A PROFILE IN COURAGE
On a Friday afternoon in August of 2009, I was sitting at a traffic light in Smyrna, Tennessee when I saw a small kitten climb out of the high weeds in the neutral ground and start across the four lane road. He made it as far as the car in front of me when the light changed and the car ran over him. I jumped out and went to check on him and he was clearly very badly injured, but still alive.
The kitten could not have been more than five to six weeks old. I could hold him in the palm of my hand with ease. I brought him to the car and put him on the front floor. I consulted GPS for the nearest Veterinarian and sped directly to his office. The Vet and his staff immediately began working on the little fellow and within twenty minutes gave me a report.
The kitty had a badly broken back leg and multiple internal injuries. There was a minimum of internal bleeding, but he was in shock and most probably could not survive the setting of his leg. The Vet suggested that we put him to sleep to relieve his suffering and pain. The little fellow was wide- awake and hissed at the Vet’s suggestion of euthanasia.
I asked what could be done to repair the damage and the Vet said that there was nobody locally that could do the micro-surgery that would be called for and that he doubted that the kitty could survive long enough to get him to a specialist. I asked where he would take the cat if he wanted to try to save him and without hesitation he replied, “I’d take him to the small animal hospital at The Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine.”
Well, I was on my way home to Auburn, so I asked if he could do anything to help the kitty live long enough to make it to Auburn. He gave the kitty some antibiotics, some pain killers and sedated him. He said that he doubted that he could make the trip, but if I were willing, he’d do what he could. I promised to let him know the outcome and headed for Auburn.
It’s a three hour drive from Smyrna to Auburn and about half way the little guy started to come around. He was clearly in pain and scared to death, but he had a defiant attitude that you had to admire. I decided to name him Cletus, in honor of Dave Robicheaux’s buddy in the James Lee Burke novels about South Louisiana. Cletus and I made it to the Auburn Vet School and he was rushed into the emergency room and swarmed by doctors and nurses.
Elaine had joined me in the waiting room while Cletus was being evaluated and I told her the story up to this point. We agreed that if the doctors gave us any hope we would make the financial commitment to try to save Cletus’s life. An hour or so later a doctor came and got us and took us back into the animal wards. Cletus was lying on an examining table looking like he was tired of the whole business.
The doc’s said that in addition to the injured leg, his bladder and urinary track had been pretty much destroyed. There was a chance that they could save the bladder, but they would have to build an alternative urinary system and that if he survived all of the surgery, he would always be incontinent.
They then gave me an estimate of what his initial treatment would cost and asked me to decide if I wanted to go forward with the surgery, or put him down. They estimated that the surgery would have a 25% chance of being successful. Elaine and I talked it over and decided to go for it. Cletus went into surgery later that evening and the surgeon called to tell us that he had survived the surgery, but it was too soon to know how well it would hold up.
That began a six week period of surgeries and treatments that pushed the little guy to the outer limits of his will to live. Cletus hung in and the doctors did not give up. Finally, they were able to reconstruct a urinary system that would allow his bladder to drain, but since he had no sphincter muscle, he would not be able to control the flow. He would need to wear a diaper. His leg was in a metal splint and his stomach was a mass of incisions. We brought him home.
We bought a cage similar to the ones at the Vet and made him a bed that would allow the dripping urine to be absorbed and provide him with a relatively dry environment. Cletus never complained even though he was surely in pain and discomfort. He always wanted to play and he managed to get around with his splinted leg and a Pampers.
He had to go back to the Vet school for a couple of tune- ups and someone from the school called almost every day to check on him. In October of 2009 Cletus was awarded the Manny Morpeth ICU Case of the Year for 2009. He was present with his diaper on and received a plague and an Auburn University orange and blue kerchief. I made his acceptance speech for him because he was busy terrifying a poodle.
Cletus is an integral part of our family now. He spends the day patrolling our courtyard and at night he sleeps in his cage. He is able to hang around the house as long as his diaper holds out and he loves to lie on the hassock and watch TV with Elaine. Cletus is a monument to an indomitable will to live and he has been an inspiration to all who know him.
Categories: As I Like It!