July 23rd, 2006

Sunday. Here I am Sunday morning trying hard to bend a kitten’s really stiff limb back into shape. And it’s not complying. The limb, that is. I’ve given the kitten a whopping dose of pain relievers. At this point he could care less how aggressively I manipulate his limb—he’s practically asleep.

The problem: Baby kitten is found with a severe femoral fracture last month. I repair it properly with one well-placed pin (a surgery I undertake only in cases where the owners can’t afford a veterinary surgeon). Owners are told to come back in two weeks. They’re told to perform physical therapy twice daily for five minutes, bending the knee to make sure the muscles don’t cramp up while the bone is healing.

The principal owner goes out of town for two weeks with instructions for the other owner. The second owner fails to follow protocol. I never see the kitten. The limb stiffens up.

By the time I see the kitten again a month has gone by. His bone is perfectly healed. Unfortunately, his leg muscles are so stiff that his limb does not bend at the knee or at the ankle. He can hardly use his leg.

I’m horrified. I rush the kitten over to my boyfriend, the vet surgeon. Bad case, he says. The kitten’s healed bone has grown so much since the muscles cramped up that the leg is now actually starting to curve backwards.

There’s this `above all do no harm` thing I happen to take seriously so I’m beginning to feel pretty crappy about this kitten. After all this work and pain and stress he might actually lose his leg.

All I can do is work on this leg several times a day and hope aggressive physical therapy does the trick. Will his owners be able to take it on or will I end up cutting his leg off?

Lots of issues here. Wish me luck.