What a terrible day to be in the hospital. It must stink to be sick—especially on a beautiful, balmy Christmas Day like today. (Dare I gloat and tell you I’m sitting outside on my patio wearing a sundress?)

By the way, Merry Christmas for all of you to whom this sentiment applies. As usual, however, there is at least one extremely banged-up patient to whom I must attend on this holiday and who I’d expect wouldn’t be having such a merry time of it.

This patient has no home, no name and perhaps very soon…no leg.  She was found by the side of the road and transported to the hospital (yesterday) by one of our lovable (but exasperating) eccentric clients. A car had just had its way with her and she appeared for all the world a dead cat—at least when I first saw her.

She was lying prostrate at the bottom of a cardboard box, her gray head pressed into its corner with pale calico legs splayed at strange angles underneath her. Barely breathing—in tiny little gasps—and lacking any palpable pulse, I felt certain we’d be recommending euthanasia within minutes.

As luck would have it, however, her body relaxed nicely with the pain medication and her pulse quality improved after we pumped warm fluids into her veins. Her lungs and other internal organs appeared undamaged on the X-rays. A nasty fracture of her right forelimb and a wicked tongue laceration were the only visible injuries.

An average person rescuing this cat would have called her “Lucky.” A religious one might have suggested “Providence.” This kooky one wanted her named “Accident.” That’s not happening. I won’t be calling her that.

The only other teeny tiny issue with our unnamed kitty is her strange habit of staring cock-eyed into space—as if only one of her two eyes wants to work normally. Near as I can tell, both work well enough. But she’s a little off, you might venture to say. More than likely, the same car that broke her leg and forced her to bite off more than half of her tongue is also responsible for the issue with her eyes. We call this “abnormal mentation presumptively secondary to head trauma.”

If we had a CT scan or MRI we might be able to tell if there’s any obvious damage to her skull or bleeding within it. A simple concussion, however, is the more common explanation for her relatively mild oddness. Only time will tell whether she’ll ever be a normal kitty again. 

Can you imagine being a cat simply trying to play a quick game of Frogger on your way home and ending up in a strange place under bright lights? Delirious and disoriented, shot-up full of pain medication with an arm dangling uselessly by your side?

But this cat is taking it all in stride. She purrs when you pet her and has started to enjoy her meals of soft, meaty purees—in spite of her freshly-stitched tongue. Although her gaze is unfocused and her mangled leg’s locked up in a candy-cane splint, she manages to look like she truly enjoys being here.

Sometimes my patients surprise me in every way. This one’s not just a survivor—she’s a grateful, lovable one. Life’s good, her goofy eyes seem to say. So for now, I’m taking my boyfriend’s suggestion and naming her Forrest. Who cares if she never gets back to 100% normalcy as long as this attitude lasts. We should all be so lucky.