On December 30, 2015 Greyson had to be hospitalised with a broken leg.
This happened because I was walking to the bedroom and he usually races ahead of me to jump on the bed and either play a game or get cuddles.
It happens every time I head to the bedroom.
We could play this game 40 times a day.
This time he was further away from the bedroom, in the kitchen I think, and he ran fast (about Mach20) through my legs as I was walking.
As he started to pass through my legs he was also taking the corner to head in the direction of the bedroom, and just the way my legs were moving and his legs were moving his back right leg got caught between mine mid-stride and I didn’t know until my legs came through that he was stuck. Coupled with his momentum and my momentum his leg twisted and broke.
I can still feel the feeling of it between my ankles, and still hear and see his cry and his terror and anguish after it happened.
The sound, the look on his face, the way he was cowering, haunts me, makes my stomach sick like I want to vomit and breaks my heart again and again.
He looked so broken, so helpless.
I picked him up – which may have made it worse, I don’t know…but it can’t have helped. I put him on the couch and seeing that it was bad, I called the vet.
He jumped off the couch, (making it worse still) and then tried to climb under my computer desk, and then onto the ledge under the desk, and then onto the box under the desk.
In full panic mode myself – I let him do what he needed to do while I was on hold…with the vet.
But he kept moving, and crying. Making me panic more.
I called out to the hold music “Please! Please! ANSWER!!” while tears streamed down my face.
He moved himself into the bedroom, then under the bed, and then jumped up on boxes on the other side of the bed, then down again.
He wouldn’t stop moving.
It was terrifying for me and I didn’t know what to do.
I was so unprepared and unequipped to help him.
And so scared of hurting him more, that I did exactly what I was scared of doing.
My own fear hurt him most. I allowed him to keep moving rather than immobilise him immediately. And I believe his leg was severely damaged as a result.
I did not handle things well – emotionally or physically.
The vet I called – HIS VET – couldn’t take him!!! (What?? They are an emergency hospital?!) So they made me go to one on the other side of town.
They did call ahead and let them know I was coming.
When I arrived, they put me straight into a little room.
The nurse asked what happened and I started sobbing again, completely incoherent, so she offered to get me a glass of water. I nodded and then sat down on the little wooden bench they had in the room. Greyson was still in the enclosure, which I hadn’t used for about 6 months and was now way too small for him, and he was quiet.
His eyes were still wild though and I hated myself for not knowing how to help him, and for not cleaning the kitchen first.
Right before it happened I’d been debating whether to go for a walk or clean the kitchen. I decided to go for a walk and was heading to the bedroom to get socks. So if I’d cleaned the kitchen first maybe this wouldn’t have happened.
While I waited I hoped that if it was broken he would be put down…
…Yep… I am horrified and ashamed to say that I hoped he would be put down…
Because my heart was too broken and too scared to deal with the trauma.
Seriously, I am a monster, I was hoping he would be put down because I couldn’t deal with the trauma and pain, and the fear of the emotions I was feeling, it was too much for me, way too much.
His broken body, and my emotions, TERRIFIED me.
I wanted to cut my losses, shut down emotionally, go home and pretend I’d never had a cat.
If anyone asked I’d say something like “yeah, it was sad, but he’s in a better place,” in an emotionless voice and then change the subject.
It’s how I’ve coped with things in the past. Shut it down, put it in the past, leave it there, and move on.
I desperately wanted to deal with this situation in that way.
Everything inside of me was screaming to walk away.
Put him down if they would do it, and walk away.
I wanted to run and hide. Not just from what was happening around me, but from what was happening inside of me. Mostly from what was happening inside of me – I wanted to outrun myself and become someone new, shut this part of me off behind an impenetrable wall and move on without another thought, a ‘tra-la-la’ happier thought.
I also wanted to pick him up and hold him… which I couldn’t do…because I was terrified of hurting him more.
But this was a spark of hope – I wanted to hold him, to care for him, to tell him I was sorry, to tell him everything would be alright.
It was a small spark, a very, very small part of me that spliced off taking the opposite stance to the rest of me, and she jammed her foot in the iron door that the rest of me was trying to close around my heart.
The small splice within me was stronger than my fear, and she wouldn’t let me close off completely.
“Not yet. Just hold on,” she kept saying. “Wait child. You can do this.”
