in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #276 — Vetmergency

Lieutenant Commander Oliver Bongos standing guard in the garden.
Lieutenant Commander Oliver Bongos standing guard in the garden.

A very tough week. Ollie1, one of our two cats, had started being a bit off his food for a few days. This was completely out of character for him. We’ve always joked that he thinks he’s a dog, as usually he will be at his bowl until there’s nothing left and then continues to look around for more. He’d also started doing his ‘furball cough’ routine a bit more than usual. Typically every evening he would come for a cuddle and a gigantic purr, which quite often would make him cough. Once he’d cleared his throat he’d be back for more attention and purring. But over the past few days we’d found him coughing randomly around the house.

As I got ready to head into the office on Monday, I looked out at him in the garden and noticed that he was breathing very rapidly. Later that morning I called the vet to try and make an appointment to bring him in the next day. After describing the symptoms, I felt as though I was being told off; they said that they really needed to see him sooner. So I packed up my things and left the office at lunchtime in order to take him for a diagnosis.

Ollie didn’t come home again until Tuesday evening. Our regular vet examined him until the clinic closed for the day. We then had to take him over to the emergency/out of hours vet where he stayed the night. In the morning we then had to pick him up and get him back to the regular vet. Scans, x-rays, examinations, oxygen and intravenous fluids were all deployed as they tried to find out what was wrong with him. The suspicion is that he has some kind of lung infection or pneumonia which he’d been fighting for a few days. Apparently cats hide their illnesses, so by the time that there are visible signs, things may have already progressed quite far.

After we got him home, he couldn’t seem to settle down. It was difficult to know whether it was the illness or just the experience of being away from home for a couple of days that had got him excited. Late that evening, he lay on the couch, breathing rapidly and panting. So we decided to take him back to the emergency vet once more.

Upon arrival, the vet told me that she had done some calculations as to what the worst case could be financially if they kept Ollie in overnight and had to do various things while he was there. £1,600. This is a lot of money, but I said that it didn’t worry me too much as I knew he was covered under an insurance policy that we’d had in place for years. As he’s almost eleven years old I knew that there would probably be a copayment of 20% or so, but I was confident that we could manage it. The vet kindly suggested that I take a look at the policy as sometimes there were caps and limits on various things. I’m so grateful that she did. Ollie was taken off to spend a bit of time in an oxygen box and I went and sat in reception, looking up the details of our insurance policy on my phone. I could have cried. The policy has a limit of £1,000 for any vet treatment as well as much smaller limits such as £100 for an overnight stay — a crazily small amount given that a consultation fee at the emergency vet is about £285, and our 90-minute visit on Tuesday cost us £444. So far we have spent about £2,000 and won’t expect to see much of the money back. I was kicking myself. Usually I am so risk averse and make sure that we have insurances in place to cover any unexpected financial event. I guess that life was busy when we took out this insurance policy and I didn’t take the time to read through the terms and conditions. I won’t make that same mistake again.

I could have wept.
I could have wept.

Ollie’s now at home with us and doing much better. He’s on a course of antibiotics and seems to be taking less rapid breaths. Hopefully he’s on the mend. We’ve moved his sister over to a much more comprehensive insurance policy so that we don’t end up with another major unexpected bill.

Managing the cat’s health and dealing with the stress of trying to balance the books hasn’t been the best set of circumstances for getting back into work after a week off. We’re at a very critical time for our major projects. Lots of information needs to be gathered and written up so that we can make some key decisions on the scope of the work at a meeting the following week. I also have my youngest boy joining me for work experience next week; it’s exciting for both of us and I can’t wait to have him there, but my time is going to be spread even more thinly than usual.

This was a week in which I:

  • Had the regular project meetings.
  • Tried to catch up with emails and teams messages. The amount of things going on has meant that I’ve finally reached the stage where I never get to ‘Teams Inbox Zero’ anymore.
  • Spent a significant chunk of time helping to diagnose and remediate some network issues in one of our offices.
  • Reviewed a consolidated cost view for all of our real estate/facilities cost centres for the next decade ahead of a senior leadership meeting next week.
  • Started to prepare for a quarterly leadership meeting taking place next week.
  • Met with a colleague in the Marketing and Communications team about the project that I am running for our London office. It’s going to cause significant disruption to everyone working there, so we need a proper communications plan for the next few months. It was also good to hear about the leadership offsite that took place the week before.
  • Had a meeting with colleagues from Marketing and Communications and Corporate Services to talk through our plans to move out of one of our offices. Every time we get something out of someone’s head that we haven’t considered yet, the risk of a problem goes down.
  • Dug into our proposed doorbell/intercom system for one of our offices. Although it’s a great solution, we may need to scale it back for day one to avoid having to wait for various assessments and approvals.
  • Reviewed the latest iteration of the proposal for AV equipment upgrades for our office.
  • Had another discussion about mandatory compliance call recording.
  • Met with the real estate team to review our progress in opening a new office from scratch.
  • Met with my project leadership team to discuss how we can optimise our delivery process. The distinction between ‘acceptance criteria’ (what we plan to deliver) and ‘definition of done’ (the quality criteria we need to meet) is a useful one. I think that I’ve been conflating them in the past, using a list of ‘things that need to be true in order to mark this as complete’.
  • Joined a webinar hosted by our Senior Political Economist on the outcome and implications of last week’s election in South Africa. The next two weeks are going to be fascinating as the ANC tries to form a coalition government or a ‘government of national unity’.
  • Attended the bi-monthly Information Risk Steering Group meeting.
  • Met with the vendor of our corporate password management solution. They were very impressed with our >90% signup rate, something that we’ve managed to maintain through enrolling all of our new joiners as part of the setup process.
  • Met with our new interim head of Operational Risk for a general catch-up and overview of our function.
  • Had my regular catch-up with our technology research and advisory firm.
  • Had a long, and long overdue, one-on-one meeting with my boss. All bases were covered.
  • Was proud of my son who passed his driving theory test. He’s been spending a lot of time behind the wheel, mainly with his mum, and is improving all the time.
  • Finished planning my other son’s timetable for his work experience at my office next week. I am so grateful to work with such a lovely bunch of people who are happy to give up some of their time to spend with him.
  • Was bowled over by an unexpected kindness. Some people are so incredibly generous.
  • Cancelled our family subscription to Spotify. It’s recently gone from £17.99 to £19.99 a month. We already pay for YouTube Premium Family for the same price and it was only this week that I realised it includes YouTube Music. I’ll need to find a tool to recreate a bunch of playlists, but in the context of the recent vet bills it will be great to save £240 a year. Most of my mobile music listening is done through PlexAmp anyway, but it’s good to have the use of a ‘listening post’ for albums I might want to buy.
  • Enjoyed hearing a recent Vaccines record at the WB-40 Album Club. It took me back a decade or so to when a friend of mine used to rave about their first album.
  • Missed my youngest son as he was away on a practice DofE expedition.
  • Had a lovely meal out at Warehouse Pizza with my wife and my eldest son. It’s so good to have a proper sit down meal instead of getting takeaway, scoffing it down and then everyone scurrying off to do their own thing again.
  • Loved this week’s cycle club ride. It was a bit longer and lumpier than usual, super fast in places where I was drafting with another couple of riders who were hitting it hard.








Next week: Work experience.

  1. Also known as Great Uncle Bongos (amongst other aliases), for reasons that are lost in time.

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  1. Another very busy week for you Andrew. Glad to hear the 🐈 is on the mend. I will send Leon a message congratulating him regarding his theory test.
    Have a great week.
    Dad. X