Friday, October 19, 2012


I finally have a moment to sit down and do a little thinking and typing.  This post is what I call a "feel good story".  Sometimes I have to retrieve a feel good story from the recesses of my brain when the stress of dealing with sick patients and death starts taking a toll.  The days on end of dealing with incurable diseases and euthanasia can weigh a person down.  But then there are those patients that come along and teach us that at least some of the time we can make a difference.

Dude came into my life this past August.  It was a Friday and our receptionist received a frantic call from one of our clients saying that he was bringing in a very sick cat right now.  When he got to the clinic, he told us everything he knew.  Dude was a cat that belonged to one of his renters.  The cat had gotten outside and had been missing for 6 days.  The client had just found the cat laying on the floor of his outside shop.  

Dude was about as close to being dead as a cat can get without being dead.  He was laying flat on his side and only his breathing told me he was still alive.  He would cry out when I touched him though.  He was cold and about as stiff as a board.  His body temperature was 95F (normal in a cat is around 101-102F).  He had a huge old rotting wound over his right shoulder and his entire right front leg was swollen shoulder to toes and oozing smelly fluid from multiple spots.  The only reason there were no maggots involved was that we were right in the middle of the 2012 midwest summer drought and there were no flies around and about.  Dude had other wounds as well.  There were some on his head.  There were even more to found hiding beneath his thick fur in the next day or two.  He smelled like a dead rotting animal.

So now decision time.  The actual owner of the cat did not have money for any treatment at all, but Dude had fate on his side.  The client who brought Dude to the clinic really liked this cat and felt bad for the owner who was a single mom with a very sweet daughter who was mentally handicapped.  He offered to pay for Dude's medical care, but there would not be unlimited funds available and transfer to a 24 hour care facility could not be part of the plan.  This is one of those times when you want to throw everything but the kitchen sink at a case, but can't.  This is when you do the best you can with what you have available.

IV fluids, various and sundry drugs, and active warming was begun.  By Saturday morning, Dude was showing signs of being a live cat, still smelly, but alive.  His wounds were bathed and some of the dead skin on his shoulder was starting to slough off.  By Saturday evening, Dude was able to lay upright on his chest instead of laying flat out on his side.  It was becoming apparent though that he suffered some kind of spinal cord trauma.  He could move all his legs, but was unable to stand up.   He wouldn't eat on his own, but he readily accepted some food offered to him out of a feeding syringe.

Sunday morning came with more improvement.  Dude was starting to get a little feisty and he ate just a little on his own.  Unable to stand at all, he was starting to drag himself around the floor some.  His wounds were bathed again on Sunday and more skin was sloughing off.  By Sunday night he was eating on his own.

On Monday his owners came to visit.  Dude was still unable to stand, but he was eating on his own and was urinating on his own.  After one more hydrotherapy session in the tub to cleanse his wounds, the owners decided to take Dude home.

As is always the case, more healing happens at home than at the hospital.  Dude's owners provided excellent nursing care.  Within 3 days Dude was taking his first steps at home and started using the litterbox on his own.  I saw Dude in the office about 2 weeks after he went home.  He was fully mobile and up and walking normally.  The skin over his shoulder wound was nearly closed.  He still has a little swelling in his leg, but overall he looked amazing.  Snatched from the jaws of death as the saying goes.

This story isn't just mine.  Saving Dude's life was indeed a team effort.  From the man who found him, brought him to the clinic and then paid the bill to the hardworking staff at the clinic that bathed, fed and tended to all of Dude's medical needs in the hospital and finally to Dude's owner who provided such loving care after he went home. And so Dude has become somewhat of a mascot for making a difference here at the clinic.  Whenever we have those tough days, Dude's name always seems to surface.  And that is the power of the "feel good story".  I hope each and everyone of you out there have your own personal "feel good stories" that make you smile and feel better when you are having a blue day.  At the end of the day, every single one of us makes a difference in this life.  We sometimes just need a little reminder from time to time.