This is the story of Charlie, who was one of two kittens born on the 17th October 1997 in Kosta's fourth litter. He is a blue tabby point. He was bought by Linden, who had waited 16 years to get a cat, 2 of which had been persuading her second husband to let her have one. I think those 16 years of waiting meant that she had a huge amount of love to give to this boy and he revelled in it. They have a very special bond which is wonderful to see and her most regular comment to me when telephoning to let me know how he was getting on was "honestly Eileen, I couldn't love him more if I had given birth to him!"
It happened in October 1999, when Linden was in Belgium for a few days. Ed came home one night and when Charlie did not rush to meet him as usual Ed called him. He could hear Charlie, but couldnt find him, so went searching for him. He eventually found him hiding under the bed, but Charlie wouldnt come out, so Ed knew something was really wrong. He had to move the bed to reach him and it was obvious that Charlie had been run over. There was a huge gash in his right hind leg, his left hind leg was obviously broken, he couldnt walk and there was blood everywhere. Ed rushed him to the vet who gave him an injection, sent them home and told Ed to bring him back the next day! The next day the vet x-rayed the left leg and found it to be shattered. For some unknown reason she decided not to x-ray the other leg and instructed her locum to stitch up the hole. She then explained to Ed that the damage to the leg was so bad she had referred Charlie to Malcolm Ness, the senior partner at Croft Veterinary Clinic in Blyth, who was an orthopaedic specialist.
So Charlie was taken to Blyth where Malcolm Ness examined the left leg and explained that it was so badly shattered into so many pieces that it couldnt be pinned. Instead he wrapped all the pieces of bone in metal, rather like wrapping up a bundle of sticks in string. After the operation Ed and Linden were instructed to take him home and "keep him quiet". A very difficult thing to do with an outgoing Siamese like Charlie, even though he was more subdued than usual. Only a couple of days later they had to go out and leave him for a short time and while they were out he jumped onto the kitchen table, which not only damaged the work on the leg Malcolm Ness had operated on, but burst the stitches on the other leg and to their extreme horror a lot of unpleasant infected matter had come out of the hole, along with the broken end of a bone, complete with road tar clinging to the end!!!
They immediately rushed him back to Croft and on x-raying the right leg, it was discovered that not only was the bone broken, but part of it was missing! Sadly for Charlie, Malcolm Ness was on a business trip at that time, so he was admitted into the surgery, but the repairing of the shattered leg had to wait for another week. When Malcolm Ness returned he attempted to repair the shattered leg, but the damage was such that he felt the only way he could hope to save the leg at all was to fuse the ankle joint, but he had many more problems sorting out the right leg. As the right leg had never been x-rayed by Lindens vet (who obviously is no longer Lindens vet!), nor mentioned by her to him when she referred Charlie, no-one was aware that there was any problem with that leg and Malcolm Ness had obviously been concentrating on the referred leg. So the right leg had been stitched up by the locum and the broken bone and dirt etc inside the leg had caused gangrene to develop. The damage to flesh as well as bone (the kneecap was totally missing!) was such that, had Charlies other leg been good, the right leg would have been amputated straight away, but because there was such damage to the left leg every endeavour had to be made to try and save the right leg in case the left leg had to be amputated later. So he removed the skin from the left leg and stitched a piece of special material across the large hole where the rotten flesh had been in the hope that the remaining flesh would granulate and "fill-in" the gap.
As you can imagine, having read Lindens account of her love for Charlie in the magazine, this was just a nightmare for her and it must have been a very hard thing for her to ring me to tell me all about what had happened. I rang the vets myself because I live only 5 miles from there to ask if I could go and visit him, but they said I would only be allowed in if I was with Linden. So I met Linden and went to visit Charlie just after this operation. I cannot say anything other than I was broken hearted when I saw the state he was in. The left leg had a sort of metal scaffolding screwed through it to hold the joint rigid to allow the bones to fuse together, but the right leg looked like a skinned chicken leg with this awful plastic stuff stitched on it so it looked sort of like a pasty. I just wanted to sit and cry when I saw him, but I knew if I did then Linden would too and she was in such a state of distress I put on my "optimistic" face. Once I had visited with Linden, I could then go and visit myself and we worked out a routine where, if Linden had an evening engagement and couldnt visit him for the evening, then she would go at tea-time for an hour and I would go at about 7:00-ish and stay for an hour or two. The first time I went to visit him on my own I sat on the floor in front of his cage and he dragged himself by his front legs until most of his body was out the cage and on my knees. Then, as I bent down to kiss his head, he very gently patted my cheek with his foreleg and he purred and purred and I cried and cried! There was no-one there to see me and I just let all my grief and concern for him come out it was rather pathetic really, but I just cannot and never have been able to be detached about any animals suffering.
Unfortunately, after weeks of agonised waiting it was decided that the flesh was not healing on the right leg and eventually, because Malcolm Ness was at this stage on holiday, his colleague had to admit defeat and remove the leg. The problem was that because there was no flesh and skin to fold over the amputation, the leg had to be amputated from the hip, which left nothing for Charlie to aid his balance when he had to learn to walk again.
