April 11th, 2023
By Savannah Verdon, Development and Engagement Coordinator II
Summer’s twenties had not been kind to her. She had spent much of the decade unhoused, traumatized after fleeing abuse in her biological family. Now she found herself on the beautiful island of O’ahu with the opportunity to heal and live life on her terms. Better still, she had Lotus, her sweet-faced, three-year-old tortie, by her side for all the joys and challenges of navigating independence.
Lotus was so much more than Summer’s companion. Her big green eyes were just one aspect of her soothing presence that helped keep Summer grounded:
“She is my baby. Lotus chose me when I met her. She was my cat, I just knew. She has been my emotional support animal as well as my family since. I love her with all my heart. I’m alone a lot and she keeps me company. I’m also autistic and she helps with my meltdowns and sensory overload by lying on my chest or by getting me to pet and play with her.”
But when Lotus fell ill, Summer’s familiar feelings of fear and uncertainty returned.
The balmy, tropical climate of O’ahu, though lovely by most standards, had its flaws. Mosquitoes are drawn to its warm temperatures, and multiple invasive species have made a home on the islands where mosquitoes had never naturally evolved. And of those non-native species, several are transmitters of heartworms. Whereas in many parts of the continental United States there is a heartworm “season” where pet owners should be especially aware of the risks, it is a year-round threat to cats, dogs, and other beloved pets living on the Hawaiian Islands.
Lotus had developed a cough and was struggling to breathe, which were very unusual symptoms in an otherwise healthy, young cat. Summer used all the money she had to have Lotus examined by a veterinarian. After reviewing the results of her blood work and noting the inflammation in her lungs, the vet diagnosed poor Lotus with heartworm disease, most likely from being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Heartworm disease is treated differently in dogs and cats. A cat’s body is less hospitable to heartworms, and the worms rarely survive long enough in cats to become adults, but they can still cause disease. Veterinarians can choose between surgically removing the worms, an often fatal procedure, or managing heartworm disease symptoms and trust that the cat will outlive the worms – making prevention all the more important. Summer had not been able to afford monthly heartworm preventative, but fixating on her regret wouldn’t help now that Lotus was sick. She could only have hope that she would find a way to afford Lotus’s lifesaving treatment.
Right away, Lotus would need antibiotics and a steroid to help her breathing. They were fortunate to have diagnosed her early, and if they could treat her immediate symptoms and start her on a preventative, her prognosis was good. Summer did not work due to her disability, so even though Lotus would not need the most costly treatment, the bill would still be an insurmountable expense. Just one day after submitting her application for a RedRover Relief Urgent Care grant, Summer got the good news she had been hoping for:
“My vet just called and told me I received a grant from you. I am in tears. I’m so grateful and don’t have the words to express it. I’m jumping up and down and screaming out of joy and gratitude. Thank you, everyone at RedRover, for caring for my cat and for my well-being.”
Not only would Summer be able to help Lotus feel better immediately with antibiotics and a steroid, she could make sure that Lotus would be protected every month for a year from heartworms and all manner of parasites, giving her time to save up to buy more. Summer was relieved to have her baby home safe and healthy, and her anxiety faded away in Lotus’s happy presence. Now this pair are enjoying each other’s company with a fresh appreciation for the special bond they share, and Summer recently reached out with an update on Lotus:
“Because of your donation, I was able to get Lotus the lifesaving treatment she needed. Almost one month later and she is doing so well! She’s back to her energetic, mischievous self. Thank you so much, RedRover.”
We are so thankful for opportunities like these to help families when they need it most, and we couldn’t have done it without kindhearted people like our supporters. Thank you for putting your compassion into action for animals like Lotus and for bringing this family from crisis to care!