“What arms do you want your vaccinations in?” the pharmacist asked.

“What do you recommend?”

I was seated at my local pharmacy, awaiting flu, COVID and RSV shots. I chose to get flu and COVID in my left arm and RSV in my right. It was quick, and painless.

However, thus began a decidedly repugnant chain of events. Not that I regret being vaccinated — I was relieved and happy to have done it.

It was late in the afternoon on a recent Wednesday and I went home afterward, made dinner and went to bed early.

I woke up Thursday feeling as if I had the flu. Achy, tired and down for the count.


I called in sick, popped two extra strength Tylenol, kicked back in my zero gravity chair, covered up and slept.

Later in the day, I placed two more Tylenol capsules on a nearby coffee table, planning to retrieve a couple of crackers from the kitchen so I wouldn’t take them on an empty stomach. I procrastinated, fell asleep and woke to a commotion. Our 16-year-old cat, Bitsy, appeared to have swallowed a Tylenol capsule. I quickly retrieved the second pill and placed it high on a bookcase.

Bitsy, a 16-year-old white, black and gray cat owned by columnist Amy Calder, caused a commotion recently after coming across a Tylenol pill meant for her owner. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel file

Panicking, I tried to get our little, 7-pound, gray-and-black feline to spit out the capsule. As she licked her chops, I scoured the area around her, searching under papers and books and in the crevices of the couch for the Tylenol, which I knew could be deadly to cats.

I called our veterinary clinic and was told to call poison control and get Bitsy to a cat hospital in Manchester right away. With Phil driving and me cradling Bitsy in my arms, we left Waterville and I called the hospital while en route to let them know we were coming. It was a 25-mile trip.

A very quick-moving and thinking veterinarian at the hospital gave Bitsy meds to relieve her of her stomach contents. They gave her fluids and meds, did blood work and sent us to an emergency clinic, 35 miles away in Lewiston, which they said carries medicine to reverse the effects of Tylenol.

There’s nothing worse than fearing for your cat’s life, especially when you feel responsible. I apologized to poor Bitsy as I held her on my lap, sedated and wrapped in a blanket.


In Lewiston, a veterinarian explained she would receive fluids overnight and be carefully monitored. In the morning, we should return and drive her back to the Manchester hospital for daytime care. Depending on her condition after that, we would drive her back to Lewiston for another overnight. The ferrying back and forth might continue for three days, she said.

“Are you sure she ingested the Tylenol?” she asked.

I said I was pretty sure, as I had searched the area around her for the pill and found nothing. The vet explained that sometimes pet owners call in the middle of the night to say they found the offending capsule.

“That’s an expensive experiment,” she said.

Expensive, indeed. We had already paid about $500 by that point, was given an estimate of $770 to $880 for the overnight treatment and care, paid a $350 deposit and headed back to Waterville with a promise to be back by 7 a.m. to collect Bitsy before the clinic closed at 8 a.m. We bade our cat good-bye, feeling horrible, and arrived home in Waterville, bleary-eyed and anxious.

I made a beeline for the coffee table where Bitsy appeared to have consumed the Tylenol and began assiduously searching once more. I sifted through papers, delved into the sofa and flipped over a flyer that had arrived in the mail.


There, tumbling down and across the sofa, was the offending Tylenol capsule, slightly dented from what appeared to be cat teeth, but intact, nevertheless!

Relieved yet mortified, I phoned the Lewiston clinic, presented the good news to a technician and told her we’d get Bitsy in the morning.

Which we did, and she was happy to see us, considering what we had put her through.

The vet was right; it was a costly experiment, some $1,000 later.

I tried to think of an upside. Bitsy was alive and well, and the outcome could have been worse, I concluded. She and I spent the next three days recovering — she from the trauma of my misdeeds, and I from a dumb decision to get all three vaccinations at once.

I scoured my brain for a moral to the story and could identify only one: Don’t do the hat trick. And if you do, watch where you put your Tylenol.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 35 years. Her columns appear here weekly. She is the author of the book “Comfort is an Old Barn,” a collection of her curated columns, published this year by Islandport Press. She may be reached at acalder@centralmaine.com. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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