Cadbury, (left), was rescued from " death row" after donating a kidney to Opie (right).
PHOTO BY KAREN PULFER FOCHT
Dr. Ai Takeuchi of Memphis Veterinary Specialists in Cordova is caring for two cats involved in a kidney transplant operation in Pennsylvania. Black cat Cadbury was rescued from "death row" in exchange for donating a kidney.
After recently losing several family members as well as another cat, Catherine Addy-Bernstein said, "I'd lost enough" and chose a costly transplant operation for her 12-year-old cat Opie.
For Cadbury the black cat, it was donate or die.In the last five years, lawmakers across the country have debated the merits of reduced prison sentences for inmates who donate organs.
Life-altering rewards in exchange for organs apparently already exist in the cat world, where organ donation has saved hundreds of strays destined for euthanasia since the late 1980s.
And Cadbury, a year-old domestic shorthair sitting on "death row" in a Philadelphia animal shelter, became Memphian Catherine Addy-Bernstein's lucky charm this fall.
Opie, Addy-Bernstein's 12-year-old Siamese, needed a kidney fast. He had suffered kidney disease since he was 4, but late in the summer he stopped eating and started vomiting. A veterinarian said he had two months to live.
"What are my options?" Addy-Bernstein, who has pet health insurance, said she immediately asked.
The 58-year-old had recently lost several members of her family, as well as her oldest cat, Lucy, she said, explaining her rationale behind embarking on the $12,000-$16,000 lifesaving venture for Opie.
"I'd lost enough," she said. "I wasn't going to do it anymore."
Dr. Ai Takeuchi, a veterinarian at Memphis Veterinary Specialists, told Addy-Bernstein about her mentor from veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Lillian Aronson, one of the top veterinarian kidney transplant surgeons in the world.
Opie was soon in his carrier and on a flight to Pennsylvania for a transplant Sept. 13.
His match, Cadbury, was a friendly, spirited stray. Addy-Bernstein agreed to save Cadbury from euthanasia and provide a home for him after he gave Opie a kidney, part of the program's transplant policy.
Celebrating the success of the operation three months later, Cadbury and Opie acted like old friends Tuesday, sharing the small space of the vet's office in Memphis amicably.
Opie spent most of his morning resting, the large patch where he was shaved for surgery still visible, the slight bump of a foreign kidney still present on his exposed right side.
Cadbury sometimes licks Opie on the spot where his former kidney now resides.
"The (cats) have a special connection," said Addy-Bernstein. "I've heard it's the same with human transplants."
Opie's main anti-rejection medication, cyclosporine, makes him a little grumpy, said Addy-Bernstein, but she still expects him to shine when he will be featured on Animal Planet network's "Must Love Cats" TV show in early 2012.