A Modern Day Lazarus

Found in Campbell County, Virginia in the middle of the road; hit by a car? Who knows?

The rufous-colored Eastern Screech Owl found his way to the Wildlife Center of Virginia. X-rays were needed to determine that the breaks were amenable to surgery – not all fractures are.  He was stabilized prior to radiographs. The images confirmed two fractures – the radius and ulna -, and also confirmed they were the type of breaks, when handled by experts in wildlife rehabilitative surgery, could fix by threading  a sewing needle-like pin through the middle of the bones.

He ‘died’ on the x-ray table…

But – an injection of epinephrine restored his vital signs. So, monitored and anesthetized, he went to surgery, where he, once again, went into cardiopulmonary arrest. Again, the epinephrine; again, his heart and lungs began to work.

He was, once again, alive!

Then in post-op, with the vet sitting close by, he arrested for the third time; there was no breathing! No heart muscle activity, no pumping of blood. The vet, Dr. Kristen Britton, exhausted by a long day of surgeries and diagnostics, shook her head sadly and called off all further efforts to restore life. Two shots of epinephrine were enough. The monitoring and breathing appliances were removed. She sat vigil with the little one until he passed. Dying can be bad enough, dying alone is worse; and her heart would have no part of it.

Just then, the little owl came back to life with full vital signs!

Days into his post-op period, he managed to pull out one of the pins inserted by the wildlife surgeon, and succeed in creating two additional breaks to his ulna; total: four.  Even had the vet been able to re-pin the forearm, the scarring from the breaks and the surgery would have forevermore denied him full flight.

But, he was alive and lively, and honestly, quite full of himself. The Wildlife Center called and asked Sabrina if she would take on the little guy. What a question! He was sent to Sabrina to be an education animal, to be used in programs at various civic clubs, church groups, scout organizations and the like, to live out the rest of his life with us. The little owl’s name is ‘Zombie’ – evidently because of his stubborn unwillingness to die.

But, there’s another side to this tale, a question, really, one which lends itself more to supposition than to solution: The vet had finished a long arduous day, and given the fact that she deals with wildlife every day, there was nothing especially unique in this case. You intake an animal, you diagnose, you treat the very best you can, but sometimes animals die. It’s a sad story, but not an original one.

Question: Her shift being over, why did this vet stay at work to look after this little one? Certainly a loving heart, and a compassion for her patients must have motivated her. But I ask again: Why this case? Those of us who try to heal, to alleviate suffering will sooner or later come to the realization that we participate only to a degree in its outcome. But it is now, has always been, and ever will be Heaven’s job to say when. When life is done.

I feel Heaven summons a heart – sometimes it’s inaudible, but heard nevertheless – or maybe it’s a nudging we cannot but barely feel that is offered us. And I believe Dr. Britton heard the whisper to stay with this little one; to be witness to this miracle; to this series of miracles –from his rescue to his near-death events. I rather expect, seeing her devotion, the Creator buffed His nails in pride.