Three weeks ago, a Jacksonville, Fla., motorist spotted a kitten crawling out of a storm drain. When that driver stopped to help the tiny tabby, it was obvious that he was unable to move his back legs and was in dire need of immediate veterinary care.
When the motorist brought the 3-month-old kitten to a local animal hospital, the staff immediately realized that he was paralyzed from the chest down. They did an X-ray, which revealed that the cat had a cracked vertebra, and that’s what had caused the paralysis.
The vet hospital staffers named him Lieutenant Dan, in honor of a character in the movie Forrest Gump, a Vietnam War veteran who was confined to a wheelchair because he couldn’t use his legs, either.
After lots of treatment, Lt. Dan is making a good recovery.
“He went from not being able to pick his head up to, at this point, he can kind of pull himself around on his front legs,” said veterinary nurse Julie Lewis. “He can sit up on his knees, and he is learning to walk in a wheelchair.”
The wheelchair has been crucial for Lt. Dan’s recovery. Although he can move around without it, doctors were concerned that he could injure his legs and develop festering sores by continuing to drag them on the ground.
“Having him in the wheelchair protects his legs, protects his tail and he can still move as fast as he wants to,” Lewis said.
The hospital staff is providing Lt. Dan with regular water rehabilitation therapy, although they say he’s not at all fond of this part of his healing.
But Lt. Dan doesn’t have any hard feelings about his paralysis and he doesn’t regret the incident that caused his injury. “In his mind, he’s growing up to be a normal kitten, he doesn’t know any different,” Lewis said. “He’s bonding to the clinic cat, he’s bonding to us, he’s bonding to the dogs. It’s fun.”
Lt. Dan is scheduled to see a veterinary neurologist to see if anything else can be done to help him. The staff hopes he will be put up for adoption and find a loving home with an owner who will be able to take care of this very special kitten for the rest of his life.
To see a video of this story and enjoy Lt. Dan’s antics, visit WJXT-TV’s website.