My Patient Takes a Furlough

When I lived in the Bay area of California it never got really cold. It did however get cold enough for a cat to look for a warm place to sleep. Felix was a patient of mine who sought warmth in the wrong place. His owner rushed him in early one morning. He had fallen to sleep on the engine block of the family car and was caught in the fan belt when the car was started that morning.

He was deep in shock on arrival and the skin was virtually stripped off his right front leg. I told the owner that it was important to stabilize him from the shock initially and then I would talk to them about treatment of the leg. They were a great family and waited patiently while Felix was treated. Once he was stabile I talked to them about doing a skin graft procedure that would encompass two surgical procedures. They agreed, knowing that he would be with me for several weeks. In the first surgery his arm was placed in a pocket under the skin of his side. He stayed in this position in our hospital until the graft was ready to be attached and the arm was freed from his side. The graft worked beautifully and Felix was a great patient through it all.

I prepared to send him home on a Saturday morning. The owners were willing students when I talked to them about the aftercare and it came time to bring Felix up to his excited family. They brought in a shallow cardboard box to take him home. I looked at the box and told them it didn’t look all that safe. They weren’t concerned because they would be very careful and they only had to walk out to the car. We said our goodbyes and I went back to work.

About an hour later they returned to the hospital. For the last sixty minutes they had been scouring the neighborhood looking for Felix. He had jumped out of the box the minute they stepped outside. I was just sick, hoping he would be OK. I joined the search but personally had never had much success getting a cat to come to me when they were already frightened.

After an afternoon with no sign of him we set out a couple of humane traps with food in hopes that he would return for food. The first morning one trap held a possum and the second was empty. The following morning I was met with great news. Felix sat comfortably in front of an empty food bowl and wondered why I was so thrilled to see him. His leg was fine, not a suture missing.

I called the owner and donated a cat carrier for the trip home.

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