A Christmas thank you, to carers of two and four legged mammals

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leech_logo.jpgChristmas is a time we view in many different ways. Some see it simply a a holiday, others as a time to come closer to religion. And others, still, as a time to give and receive presents and eat and drink themselves silly! But there is still one aspect that may have been forgotten by many: it is also a time to say thank you to those who have shown you kindness, or given you much needed help, over the past year or more. This is why I have decided to say a public thank you to two people who have helped me and many others over a long period. One deals with four legged mammals; the other, with the two legged kind. 

leechdecember2013b.jpgFor four legged mammals

The first is Christos Ktenas, of the CARE veternarian centre in Nea Erythraia. I first met him many years ago, but we later lost contact due to distance from Halandri. However, I called him in desperation, this year, after Sushi, my number one cat, started wasting away, and was obviously dying. The previous vets -a couple of guys who operated in Irakleion- took Shushi for tests and later informed me she had diabetes. They prescribed a special diet for her – and 2 medicines - and I had to resort to feeding the animal with a large syringe as she wouldn’t eat by herself. It was a pitiful picture to see what had been a very frisky cat quietly allowing herself to be wrapped up in a large towel, and fed like an infant with a bottle. But there was no improvement and, over the next fortnight, the cat just continued getting weaker. I couldn’t understand this as I am fairly familiar with Type 2 diabetes myself and its effects, so I decided to do my own tests. First I asked for the blood glucose limits of the average cat, then I drew blood from her paw – in exactly the same way as humans do from their finger – and put it into the little machine supplied for analysis. The result was that Sushi’s blood levels showed perfectly normal levels of glucose. She obviously didn’t have diabetes and the vets’ tests I was given had no relation to reality. I knew I needed another opinion.

Christos came within a few hours of my calling him and, within minutes of arrival, started feeling the cat all over to discover whether there was anything he could detect by hand. Then, on pressing the stomach, he said he thought she had an enlarged pancreas, and that it seemed to have the shape of a tumour. “Didn’t the other vet spot this,” he asked, and I had to confirm that I had never seen them perform this kind of examination. Then he examined the medicines I’d been given – and told me to chuck them away. “They will only make the problem worse,” he said.Within a few hours, the cat had an ultrasound scan which confirmed what Christos had suspected; and the same evening she was under the surgeon’s knife having the tumour removed, together with part of her pancreas. To cut a long story short, she survived the operation, but later succumbed due to physical weakness. If only I had taken her to Christos earlier she would have had the strength to recover.

Well, you might ask, since the cat died, why are you saying thank you to Christos? The reason is that I felt privileged to see a talented vet at work and to compare his techniques with the primitive ones of the other two. I was also struck by the work I saw him doing with other animal welfare agencies, and the realisation that I was looking at a man who really loved both animals and his job. In fact, while I was there, I actually saw him caring and trying to find a home for a puppy that had been brought in by a middle-aged lady. Later, when I took my son’s dog, Buffy, to him after he started scratching himself so badly that clumps of fur were dropping out, and we thought he might have something serious, I saw his expertise again as he quickly identified a family of lice that were craftily hidden deep in the fur and sucking away his blood. If you ever need to contact Christos Ktenas, for your own pet, the CARE Centre number is 210 620 2150 and the address is Riga Feraiou 11, N.Erythraia.

leechdecember2013a.jpgNow for two legged mammals

The second doctor (but this time of the two legged variety of patient) who has impressed me over the years is Michalis Kougialis, an orthopaedic specialist in his early 40s, with wide experience in leg injuries, including those caused by sport. He had spent several highly successful years in the UK, at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, before moving to Greece and is, of course, totally bilingual. I first met Michalis about 4 years ago, through my wife. She had been a veritable cash cow to many doctors since 1998, when the bow legs she’d been born with started failing, due to wrong positioning of the knee that was chewing up the cartilage in her knees and causing excruciatingly painful bone to bone friction. Her first operation was in 1998. This offered relief for a few months only. The second – a full osteotomy (with breakage and resetting of the leg) followed in Yannina, a couple of years later by a well known professor, but neither did this do any real good, nor could Jenny use her legs like any normal person and spent years just hobbling along or being pushed in a wheelchair. Then she met Michalis and he took her problems in hand. First came a knee replacement in one leg that, incidentally, due to the new technique used, needed only a few days bed rest before she could start walking around. Compared to the seven months required after the Yannina operation, and its concurrent daily physiotherapy, this was a medical revelation; and I began to see the wife I had married starting to re-emerge as a real personality rather than the semi cripple I had known for the past few years. She was even able to resume scuba diving that summer; and for the first time in years I had my partner back.

The next operation was to remove the titanium metal supports from her leg that had been inserted in Yannina. These had not only added weight, but also provoked the inconvenience of a full body search, by airport personnel, every time they set off security alarms when we travelled. And for some time now I have been considering melting these down and turning them into a useful kitchen knife; there is so much metal! Then, a few months later, when Jenny had some holidays ahead of her to use for convalescence, the last knee replacement was done. With the experience of the previous operations, this was a piece of cake and she actually started walking (with a support) within 24 hours of coming out of surgery. For me, this thank you to Michael means a lot, because he altered something that was missing in my life. He gave me my wife back, as a vibrant companion I could share a life with, not the semi-cripple I’d been forced to leave at home whenever I went somewhere a car couldn’t go. And that meant a lot to me. Furthermore, the fact that his skill ensured that the three operations were painless and quick, made the whole medical matter so much more pleasant. Thank you Michalis for what you have done to both our lives. We deeply appreciate it. If you feel you wish to contact Michalis about anything, his number is 210 683 7010 and mobile 6937 093 980.

So after having given two of the most important people who have had an effect on my life this year, my deepest wishes for the best Christmas and New Year we can expect in the mess this practically leaderless country is in at present, let me do the same for all ELT News readers. Let us hope we can all get through this long drawn out economic storm without sinking. Let us also pray that we are not smothered by the mass of bureaucratic emails, red-tape and knee-jerk reaction directives the civil service are currently generating to try and persuade their chiefs they are doing something useful. At the rate they are sending them, we shall soon need to rent warehouses to store the printouts! 


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