Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Visiting Mom, A Broken Hip And A Persian Cat

My mom, just a few hours after she arrived, chilling out on our back terrace.

Let me tell you a story about my mother, a Persian cat, and a broken bone.

My father died in February.

While I was in Cumberland, in western Maryland, for the funeral, I invited my mother to come to Prague for a month this summer. Take her mind off things. Escape from reality for a bit. We'd even take her with us on our annual two-week holiday in Brela, Croatia.

My mom's 76. I was pretty worried about her getting here safely. She's been to Prague before but had never flown solo. I got her a wheelchair in Baltimore and Atlanta, and she was whisked through security right to her gate.

I thought to myself that I will only be able to relax when I finally see her walk out of baggage claim at the airport, her suitcase rolling behind her.

She did just that on the morning of July 5.

On the afternoon of July 7, she fell outside my house and fractured her hip.

She was on the back porch when she missed a small step and went down, hard. I was in the house and heard her calling my name. I found her splayed out on the deck. My mom used to be a registered nurse, and she was hoping that her hip was only bruised, but suspected otherwise.

Hanging out with Emma, before the fall.

She was in a lot of pain. I got her into a chair and called an ambulance, which took her on a wild, jarring ride to Prague's Military Hospital. (I was shocked by the fact that most cars in Prague don't pay any attention to ambulances or sirens. We narrowly avoided at least two accidents on the way to the hospital because of idiotic drivers not slowing down for us.)

X-rays revealed a clean break in her hip bone. She was scheduled for emergency surgery at 9 p.m. that night.

The surgery went well. The surgeon put a metal plate and about four or five screws into her hip.

I made twice daily visits to the hospital, bringing her decent food and drink and newspapers and magazines and filling an iPod with audiobooks (Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes") and podcasts (she was especially partial to the ongoing series by Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington).

She was very, very brave through it all, especially considering she doesn't speak a word of Czech.

She was discharged on Friday, July 16. She's home now, walking around on crutches, learning how to walk up and down stairs, and giving herself a daily injection to prevent blood clots. She's working very hard, and I hope everything will be OK.

I am returning with her to the United States on August 19. She'll need someone to accompany her through the maze of travel.

Medicare doesn't cover the cost of any injuries suffered outside the United States. And she had no other insurance.

And, of course, the dream of taking my mother to Croatia for two weeks was shattered. In the end, Daisy went with Emma to Croatia for the first week, and I went to Brela for the second week (while Daisy returned to kindly take care of my mom).

Cooling off with Emma and me, the day before.

(In another scare, I phoned my mom once I arrived in Croatia to make sure she was OK. She would be alone in the house for five or six hours until Daisy arrived, which made me very nervous. I called, but she never answered. The phone just rang and rang and rang. I kept calling back, but still no answer. In the end, panicked out of my skull, I called a friend, Dan, who was kind enough to drop everything he was doing and drive to my house to check on my mom. I feared the worst. Fortunately, she was just fine. The portable phone I had left for her had, incredibly, just gone dead.)

Of course, there were many hours spent on the phone, rescheduling and canceling tickets, and getting the process started to sell my mom's house back in Cumberland, Maryland. Sadly, she won't be able to live there anymore, because of the steep steps in the house. We've got to auction off many of her possessions and find her a new apartment.

If all that hadn't been enough...

Just before my mom arrived, we found ourselves taking care of yet another cat. (You can read about our previous cat rescues here.)

A few weeks ago, I was giving some friends a lift to the bus stop. It was around 11 p.m., and at the end of our road, sitting in the middle of our road, just a few meters from busy Route 240, was a white cat.

"That cat's gonna get hit by a car," I said. He slowly moved into the bushes and let my car go past.

On the way back, the cat had moved back into the middle of the road. It was a beautiful cat, and obviously belonged to someone. What can you do in a situation like that? You can't just open the car door and take it with you.

Except a few days later, I saw it outside our house, sitting in the dirt between our two parked cars, as if he owned the place. From afar, I thought it might be Oscar, but a check with the binoculars showed that it was the Cat From The Middle of the Road. I went out to check on it, but it scampered away.

The next day, Daisy called me at work. I was working late. The next-door neighbor lady was feeding The Cat, she said. It was covered in ticks (Daisy removed 27 ticks, I believe she said) and one of its ears was swollen with blood. Both of its ears were filled the mites. Its fur was tangled with leaves and burrs.

Daisy took it to our local vet, who drained the ear and checked it over. It was thin and its ear would need surgery. Daisy named the cat Chaz. (It has one green eye and one blue eye, and from what we understand originally came to Prague from Iran.)

We put posters up all around the area. It was a long-haired Persian (not exactly your typical feral cat), and it had been neutered, so we figured it must belong to someone.

Sure enough, while I was in the hospital visiting my mom, the owners called. They lived in the neighboring village of Statenice and the cat had run away a few weeks before.

The problem is, the owners were moving back to Britain in a few weeks and couldn't (or so they thought) take the cat -- whose real name was Sassy -- with them. Would we like to keep the cat? Frankly, I had enough on my plate. I was stressing out big time.

So, the day after I took Chaz/Sassy to the vet for his ear surgery, I returned him to his owners, who thought they'd located a potential home for him. I told them that if they couldn't find a home for him, to give me a call and I'd see what I could do.

It was a very sweet and cuddly cat, and we wanted the best for him.

Well, guess what?

Chaz/Sassy is living with us now, at least temporarily. In the end, his owners, Dean and his partner, Roxanne, couldn't find a home for him, nor could they take him back to Britain on such short notice.

(The U.K.'s formerly draconian quarantine laws have changed, and it now takes about seven months to complete the process of shots and observation needed before a cat or dog can be allowed onto the island. As I pointed out to them, if they'd had some foresight, they could have gotten this process started quite some time ago. I must admit to being pretty frustrated at the whole deal.)

Sassy's owner, Dean, after he took her back while he was recovering from ear surgery (hence the plastic collar), but before Dean had to return to Britain.

Unfortunately, Chaz/Sassy isn't getting along too well with our house cat Chicho (they got into a brief but intense fight the other day), so he's quarantined to our basement.

I'm still waiting to hear from his owners about what they want to do.

In the meantime, if you're interested in adopting a lovely Persian permanently -- or would be willing to take care of him for seven months or so until he's claimed by his old owners -- please let me know at

Whew! To say it's been a stressful few weeks is to belabor understatement.

And I haven't even mentioned that my iPhone shut down after I tried to update to the latest software. After numerous phone calls to Apple (not exactly what I wanted to be doing amidst all this), it's now being replaced.

Or the speeding ticket I received in the mail the other day...

You have to admit, Chaz/Sassy is pretty adorable.

Oddly enough, in some sort of cosmic coincidence, when Daisy first took Chaz/Sassy to the vet, they wanted to know what his name was. In a panic, she said Bela. Which turns out is the name of Dean and Roxanne's other Persian cat, which was also lost and has yet to be found (although it's been spotted around their old flat, apparently).


  1. What a nightmare ... hope your mom's doing better and through all of this you find a silver lining somewhere.

  2. Tell her we're all thinking of her at home. She'll also want to know that it appears my Grandfather will be coming home tomorrow as well, after an extended hospital stay.

  3. That's great to hear, Bill. I will tell her. And please extend my best wishes to Uncle Harold.