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Herbie – A miracle patient

I saw a miracle patient recently.

Herbie should have been an ordinary cat. He seemed normal when I met him as a kitten seven years ago and gave him his first vaccines.

He seemed ordinary when it fell to my colleague, Jean, to perform his little boy’s operation. This procedure is so minor, having been performed millions of times by vets over many years, there is almost no risk. But suddenly Herbie was not being normal any more.

Despite Jean having performed her usual excellent service for him, he started bleeding unexpectedly from his incision. She promptly re-anaesthetised him to check what she could do to manage this, and it seemed to settle. But a few hours later he started bleeding again, not just from his gentlemanly area, but also from his injection site on his front leg.

This was abnormal enough for us to suspect a coagulopathy, such as haemophilia. We ran specialist tests for this, which were negative, and he stopped bleeding within a short time, so we hoped it was all just a fluke.

But then he started growing into a teenager and getting into fights. Every time he was wounded he bled much more than a regular cat. Then he started getting nose bleeds at frequent intervals.

It took a while, a blood transfusion, many blood tests and several endoscopies to work it out. His owners had to be very patient. But eventually, when he was two years old, the specialists established that he had a deficiency in his blood clotting mechanisms, meaning that he would always bleed more than most, and be at risk of bleeding to death from even minor issues like a torn claw or a respiratory infection. They advised us to keep him indoors and protect him from bangs and bruises.

But Herbie had other ideas. He wanted to be a normal cat, going out and having fun. Only a little soul searching was needed for his owner to decide that this is what he should have, even if it shortened his life.

It’s now five years later, and I saw him for his vaccines again recently. He has miraculously turned into a glorious soft seven year old with one of the rarest disorders I have ever diagnosed. Touch wood, he hasn’t had a big bleed for some time – long may it last!

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