The View Up Here

Random scribblings about kites, photography, machining, and anything else

Survival

Posted by Tom Benedict on 06/06/2013

Can your tongue do THIS?!

Last Friday, my cat, Ember, was hit by a car. We heard a thump that we attributed to a car door closing, but in retrospect it’s hard not to recognize the sound of an animal being hit. I doubt I’ll ever make that mistake again.

We didn’t find out it was Ember for another two hours. It took him some part of that time to drag himself from where he’d been hit to our front porch. He lay there for the rest of the two hours before we opened the door and saw him. He made one attempt to move, then thankfully stopped. It was enough for me to see his right rear leg was broken.

Our vet’s office has an on-call doctor, so we were able to get Ember in to be seen in less than twenty minutes. It seems like such a short time after the hours he’d already spent injured and in pain, but time seemed to crawl as we drove him there. His leg was covered in lacerations, some small, some large, and the doctor confirmed his femur was broken. Fifteen minutes later she was starting an IV and we were sent home. There was nothing more we could do.

Before I go any further… If you’re the kind of person who skips to the end of a murder mystery to see whodunnit, don’t worry. I’m about to skip to the end, too. If you’re the kind of person who reads the whole book through so you can be surprised when the detective reveals the killer, sorry. I’m ruining the suspense now.

Ember lives through this.

X-rays showed that he suffered a spiral fracture to his right femur that left the bone in five pieces. His pelvis, spine, hips, and knees were intact. Not the best situation, but not the worst. During surgical prep, the doctor found additional lacerations, including one gash in his belly that almost completely opened him up. She set the bone using a combination of pins and wire, and closed everything up with staples. When we saw him the next day, I lost count of how many staples he had in him, or how many lacerations they were holding shut. He looked like he’d picked a fight with a razor and a stapler, and lost.

The first time I saw him after surgery, I was more terrified than when he’d been hit. Surgery takes a toll on the body, and a patient in post-op, even for trauma, almost always looks worse than when they went in. He could barely lift his head, and that spark in his eyes that’s such a part of who Ember is was gone. His body was on the mend, but I was afraid his spirit was broken.

Yesterday we visited a second time, and I was overjoyed to see some of that spark back. Unlike the previous day, he was alert. Pissed, but alert. And best of all, he was trying to walk. He was born a quadruped, and it was obvious the tripod life wasn’t suiting him well. The doctor said the muscles in both legs and hips were bruised, torn, and generally traumatized, so it would take time. But there was no paralysis, and his spirit was obviously not broken. They decided to keep him an additional 24 hours to make sure he didn’t have any post-operative infection, and to be sure he’s mentally on the road to recovery.

Ember’s the hero of the story. Now on to the swooning bystander: me.

Over the past few years, I’ve been stretched a little thin. My son has been in the ER more than once, and Rydra was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She had a craniotomy, multiple MRIs, cancer scans, you name it. I spent that time being stoic, analytical, supportive, whatever it took to get us through.

But whatever quality it takes to do that, I ran out of it when I saw Ember collapsed outside the front door. I managed to call the vet, but it was Rydra who drove us there. She’s the one who did all the talking. She’s the one who held me while I cried. And she’s the one who’s been keeping tabs with the vet and arranging the daily visits. For my part, I’ve been spending that time in an almost constant state of panic and fear that the next time the phone rings, it’ll be the vet telling us that something went horribly wrong.

So if it seems odd that I spent one of those days at the beach flying kites, understand that it was Rydra who set that up, too. She was right when she told me it was out of our hands at that point. And she was right when she said we needed to get out and get a fresh outlook on things. She was completely right when she told me to go fly a kite. Or two. Or all of them, if that’s what it took.

We saw him again today. He’s still not walking, but he’s starting to get around. The doctor said she’s probably release him tomorrow or Friday, providing he continues to improve. I’m still going into full-blown panic every time we get near the vet. Everyone else, including Ember, seems to be handling the situation a lot better. He’s still hurting, still angry, but the look of determination on his face is humbling.

When we first brought him in, the doctor told us she could heal his leg, but that he had to have the will to survive in order to heal the rest.

He has it.

– Tom

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