I wrote this article for myself, after a traumatic event. It was back in January 2011 and it was before I started my blog (and also before we adopted our last kitty Piper #7). I had been thinking about posting it and finally had time to post it today. Beware, it is a little medically graphic.
January 28, 2011. It didn’t start off like any normal Friday. But that wasn’t my cue to know what events were going to take place that day. It was still snowy and icy outside, so school had been cancelled. The roads were okay to drive on; it was the neighborhood roads that were the problem. But nonetheless I ventured out to babysit in Arlington.
After watching after a youngster for the day, my dad picked me up and we headed to Fair Lakes Petsmart for our Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation adoption event. Even with the traffic, we were there on time. I helped my dad bring in our crates and carriers and set up. I said hi to a cashier who has become a friend as we see her every Friday night event, then I walked around the corner to get a cup of cocoa since it was a cold night. We were only expecting three cats at the event, so I wasn’t worried about having a busy night.
Both fosters were late, but since I am typically a person who runs late, it didn’t bother me. One foster showed up with two kittens, Gary and Flexy. They were supposed to be three months old, true kittens. All but one of my six cats is over two years old, so the prospect of having kittens was delightfully exciting. Upon arrival we realized these “kittens” were more along the age of five to seven months old.
Gary and Flexy were our fosters for the weekend. We were really planning on fostering a Persian cat named Gabby, but because of the weather and a vet visit, we were behind schedule on receiving her. After the event we were planning on taking Gary and Flexy home. The other foster that was expected showed up not long after, with an orange tabby cat named Ivander.
All three cats were in their crates and fine. I was standing around talking to Ivander’s foster Mary, and my dad. I took out one of the new cat toy wands I bought and started playing with it with Flexy. And that is when the unthinkable happened. One minute, she’s happily chomping on the feather toy, the next a bloody glob emerges from her stomach. It took less than a second to register something was extremely wrong.
“Oh my god, Dad! What just fell out of her stomach?” I screamed. He instantly turns around and runs frantically down the main Petsmart aisle looking for the head of the rescue. Mary and I instantly react by opening the crate, getting Flexy to stop running frantically around the carrier and lie down. I grabbed Gary out of the crate and shove him into the carrier he came in and put it under our table. Looking back, I realize how the fact that Flexy’s organs coming out of her body didn’t even register in my mind. I went into rescue mode and put aside the squeamish feelings that were urging to come out and figure out the immediate response. A lady walked by and looked into the crate after realizing we are panic stricken, even though other people are walking by and remarking ‘what a cute kitten’. She says, you’ve got to get her still and hold her legs.
“I can’t! I don’t do blood! Mary help!” I shakily say.
“Sarah, help us now!” Mary yells to her sister who happened to walk through the door at that exact moment with her husband and kids. They were coming to see Ivander and how his first adoption event is going.
“My sister is good in emergencies,” Mary tells me. “Sarah we need help now,” she said. The lady who had been on looking tells us that Flexy’s liver is out. At this point, the entire trauma started to become real. This cat’s internal organs have literally fallen out of her body. I look over to where Mary and Sarah are holding Flexy’s torso and legs in place. I see the blood and something that looks like the brain. Flexy’s intestines. Oh gosh, this is so bad, I think to myself. My dad shows back up at this point, only having been gone for a minute and tells us that Barb is coming over to look at her and that she’s going to need to Blue Ridge Vet.
“But that’s out past Leesburg! She won’t make it.” I say to everyone. Sarah tells my dad that Flexy’s liver is out of her body and that she needs immediate medical intervention.
“Dad, I have to go outside, I just gotta,” I tell him as I frantically run outside Petsmart. There is a little path on the sidewalk outside the store and I follow it, find a dry place to sit and shakily take out my phone. My mind is reeling, organs and bloody images flash through my mind. I press number five on the speed dial and call my mom at home.
