Rescued cat from Cary apartment fire inspires owners, doctors

— Four months after surviving an apartment fire in Cary, one cat continues to push on despite the odds being stacked against him.

Amber Ricker and Kris Moore were on their way to Costco on Feb. 13 when they received a call from a friend who told them their apartment building was on fire. Ricker and Moore still have not received any information from authorities on what started the fire.

At first, Moore said he thought his friend was joking, but they decided to turn around and check it out. They returned to see their apartment ablaze.

“It was a hard thing to accept,” Moore said. “It was a lot of ‘This isn’t real. This can’t be happening.’”

Moore said they were most worried about their pets and seeing other animals being rescued from the fire made them concerned for their cats.

Ricker suddenly noticed a “black blob” walking down the stairs of building and immediately recognized it as her cat, Spazzy Doodle. The cat was almost unrecognizable because, instead of having his long, black and white hair, the cat looked like a calico cat because he was badly burned and covered in tar.

“I ran over in tears,” Ricker said. “Seeing him covered in tar that day was heart wrenching.”

Moore and Ricker said they lost everything in the fire, making Spazzy’s escape from the inferno a miracle. The couple lost their other cat, Spazzy’s sister, in the fire.

“They were pretty much attached at the hip,” Moore said. “It’s been tough on him to have lost that partner of his but he’s still doing absolutely amazing.”

Cary Crossroads apartment fire

Spazzy was given oxygen from first responders on the scene and they told Ricker and Moore to take their cat to the Veterinary Specialty Hospital (VSH) in Cary. The fire captain who was on-site at the time of the fire said Spazzy was the only animal who required medical care.

“One of the things we worry about in those situations is smoke inhalation and damage to the lungs, but he was actually breathing pretty well which was good,” Dr. Christine Culler at VSH said.

Spazzy was badly burned on all four of his feet, his tail and his back, and he had to be completely shaved which led to him suffering from hypothermia. His tail will also have to be amputated in the near future, but Culler anticipates that removing it will be a relief to him.

Culler was “cautiously optimistic” with the whole situation because it’s a very unpredictable case, but the fact that he was breathing well was encouraging for the doctors. To learn how to best treat the burns, Culler reached out to a specialist from California who is familiar with burn victims because of all of the wildfires in the state.

Spazzy’s treatment took a lot of supportive care and time from the doctors. He had pretty extensive burns which required a lot of bandage changes, antibiotics and pain medication. The doctors felt like they were making progress nearly a month into his treatment, but the burns actually appeared to be worsening because of the unique skin structure cats have.

“The top of the skin can look okay but underneath it can be dead,” Culler said. “It takes time for the normal cycle of the skin for that to slip off and the wounds to be apparent.”

Throughout his treatment period, Spazzy would visit VSH between two and three times a week. His visits would range from bandage changes to major surgeries.

“I have learned in my years of doing this that animals are incredibly tough, which is amazing,” Culler said. “Cats especially can surprise us. A cat running away from a burning building in the shape he was in is incredible.”

Nearly four months after the fire, Spazzy has been healing very quickly as his front legs no longer require bandages. For Spazzy’s owners, their four months with VSH have been “a blessing” and the treatment their cat has received has been “wonderful.”

“I don’t think that if I had taken him to some other vet that we would have the amazing outcome that we have had at VSH,” Ricker said. “They have cared so much, they have worked with us, they have been completely honest, intelligent and forthright with their treatment of Spaz. I can tell they love Spaz and care about him. That makes a huge difference for all of us because it’s not just about the money- it’s about the animals.”

Spazzy’s treatment has not been easy on his owners, though, and Ricker called it a very stressful time for the couple. Ricker had to dig nearly $10,000 out of her school fund to pay for it and still owes thousands of dollars.

“I’ve raised $7,500 so far, just to have raised that and still owe that much is very overwhelming,” Ricker said.

Despite how traumatizing the experience was and how extensive his treatment has been, Spazzy’s personality has remained the same. Before the fire, his owners described him as a very affectionate and loving lounge cat and he hasn’t changed.

“He’s just chills out most of the day and hangs out with us,” Moore said. “We give him his meds and make sure he’s fed. Other than that, he’s just a normal cat with bandages on his legs.”

Throughout the ordeal for everyone involved, one thing has remained constant: the inspiration Spazzy gives off.

“He’s so inspiring,” Ricker said. “He inspires me to keep going, keep pressing on and have a good attitude. Everyday he makes my heart sing because of his attitude and how sweet he still is throughout everything. He has a wonderful demeanor still and its incredibly inspiring.”

Published at Fri, 14 Jun 2019 21:45:53 +0000