Friday, November 16, 2012

Out Of A Limb

Unfortunately for one small tabby cat, that's not a typo in the title.

On a blustery morning the week before a Thanksgiving past we were still gathered at the front desk warming after the 20 foot walk from the parking lot. It was one of those deceptively sunny days with a finger-numbing wind chill. The first surgical appointment of the day was still checking in when a young woman rushed in the door holding her hands to her chest.
Reaching into her coat she produced a kitten while saying,
"I found him on the side of the road."
Holding up her other hand she finished,
"And here's his leg."

I already had the little dark grey tiger in my hands by the time I realized that everyone else in the room had sensibly taken a step back and now stood wide-eyed and motionless, especially the scheduled surgery's mom who was several shades paler than when she entered!

Tossing a quick, "We'll take care of him," over my shoulder I headed to the treatment area.

An inventory of the little stray's injuries revealed it was the distal 1/3 of his left rear leg that was severed with additonal leg and hip fractures, his right hip was dislocated, his tail was limp and fractured and he had multiple other laceratons. No more than 12 weeks old, cold and shocky from hypothermia and the pain of his injuries, he started to purr. I knew I had to give that kind of character a chance, even if his prognosis was guarded.

(As an aside, I should note that we disposed of the "leg" so optimistically supplied by our Good Samaritan. I'm pretty good in the operating room, but not that good. The nature and extent of his injuries suggested he'd been napping under the hood of a car and had gotten caught in the fan and/or belts when the engine was started.)

(Courtesy of Rulingcatsanddogs)
 On frosty mornings it never hurts to give the hood a few raps to rouse and remove any snoozing neighborhood critters.

(Courtesy of catsguru)


Intravenous fluids, antibiotics, pain medication and a warm meal did wonders. By morning I deemed him stable enough for anesthetic and surgery but not for too long. In order to keep the surgical time to a minimum I opted for a non-standard amputation of his left hind leg at the stifle or knee joint, amputated the tail beyond the injury, reduced the hip dislocation, sutured numerous lacerations and called it a day. The little guy's recovery was smooth but it was several days before he managed to balance himself and a few weeks before he learned to walk.

We initially toyed with calling him "Tripod" but Pirates of the Carribean was popular and his lop-sided gait and one swollen eye, not to mention abundance of personality, earned him the moniker "Captain Jack." CJ was adopted by a retired couple who supply regular updates on his progress. To their delight, and occasional consternation, he learned to fly through the house and navigate furniture like a pro. Now 6 years old, Captain Jack has become an especially handsome boy cat.

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