Feline redemption: On diaphragmatic hernias and saving the world one kitten at a time
No, we can’t save them all. But we’ve all been guilty of letting the occasional long-shot kitten case worm its way into our psyches, sucking up all our energy reserves like a feline singularity as we battle to save it against all odds––not to mention our better judgment.
The kitten in question is a stray twelve-weeker currently living in the company of a new-client couple. They’d come in yesterday for a second opinion on a heavy-breathing problem and left with a diagnosis no one wants to hear: diaphragmatic hernia.
So you know, a diaphragmatic hernia happens when the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen (the diaphragm) is either incompletely formed (congenitally) or traumatized (as with the kind of blunt force a car might apply). In either case the solution is the same: surgery to repair the defect any way we can.
In this case, the kitten breathes with significant abdominal effort. Her intestines and half her liver have spilled into the space her lungs live in, thereby displacing them. Her lung capacity is consequently about a fifth of normal. No wonder she breathes like that.
Though she can’t jump or perform normal kitten activities, somehow she can still manage to eat up a storm––and eke out a purr. Clearly she’s one of those who knows she’s got to work it to recruit our help. And she does it soooo well.
The problem is the stray-slash-money factor, as it so often is. Foundlings being so unexpected and the economy so crappy, you can see how this scenario might be playing out all over the US.
That’s why we struck a deal: We’ll charge you our cost and we’ll cut corners wherever we can. $400 start to finish, no matter what the outcome. As long as they understand the risks of having a generalist perform a bare-bones surgery that might well require a specialist. And we won’t know that until we get in there.
After it was all agreed and the multitude of questions answered, I wrote up this post to the point that precedes this paragraph with a lump in my throat. I really didn’t want to get into such a surgical stressfest. Nothing I like less than a “peek and shriek” surgery.
Yet, unsavory as it sounds, I couldn't help thinking I'd have no better option to redeem myself after euthanizing so many a couple of weeks ago. What can I say? Sometimes we all make these deals with ourselves. Sleeping well at night is well worth the temporary stress and zero pay.
Thankfully, it seems that overnight the couple begged, borrowed or stole some cash and took their case to vet number three: the surgeon across the street (who happens to be my favorite specialist ever). We can afford $1,000, they explained. Can you help?
I’m not yet privy to the deal they struck but let it suffice to say that we all know we could be saving twelve kittens for the amount of time, energy and money that’s headed this one’s way. But what can you do? Sometimes you don’t pick them...they pick you. That's when you have no choice but to surrender to the sweet mystery of their masterfully solicitous purr.
I'll keep you posted on her progress.