Selena’s Heroes: Community Medicine Veterinarians

At five weeks old, tiny gray kitten Selena arrived at the San Francisco SPCA needing immediate medical treatment for an injured leg. She weighed less than a pound, and her small size meant the veterinary team would need to proceed with extreme caution.

Shelter Medicine veterinarian Dr. Emily Young recognized the extraordinary circumstances they faced. “On arrival Selena had an elevated temperature, and a close assessment of her injured limb revealed both a significant fracture and signs of infection at the fracture site. Because of her small size, anesthesia was considered potentially risky, and for a few days the Shelter Medicine team of veterinarians and practitioners worked together on daily bandage changes and assessment of the infection. Even with our best efforts, we could not control the infection and Selena needed to go to surgery, despite being so small.”

“She was about the size of a large Russet potato,” said Dr. Jena Valdez, Director of Community Medicine who oversaw Selena’s surgery. “This was a big procedure for such a small creature.”

But knowing that Selena would not survive without treatment, the Community Medicine team moved ahead to safely remove her injured leg and set her on a path to recovery. “This was a life or death situation,” said Dr. Valdez. “We had to be brave enough to take this on. I knew that if anyone could do this, it was our team. We’re specially trained and poised to do this.”

With expert precision, Dr. Valdez and her team completed the surgery, taking extra care to ensure Selena was warm and comfortable throughout the procedure. Since Selena came to the SF SPCA during the COVID-19 pandemic, safety was the priority, and after 24 hours, she was on her way to stay with foster parent Ali Balfantz.

“During shelter in place, since volunteering was temporarily paused, my husband, Joe, and I decided to get on the SF SPCA foster list,” said Ali. “We were thrilled to help Selena! She was so affectionate and playful even though she was very tiny and recovering from a major surgery. We weighed her daily to make sure she was putting on weight.”

After a week with Ali and Joe, Selena was making fantastic progress and gaining confidence living with only three legs.

“She completely stole our hearts,” said Ali.  “We decided to adopt her!”

Today, Selena is thriving.

Dr. Valdez said, “There were so many departments involved in Selena’s care. Shelter Medicine, Foster, Community Medicine, and Adoptions teams all worked together. In cases like Selena’s, it was life or death. We absolutely had to be fearless.”

This fearless dedication transforms lives, not only for animals, but for the humans who love them. Ali said, “Selena filled a place in our hearts that we didn’t know was empty. She has been such a blessing, and I’m so happy that she is part of our family!”

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