Our Miracle Morgana
by Dr June McNicholas & Dr Jeff Lewis
It's always a terrific feeling when you manage to bring back a sick animal from death's door, but to actually have one come back when they've gone through death's door is nothing short of miraculous.
Our tiny poley, Morgana, went to the vet's to be spayed and was found to have the start of pyometra, although there had been no observable symptoms. Maybe this contributed to her post-surgical discomfort as she had a bad night which culminated in her pulling all her stitches out early the next morning. At 7 a.m. she was OK, if a bit dozy, but by 8 a.m her wound was wide open, her intestines hanging out and she was bleeding very badly. She was in shock and very weak. Obviously we rushed her to the vet's immediately. It had to be a day when I simply could not avoid going in to work, so we left her in surgery. Within minutes of me arriving in my office, my secretary put through a call from the vets - Morgana had died as she received the anaesthetic. She was just two years old.
Numbed, I rang Jeff. She was his special girl as he'd done all the work on her since she'd come into rescue as a particularly feisty, finger happy, little monster. He made arrangements to collect her body so that we could bury her in our garden when I got home. She had been placed in a plastic bag, wrapped in a towel and lain inside her carry case. When he got home, Jeff couldn't face opening it so he left her in peace in the kitchen for the next four hours. It was only when he thought he would lay her in tissue in a box ready for us to bury that he opened the case, unwrapped the towel and opened her plastic body-bag. I don't suppose there are words to describe how he must have felt when he realised that not only was she not stiff and cold, but that she was still warm and there was a faint heart-beat. But as she had 'died' receiving the anaesthetic, Morgana had not been operated on and her guts were still protruding from the wound. A moment of heart-stopping disbelief, shock and then high-speed action, all on automatic pilot - thinking only gets in the way in such situations - as Jeff rang the vet and rushed her back to surgery.
In the meantime, I had rushed back from work as early as possible to find the house like the Marie Celeste - computer still on, coffee still warm in a cup etc but no sign of Jeff. I knew nothing of what had happened. When he returned, I simply couldn't take in what he was saying at first. If it wasn't so tragic, it would have been funny as I tried to understand why he had taken our dead ferret back to the vet for an operation! Then there was the long wait for news, although we didn't hold out much hope. It was a couple of hours later when the vet rang to say she'd pulled through the operation. She was on a drip in intensive care for the next 36 hours.
Morgana came home at the weekend, a very sick little ferret indeed. It was too early to tell if she was going to make it or whether she might have some permanent damage. We suspected she was blind and/or brain damaged. However, it was obvious that Morgana was determined to live. She'd pulled off her own miracle, we had do our part and help her through. As the days and nights of watching and nursing passed, we realised that our Morgana was not damaged in any way. It was almost too much to hope for. Then came the day when she wriggled and asked to put on the floor. Unsteadily, but with total purpose and concentration, she padded across the room and fastened herself on to my bare foot. Morgana was back! (It should be noted that I was on the phone to our Editor at the time who showed peculiar delight at my yelp of pain - 'laughing like a drain' is the phrase that comes to mind).
Morgana has made good progress and we are hopeful of a complete recovery. It hasn't been without hiccups - she undid her outer stitches again and had to bandaged up like those pictures of Egyptian mummified cats, and she is the world's most bloody-minded patient and impossible to keep calm. However, maybe it is that what pulled her through. We can never be sure what happened. I have no reason to doubt the vets at all. Two vets with plenty of experience tried very hard to revive her when she 'died', and they are as astonished as we are. There are a couple of theories, though. Sheila thinks that Morgana reached Rainbow Bridge but the other ferrets up there turned her back because it wouldn't be Heaven if she was allowed to stay. Jeff says that if these 'death experiences' are really like going through a tunnel, Morgana must have turned around and saw, not just a light at the end of the tunnel, but a net over it and scampered back to kill in the nets! I'm not sure it matters what the reason is, I can't get over the incredible fortune that I had to be in work, otherwise we would probably have buried her immediately. I just know we are grateful to Whoever or Whatever gave her the strength to come back.
(First published Summer 1999)