It took 10 to save 1

July 21, 2016
by Kate Kuzminski, DVM, HSVMA-RAVS Field Medical Director

Saving a life can be hard. Despite the challenges faced, the creativity needed and the tenacity required, when it is all over, it is always worth it.

Faces (right) and one of her kittens, Orangey.Meet Faces, a two-year-old DSH who came to us at our Pine Ridge, S.D. field clinic last month. Her family brought her in after she had been hit by a car and was unable to use her back legs. They called the nearest veterinarian an hour away, but were unable to afford the $130 exam fee up front. They loved her. They had no payment plan options. They heard we were in town and came for help. They also brought Faces’ four 4-week-old kittens. Orangey, her smallest, was not doing well. Faces was no longer producing enough milk to nurse them all. It was time for them to be weaned.

It didn’t take long to determine that Faces had fractured her hind left leg and had multiple pelvic fractures. While her right hind leg was not fractured, she was unable to use it. Despite her severe injuries, she remained a loving, engaging patient. It seemed that Faces just needed time. Time for appropriate analgesia. Time to acclimate to her shift in balance. Time to get her bearings so she could stand. Perhaps more time than we had in our one week clinic.

Given the limitations of our location and the economic challenges of the area, the options for Faces were few. For her it was euthanasia or limb amputation. Sending her home as is was not an option. A repair was not possible. Euthanasia of such an amazingly sweet cat was inconceivable. We could provide the pain control and the surgery, but Faces had to show us that she could stand before we could move forward with the amputation. It was Tuesday. Our clinic ended on Friday. We decided to hospitalize her for 48 hours. Orangey would stay with her for moral support and care. If Faces stood by Thursday, we would amputate her fractured leg and she would go home to her family with appropriate follow-up. If she didn’t, we would reevaluate our options.

Sadly, against all well-laid plans, Faces did not stand before the end of the week. Every day she tried and got a little bit closer, but Friday came and we were faced with a difficult choice. We could not amputate. Euthanasia was not an option. We needed a Plan C.

The team mobilized and we hatched a plan. One volunteer, Mike, was driving back to California and he could drive Faces (along with Orangey). HSVMA-RAVS Director, Windi Wojdak would foster them in Felton, Calif. Once it was clear Faces could comfortably stand, RAVS volunteer Dr. Sarah would spay her and amputate the leg. Another volunteer, Domonique would drive them back to South Dakota when she returned in July for our Turtle Mountain, N.D. trip. Finally, Darci Adams, HSUS South Dakota State Director and long-time RAVS volunteer, would work her magic and get Faces and Orangey back to their people in Pine Ridge. We didn’t doubt the plan—of course it would work!

As expected, Faces stood two days after the clinic ended. She made it to California, and was fostered as planned. Orangey thrived. Faces continued to use her leg more and more. The day of her amputation, she was anesthetized and her leg and pelvis were examined. No crepitus or mobility at the fracture site was obvious, but a large callous was felt—her leg was trying to heal. After extensive deliberation, we decided to leave the leg and only spay her that day. Strict cage rest was continued and she made her way back to the Dakotas.

The happy reunion of Faces and Orangey with their family.After another week of being fostered by our team on the road, we transported mom and (spayed) kitten back to their family. It was five weeks after the accident, and they were doing amazing. Faces was walking, playing and bunny kicking. Orangey was robust, energetic and quite a handful! Her family committed to another two weeks of cage rest for Faces. They were overjoyed to get their family members back home. Faces leg, and her life, was saved.

Once it was all said and done, it took ten to save one. Ten people, five cars, 3,850 miles, 35 days, and a couple of bumps along the way. Some would say it was crazy. Was it? It definitely wasn’t easy, but it really wasn’t that hard either. It took creativity. It took time. It took a committed team. At the end of the day, it didn’t take too much. And lets be honest, it never feels crazy to save a loving, sweet life.

HSVMA-RAVs would like to give a very special thank you to Dr. Kerrin Hoban at Harbor Veterinary Hospital in Santa Cruz, California for seeing Faces on short notice and providing discounted radiographs so we could assess her situation fully.

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