November 23, 2020


A black and white cat sitting on a bed


In 2008, Valerie was browsing a Chinatown flower shop and noticed a box of tiny kittens that the owner had put up for adoption. At only three weeks old, they were just too cute to pass up. Valerie adopted one of them – a beautiful black and white female – and took her home.

Over the next eight years, Princess grew into a healthy, loving cat with no serious health problems. But, one morning in late December of 2016, Valerie was awakened by loud crying and found her cat lying on the floor. It seemed that Princess had suffered a seizure.

“I immediately rushed Princess to the closest veterinarian,” Valerie recalls. “They gave her oxygen, ran some tests, and recommended that I take her to a cardiologist at Animal Medical Center to treat her for heart failure.” Urging Princess to stay strong, Valerie found a taxi in record time and headed straight to AMC.

Princess, unconscious and near death from shock, was rushed to the ER. AMC cardiology resident Dr. Lauren Wiley led the charge and within five minutes, Princess was under anesthesia. Pacing pads were placed on her skin so that electricity could be delivered to pace the heart through the skin in order to keep her alive until the surgical team could be assembled.

“Princess was referred to us for heart failure, but it was much more complicated than that,” explains Dr. Wiley. “She was experiencing sudden onset heart block, which basically means that her whole heart would stop for seconds at a time, leaving Princess violently twitching with seizures.”

This type of cardiac disruption is extremely rare, and even the experienced cardiology team at AMC had only seen it twice before. Dr. Wiley knew that the only solution was to insert a pacemaker to keep her heart beating normally.

Shortly after Princess arrived at AMC, Dr. Wiley was scrubbed in and ready to save her life. The team opened her chest and implanted a human pacemaker, suturing the lead directly into her heart. A battery was connected and attached inside her abdomen, and then they worked to prepare her for recovery. After a three-day stay in the ICU, Princess was ready to head home with her life-saving hardware.

One week later, Valerie brought Princess back for a checkup with Dr. Wiley to evaluate the effectiveness of the pacemaker. Some minor adjustments were made, and she was deemed healthy enough to get back to living a full life.

Thanks to her pacemaker, Princess now has perfectly normal heart function, and is back to her regular, loving self. Valerie feeds her a special diet and exercises with her daily to keep her in top form.

Dr. Wiley still marvels at the incredible teamwork on display at the hospital the day Princess arrived. “It was amazing to be a part of,” she says. “The whole hospital came together and worked tirelessly to stabilize Princess and keep her heart going long enough for us to fix it permanently.”

Valerie is just thankful that the tiny kitten she adopted all those years ago will get to live the long, healthy life that she deserves. “I am so grateful to all the staff at AMC for their dedication, compassion, and expertise. And to the donors – your kindness gave Princess a second chance at life. Without all of you, she wouldn’t be here today.”

In the spring of 2017 Princess was honored as a Living Legend – an animal patient whose life was saved by the veterinarians and staff of AMC under extraordinary circumstances.

A cat next to a vase of flowers
An x-ray of a pacemaker in a cat
A woman and her cat are presented an award at AMC's Living Legends luncheon
A cat in its owner's arms