On the day of the accident I’d been called to a private school nearby because the family cat, Dexter, was making himself at home in the principal’s office. Dexter is a wanderer and he doesn’t always wander back. He drives me crazy. I have been called to numerous veterinary surgeries, police stations, schools and the homes of concerned citizens to collect my little adventurer. He always greets me with a plaintive meow as if he wasn’t lost at all and then stays home for a few days until he feels the need to wander again.
With Dexter safely dispatched at home I went out to a friend’s house for a lunch party. It was a glorious autumn day. The air was warm and I chatted to friends old and new on a sun-drenched balcony. It was mid-afternoon when I left and I decided to walk into town to take my son’s cell phone in for repair. I live by the sea and sunlight sparkled on the waves as I walked down the hill. I remember thinking how happy I was having been to such a lovely event on a sunny day, I felt truly content and the instant I acknowledged this it was as if the proverbial rug was pulled from under me.
I landed heavily on my left side, my purse scattered on the sidewalk, my pants ripped. My heel must have caught in something on the sidewalk causing me to tumble downhill. I lay on the dirt in a haze. The moment before I knew what I’d done, I tried to get up but quickly found that I couldn’t move my left leg and, looking down, I saw that it was bent unnaturally outwards. Then came the pain. I shouted out, stating the obvious, "Help, I’ve broken my leg!" and began to sob. People rushed to help, friends ran down from the party, someone called 911 and a café owner brought out a pillow and a blanket. The paramedics came and I was heaved away, screaming in agony.
I was born with DDH (developmental dislocation of the hip), which is a condition where the hip socket is too shallow for the femoral head. The condition resulted in a double hip replacement in my thirties and this is why the break was so bad. The titanium implant smashed against the bone and caused a spiral fracture along the length of the femur. A car crash, said the surgeon after he’d fixed it. Post-surgery the leg swelled to triple its size and, though allowed home a week later, I was confined to bed, unable to bend the knee.
On the first day home Dexter mooched around the bedroom door mewing but I was too doped up on pain relief to notice. As time passed and my condition improved, my husband went back to work, arrangements were made for the children to be dropped and picked up from school and I was home alone. Alone, that is except for Dexter.
At first, he nosed around the legs of the bed blinking at me with his big green eyes. I trailed my hand down and he nudged it with his nose and purred. Next, he jumped up onto the bed. I was nervous of him touching my leg and gently shoved him away but he meowed and regarded me with a level stare. He padded over to the space where my broken leg sat raised and elephantine on a double pillow and settled himself between it and the edge of the bed. I stroked his head, tears in my eyes, and he purred lightly, padded delicately onto the pillow and stretched himself out full-length along the leg. I was jumpy, afraid he would knock it, it hadn’t been cast as the bones were held together with internal pins, but Dexter gently nestled against it and began to purr. The warmth of his body and his deep purrs soothed me and very soon we were both asleep. I didn’t wake up until the kids came home. They thought it was hilarious that Dexter had looked after me and ran downstairs to get him some treats but he didn’t move from his spot even when they shook the tin.
For the next two weeks Dexter barely left his position against my leg. He nipped out to do his business and went downstairs to have breakfast but that was it, very soon he was back, lying next to my shattered limb. As I got myself together I began to wonder at his behaviour. His actions were purposeful rather than random. After hours together I understood that his purrs were deeper than usual. I trawled the internet: “cats broken bones healing.” To my surprise, I found pages of references to cat healers. There’s an old veterinary school saying, ‘If you put a cat and a bunch of broken bones in the same room, the bones will heal." It’s all to do with the resonance of the purr. Sound is frequently used by dental surgeons to increase bone density. Data on sound vibration and fracture patients shows increased healing and reduced pain at between 25-150HZ. A cat purrs at a steady 25HZ but can go up to 140 HZ. Was this why Dexter’s purring sounded different? Cat bones heal faster than those of any other animal and cats can survive even catastrophic (pardon the pun) falls, making full recoveries from multiple fractures. As I read all this Dexter seemed to purr even more deeply. I scratched his ears and whispered thank you.
Dexter stayed at his post for nearly a month. Whenever I got up to struggle to the bathroom he followed at a distance and waited patiently at the door until I was done, following me back to bed and resuming his position once I was settled. At one point, when the nurse came to change the dressing and I cried out in pain, he arched at the bottom of the bed like a black rainbow and hissed at her. We laughed about it; she called him my feline angel. He meowed and narrowed his eyes. A few days later Dexter sat up in the morning and sniffed the air. He jumped down from the bed and padded to the door, turned and meowed at me then made his way downstairs. When he didn’t come straight back I knew I was healed. I feel very lucky to own such a wondrous cat and the next time I get a call from someone asking me to go and collect him from wherever he has wandered off to, I won’t mind one bit.