Charlie was in the Croft surgery for 2 months altogether and during that time Linden visited him every single day, (a 55 mile round trip) except for the 2 days that he had his major operations although he obviously had many smaller operations during that 2 months. I myself went quite a few times and I do think that these visits did help Charlies morale two months is a long time to be away from home and the love of your owner. During all that time Linden went through periods of deep sadness and anguish as to whether Charlie was going make it out of this alive, with or without his legs and whether it would be kinder to have him put to sleep. She regularly called in to our house on the way home from visiting him or phoned me when she was feeling this way and we talked over the situation. However, it appeared to both of us that the one "person" in all this who wasnt giving up was Charlie himself. Throughout all his problems, he never appeared to give up or even become depressed a most un-Siamese-like characteristic I have been told by lots of Siamese owners. My advice to Linden was that if he gave up, she would know that it was time for her to also consider it, but as long as he was bright and cheery, eating and happy to see everyone, then he wasnt giving up and so neither should she. And he was a very bright cat every time we visited him, except the days immediately after an operation when he was more subdued. He was always delighted to see visitors, always ready to eat and had a great interest in everything that was going on around him and the surgery staff just loved him! In her article Linden described him as "looking like a bag of bones" when he was fit, so you can imagine what a pathetic little scrap he looked as his muscles wasted. In the first few weeks eating was so difficult for him as he had to wear a collar and, because he couldnt stand up or even sit up properly, he couldnt get his head into the food bowl, so he also lost weight. We hand fed him, but he never refused food, which I think is always a good sign. Then Linden brought in his "nest" bed and he almost cheered up immediately, as the side of the bed supported him so he could sit up and lean against it instead of the cold stainless steel cage and the top of the nest helped to support the collar. He was much happier then.
He finally went home on Christmas Eve, the best Christmas present Linden could wish for, but he was by no means healed and back to normal. There then followed months of physiotherapy where Linden had to try and encourage him to walk again and lots of return trips to Blyth for check-ups and follow on operations. For the first two months after he returned home he lived in a big metal gabion on the kitchen table, so he could see what was going on and didnt feel left out of things or become depressed. He was obviously reluctant to even stand on his pinned leg let alone walk and because there was nothing left of the other leg, getting his balance right was extremely difficult for him. It was really hard for Linden to force him to walk and truth to tell I think she would have carried him everywhere rather than watch him suffer. However, there are times when you have to be cruel to be kind, so every hour, she took him out of his bed, walked a few feet away from it and then put him down to make him walk back to the safety of his "cocoon". The problem was that after 4 months of incarceration all his muscles had wasted away and he had no strength at all in any of his legs and learning to use a litter tray again was quite an ordeal for him
One day Barry and I were visiting about a month after he had come home, at which stage he was very reluctantly walking about 10 feet and I suggested to Linden that instead of carrying him into the living room with us, we should all go out of the kitchen and leave him. If the desire to be with us was great enough it would outweigh his reluctance to walk and he would follow us. We called him and out he came. Linden and I stood with tears in our eyes as we watched him follow us along the hallway much further than he had ever walked before. He had his fused leg stuck out at an angle to balance his weight and his tail across to the other angle to counter balance and he sort of "hopped" along. We were so excited that I took this photograph where you can clearly see how he was learning to walk again. Malcolm Ness had told Linden that he would not be able to jump, as he would have no spring in the fused ankle, but that he would hop like a rabbit and he would never be able to get up stairs. So as he became more mobile Linden and Ed put a ramp on the step from the kitchen into the conservatory and even went so far as to consider moving into a bungalow. Eventually Linden taught and encouraged him to walk downstairs, but it was many, many weeks before he had sufficient strength and confidence to be able to pull himself up stairs, but now he can - and onto chairs - and back onto the bed! So he nearly is back to normal.
When Linden rang me to tell me how things were going back in November, she told me that the estimate Croft had given her was that the final bill could be as much as £5,000. I sell all my kittens with a Pet Plan kitten policy and stress to all new owners that it is a good idea to renew this, especially if they are planning to allow the cats to go outside. I usually tell them the tale of the Somali kitten I sold who stole a chicken bone from the family barbecue when she was 7 months old and nearly choked to death. The vets bill for the operation to remove it and the after care was quite high, but nothing like as high as Charlies could be, so I was almost frightened to ask her if she had continued with his kitten policy and thank goodness she had! The final bill when he was discharged actually came to over £3,500.00. of which Linden paid the insurance excess and Pet Plan paid the rest. Linden says she cannot speak too highly of the service which she received from Pet Plan. There was never any quibble about the bill and it was indeed wonderful that, at a time when she was under so much stress and suffering such anguish about her cat, that the financial side of the situation did not cause her a moments worry - Pet Plan paid up without any problem.
The long road to full recovery took Charlie in total almost a year and now if you saw him you would not believe he had been through such an awful traumatic time. He still goes out into the garden to patrol his patch and he adores to sunbathe. His cat flap now only opens one way to allow him to come back into the house, so he cannot go out unless Linden or Ed let him out. Only this week the neighbours cat came into the house through the cat flap and Charlie, in his true gladiator spirit, threw himself at the cat, who is almost 3 times bigger than him, to chase him out! Of course the cat couldnt get back out through the flap and Linden, who was alerted by the noise of Charlie screaming and swearing (and he was really screaming!), had to rush to separate the two cats and rescue the interloper.
So this is a story which could have been such a tragic one, but which instead has a truly happy ending. Charlie is fine now, his temperament and his spirit throughout all his treatment was wonderful and he has converted all the staff at Croft Veterinary Clinic to Siamese they just loved him! Pet Plan came up trumps and saved Linden a huge amount of anxiety at a time when she had enough to be anxious about. Linden is just so very grateful that he survived all this, as she has such a great love for this cat, she was just devastated at the thought of losing him.
And me? Well Im just delighted he made it through and I am so pleased that Linden and I had stayed in touch after she bought Charlie and that she felt she could come back to me with her worry and share it with me. And I just loved the opportunity to go and visit Charlie when he was hospitalised, and still to this day whenever Barry and I visit the family, Charlie always pats my cheek very gently when I bend over to kiss him. I do think he remembers, not that I bred him or brought him up, but I do think he remembers my visits when he was so ill. I now find myself sitting here thinking, when I called him Feorag Abracadabra, was my subconscious telling me that here was a kitten who would one day be in desperate need of some magic in his life?