Mira September, 1997 to December, 1997
MIRA – Short for MIRAcle – and that she is. Here is Mira and her story, as told in e-mails, updates to the Ferret Mailing List, and in the bi-monthly Foster Grandparent newsletter.
Early September, 1997
The following was in response to an inquiry FACT received right after posting of her situation on our website regarding the extent of Mira’s injuries and inquiring as to whether it may have been more humane to have her euthanized rather than facing a life of pain.
Thank you for your note and for your concern about Mira.
First, let me assure you that our concern is first and foremost with the ferrets in our care. While we are a “no-kill shelter,” we are also a humane organization and would never put our personal desire for life before the welfare and comfort of our charges. We even wrote a brochure – “Letting Go,” – precisely because so many people struggle with when is the appropriate time to make the ultimate personal sacrifice on behalf of our friend’s best interests. That is, to place the issue of life quality and comfort before one’s own discomfort at facing the inevitable.
Mira will not require skin grafts. The burns she received were epidermal layer chemical burns that did no deep, permanent damage to her skin tissue.
The shoulder blade itself is dislocated. How much pain she is in at any given moment is difficult to assess. Ferrets (as any prey animal) are very adept at disguising pain because showing you are wounded could invite a predator’s unwanted attention! However, we have observed the following.
Mira spends somewhat more than average time (for a young ferret) sleeping. I (along with our exceptionally practical and caring veterinarian – who is also the chief vet for the CT Humane Society), believe that her sleep pattern is a by-product of boredom more than discomfort. She very happily “ferret-snoops” any area and is presently housed with a young, but not overly active sprite – in a small, but cozy bathroom in order to help with her physical therapy.
Until her skin wounds heal, we cannot proceed with corrective surgery. Our vet feels that any such surgery would be, at this time, premature and he wants to see her skin fully healed.
When the time comes, she will first need exploratory surgery to ascertain the exact degree of her shoulder injury. There is a question as to what damage was done to the connective tissues. At the very worst, Mira will be permanently handicapped, but I assure you still very capable of moving around. The question will be the extent of her handicap.
We will have had Mira here for 4 weeks as of the 19th of September. Our vet has been pleased (and sometimes even surprised) with the speed of her improvement. She has progressed from only being able to walk back-wards, to moving backwards, forwards and sideways. She willingly plays inside a bag – obviously, she cannot bounce, leap or jump. But she loves to push her way though it. She has gone from being unable to lift her front paws to, recently, climbing into a small plastic tub with an approximately 2 inch high side. Previously, we thought she would never be able to climb without her surgery — now we understand why our vet wants to wait and see healing can be accomplished by “Mother Nature”!.
If we thought Mira was facing a life of pain, we would mercifully have it ended. I have had to make that decision for several of my own ferrets and a number of FACT’s charges over the past several years.
The most painful issues for Mira is that we are very aware of how a young 16 week old ferret should be acting and playing. And we know that Mira will never have that ability to run, leap and frolic like others of her kind.
For Mira, that is the ultimate tragedy.
I’ll be happy to answer any other questions you may have. And again, thank you for caring enough to ask what for many people is a very difficult question.
September 24, 1997
Mira continues to heal, and, we just recently noticed, has begun to grow some hair around the edges of her burns! How much hair she will regrow is uncertain, but it appears that Mother Nature may be very forgiving with Mira. Her back is fresh with scarred but healing white skin. Some red, moist skin remains under her front legs, which has been slower to heal.
We have carefully observed how she manages to climb, considering her shoulder damage is roughly equal to having her arms glued into their sockets (you can get a rough idea of how Mira moves by keeping your shoulders stiff and imagining the arm cannot move in the socket. She can move her elbows, but her walk is suggestive of a wind-up toy moving side to side). When she wants to get up into a basket or up onto the top of a toy, she rears her entire body up similar to a rearing horse! It is truly amazing to watch how persistence and perseverance, not to mention determination, serves the physically challenged. I have learned to respect the body’s capacity to heal!
Each day we bring her into a larger room without any other ferrets to bother her so she can walk around and exercise her muscles. It is encouraging to see how active she is! And I can say I do not believe she is in any pain. We are, of course, cautious when handling her so as not to aggravate her shoulder injury.
We wish to thank the readers of the FML and those visitors to our website who have sent donations on her behalf. FACT is holding all donations in a special “Mira Fund” for her eventual reconstruction surgery. At this point we do not have a veterinarian who has volunteered to do the surgery. We’ll cross that bridge after her skin has thoroughly healed.
