Bella's Story

This is the story of a very tough little cat name Bella!

This is the story of a very tough little cat name Bella. Bella first came to us last August as a 4 month old kitten. She was living in a barn and unfortunately had broken her leg in an unknown accident. Her owners surrendered her to us so we could fix her leg and help her find a new indoor home. No one came to adopt her and she got quite comfortable in the clinic becoming everyone’s “cat away from home,” with a few extra names: Barney, Belly…In February we discovered that this amazing little cat had an abnormality in her diaphragm (the muscle separating her chest from her abdomen). This caused her stomach to be able to shift back and forth into her chest. Many cats live with this condition without us even knowing about it. With medication, she appeared to recover from this problem; however this past weekend we learned differently.


Lauren, one of our Registered Veterinary Technicians arrived early on Saturday morning so she could have a little snuggle with Bella in one of the front windows. Unfortunately Lauren found a very different little kitty. Dehydrated, weak and having difficulty breathing, Bella was in extreme distress. Lauren started her on oxygen and intravenous fluids and xrayed her chest. What we found was terrifying: 2/3 of her chest cavity was filled with abdominal organs leaving very little room for her lungs to expand. There was fluid around her lungs and in her abdomen. Our wonderful ultrasound technician happened to be in the clinic as well. She ultrasounded Bella’s chest at her expense and we learned that even her spleen was in her chest and the blood flow to it was not good. 

Bella’s crisis point became a crisis for the clinic also. There were only 2 choices: surgery or euthanasia. Surgery could only be done at a referral facility as not only could the surgery and anesthesia be technically challenging, but the recovery period could be full of unknown and unexpected complications that would require Bella to be in an intensive care unit for an unknown number of days or weeks. We asked for advice from both of our referral clinics: The Ontario Veterinary College and the Mississauga Oakville Veterinary Emergency Hospital, both of which were incredibly helpful and supportive. Surgery was expensive, total cost including recovery time was unpredictable, and the chance of Bella’s survival unknown. After much discussion among our team we decided to take Bella to the Ontario Veterinary College for surgery. We needed to give our little girl a fighting chance as she had fought so hard so far in her short life.


Lauren and I drove up to Guelph on Saturday afternoon with Bella. It was a stressful ride for all as we watched Bella breathe rapidly unsure if it was caused by the car ride or her lungs. We were greeted at OVC by the triage technician Julie Snyder, who immediately put Bella in an oxygen cage to help her be more comfortable. Bella’s surgeon, Dr. Katie Hoddinott met with us a short time later and reviewed the plan for Bella’s surgery and recovery. It was difficult to say goodbye to our scared little Bella but Lauren and I had to leave so Dr. Hoddinott could proceed with her care.


I became the main contact for OVC, so Saturday night was full of texts back and forth among the team with updates on Bella and many queries of: is the surgery done yet? Have you heard? Just before midnight I got the call that Bella had done well in the surgery. Not only were her stomach and her spleen in her chest, but part of her liver and small intestines were in there as well and her stomach was folded over backwards! And she seemed perfectly fine Friday night! All of her organs were put back where they belonged and the hernia was repaired. There were still words of caution as we didn’t know what the recovery period would hold for our brave little girl.


I visited her Sunday and although she was exhausted from staying awake most of the night and day in the busy ICU, she still enjoyed the cuddles, almost falling asleep on my hand. I was shocked when Dr. Hoddinott said she might be able to go home the next night! Wow! That was much earlier than expected.


Little Bella charmed all the wonderful people at OVC and so far has come through her recovery period with flying colours. Lauren brought her back to the clinic on Monday night and we are all watching her closely giving her lots of attention. She is covered in pink from the surgical prep solution to minimize bacterial contamination but that will be gone in no time as of course she keeps herself immaculate…She is a fighter!




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