“Mom, everything is okay with me, but something went horribly wrong with one of the kittens we are supposed to foster,” it comes out in sobs. The tears emerge from the corners of my eyes and like the instantaneous snapping of a river dam, the tears come pouring out. My mom tells me to calm down and tell her what happened. I tell her how one second I was playing with the cat with the wand and the next a bloody sack fell out of her. It was organs. I can practically see my mom cringe as the gory details unfold.
“It was so awful mom. I saw everything. Her liver and intestines were out. It looked like brains,” I tell her as I continue to sob and wipe the tears away from my face. My mom tells me to talk about something else and to tell her about my day. I tell her and as she realizes I’m still sobbing she asks me if she should call one of our friends who were volunteering with us. I tell her no, that I’m okay but she calls her anyway while staying on the phone with me. I felt like I had called 911 and they were staying on the phone with me until the ambulance gets there. It was literally the exact same sensation – even though I have luckily never had to call 911 in my life. She doesn’t get an answer from our friend, but I realize I need to compose myself and I do want to go back in and find out if Flexy is even still alive.
I tell my mom I’m going back in and I’ll call her back soon. I’ve barely made it to the front door of the store when I see my dad come out and look around. I run into his arms and begin crying again and telling him it was so horrible and that I was freaked out and they kept telling me to hold her legs but there was blood and I just couldn’t. He tells me everything will be okay and I just don’t believe it.
“Mary and another woman got the Banfield vet from the store to look at her. He is going to clean Flexy up and sow her up. Something must have gone wrong with her spay,” my dad tells me. We head into the store, me still sniffling and wiping the wet tears off my cheek. Mary comes over and tells me the vet is cleaning her up and taking care of her. She says that it will be okay and that I was very calm and brave. Mary introduces Sarah, her sister to my dad.
Time goes by slowly, volunteers come up to talk to us and ask what happened as they can see my eyes are red from crying. Our cashier friend Kathleen comes over and gives me a hug. Everyone tells me I was in the ‘right place at the right time’ and so was Flexy. Sarah tells us that she could see Flexy’s eyes starting to glaze over. We all went into extreme rescue mode. It’s basically when the trauma doesn’t register in your brain; all you know is that this is an emergency situation and you need to act fast to save this cat’s life.
The rescue head Barb tells us that something went wrong with Flexy’s suture, which is the thread they use to sow up animals after they’ve been spayed or neutered. She said it wasn’t uncommon for this to happen. I was thankful the vet said she would be okay. He put her under anesthetic and started to sew her back up. It’s such an awful thought; sewing a cat up after the organs fall out. The concept to me is foreign; shouldn’t needles and thread be for buttons? Realizing Flexy will recover is a relief, but I still feel mortified at the event I’ve just witnessed. I call my mom back to let her know that everything is okay at the moment and that Flexy is in surgery and should be okay.
More time goes by and the adoption event is over. We still have three cats, none adopted and (thankfully) none dead. I thank my lucky stars and am glad Flexy is okay. Clearly, that used up one of her nine lives. Barb brings her out in a carrier and I can see she is awake and aware that she is in the carrier. I can’t even believe how quickly she has bounced back from a shocking event. Still feeling sick to my stomach, we leave the event without Flexy, who has gone on to a different vet to be monitored for infection and Gary has gone back with his foster instead of us.
For the rest of that night I thought about Flexy. And every thought lead to the river dam of tears to began to leak. I was so upset at having to see such a scary event happen. Flexy’s internal organs falling out did not register with me at all until after it happened. I’m thankful it happened at Petsmart and not when no one was around. I’m also thankful that I was there as well as the other volunteers, to save her life. I know volunteering is great work, because it allows us to adopt out animals and pull more from at-risk situations. I never imagined that I would literally save a life that night. Flexy’s story is one I will continue to tell, because I want people to understand how even though rescuing animals has its grim side, it’s always the welfare of the animals that matters the most; and that’s something that will never change.
See Flexy now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNB-mJP4M7I
See Flexy now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNB-mJP4M7I