In the meantime, Mira comes out to “play” daily and loves to settle in a warm lap after she tires herself out – which can take a while. She is still a ferret and all nooks and crannies must be explored, even if she is a bit slow!
We will continue to post periodically of her progress and hope to update her photo on our website in the next few weeks.
Thanks, again, to all, for their words of encouragement and concern over little Mira.
September 27, 1997
About 10 days ago, Mira was brought to Tufts for a consultation. While most of her burns have healed amazingly well, we have been having difficulty with her left arm. The area under her arm is not healing as quickly as the rest of her body, and is still moist and raw. Complicating things, has been that scar tissue is constricting the vein and it was causing her entire left leg and foot to swell to almost twice normal size. Our vet had to make an incision under her arm to relieve some of the pressure, and she was placed back on antibiotics as a preventative measure. (A FACT member who is a nurse and familiar with burn treatments in humans told us that it is not uncommon to have to do similar procedures on humans when scar tissue causes this type of swelling). Our vet’s principal fear was that Mira might have to have the leg removed if we couldn’t get the swelling under control. So we went off to Tufts for a consultation.
The vet at Tufts felt that, for the present, Mira is doing as well as can be expected. She also indicated that she didn’t think that Mira would ultimately have to loose the leg, and that we had done what we could with the incision and antibiotic treatment. She did say, however, that Mira needed continued gentle exercise (she lives with our elderly group now and they are just wonderful with her); that she needed to try to elevate her foot (she dearly loves to lay on her back in a low-slung hammock we have in the room); and that we needed to massage her leg daily – which we continue to do.
As for longer term prognosis, she recommended a consultation with their reconstruction specialist – though in her opinion, anything he might do would probably be experimental in nature. That visit is scheduled for next week.
As for Mira’s spirits, they continue to be amaze us! She actually has some hair growing in spots on her back (a little of which had to be shaved for her impromptu surgery to relieve scar pressure) and while she is favoring her right leg more than before, she still gets precisely wherever she wants to be — including climbing into baskets and into her low hammock to sleep with a couple of the warmer, little old people!
She can navigate a 3 foot length of tube and will happily pull out shoe inserts and squash plastic bags with abandon. Mira has no idea that she is “handicapped” and the little old ferret-people certainly don’t mind a quiet, little youngster who doesn’t insist on jumping them every 30 seconds, so the housing arrangements suit everyone just fine!
So everyone knows, FACT does not house our ferrets in cages. Our elderly, as well as our adoptees, have separate dedicated rooms with sleepy spots and toys and a varietal tray of food to pick on. So, she appears to be quite content.
November 2, 1997
As you can see and may want to point out to visitors, it’s Mira’s left side that is now giving her the most trouble. The open sores are almost all healed, with the exception of a small, pea sized patch. It appears that it will be under her left arm where she will need to have a skin graft, as the tissue is fused together there. The right side seems to be doing great, and while she will never have shoulder movement, she can at least move the entire leg forward and back a little bit.
I’m sorry I haven’t dropped you a note more recently than this – but I was traveling on business and Mira has taken a couple of evaluation visits up to Tufts.
As I type, this, BTW, she is wandering around the room. If she wanders by, I’ll have her “type” a few words (but she’s a very busy lady at the moment).
Her burns are still healing very slowly under her arm – but they are healing. Our vet had to cut a slice under one arm as the scar tissue has begun to constrict across her chest, causing the arms to tighten inward as well as to have one leg begin to swell dangerously. Thankfully, the cut has seemed to have done the trick – the swelling has gone down and she is far more comfortable moving around.
Mira met Tufts burn specialist last Monday. He confirmed that, if necessary, he can perform two skin grafts. One across her chest; and the other, a smaller graft, under her arm. We’ve decided to wait one more month and have her re-evaluated at the end of November, as she is still growing and there is an outside chance that the scar tissue may break down sufficiently to avoid the more extensive graft. We also want to be sure that all the healing is done before we put her through more discomfort.
She is still the sweet little girl! Right now our biggest challenge is getting her off the “gruel” (lucky duck soup) that she became so spoiled with when she first arrived. It’s hard not to spoil her!
Each night she comes out from the “oldie” room to wander around our living and dining rooms as well as kitchen. Only one of my boys has tried to get too rough with her, so he’s locked up while she’s out and about. It’s excellent exercise and she’s up to about an hour of wandering before seeking a lap for a nap.