I held on.
I was running it over and over again in my mind. What did I do to make this happen? How did I create this situation? What was I thinking or feeling to draw this to me? Why did this happen? Why didn’t I clean the kitchen instead of deciding to go for a walk? Why didn’t I hear him coming and stop walking to let him pass? Why didn’t I heed the warning of the dream?
In the early hours of Wednesday morning (the day of the incident) I had a dream that Greyson was dead. It woke me at 1am and he was curled beside me. The dream was so strong and so powerful that when I woke I was sure he was dead beside me – completely 100% certain. I nudged him. He was curled into my body on top of the covers.
He didn’t move.
My heart stopped beating for a moment and I poked him harder.
He still didn’t move.
I panicked. My mind for a few moments ran through anything he might have eaten or done that could have caused his death while he slept. And I wondered what to do with a dead cat as I tried not to think about that cat being my Greyson.
I pushed him harder… still nothing.
My heart literally skipped a few beats. Panicked, I called his name.
He mewed and looked up. “What?” he seemed to say, his eyes sleepy.
My heart beat wild and happy, I started crying. He curled back up against me and I took deep breaths. I couldn’t get back to sleep because the feeling had been so real, I was so certain he was dead and his non-responsiveness to my poking and prodding was so intense that I did not want to sleep again. So I watched a movie (and then some tv shows) while stroking him as he slept until about 5am when I finally fell asleep.
Both the dream and the belief on waking that Greyson was dead were haunting.
The feeling stayed with me all day.
And now I was sitting in the vet hospital with a broken kitty. My heart could not take much more.
Only about 20 minutes before his leg broke, we’d been in the bedroom and I hugged him tight and kissed him feeling overwhelmed with happiness that he was still alive and not dead like the dream. Then I spent a few minutes reliving the dream and feeling that feeling of fear and pain.
If only I’d let it go, it was just a dream. Let it go and not thought about it again, and just been grateful he was alive rather than reliving the fear and trauma of thinking he was dead. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened.
Waiting in the little room was excruciating. He’d gone quiet and I just kept my hand on his back while he was in the carrier.
The doctor eventually took him away to examine him and told me that he believed the leg was broken from what I’d told him so far.
They did x-rays and yes, the leg was broken.
He showed me the x-rays.
His broken leg with the knee joint all twisted around, and the sight of his skeleton made me cry fresh tears.
Though, I cried pretty much from the time I arrived until the time I left.
He told me Greyson’s best chance was surgery, and that the cost would be approximately 5-7000 $ – I panicked.
I asked what my options were… desperately hoping that my desire for lethal injection to be one of the options was not apparent on my face. It felt like a huge neon sign to me as I asked “what are my options”? I was sick inside. I hated myself in that moment but the desire to run was stronger than the desire to stay.
He told me my options were to pay for the surgery or to surrender him to the SPCA and they would pay for it – but I would not be able to take him back after surgery, they would re-home him.
I cried harder.
He was kind of cold about it.
He was like “you don’t have that money?” and I said “no” and he said “well, I’ll get the girls to make up the paperwork for the surrender.”
I was in shock, I was feeling the trauma and wishing to be anywhere but there, and honestly completely ill-equipped to cope with what was happening. I feel really ashamed at my lack of ability to be my own strength, it was horrifying and I wanted the easy way out.
I considered signing those papers and walking away.
I mean, I REALLY CONSIDERED IT.
In my mind the overwhelming relief that would be immediate from walking away and going home without another thought of broken legs, or dead kitties, was really appealing to my traumatised state of shock.
I’d hoped for euthanasia. Now he was giving me the options – putting him to sleep was not one of them – but surrender back to the SPCA was an option. I could still walk away free and clear.
When the nurse walked back through the door though with the forms ready for me to sign, the part of me with her foot jammed in the iron doorway that threatened to close down my emotions, wouldn’t allow me to take the pen.
My heart was bleeding through that crack in the iron door and holding my arms by my side – I couldn’t sign the papers.
It was all too quick.
I needed time to think.
I asked for a minute, and called my friend K.
K was already planning on driving the 2 hours to my place the following day for a doctor’s appointment with her family doctor and to catch up for a New Year’s Eve lunch.
When she answered I lost it again, barely audible I choked out what was happening.
