Moments when our outlook does a 180 are some of the best that we can experience. The moments when we realize there is so much more to the world than what is going on in our own lives. One of these moments happened to me the other week. It had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with a super hero in the feline form.
I was on an independent study with the anesthesia service. We select independent studies (rather than a rotation) when we want to expand our knowledge in a certain area of the hospital. Monday-Thursday was fairly uneventful other than a llama we couldn’t get intubated, so the surgery was canceled. When Friday came around, I looked at the board of cases and saw one that I had the potential to learn a lot from.
Rain* was a 9-month-old cat who was having “balloon dilation of supravalvular mitral stenosis.” This means kitty open-heart surgery. In this condition, there is narrowing above the mitral valve. The heart has to work extra hard to push the blood from the atrium into the ventricle through the thickening of this valve. The stenosis could get worse, and Rain’s prognosis was 1-2 months without treatment. In short, the surgery involved inserting a balloon through the valve, and with the use of water, blowing up the balloon to widen the opening. Anesthesia during open-heart surgery is about at complicated as it can get except for trauma/critical cases.
This is when I’ll admit that my perspective was way off. I knew Rain was a special cat. He was really sweet as we did our physical exam. But I still couldn’t wrap my head around why someone would want to do such a complicated and risky surgery on a young cat. It was really hard to put myself in the owners’ shoes.
It wasn’t until after surgery, which in hindsight we appreciated, that we learned Rain’s story from his primary service doctors on cardiology. Rain belonged to a couple whose grandson had autism, and until Rain became a part of their life, the grandson had never willingly interacted with another living being. When they found out Rain was ill, they drove over nine hours from another state to get care at CSU.
Rain was a feline super hero, but not only because of his human friend at home. He survived the surgery, which was a success. This correction will hopefully allow him to live a normal life span. He gave the doctors, residents, interns, and students an opportunity to be a part of a very advanced procedure. He was my hero by helping me realize there is always more to the story, and sometimes my mindset needs to be changed.
*His name was changed for this story, but he was too special to be called “the cat.”
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