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Celebrity Feline’s Memory Lives on through Special Surgical Kit Donated to Purdue

Friday, June 24, 2022

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Mike holds up Lil BUB as Drs. Rochat and Malek stand on either side in the Small Animal Hospital
Mike Bridavsky and Lil BUB with Purdue veterinary surgeons Mark Rochat (left) and Sarah Malek after Lil BUB was treated for a broken elbow in 2015.

This story begins in 2015 when a very small patient, who had a very large following of fans and supporters worldwide, came through the doors of the Purdue University Veterinary Hospital to have surgery on her broken elbow. The patient was none other than Lil BUB, an adorable cat that had true celebrity status. The surgery necessitated the use of very specialized, small orthopedic surgical instruments and implants that were procured temporarily to treat Lil BUB at the time. Afterward, thanks to generous donations that Lil BUB inspired, the Veterinary Hospital was able to purchase this instrument set. Seven years later, the Small Animal Orthopedic Surgery team has a growing list of other small animal patients that have been treated effectively for their injuries thanks to the availability of this implant system.

Lil BUB was adopted as a rescue in 2011 by the Bridavsky family when it became evident that she needed special care. She was born with a number of genetic conditions that helped endear her to the millions who eventually followed her online. She retained kitten-like features throughout her life due to a condition called osteopetrosis that stunted her growth and caused her bones to be prone to sustaining fractures even from simple day to day activities. 

Her visit to Purdue in 2015 came about because she had jumped off her chair and ended up with a broken bone in her elbow that could only be fixed with surgery. Surgical treatment for such a fracture is complex for any animal, but even more so in the case of an adult cat that weighed only four pounds. The surgical treatment involved putting the two broken pieces back together and fixing them in place with a metal bone plate and screws to allow the bone to heal. However, in Lil BUB’s case, the implants needed to be small enough to fit her bone but also strong enough to hold her brittle bones together.

At the time there was only one company that produced the necessary implant set with such specifications. But, the instrument set and implants were expensive and not available at Purdue University. The Orthopedic Surgery team procured the instrument set on loan from the company and used the implants to fix Lil BUB’s fracture. The surgery was successful and Lil BUB returned to her normal life shortly thereafter.  

After the successful healing of Lil Bub’s fracture, her owner, Mike Bridavsky, assisted in organizing a fundraising effort that, with the generous support of Lil BUB fans and animal lovers, enabled the Veterinary Hospital to permanently acquire the instrument set. Officially called the “1.5mm veterinary LCP® system, Depuy Synthes Vet,” the set is affectionately referred to as the “Lil BUB Surgery Kit” by the staff of the Orthopedic Surgery Service, and has been utilized to help more than a dozen small patients that needed treatment for various fractures over the years. 

Injuries involving broken bones like Lil BUB’s can be scary for pet owners, but prospects for treatment are better than ever with the benefit of such specialized equipment. Though Lil BUB passed away in 2019, her memory lives on through the growing number of animals helped by the use of this implant system at the Small Animal Hospital. To illustrate the impact that this surgery kit has had, the Orthopedic Surgery Service reached out to the owners of four pets treated in this manner, for permission to share their stories. Meet Scooter, Norman, Ruby, and Anne:

Scooter is pictured wearing a black and white plaid bowtie as he's held by his owner
Scooter is a ferret that needed surgery for a fractured femur.
Scooter

On a nice day in early spring, Scooter, a sweet pet ferret, found his way out of his owners’ home and went off on an unknown adventure. When he returned, his owners noticed that his back leg was broken. They brought Scooter to the Purdue University Small Animal Hospital for treatment of a fractured right femur (thigh bone). The Orthopedic Surgery team successfully treated him with the small bone plate and screws. After diligent after-care and follow-up, he made a full recovery and has been able to get back to his normal life.

Norman

Norman, an adorable two-month-old Border Collie, came to the Veterinary Hospital’s Emergency Service after sustaining a jaw fracture during an altercation with another dog. His fracture was repaired in the same manner with a small bone plate and screws, and he was able to go home in a few days. After two months of home care and meticulous follow-up rechecks with his primary care veterinarian and Purdue University, he was back to eating his favorite kibble and playing like a normal puppy again.

Ruby

Ruby, an active Australian Shepherd visited the emergency room at the Veterinary Hospital not long after Norman. Ruby had jumped down from a high place and was sore in one of her front feet. Her owners brought her in for an exam, during which x-rays of her foot were taken. The images showed that she had broken four bones in her foot. Even though the bones were small, they caused her a lot of discomfort particularly for a dog that always led an active lifestyle. Dr. Sarah Malek, assistant professor of small animal orthopedic surgery, says it’s always a good idea to have a suspected injury checked out. “It’s much better to know for sure whether there is a fracture, since, no matter how small the break may seem, such a fracture can cause pain and impair the pet’s ability to do a number of essential functions,” Dr. Malek explained. 

To expedite Ruby’s return to activity and reduce the need to be in a splint for too long, all four broken bones were plated. Ruby rested her foot for about three months until the bones were all healed. Then, in no time, she was back to being her normal upbeat self, almost like she had no injury in the first place. 

Anne is pictured lounging on a comfy chair
Anne, a Toy Poodle, had jumped out of her owners’ truck and was treated successfully for a broken forearm (radius and ulna bones).
Anne

Anne, a spirited Toy Poodle, was brought to the emergency room at Purdue after she had jumped out of her owners’ truck and started limping and showing signs of being in pain in her front leg. X-rays revealed that she had a broken forearm (radius and ulna bones). Her fracture was repaired with the same implant system and after a few months of rest and home care, she was back to her normal routine.

These four patients are just a few of many who have benefited from this implant system at the Purdue University Veterinary Hospital. Having such state-of-the-art equipment is essential for the hospital to provide advanced care and treatment to small and large animal patients. However, having the advanced equipment and highly trained personnel needed to fulfill the hospital’s mission as a referral center comes at significant cost. Therefore, the donations and support of friends such as Lil BUB’s family, fans, and animal lovers, are vital. 

Three years after her passing, it is clear that Lil BUB’s legacy is lasting and strong. Thanks to the kind donations that were made in support of the fundraising effort she inspired to enable the Veterinary Hospital to purchase the implant system, her memory lives on through all the pets that have and will receive similar care at Purdue’s Small Animal Hospital. Her legacy also continues through Lil BUB’s Big FUND for Special Needs Pets, a 501c3 non-profit established in her honor focusing on animals who are the most difficult to adopt, the most expensive to care for, and who are at a high risk of euthanasia. Click here to learn more about Lil BUB’s Big FUND.


Writer(s): Anna Ihrie and Kevin Doerr

Source: Sarah Malek

Category: Giving, Hospitals, Services


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