Head trauma and its aftermath unexpectedly claims Helen the Wonder-Cat
For those of you following the series of posts on Helen, I’m sure you’ll be shocked and dismayed to hear that she was taken from us this week after suffering a morning of uncontrollable seizures. It was a tragic ending for all of us who loved this presumed head trauma survivor—not least because it was so unexpected.
In fact, the day before we euthanized her, Helen was more active than usual. She was remarkably social and uncharacteristically responsive to our caresses, despite the sensory depravation that comes from living life as a blind and deaf kitten. At the time, we were excited to see her so alive and interactive. But I had my suspicions…
To me, it seemed likely that Helen was coming into heat, hence the difference in personality. As anyone who’s ever observed the phenomenon of a cat in heat will readily confirm, these hormonal changes lead inevitably to aberrantly solicitous behavior in felines.
Helen seemed to be demonstrating some version of this in her uniquely disabled way. But there was no way to know for sure. Most everyone else thought she might be snapping out of the disorientation her head trauma had occasioned.
Could she be getting better…?
But the next morning proved this kind of thinking wishful, a mere fantasy for those of us who watched for signs of recovery on a daily basis. At nine AM, as if by clockwork, Helen began having seizures. She’d never exhibited any such symptoms previously and I justifiably feared the worst.
Helen didn’t respond to any of the garden-variety seizure medications. A Propofol drip seemed the only way to keep her brain quiet. But she wasn’t tolerating even this approach. Considering her other issues (lack of vision and hearing) and the mounting swelling I envisioned affecting her brain, I elected to euthanize her after three hours of this.
It was a very low moment for all of us. But there’s no mistaking it was the right thing to do.
What happened? My guess is that I was correct in assuming she was coming into heat and that this physiologic change lowered her seizure threshold significantly, as menstrual cycles are known to in human epileptics and other seizure disorder patients. Perhaps scar tissue in her brain subsequent to the injury altered normal brain pathways and sensitized her to this eventuality. Who knows?
Should I have spayed her before this? I’d thought about it many times and, in an overabundance of caution, chose to wait longer to make sure she seemed old enough and asymptomatic enough to go forward with it. Truth be told, I feared losing her to exactly this kind of crisis.
For all of you who sent me emails in support of Helen’s condition, for those who despaired for her comfort, and especially to those who offered to give her a loving home (whom I turned down after recognizing that I needed to have control over this precarious case’s destiny), I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are all in my thoughts as a reminder of how caring people can be.
Helen was just one kitten, but I like to think she represents so many more of the world’s vulnerable creatures who require our stewardship and flourish under it, despite their limitations…and ours. Thanks again.