By Andrea Wright
My girlfriend, Jillian, adopted Milo and his sister, Eloise from Mary Paws in January of 2010. Both Milo and Eloise were born with problems that make them a little wobbly on their feet. We were told that neither of them would be able to climb, run, or get around very well at all.
We took them home and began trying to make our home safe for them. We made a barrier out of boxes to block the stairs - which Milo promptly jumped over. So much for the limited mobility!
Ever since that first day, Milo has been full of surprises. He loves to climb, specifically on boxes, and chase his sister. He is super cuddly and is probably more like a dog than a cat (although my girlfriend, the dog lover, would disagree.) He is always waiting by the door in full purr-mode when I come home from work, waiting for love. In fact when we brought him in for his first vet visit at AHNA, Dr. Wootten had trouble getting him to stop purring long enough to listen to his heart and lungs! He is a very sweet boy.
So, you can imagine my concern when I came home on March 30th and Milo was not there to greet me. I found him at the top of the stairs, just sitting there. I picked him up (an immediate purr-starter) and he still didn’t purr. I knew that something was up, but I had no idea what it could be. I racked my brain.
Then I remembered that the night before I had hemmed a pair of pants and when I finished I put the needle in the spool and put the spool in the middle of the coffee table underneath some papers. Although both cats had far surpassed their previous mobility issues, neither of them had ever even attempted to jump that high. Well, surprise! I noticed that the spool was on the floor, and the needle was nowhere in sight. There was no blood and he wasn't pawing at his mouth, but I knew he had to have swallowed that needle. I called my girlfriend at work, sobbing and arranged to meet her at AHNA with Milo and Eloise. We decided to take both cats in to AHNA just in case it was Eloise that had swallowed the needle.
When I arrived at AHNA, we were taken back immediately as we were a "cat emergency.” We met Dr. Duncan, who was very kind, and seemed to be pretty sure that Milo hadn't swallowed a needle especially since by this time Milo was purring as loud as ever. Dr. Duncan took Milo back for an x-ray and in just a few minutes he confirmed what I feared; in Milo's throat was a 2+ inch-long sewing needle. And he was purring!
Dr. Duncan quickly put us at ease by letting us know that as far as terrible situations go, this was probably one of the better ones. From the look of the x-ray, the needle was just in the back of the throat and could be easily removed once he was sedated but without having to “open him up.” This was very good news. Well, good and bad. He was going to be okay, but I couldn't get over the fact that I allowed it to happen in the first place. Dr. Duncan and his team went right to work and Milo came out soon, good as new, and just a bit woozy as I held him while he recovered.
Dr. Duncan offered to return the needle, to which we said, "thanks, but no thanks!" The nursing staff gave us pictures of his x-rays, and a snapshot from surgery. We took Milo home within the hour and by bedtime he was back to normal.
Video of Milo waking up:
While I am horrified that it took place at all, the whole needle ordeal was made as pleasant as possible by the kindness and compassion of the AHNA staff. Not to mention the expertise of Dr. Duncan and his team. Everyone from the nurses, to reception, and even fellow patients, were so glad that we had brought him in as quickly as we did because we all knew that the situation could have gotten much worse. We are so grateful for everyone at AHNA, especially those who were directly involved with Milo's visit. Thank you!
A note from Dr. Duncan and the AHNA staff:
Andrea and Jillian certainly deserve an award for their keen observation of Milo! By immediately realizing something was wrong and by reporting the missing needle, they prevented many serious complications and may have saved Milo’s life. Pets can’t use words to tell us when something is wrong, so that’s why we consider the pet’s family such an important part of our team! The needle had penetrated the hard palate (see second picture) and was positioned down the back of the throat (see xray above) making it necessary to pull it deeper into the throat. But don’t worry, Dr. Duncan used IV sedation so Milo was sleeping and not aware of the manipulations it took to remove the needle. Needles are certainly very dangerous, but what most pet families don’t know is that the string attached to the needle (see picture) is also very dangerous. If a string is swallowed it can cause the intestines to “bunch up” on the string and actually cuts through the intestine wall. Thanks to excellent detective work by Andrea and Jillian, Milo remembers it only as another opportunity to wow the AHNA staff with his sweet, sweet disposition.