A Miracle on East Main Street


On the day of the Winter Solstice, a couple from Lake Wildwood arrived at AnimalSave’s Cat Adoption Facility with a stray cat they had been feeding. They were unable to keep her and were concerned about her surviving in the cold, wet weather.

AnimalSave staff named her Solstice. At intake, we immediately noticed she had very labored breathing and a crooked hind leg. She otherwise seemed in fairly good shape. 

The following Monday, a surgery day for AnimalSave’s Spay/Neuter Clinic, Dr. Melinda Newton examined her and determined she had a significant heart murmur and likely had a diaphragmatic hernia. A diaphragmatic hernia means that the sheet of muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen had a rip in it and was allowing abdominal organs into one side of her chest—making normal breathing impossible—and was the likely cause of the heart murmur. Dr. Newton indicated an x-ray was needed. 

AnimalSave staff took Solstice to Best Friends Animal Clinic for the x-ray which confirmed our worst fear—that she did, in fact, have a hernia that had allowed intestines, the liver and other organs to enter the lung. Surgery for a diaphragmatic hernia is difficult, and not always successful. We were concerned that the presence of a heart murmur and the potential entrapment of critical abdominal organs in the chest would add additional complications.  Solstice's prognosis before surgery was considered poor. 

Because Solstice had been strong enough to survive such an obvious traumatic injury and had been able to survive in the “wild” for so long with a terrible heart murmur and the use of only one lung, Dr. Newton thought we should give Solstice a chance with surgery.  Later that week, Dr. Newton, Patrice Perkins, our Registered Veterinary Technician, and Janelle Marks, our Veterinary Assistant, scrubbed in and went to work on Solstice. She made it past the critical point of anesthesia induction and intubation, a significant risk due to her diminished lung capacity and the severe heart murmur. To our great relief, Solstice remained stable during the 1 ½ hour surgery to repair the hernia and spay her.

The dream team: Dr. Melinda Newton, Patrice Perkins, and Janelle Marks

Everything progressed like clockwork. The internal organs including her spleen, liver and gall bladder that filled the lung were not damaged and were returned to their proper places in the abdomen. The lung re-inflated and Solstice was able to breath on her own. She had an extremely strong heart rate. We were ecstatic over her remarkable ability to handle this surgery and her amazing recovery. Within an hour following surgery, she was sitting up in her kennel.

Dr. Newton took her home to provide post-operative care and pain management. Less than five days later, she was back in her kennel here in AnimalSave’s Cat Adoption Room where she has completely recovered, no longer has a heart murmur and is ready for her special forever home. 

Diaphragmatic hernias usually occur as a result of trauma and the fact that her leg had been broken supports this. Whatever caused her hernia probably also broke her leg. Her leg had healed by the time Solstice found AnimalSave and it will be crooked for the rest of her life. Fortunately, the leg does not seem to cause her pain and she can still get around and jump very well. 

We are looking forward to Solstice being adopted! Here are some things that a potential adopter should know: 

  • Dr. Newton recommends that Solstice be an indoor cat only. The tear in her diaphragm has been repaired. However, it is weaker than it was before her accident and we need to reduce the chance that she is involved in another accident.
  • Additionally, because her leg is abnormal, she can't get away from danger as well.
  • Her leg is permanently crooked and fortunately it does not bother her now. However, there is an increased risk of arthritis as she gets older and anti-inflammatory medications may be needed in the future.

Solstice is a beautiful, small, dark brown classic tabby about 2 years old. She is a bit shy, probably due to being physically uncomfortable for so long, but we believe that in the proper environment, she will thrive. Solstice is a very special kitty and she needs a very special family who will be able to care for her and appreciate the Christmas miracle that brought her to AnimalSave on the Winter Solstice.

We can’t thank Dr. Newton enough for successfully performing the very difficult surgery that saved Solstice’s life. Dr. Newton’s skills and concern for the well-being of the dogs and cats she spays and neuters each week at AnimalSave’s Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic is remarkable and very much appreciated by AnimalSave and its clients. Since the clinic began operating in 2008, it has altered over 15,000 animals, greatly reducing the number of homeless dogs and cats in our community. For more information or to make an appointment, contact the clinic at 530-477-1706 or snclinic @ animalsave.org. 

Thanks to generous donors who provide funding that enables AnimalSave to continue its good work that began over 30-years ago, we are able to rescue and find homes for close to 250 dogs and cats (like Solstice) every year. Our beautiful and spacious Cat Adoption Room provides a safe, comfortable place for the cats to reside until we find the perfect home for them. For more information about animals available for adoption (including Solstice), contact Pet Adoption Services at 530-271-7071 x 206 or fosteradoption @ animalsave.org or, better yet, visit them in the Cat Adoption Room at 520 East Main Street, Grass Valley.

Carolyn Niehaus,
Executive Director