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Jo : Saga

Published on December 29, 2023.

Story from Jo : Saga

Saga’s story with us began at the start of 2019. Not long after moving house, I spotted a little white cat in my garden at night. She was an occasional visitor and I assumed she must have a home, but over time, it became clear that she didn’t. We fell in love with her and she joined our family.

We don’t know her story before she came to us, but we can guess at parts of it. She was desexed, but not microchipped. She had clearly been around people, but hated to be picked up. She loved cuddles, but would lash out if a hand moved suddenly towards her. We named her Saga for her spirit and strength.

In 2023, we started to notice something wasn’t quite right. Previously a picky eater, Saga began to eat uncontrollably and gained a lot of weight. She had episodes of weakness in her hind legs – jumps that had been effortless became difficult. After noticing her frequent trips to the water fountain and litter tray, she was diagnosed with diabetes and put on insulin therapy. But despite treatment, her symptoms didn’t improve.

Our regular vet referred Saga to SASH North Ryde. She came in to see Dr Alex Kennedy for assessment. From that first appointment, Dr Alex has been amazing with Saga in every way. After thorough investigations, Dr Alex diagnosed Saga with Cushing’s disease, a rare condition in cats that is caused by a pituitary tumour. The excess cortisol produced by the tumour affected multiple systems in her body, causing diabetes, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and other complications.

Dr Alex and the team felt that Saga was a good candidate for pituitary surgery through the SASH Pituitary Centre. We had an appointment with Dr Patrick Kenny, who pioneered the procedure in the UK. He was generous with his time, answering all of our questions. We were stunned to learn that SASH is one of a handful of places in the world to offer this operation – and the only place in Australia. We met Dr Amy Lam, who had been coordinating Saga’s care with Dr Alex. Throughout this process, Dr Alex and Dr Amy have managed every possible bump in the road, and kindly guided us through.

On 7 November, 2023, Saga had her surgery at SASH. We learnt that she was the first cat with Cushing’s disease to have this procedure in the southern hemisphere. She stayed in the ICU at SASH for a week. The care she received was unbelievable – and the care that we received as well, I would like to add. We spoke with Dr Alex and Dr Amy every day, and received multiple daily updates in the first post-operative days. We were able to visit Saga every day. The nurses in ICU always made time to speak with us, despite being incredibly busy. The Ophthalmology team looked after her eyes when she developed post-operative ulcers.  The staff at reception welcomed us warmly and asked about Saga’s progress.

When Saga was discharged home to continue her recovery, that amazing care and support continued – Dr Alex and Dr Amy sent us home with smiles, a detailed care plan, and a full kit of medications ready to go. We checked in with Dr Amy every day – reassurance and help was only an email away.

So many moments stand out through this journey – Dr Alex teaching us better techniques for medicating Saga, a steep learning curve for ourselves and a cat who hated to be picked up; Dr Amy patiently going through the surgery schedule so that we wouldn’t worry on the day. Saga recently had her one-month review with Dr Alex. She continues to receive excellent care at SASH.

It is impossible to put into words how grateful we feel for everything that led to Saga’s diagnosis and treatment. So many little miracles had to come together for Saga to have a chance at life – all revolving around the care she received at SASH. Our very heartfelt thanks to Dr Alex, Dr Amy, Dr Patrick, and to the entire team at SASH for looking after our Saga with such care and dedication.

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