Deploying Airman saves kitten caught in military vehicle engine

Published: Jul. 11, 2012 at 1:46 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2012 at 2:11 PM EDT
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SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, SC (WIS) - A kitten that somehow got caught inside the engine of a large military vehicle has found a loving home, but the couple who rescued her have been hit hard with veterinary bills and one of them is leaving for Afghanistan soon.

When Senior Airman James Hemlick reported for duty at Shaw Air Force Base on June 26, he didn't know he would soon be taking part in a rescue mission.

That mission was prompted by his supervisor's discovery of strange sounds coming from their vehicle. An initial search turned up nothing and he went on with his work for the day.

Later, he made an unfortunate discovery. Hemlick found an 8-week-old kitten that had been trapped in the engine. The kitten was caught by the fan blades and spent an hour inside the engine before she was spit out.

James and his supervisor believe that she had tried to escape the extreme southern heat to get a drink from a tiny water leak in their vehicle. 

Kat says James quickly grabbed the kitten and had her call the vet. James picked Kat up and they drove an hour to the emergency vet with the kitten they'd later name 'Mila.'

"The kitten had a large bleeding head wound, the tip of her nose had been severed, her eyes were dilated and out of focus," said James' wife Airman 1st Class Katharina Hemlick. "And worst of all she could only drag herself with her front legs. Her back legs didn't seem to work at all."

"After eight hours in the waiting room we were taken to the examination room and given the full extent of our brave little girl's injuries," said Kat. "Her head wound had caused severe brain swelling, her right eye was lacerated throwing off her depth perception permanently, her nose would need stitches and...her right leg had been mangled beyond repair."

"We were told she would need an amputation surgery to permanently remove it or she would drag it uselessly for the rest of her life," said Kat.

The couple picked her up the next day and paid the $1,703 bill.

James and Kat them took the kitten to their primary vet and had him amputate her leg. "After paying another $525 for the amputation, we had ourselves another member to the family," said Kat.

Kat says Mila is getting along without her back leg just fine. "She hops around the house, plays with our other cat, and is getting used to having large dogs in the family," said Kat. "I think she's just happy to be fed twice a day and to be cuddled and loved whenever she feels like it. I've never heard a cat purr so loud as soon as you touch her!"

"I wouldn't hesitate to help this little cat again, but sadly all those medical expenses have put a big toll on our pocketbook," said Kat. "With my husband deploying to Afghanistan at the end of the year, we're trying our best to pay off these vet bills before he leaves."

"Even if you can't donate, said Kat, "please share Mila's story and let others know about our brave little cat who soldiered on against the odds."

Click here to read more about Mila and contribute to Mila's medical fund.

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