My $13,000 ER bill courtesy of my french bulldog

I couldn’t make this story up even if I tried. I was on the fence about posting it, but it’s an awesome example (well not for me) Mike Tyson’s timeliness quote: “Everyone has a plan, until you get punched in the face“. My plan? Pay off $170,000 of student loan debt in an insane amount of time — 27 months by making monthly payments ranging from $2,000 to > $10,000/month. Up until last week, things were going good. I was following the baby steps: paying off each loan smallest to largest, with 3 of the 9 loan groups paid off so far.

What happened?

How about a $13,840.37 emergency vet bill at 3AM this past sunday (yes…like last sunday, 12/16) in the city of San Francisco. Here’s a snapshot from my bank to prove that this insanity actually took place.

The story

It’s 10:00PM on a Sunday night, my fiance and I are having an uneventful night eating yogurt and watching re-runs of Shark Tank. Before we head to bed, we walk into the living room to wish our 2 *absolutely hilarious* french bulldogs, good night. These 2 guys make me laugh so much, they both have so much personality, life is a blast with them. Here’s a pic of them after a long day of…sleeping. What a life right?

The fatty in the picture (with the yellow scarf), is sitting on the floor, sitting super weird. We call his name ..he stares at us, no movement. We call his name again, and again…no movement.

In my mind i’m thinking, “what the hell is wrong with this lazy dog, he’s been doing nothing all day except sleeping, get up fatty!”

Now i’m screaming his name, telling him to get the hell up and start walking. Guys — im not making this up, he starts moving, but he can’t move his back legs. He’s using his front two legs to drag the lower half his body — no movement is coming from the lower half of his body. Immediately my fiance and I think, ‘wholy shit he’s paralyzed!!’ This dog was in our living room running around, literally 4 hours ago, and now he’s paralyzed. I pick him up..not really sure what to do, and bring him to our bedroom where he can sit on the carpet. We call his name, and again the same thing — he drags his body to us using his front legs, his lower body is completely immobile.

At this point i’m f*cking panicking and my fiance is screaming “what do we do!?”.

I’m staring at this dog, this amazing frenchie that has brought us so much joy in our life, thinking to myself — ‘what the f*ck did you eat, it must be food’ or some other environmental factor, there surely couldn’t be a neurological disease that is causing this paralysis. Immediately we pull out yelp and look for the nearest emergency vet clinic that’s open at now ..1100PM. We grab our frenchie and haul ass to the ER, letting them know we’re on the way. About 20 minutes later we pull into this super dark parking lot next to a gas station in what looks like the entrance to a wal-mart shopping center. I’m not impressed. But we don’t have any other option.

We run to the door, its locked, and we literally start kicking the door screaming is anyone there. About one minute later someone lets us, she’s super tatted up, doesn’t introduce herself and asks us what’s going on in the most ‘ i dont give a f*ck’ attitude possible. We explain what just happen and she casually drops a line:

‘oh yeah these frenchies have back problems, your dog is probably paralyzed’.

At this point i’m super pissed off and start pressing with a ton of questions before she finally backs down and says she’s not a vet. She puts our frenchie on the scale, and it’s in kilograms. She then asks me how much that is in pounds.. i can’t f*cking believe what i’m hearing.

I demand to speak to the vet, drop my visa debit card at the front desk (with my fingers crossed that i’m not going to get killed on this visit), and within 10 minutes, we’re talking to the vet…who again doesn’t introduce himself, and says in < 2 minutes says that we should come back in the morning to speak w/ their ‘world class neurologist’. My fiance and I have had enough and say thanks, we’ll be back. We grab our frenchie and head to the cashier, total amount due $124.73

Take 2

Now it’s almost midnight, we’re in our car, pouring rain outside, with a paralyzed frenchie and no clue what to do. We definitely don’t want to come back in the morning, and we also don’t want to continue to wait. I know the ‘large’ pet hospitals which have the resources for these types of issues are all located in south bay — about 60 miles from where we’re at.

