this center gives our staff a presentation on bereavement, during which they state that based on research, 33% of people find their pet to be closer to them then their closest human family member. Providing the care that these valued family members need has no longer become optional to the pet owning community. It has become essential. The cost has risen and will continue to rise, creating an inability for many people to provide this necessary care for their loved ones.

The foundations recipients will be approved based on income and the ability to finance care. The assistance would be granted based on need and prognosis. Though we currently provide humane care to all pets that are suffering without any guarantee of payment, hundreds of animals every year must be euthanized that could have survived and had a long and healthy life if they had the specialty care they needed. The Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center want to give more animals a chance to receive this care. We would love to provide comprehensive veterinary care to every pet, but without assistance from a foundation such as this, we would hemorrhage financially and go out of business. We need this foundation to succeed in fulfilling our vision to provide the necessary care for Richmond's entire pet owning community.

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