November 12, 1997
As best we can tell what happened to Mira was accidental. The girl who owned her did her best to reach someone who was able to help out – us. The fact that she waited so long to find us; she lives with two other adults – one a boyfriend and the other her mother – sort of made me question the IQ level of the people we were dealing with. But I certainly did not sense anything purposeful about Mira’s injuries from the gal who contacted and passed her to us.
What is so odd, is that she had 2 accidents. One with the bleach which the owner said she was totally unaware of and the other having been stepped on. The one thing I have learned running a shelter is that most of the people who give up an animal lie. Usually, it’s about stupid things but occasionally, it’s about ages, health records, injuries, you name it. So no one will never know the truth about what happened to her except her – and she can’t say.
As for the shoulders. Surgery has just about been ruled out. Although we have received an offer for an orthopedic specialist from NY to evaluate her – but again – we must deal with the scar tissue on her leg. That is the priority, before considering causing even more scaring with additional surgery.
Fortunately, there is no hurry to do any of this. We opted to wait on a skin graft because Mira is young and there is a chance that the scar tissue will dissolve enough itself to avoid putting her through the trauma (and added scaring) of graft surgery. After we get through that – which if it must be done will probably be decided at the time of her next visit to Tufts in early December.
If we can avoid graft surgery, then we will probably arrange to bring her to NY sometime early next year after the holidays when as much healing has occurred that is going to occur.
If we have to have the surgery, then the shoulder reassessment will have to wait until after the grafts have healed.
Hope this helps answer your questions and thanks for your continued caring.
These images show Mira’s skin almost totally healed from the burns. Her front legs never grew normally and she will always have little “dino” paws – not that it stops her from going wherever and doing whatever she wants! Eventually, all will remain will be scar tissue.
December 23, 1997
Hello and Merry Christmas to all of Mira’s friends! It’s been just about a month since we gave everyone and update – so here goes!
First — the BIG news: Mira has started ferret hopping! Well, it really isn’t much of a hop as normal ferret’s go – but it IS a sideways hop, and it IS most definitely, well, ferrety!
It’s very hard to describe precisely how Mira manages this neat little trick, given the damage to her front legs. But over the past month we have become far more aggressive with her physical therapy (more in a few moments) and she has begun to loose some of her “baby-fat.” Both, I think, have contributed to her newfound activity.
I’m not sure exactly where Mira’s story last left off – but the first week of December she was back up to Tufts for another evaluation with the burn specialist there. It was a rather brief visit. One of those rechecks where the doctor tells you that you are progressing and makes another appointment for a month later for another check-up (I think we’ve ALL experienced those types of visits!).
He also added two pieces of information, however. One, was a bit more explanation behind his preference to postpone skin graft surgery as long as possible. Apparently, scar tissue is replaced as a wound heals with a different type of texture. He explained it as being similar to a basket weave design. This type of skin has far more flexibility than what initially develops. The doctor wants to wait to see just how much of this type of scar tissue develops before he intervenes.
Second, he informed us that he had accepted a position at Angell Memorial in Boston and would be moving there from Tufts at year-end. He managed to book us an appointment during his last few days at Tufts for Mira’s next check-up. Following that we will probably need to go to Angell Memorial for future check-ups and her eventual graft surgery.
If I could get a camera in close enough, I could show everyone exactly what the extent of the damage is. But if you turned her over (an option she dislikes immensely), you would see a small web of skin between her “armpit” and her chest. This represents both scar tissue and stunted growth from her injuries. This is the area that will eventually require the surgery to give her legs the maximum amount of movement.
The biggest challenge has been exercising Mira. Each night we’ve taken her from the “old lady room” where she’s housed to play through our house — after locking up my alpha “bad boys” who chase down little old ladies and defenseless kits for jollies! But, we can work her little legs and play with her, but it just isn’t the same as rough and tumble ferret play — which Mira can’t deal with.
Well – it just so happens that Santa brought Mira and early Christmas gift – an 8 to 9 week old jill – Emily Bronte who arrived at the rescue about 10 days ago.
Emily is a petite little girl with a wonderful disposition! Because of her size, she hasn’t been able to hurt Mira as she plays her baby ferret games. While Mira can’t run away, she and Emily managed, very quickly, to work out an accommodation which Emily rarely breaks.
We landed up putting Emily in with Mira because the boys in the regular rescue downstairs were just so big and bouncy. Emily was just too small to handle that crowd. So we put her in with the old-timers when she arrived and it’s been a godsend to us. Not only does she give some positive “stress” to the old-timers, but also she has been helping Mira exercise. It’s just been a “win-win” situation for everyone!
We’ll update everyone again early next year.