How My Failing Eyes Almost Killed My Son's Kitten

Do you know how sometimes something happens in an instant that completely changes your life? Those 'freak' things that happen so quickly, but seem to be happening in slow motion while the world around you just stops? Those defining moments that change who you are and how you live? One of those things happened to me recently because of my failing vision.

How easily life can change

One moment, one experience, one ‘thing’ can just absolutely stop you dead in your tracks and remind you that nothing is forever.

I reflect a lot about the inevitability of change in my life, especially along my health journey with macular degeneration. Many of my articles are written about life’s uncertainty and how I sometimes wish I could have a magic wand and control all.the.things. that I encounter in my life.

Maybe some of us would even want a crystal ball to see the future, but we just can’t. And sometimes that’s a really hard pill to swallow.

Sometimes life just happens without choice

Life is always changing around us. We make decisions all the time that change our trajectory in life. Often, we have a choice about what to do in a given situation, an option about which path to take. But, sometimes things just happen on their own that can change our entire life in an instant...without any decision being made about it.

A diagnosis of macular degeneration is a great example of this.

I’d venture to say that given the choice, very few of us would choose to ‘do life’ with macular degeneration and vision loss. Though I’ll be the first to say that this diagnosis has added a lot of positive changes to my life. Like, I am learning to appreciate the small joys in life more, I’m able to write and help others who share the difficulties of this diagnosis with me, and I’m healthier physically.

Difficult moments in life are inevitable

Living with extreme vision loss and an uncertain future due to macular degeneration certainly has its really difficult moments. One week before Christmas last year, one of these life-changing things happened to me that I had no choice about. My awful nighttime vision almost killed my son’s kitten.

No pet is replaceable. They bring us so much love and joy and a sense of calm when life so often feels chaotic. But this kitten, this one-of-a-kind sphynx kitten, is as unique and special as it gets. He’s our family’s emotional support animal (you read that correctly, he helps keep our entire family’s different anxieties at bay) and is especially attached to my youngest son who is 8 years old.

How it happened

I will forever remember this incident as the very first ‘thing’ that went horribly wrong because of my failing vision. We were driving to the vet with our pitbull, Lincoln, for his scheduled vaccinations. We brought our kitten, Eli, with us as we always do. Honestly, if we went to the vet without him the staff would be pretty disappointed.

Our kitten is uniquely naked with the best personality ever. He wears hats and clothes and loves to be cradled like an infant. This trip to the vet with Eli in tow was nothing out of the ordinary. We pretty much take him with us anywhere we can.

In a hurry

We all loaded up into the car in a hurry. We were running right on time, but our third dog was excitedly running around the car thinking he was going with us, but wasn't. I finally got him in the house and feeling kind of frantic, quickly checked to make sure everyone was in the car...two animals, two kids, seatbelts on...and we were off.

We took the twenty-minute journey without a hitch at first. It had snowed 9 inches in the midwest just a few days prior. The roads were clear, but the parking lots were ridden with huge piles of plowed snow. As I turned into the parking lot I heard a strange rubbing noise. I stopped my car, figuring I had just run a tire over part of a snow pile. Then, as I slowly continued to drive forward I heard the noise again.

I decided to park the car right where it was and get out to check to see if some snow was stuck somewhere, or if I possibly had a flat tire. There was a sick feeling in my gut that was telling me something wasn’t right. My older son got out with me. We walked around the car and saw no snow and no flat tire. As I started to walk back to the driver’s seat, my son shouted to me, “Wait, Mom, what is that?”

I struggle to see in the dark

You see, it was winter and already dark outside and the part of the parking lot we were in was not well lit. So, my struggling eyes could not see what my son’s healthy twelve-year-old eyes could...our kitten’s black leash was wrapped around the car tire and pulled as tightly as it could be.

Apparently the leash had been closed into the door and caught onto the wheel as we turned into the parking lot. Every inch forward I made tightened the kitten's collar around his neck more and more. I don’t know why his cat collar didn’t release as it was supposed to. Cat collars are made specifically to release if they get stuck know so curiosity [doesn’t] 'kill the cat.’

Listen to your gut instinct

I don’t know what made me stop right there in the middle of that parking lot and not just check out the noise in the parking spot that awaited me a mere ten feet ahead. And I don’t want to think about what would have happened to our kitten if my son hadn’t seen his leash attached to the tire. I sure couldn’t see the black leash in the dark parking lot wrapped around a black tire.

But I do know instinct was right (as it usually is) and with both my sons’ help, I was able to free the kitten from his strangling collar. We rushed him inside and the vet checked him over and by the grace of God, he is alive and well today.

It’s what we do with difficult experiences

My sons and I learned a few valuable lessons that dark winter night.

  1. It’s okay to need help. We all do sometimes. My son was our family’s hero that evening, by seeing something my eyes simply could not see.
  2. If something doesn’t feel right or sound right, stop right then to investigate. This goes for everything you do including matters of health.
  3. Use your intuition, your gut, and your instinct. Normally, I would have driven my car just that little bit farther to get into the parking spot before checking out the noise, but not this night. That sick feeling in my stomach probably helped saved our kitten’s life. This is a reminder to me that if something feels ‘off’ with my vision or my health I need to not stall and get it checked out right away.
  4. SLOW DOWN, Mama! Calm down, stress less, and be present. I was in a hurry when we left the house and it almost cost a life. It isn’t good to rush and stress, and it can affect others in BIG ways...take the time to make sure things are right. Including that the pets’ leashes are all the way in the car before leaving.

Maybe some of us here have eyes that don’t ‘work’ well all the time. But there’s always help from a little thing called instinct and help from our loved ones if we allow it. Together, we saved our kitten's life and learned some really valuable lessons.

Trust your gut!

Andrea Junge

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