My family and I (Dr. Henri Bianucci) were jolted away early one recent morning by a determined pounding at the door.
We live in the country and are not accustomed to unexpected visitors, so I assumed that my wife must have locked herself out.
I jumped from bed and opened the door in my boxers. For a moment, we looked at each other. The visitor was waiting for my response; I lapsed into a confused pause.
It was a friend of ours who speaks only broken English. She began an excited torrent of Spanish. The words formed a spanglish blur but some words bobbed to the surface. It was something muy malo (very bad), involving an amiga (friend), a canejo and a coche (car).
What is a canejo? My mind tried to construct an image and then it clicked. Canejo means rabbit!
Her friend's rabbit has been hit by a car and is in bad shape, got it.
I asked where her friend was. With that she beckoned someone from the car. It was her friend, Yadira, holding the horribly tattered canejo.
She was very upset and explained that the rabbit was her daughter's, but the whole family loved it. It had escaped from the house and was hit by a car. It's back legs were obviously severely fractured, the tail was dangling and the skin from its backside had been pulled away.
So shocking were the injuries, that it came as a late realization that I was in my underwear examining this bunny at my kitchen table at 6:30 in the morning with a complete stranger standing there.
Yadira was a very pleasant mom of children ranging in ages from about 9 to 14. The bunny's name was Ruby.
I was not at all sure that this was a job that could be done, but, based upon my kitchen-table examination, I knew it would be complicated.
She was concerned about the cost but said that Ruby meant so much to her family that she would do what she could to pay for what was needed. It was very touching, and I told her that we would try and take care of Ruby and worry about expense later, but we would make it work.
We admitted Ruby and went to work. She was anesthetized and her wounds thoroughly cleaned and examined. Both legs were badly broken, but the skin wounds were my greatest concern.
After careful examination, I decided that the wounds were too extensive, and that the best course was to let Ruby go. I called the family and explained my reasoning. They were sad, but gracious and understanding. Through tears they thanked me for trying.
The euthanasia solution was drawn up and I was about to inject. I paused, looked at my techs and said I wanted to give it one more look.
"We knew it" was their expression as they dutifully reassembled the surgical tray.
I pulled some skin here, trimmed some there, etc. After a while, some structures began to become more apparent. The reproductive/urinary opening came together well. Next, the anal opening was reconstructed. Without these vital areas, both repaired perfectly, anything else would be for naught. We were in business.
I requested the orthopedic pack and began work on the first leg. It was then that a technician spoke up: "Dr. B, they think you euthanized her." I called, but it went straight to voicemail.
I continued on, and about three hours later, well into the evening, all was reconstructed, and Ruby went to recovery. I called the owners again, this time they answered, a little confused about why I was calling.
I told the man who answered that we had changed the plan and were able to repair Ruby. There was a pause and a muffled sound like a hand over the receiver.
He said something, and suddenly, the room erupted in applause and cheers.
After a week, it was clear that all systems were in order. The incisions looked great and Ruby was walking, eating and eliminating. Ruby was ready to go home.
When Yadira arrived, she brought her children, and, apparently, all of their classmates. My lobby was filled with children of all ages in school uniforms. Ruby hit the lobby to a hero's reception.
A month later, X-rays showed all the fractures to be healed. Ruby was doing great.
At that time Yadira, once again, mentioned the looming matter of payment. I told her that her friend had confided that Yadira was a master chef with tamales, she admitted that this was true. I told her that the bill was tamales for the staff. She laughed, relieved, but said that this was not enough. I assured her that I had a large staff and they had large appetites. She hugged me and said we had a deal.
A short time later, she made good on the debt, and the boast; they were truly the best tamales I'd ever had.