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Case of the Month

Sweet Wilma

Sweet Wilma

In March, 2009, Joyce Buettner saw a posting on craigslist about an orange tabby cat named Wilma who was in a high-kill shelter in Los Angeles. Having had and loved an orange tabby before in her life, Joyce found herself keenly interested in Wilma just from a small photo posted about her and decided to offer to foster her, although she had more than a sneaking suspicion that it would end up being much more than that.

When Joyce picked Wilma up, she was told that the kitty had sores on her paws, but when Joyce examined her, she only saw a bandage on her left hock. Immediately, Joyce took Wilma to her vet, Dr. Kelly Alcala at Canyon Animal Hospital in Laguna Beach. Dr. Alcala removed the bandage and discovered an open sore about the size of a quarter. She cleaned the leg, gave the cat an antibiotic injection, wrapped it up and Joyce and Wilma headed home.

Unfortunately, Wilma’s leg never did heal. Over the course of several weeks, the sore would appear to start healing, but then would deteriorate again. When Dr. John Hamil performed the spay, he took x-rays of the leg, which indicated damage. Since Wilma was a rescue, there was no telling what could have caused the injury, so Dr. Hamil called colleagues to take a look at the x-ray and offer their opinions. Dr. Hamil decided to stitch the wound and put Wilma in a straight-legged cast.

The stitches were removed two weeks later, but the wound still hadn’t healed.

At this point, Dr. Gershon Alaluf recommended that a culture be taken and he referred Joyce and Wilma to his colleague, Dr. Adam Gassel, who agreed to see Wilma for a free consultation. The culture results showed that Wilma had contracted MRSA. As if that weren’t bad enough, Dr. Gassel’s review of the x-rays and subsequent examination showed that the cap on the end of her ankle had been torn off and was lodged in the Achilles tendon.  He recommended amputating the leg as the best and most humane way to treat both the MRSA and the leg injury and to save her life.

When Joyce learned the cost of the surgery, she had no idea how she was going to pay for it. After consulting with Wilma’s care team, Joyce turned to Dr. Alaluf to do the surgery. When she consulted with him about her finances, Dr. Alaluf told her they would do everything they could to help her afford Wilma’s care including applying to the Angel Fund for financial assistance. Happily, Joyce’s application was approved and the surgery was a success.

Although Wilma had a minor, non-staph related infection during her recovery, the rest of her healing process went beautifully. “She adjusted really well to the amputation,” said Joyce. “When she walks, you can obviously tell she’s missing a leg, but when she runs, it’s amazing. You can’t tell at all. And in spite of everything she went through, she is still the sweetest cat,” said Joyce.

Joyce seems to have a knack for attracting sweet cats. During Wilma’s convalescence, another one of Joyce’s cats, Jack would join Wilma in her space and lie down with her. Wilma would drape her paws lovingly around his head. Whenever Wilma wanted Jack near hear, all she had to do was utter a little cry and Jack would come bounding to her side.

Wilma’s living a fun, full life with Joyce and Jack now. She enjoys going on car rides with Joyce and dressing up for Halloween. This year, naturally, she was a pirate with a peg leg, and, for Christmas, she got to have her picture taken with Santa.

 “I’d just like to say ‘Thank you” to the Angel Fund for their help,” said Joyce. “It eased my mind because it was so expensive to have everything done. It was all a little overwhelming and I’m grateful for programs like this that let you focus on the care of the animal rather than worrying about the costs.”

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