There are days when you know it‘s all worth it,

the days when miracles happen...

Island kitty‘s amazing survival at sea


There are rare occasions when the stars just seem to align or when the only possible reason for a life saved is serendipity. Saturday night, May 9th, when most people were eating dinner or getting ready for an evening out, several Humane Society of Grand Bahama (HSGB) staffers and volunteers were still hard at work, along with visiting volunteer veterinarian, Dr. Debra Sonnen-Campbell, of Boston, MA. Dr. Campbell was in Freeport for a long weekend to do some spays and neuters at the HSGB’s Animal Welfare and Adoption Centre.

With only five dog neuters to go, everyone was anticipating going home by 7:30 after two long days. The shelter phone rang at 6 p.m. and the conversation that ensued was surreal. The caller, a concerned animal lover, said “I just saw the most horrifying thing on the beach. My husband and I noticed something far out to sea which appeared to be a small animal swimming. We kept watching and a few minutes later, a cat dragged itself out of the surf and collapsed on the beach. It appears to have a badly broken leg, I can see a bone sticking out, and it is too weak to move.”

HSGB volunteer Ashley Murphy took off immediately for Coral Beach in Freeport, and by 6:45 was back at the shelter with the little black and white female cat. The cat was covered in sand and salt; shocky, hypothermic, and her rear left leg was injured beyond repair. Dr. Campbell sedated her in preparation for euthanasia but no one present, least of all Dr. Campbell, could stomach that prospect for an animal who had shown such a strong will to survive. The preparations quickly turned from euthanasia to amputation of the injured leg to try and save the cat’s life.

Dr. Campbell is an outstanding veterinarian with a background in shelter medicine and high volume spay/neuter. She is not an orthopedic surgeon but wanted to give the cat a chance. She knew what to do, theoretically and practically, but had some concerns as the leg had multiple severe fractures and there was no xray machine to determine the extent. She decided to call a vet friend in Boston who is an ortho specialist. High drama ensued while she tried to reach him. At 8 p.m. on a Saturday night, what were the chances? Miraculously, her colleague answered his phone, and Dr. Campbell got the answers to the questions she had. Despite having been on her feet doing surgeries since 8 a.m. she proceeded with the major procedure of amputating the cat’s damaged leg.

At 11 p.m. the surgery was finished. It was then a question of whether the cat would survive the night after all the shock and trauma she had endured. As if Dr. Campbell wasn’t exhausted enough, she took the little cat home with her for the next two nights, with pain and antibiotic medicines, to monitor and keep her comfortable.

It confounds the imagination as to how this little cat ended up in this predicament but it can only be reasonably assumed she either jumped or was thrown off a boat. How she was able to swim any distance at all with such a badly broken leg is astonishing. How she sustained the broken leg is unbearable to think about. That she swam into a beach where people saw her, who cared enough to make a call; on an island where there are miles and miles of deserted beaches; that HSGB people were at the shelter after hours to answer the phone; that they were able to react immediately and rescue the cat; and that a veterinarian just happened to be standing at a surgery table already; defies all odds.

The courageous little cat has been named Nerissa (daughter of the sea) Phelps. She is doing very well and recuperating nicely. She will be available for adoption in a few weeks. The HSGB hopes to find an extra special home for this incredible kitty, who may well have used up many of her nine lives already, but surely deserves an exceptional home after her tenacious struggle to survive.




If you are the special someone worthy of giving Nerissa a loving and safe home, please send email inquiries to info@hs-gb.org This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . Please note Nerissa must be strictly an indoor cat; no boats, please!

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