We’re now driving 80 down US-80 to South Bay to the nearest VCA emergency center — this serves the entire south bay area of California. When we arrive the experience is the exact opposite of the gas-station ER vet we previously saw. There was a team waiting at the entrance, they all introduced themselves, everyone was kind, caring, compassionate — no one on the team knew what the problem was (yet), but no one guessed, and the ER vet sat with us and explained, for nearly 40 minutes, the potential problem.

Frenchies, and our frenchie, have pre-disposition to spine problems which can cause paralysis, and she thinks that this is the why he can’t walk.

The problem? There’s no specialist at this site who can see our dog. The ER vet at this location gives us 2 options:

  1. Drive 2 hours to the US Davis ER Center for animals — she lets us know that if we go there they will not turn us away and she’s ready to make the call
  2. Drive 1 hour to north bay (SF) to the VCA San Francisco Bay center

She thinks option 1 will cost around $8,000 since it’s a non-profit teaching hospital, and option 2 will cost around $13,000 since it’s VCA. It’s now 1AM, our dog is still paralyzed and we have to make a $10,000 call. We decide to take option 2 and head to North Bay. The South Bay ER vet wishes us good luck and calls North Bay to let them know we’re on the way. Total amount due for hospital 2: $108.37.

Take 3

It’s now 2AM and we arrive at the North Bay ER center with the ER staff on call. Our dog is still paralyzed, and we explain the situation for the 3rd time. The staff is caring, explains to us the complications with french bulldogs, and their sensitivity to spinal cord injuries. The ER on call recommends we leave the frenchie there until he can be seen by a neurologist at 730AM.
We agree that is the best course to take, and my fiance and I head to the front office to figure out payment options.

We brace ourselves, and i’m glad we did, because they said it would be a $13,732 deposit.

With our frenchie already in the back, there is really no option. I transfer $15,000 from our savings, and give them approval. While it’s happening, in the back of my mind im thinking “what else can I buy for $13,732?” A honda civic? A trip to Europe? Bitcoin?? The ER center provides me with this paperwork below, an itemized list of services to be provided. Atleast I know i’m getting my moneys worth?

It’s now 3AM, my fiance and I are exhausted but happy our frenchie is in good hands. We drive home, $13,965.10 poorer, and pass out.

10AM — phone call

We wake up, totally late, my phone is exploding from work emails, my fiance still asleep. The phone rings, its the North Bay ER center. We’re told by the neurologist that an MRI has been performed and the good news is that there is no neurological damage. The frenchie has a slipped disc, probably from jumping, and a moderate to severe allergic reaction to *something* which is manifesting itself into serious red patches and skin irritation between the frenchies hind-leg toes.

Their conclusion is that the slipped disc, combined with the skin irritation w/in the dog’s toes, is making it too painful for our beloved frenchie to walk. The recommendation is restrict the dog’s diet to a very specific type of dog food, follow ups with the dermatologist, and a confined area with no jumping for the next 4 weeks. We are beyond happy to know that our dog is not paralyzed. We arrive in the afternoon to see him walking again, albeit a little odd, but walking. Another piece of awesome news? We’re being refunded $9,702, since surgery wasn’t required *high five* !

Our net-out-of-pocket at this point is $4,263.10. Luckily, we bought pet insurance for our frenchie and submitted a claim ASAP, which paid us (less our deductible) $3,710. At the end of the day, our total out of pocket for this nightmare was $553.10, as outlined below.

Conclusion

I will be the first to admit, if I didn’t have $15,000 on hand, we would have been f*cked. I have no credit cards, and neither does my fiance. That money was from our wedding fund (post coming soon). We will gladly trade a smaller wedding for the reassurance that our baby frenchie can still walk. I know that i’m on a journey to pay off $170,000 in 28 months. But this story has reaffirmed to me that personal fiance..is well…personal. Sh*t happens, and the most thought out plan can still go side ways in the event of an emergency.

Here’s a pic of our baby on the ride home from the ER, I hope this never happens to you. Just make sure when it rains, you have a big enough umbrella.

3 thoughts on “My $13,000 ER bill courtesy of my french bulldog

  1. What I am now doing is, when people I meet out walking their own dogs say do you have a dog? I just say no and get off the subject because trying to explain that we did have a dog but he died, and then having to explain why .well it is too hard because inevitably I end up welling up and becoming tearful (which in a park full of strangers is not ideal).

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