OREO, is our sweet, cuddly, cat that thought he was a dog. He is our “Super”cat who would launch off the back of the sectional couch front arms straight ahead hanging out. The cat that thudded through the house at top speed, all of his 19 pounds, at the call of his name. The cat that would snuggle and purr, who tolerated just about anything. But...
At 3:00am the morning of July 6, 2017… I am sound asleep until I hear a cat cry. Just once. Thinking it was one of our 2 cats getting sick, the odd cry before a hairball comes out, I didn’t think much of it and fell back to sleep. Shortly after I awoke again to hear one of our dogs tails thumping like mad. Our female Labrador, Alex, loved to drag things such as socks or shoes to her bed. Thinking she had dragged a flip flop of my husband's I wasn’t going to investigate. Her tail would not stop. She was extremely excited about something. Waking up enough to realize I should rescue that shoe, I was surprised to find it was Oreo laying beside her bed that had Alex all excited. This was unusual behavior. Alex loved Oreo sometimes more than he could tolerate. It was then I realized just how still Oreo was beside her.
I quickly picked him up to find him limp in my arms. Thinking he was just trying to be still so Alex would leave him alone, I put Oreo down in a different spot on the floor thinking he would take off. Instead his legs, mostly the right front, collapsed beneath him. I picked him up again and took him to my walk in closet where I could turn on a light and tried it again. Same thing. In disbelief I tried again, same thing. Oreo could not support himself and was now also panting. I quickly woke up my husband and told him we had to leave. Something was very wrong with Oreo.
We quickly took off for Veterinary Medical Center upon which Oreo was immediately taken back and put on oxygen. How could this be happening???? Oreo was completely fine earlier in the day/evening. Nothing was unusual about how he was acting or his activities. My first thought was that Oreo had passed a clot. A radiograph was done to check Oreo’s heart. Although it was found to be slightly enlarged everything else appeared normal. It was recommended that Oreo remain at VMC (this is now 4:30am) until the morning when - as luck would have it - a Cardiologist would be there later in the day. Our hope was to have an echocardiogram performed to rule out Oreo’s heart. So tough to leave at that point and to go on about our day. Knowing Oreo was in the best of care we had no choice but to wait it out.
By 11:30am, it was found Oreo’s heart was normal. This led to the next step, concerns of neurologic disease. And with this the recommendation for Oreo to be transferred to Cornell University Hospital in HOPES of getting into a neurologist ASAP. Again being told that the waiting list for an appointment could be a month or more, our best bet was to pick Oreo up ASAP from VMC and go immediately to the Emergency entrance of Cornell University. Fortunately for us and Oreo he was quickly seen. I could go on about all the findings and transpiring that occurred in the days to follow but here is the outcome. The following day after a MRI was performed Oreo was diagnosed with having Ischemic myelopathy (C2-C4). He had a lesion on his spine that was quite large - a stroke to his spine, not his brain. All other bloodwork and testing proved normal.
Oreo fell into the small subset of cases that did not have an underlying disease to cause this occurrence. Research showed that the majority of cats could return to a normal or near normal lifestyle with supportive care and time. In Oreo’s case this lesion to his spine was quite large leading to a potential recovery of weeks or months. Oreo spent his 8th birthday at Cornell. We were able to visit him that day. We found our sweet boy quiet, but aware, unable to walk, shaved and bandaged, and so very sad.
On July 10th Oreo was brought home to receive nursing care and at home physical rehabilitation. Unable to walk, Oreo needed to be placed in his liter box on his side to go to the bathroom, supported upright to eat and drink, turned over from side to side every several hours to prevent pressure sores and respiratory complications, and have various range of motion, weight bearing exercises performed several times a day as well as massage of all limbs to all keep the neuropathways open and responding. Recommendations were made for laser therapy to help stimulate cell regeneration and increase blood circulation and Electo-acupuncture for treatment of pain. I must say it was a bit overwhelming. Oreo was quite tolerant of these at home exercises, most of them, in the beginning. Knowing it was never said that he wouldn’t walk again is what got me through and pushed me on to keep working with Oreo even as he began to fight back, get mad, hiss, push. To me he was mad and the fighting back was him getting stronger!
July 17, 2017…Our first visit to Care Pet Therapy. Oreo received a consultation with Dr. Flaherty. It was recommended Oreo have twice weekly visits of physical rehabilitation with Lis or Jenn and weekly visits of acupuncture with Dr. Flaherty. We started with physical rehabilitation visits which included laser therapy on Oreo’s neck. Water treadmill therapy was attempted on two separate occasions with Lis, but being a cat Oreo's tolerance was minimal and not ideal. Oreo did work on the dog treadmill on a couple of visits. Much better than the water but a little to fast on its lowest speed. We were given more exercises to work on at home involving various exercise balls to hang over and do stretches with as well as the continual exercises of bending all his limbs, elbows, feet, massaging them to keep those neuropathways open.
July 27, 2017….Oreo has been to see Lis earlier in the day for a walk on the treadmill, stretches, and laser therapy. That evening I could not believe what I was seeing as Oreo rocks himself back and forth and attempts to stand. 3 weeks after Oreo’s incident it is the beginning of him finding his way back to walking on his own. Over the next week plus he continued to get himself up more and more and walk with a drunken stagger gaining more and more strength.
Oreo continued with biweekly visits with Lis and several visits with Dr. Flaherty for acupuncture. Each visit showed improvement as Oreo continued to get stronger and fight his way back to a life of normalcy.
Today, November 6, 2016, 4 months from Oreo’s incident….Oreo is now walking on his own. What started as a drunken stagger and falling over every few feet has now become almost normal. Oreo is able to go up and down stairs slowly and supervised, and he can now do a full flight. He still is a little slow with his right front leg, and I can hear him coming with a slight thud in his walk. Oreo is my purring love of a cat again. He is such a people person and would spend all day snuggling with you if he could.
Lis, Jenn, Dr. Flaherty, Alesha…without you all we would not have Oreo were he is today!!! We can not thank you enough for your dedication, support and love that you have shown to us! Oreo had another visit with Lis today. A month had passed since our last visit and Lis continues to see improvement.