She took charge on the phone and told me to go back inside and ask some more questions. I did, and she stayed with me on the phone. He told me that surgery would be at least $3,000-4,000 and could be as much as $7,000.
My car didn’t even cost $7,000.
We also talked about after surgery care – 6-8 weeks of supervised care in a small confined space, no jumping and no running.
Overwhelmed and terrified of the “after surgery care” even more than the cost, I again considered signing him over to the SPCA.
But I couldn’t do it.
I asked if I had to decide today, and they said no. They would keep him overnight and monitor him and arrange for the surgery anyway because he had to have it whether I had him or the SPCA had him.
They wouldn’t let me see him before I left, so the last image I had was him being taken away by the vet and the recurring first few horrifying moments after the incident that continued to play on a loop in my mind. I could still feel the impact of his body against my ankles and see his immediate withdrawal, the fear and pain in his eyes, and hear that awful screech he made when it happened.
I honestly don’t remember the drive home, but somehow I got home safely and I’m grateful for that.
I cleaned everything when I got home, like an automated machine, until K arrived an hour or so later.
Then I lost my shit again, deep sobs. I was so ashamed that I’d considered signing him over, that I’d wished for him to be put down so I didn’t have to handle it.
So ashamed and horrified at myself.
I was also completely heartbroken that I did this, that his accident happened by the movement of my own legs.
Yet, that I didn’t go through with the “shut down sign him over” options means I have grown as a human being, because the me of 20 years ago would have walked away and never looked back. The doorway to my heart would have slammed shut and an arctic enclosure of ice would have formed around it, requiring no less than full global warming to melt it.
This pain I was feeling, the guilt, the shame, and the heartache was actually progress.
And I missed him.
My house was so quiet I could hardly stand it. I’d put the laundry on, the dryer, and the dishwasher just to make some noise.
K and I talked for a long time and then watched a movie.
I’m so thankful she was here for me.
Without a lie – I am not sure how I would have coped without K those first few days – I don’t know how I would have got through, I am thankful, so, so, so thankful for the timing of events and the timing of her visit and her coming up early to be with me. Thank you my friend, I love you and appreciate you more than I can ever express.
In the morning we went to the vet together. She asked a lot of questions I didn’t think to ask. The vet told us the good news that he’d seen an improvement overnight and that Greyson was trying to put a little weight on it.
He told us that younger cats can heal quite miraculously from breaks. Their bones realign on their own due to subtle movements that the cat’s muscles make instinctively and then the cartilage starts to form and then bone grows from that or around that… (I may have lost some stuff in translation?!).
He believed that Greyson would heal himself.
Looking at the x-rays it was hard to believe that is possible (it’s a full break and his knee cap was twisted away in a strange direction), but the Vet was pretty certain.
He suggested that because surgery wouldn’t be an option for a few days at least – with the New Year and the surgeon’s vacation time – that we wait a few days and monitor his progress and see if it’s going to heal by itself.
I agreed to go with this option.
Then I got to see Greyson.
I bawled seeing him.
He was on some heavy drugs so his pupils were almost completely dilated, but he knew me and I leaned partially inside the cage with him, he crawled onto my arm and rested his head and then ate some food, which he had not done yet.
I stroked his head and he looked ok… he didn’t look a mess as I thought he might, and he purred his little heart out.
Quiet purrs not like the ones at home but it was so good to hear. I cried into his fur and wanted to hold him forever… my little love.
Then they told me my time was up…
I asked if I could see him the next day (New Year’s Day) when the vet goes in and they said no.
However, they did say yes to me bringing back some of his favourite things. His favourite toy, blankets, and food. So we headed home and I picked these things up for him.
They also told me that if he was going to heal on his own there would be a very long recovery period where I would have to keep him confined in a small space, in a quiet room with no through traffic, and that I would have to supervise him outside of the small space (cage) at all times.
He was not to jump, run, climb, stand on his hind legs, or do anything that he would normally do.
They explained that as the bone reforms this joint would be extremely fragile and could re-break easily.
He’s one of the most active cats I’ve ever known… he climbs everything, getting up on top of the kitchen cabinets, jumping, running, playing, falling off things… being inactive will be a huge trial for him.
This recovery period (possibly up to 3 months, or longer) was more than daunting for me.
