Nine Lives: Fact or Fiction

This entry is article 2 of 5 in the October 2013 issue

Barley’s Story of Survival

Barley reclaimed one of his nine lives late one night in the Tufts emergency room.

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The 6-year-old cat arrived at the Foster Hospital in pretty serious shape: whimpering in pain, not eating or drinking, unable to walk without a wobble. His owners, Daniel Plante and Elizabeth Hughes of Worcester, Mass., were plenty worried.

Barley’s rock-hard bladder made it clear he was suffering from a life-threatening urinary blockage, which is most common in young to middle-aged male cats.If not treated quickly, a cat can die from a ruptured bladder or from toxins in the bloodstream. The Foster Hospital ER sees up to 20 such cases a month. Symptoms include frequent trips to the litter box, crying in pain, not eating and blood in the urine—things most owners mistake for constipation.

Kathleen Lindsey, the ER intern who diagnosed Barley’s blockage, said blood tests showed that the cat’s kidneys were flooding his system with excess potassium, resulting in a depressed heart rate. Barley received IV fluids to flush the toxins and increase his heart rate.

There was another scary moment when Dr. Lindsey told the couple that Barley had died, recalls Hughes. “She paused for what seemed like an eternity before adding, ‘But we brought him back.’ ” The cat’s heart had started beating so irregularly that it couldn’t push blood through the body. “Barley fell over and went into cardiac arrest,” says Dr. John Anastasio, the ER resident who resuscitated him.

Now fully recovered, the feisty feline has resumed his favorite activity—swatting at water running from the faucet. The couple still marvels at how close they came to losing him. “It became life-threatening so fast,” says Hughes. “I am so very grateful this hospital was close to us.”

—Genevieve Rajewski
Reprinted with Permission from Tufts Veterinary Magazine

Photo: Alonso Nichols

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