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by Marcia Hill Gossard ’99, ’04 Ph.D. | Photos by Henry Moore Jr.

Roya Eshragh and Gyan Harwood of Vancouver, British Columbia, wanted a cat. So they did what many animal lovers do; they went to their local shelter to adopt an older animal in need of a home. They fell in love with an orange tabby and named him “Chester” (he had previously been called “Cheetoh,” but they thought he looked more like a “Chester”). On January 30, 2012—Chester’s adoption day—his life changed forever.

Roya and Gyan noticed right away that Chester didn’t seem to play like a young cat would. He had little energy, his breathing was not quite right, and his body also had an unusual shape. After a few trips to the veterinarian it was discovered that Chester had a diaphragmatic hernia (a tear in the diaphragm) that caused his internal organs—stomach, small intestines, liver, spleen—to move into his chest, which affected his breathing. Because he also had a healed pelvic fracture, it was thought that Chester had been hit by a car.

“Chester’s owners didn’t feel his quality of life was good,” said Dr. Kelly Might, WSU veterinary resident. “He couldn’t play or get to be a cat.”

So Roya and Gyan drove Chester from Canada to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital where Dr. Might told them about the risks and benefits of having surgery to correct the diaphragmatic hernia. He also told them that the surgery would cost between $3,000 and $4,000 dollars. As graduate students, that kind of surgery seemed financially out of reach, but Roya and Gyan were willing to do whatever they could.

“Giving up on him when he had been fighting so hard for so long on his own wasn’t an option,” said Roya. “Dr. Might realized we would need help financially. He told us about the Good Samaritan Fund.”

The WSU Good Samaritan Fund is used to help animals being treated at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital that are in need of special care, but whose owners cannot afford to pay for care.

“They camped while they were here,” said Dr. Might. “They were willing to do whatever they needed to do to help Chester.”

After surgery Chester’s blood pressure was too low, so they had to monitor him carefully in the intensive care unit. The ICU staff saw that he was having trouble sleeping with the bright lights and all the tests, so they made an eye mask to help him relax. He also received round-the-clock care by two fourth year veterinary students: Liz Nordeen (’13 DVM) and then later Krystal Fortier (’13 DVM).

“It took a lot of people to care for Chester,” said Dr. Might. “There was a lot of teamwork.”

Despite the complications, Chester got stronger every day.

“We told Dr. Might that we had to keep fighting,” said Roya.

They did, and now Chester is a happy, healthy, playful young cat.

“Our doctors were amazing,” said Roya. “They worked harder than we could have hoped they would to save Chester. We definitely owe his life to them and all of the staff in the ICU.”