I’m not nurse material. In fact, of all of the jobs in the world, nursing would be my absolute bottom of the list, well and truly below scrubbing toilets or working in sewers (not sure why poo were my two examples but that’s how bottom of the list nursing is for me).
I was scared about this but had to just keep taking one step at a time and try not to think about the long term recovery.
When I saw him on the Saturday he was a little dirty, his coat felt like it did when I first got him from the SPCA. He hadn’t been grooming himself because he was so drugged out that he was rolling around in the litter tray.
They told me that they wanted to keep him another few days. And we decided that I would pick him up on Tuesday.
Over those days without him I tried to prepare myself for my nursing duties.
Thankfully, K’s friend had a huge animal crate that they were willing to lend me. It’s a 4’ x 3’ on the base, and stands about 3’ high. After talking with the Vet I set this up in the bedroom – I only have two rooms in the house and he wanted there to be no through-traffic.
While he was in hospital I came to the place of acceptance I think… “I am where I am” this is where I am, broken kitty and all, and now I just have to move forward from this place. Trying to take one moment at a time, no looking ahead for a while – which was likely a really good thing.
I knew I was going to need all my strength to care for a healing kitty because it is the furthest point outside of my comfort zone being around something/someone helpless and in need of constant care. The thought was terrifying. My stomach twisted in vomitous knots just thinking about it.
I did not want to do this alone AT ALL, and so I couldn’t think about it too long or I started to panic. Just one moment at a time and pray I make it through.
I did all the practical things necessary, getting the cage together, cleaning the cage. I made lists and followed them – pick up blankets, bedding, small litter tray, litter, small food bowls, a water bowl, maybe some cheap towels, pick up cardboard to line the inside of the cage so he can’t climb it. It calmed me to do the tasks I set myself, I was completely OK with the tasks… but the care, giving the syringe twice daily of the drugs he would need, helping him, watching him struggle and heal, and being emotionally present (not completely shut down) was terrifying to me.
Literal body shaking terror. The internal tremor that would not rest.
That internal shaky feeling in my body stayed with me for nearly two full weeks. It was a constant internal quiver that was likely the aftermath of shock and trauma. Something that felt unusual and uncomfortable. My mind was dazed most of that time and I felt on the edge of vomiting at all times.
On the day of the accident I was not coping at all. My brain was not functioning, my body was barely functioning, I did not do well at all. My responses, and my thoughts, and my desire to run away, all of my responses scared me. It was too much pain. Too much heartbreak. Too much guilt. Too much fear. It was too intense.
I did not want to feel it.
But I made it, and I’m proud of me.
I brought him home on the Tuesday and I tried sleeping in my bed. It didn’t work he cried and cried, wanting to be with me, so that first night I slept on the floor curled around his cage as he slept against the wires close to me.
The next night, as I didn’t sleep really the night before curled around the cage (!) I moved myself into the lounge room where I slept for just over a month.
He was on the drugs for a week. I had to administer a syringe full at 6am and 6pm every day. This was hard to watch, but not too hard to administer. The nurse showed me how when I picked him up and I got pretty good at it over the course of the week. But he was dopey on it. He rolled around in his litter, and would flop against the wall or down on the floor without looking and I’d have to catch his head before he smacked it against something.
I kept thinking, if you knew what you were doing – especially rolling in the litter – you’d be mortified. And that made me feel enormous amount of love and protection for him.
It hurt me to see him this way.
And again, one of the reasons nursing would be bottom of my list of jobs. I can’t stand seeing capable, strong, amazing beings, acting helpless and unaware. It kills me. Hits me right in the heart and the emotions I feel are so enormous and so painful that they threaten to consume me.
We went back after a week and the vet took him off the drugs from that day forward. I was a little apprehensive about that actually, because we’d gotten into a routine with the drugs. I learned how they worked with this system and everything was like clockwork that week. I was also concerned about him feeling pain without them.
But it seemed to work out OK.
He did say that there was not too much improvement and he was worried about that. He was going on vacation himself at the end of that week and we made an appointment for follow up for February 1.
More on that appointment next time.
Have you ever wanted to walk away from a trauma that was so emotionally powerful you did not know how to feel it? It would be great to hear your stories and how you coped.
Warm smiles and Love,