Jolie’s battle to survive

Bobbi Sands

THE fighting spirit of a stray cat has become the talk of the pet fraternity and the story of its will to survive and overcome enormous odds has been published to raise funds for other animals in need.
Little Jolie was rescued in Mission Road by a Save-a- Pet volunteer not realising she would reportedly be the first recorded and treated case of feline tetanus in Port Elizabeth.
Jolie was taken in by restaurant manager Natalie Dil when she was just six weeks old. She had a birth deformity and her front legs were too short because the bones had not developed.
Dil said she probably got the tetanus after playing in the garden soil that contained compost, through one of the sores she had from walking on the outside of her legs rather than her paws.
“I took Jolie to a vet over her deformity and eventually decided to have prosthetic splints fitted to her front paws,” said Dil.
This is where Riaan Knight, a prosthetist, and Andre Grundling, an orthotist, became involved.
Grundlingh said the deformity is like club feet in a human and Jolie was effectively walking on the outside of her legs.
“We put her legs in the correct position and made plaster of Paris moulds to construct the splints to get her walking on her paws again.
“We had never made splints for a cat before but have made prosthetics and splints for other animals,” said Grundling.
The prosthetics arrived a week after Jolie’s battle with tetanus had started.
“I remember the day she got sick like it was yesterday.
” She had collapsed and we thought it was a concussion but we soon realised it was not the case.”
When her condition got worse Jolie was taken to Dr Marlies Bohm from the King Edward Veterinary Referral Hospital.
Bohm said cats are about 7200 times more resistant to tetanus than horses while humans are only three times more resistant.
“She was diagnosed with feline tetanus which is extremely rare in cats,” said Dil.
 Human tetanus anti-toxin serum was administered and Jolie seemed to be making a recovery but then took a turn for the worse.
“We had decided to find and administer another serum,” said Dil.
But Jolie’s luck seemed to have run out.
The hospital pharmacy from which they had sourced the serum had run out of stock.
“I could not believe the staff at Dora Nginza would go out of their way to help me and my cat. It was unbelievable.
“Because we could not get another serum we just had to pray little Jolie would pull through,” said Dil.
 Jolie was put on oxygen support.
After a long struggle and many people saying it would be easier to put her down Jolie pulled through and made a remarkable recovery.
“We don’t know how she pulled through and at this stage we just chalk it up to the unpredictability of the species,” laughed Dil.
Bohm, who had never treated a feline tetanus case before Jolie, said she was very impressed with her recovery.
Jolie has made a full recovery within two weeks.
“Case studies show it takes much longer, but we speculate because of her age at the time and because she was still growing it could have contributed to her speedy recovery,” said Dil.
Dr Dean Sim who is actively involved in community veterinary care said he has not heard of a treated case of feline tetanus in his 20 years as a practising veterinarian.
Dil added she called every veterinary practice in Port Elizabeth to see if they had ever dealt with such a case and found none have been recorded.
She has written a book about Jolie’s journey and will split the proceeds between Save-a-Pet and Cat Care.

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