July 22, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Family is everything. Every parent knows that they would go to the end of the earth for their children and do whatever it takes to make sure that the members of their family are healthy and safe. But how do you define family? Where do you draw the line?

For Crystal Edwards and her two daughters, Veronika and Delanie, it was a question that they may have never really thought about but were faced with answering recently.

In May, 13-year-old Veronika was reviewing a paper she had just written for her English class. The theme: “Write about three things that you love.” She wrote about her family, her friends, and her cat, Kona. At the last minute— she cannot say exactly why—Veronika changed the final paragraph, in which she had described Kona as her child.

Later that night, as Kona crossed the street just outside their front door, a car sped through the residential neighborhood, ran the stop sign, and hit the nearly two-year-old cat.

Crystal, not wanting her children to see the cat in that precarious condition, took him immediately to the Animal Emergency Clinic near 156th & Dodge.

“The vet said Kona was in shock,” recalls Crystal. “His eye was protruding. It looked like he had broken bones, and he wasn’t able to stand. He was just shaking so much.”

When faced with the option of putting Kona down, Crystal asked what his chances were. “They weren’t sure but said that if he made it through the night, he’d have a 50/50 chance of living.” The veterinarian was able to establish that there were no broken bones; however, there may have been some internal bleeding, major head trauma, and a high probability that Kona would lose his right eye. A morphine drip kept him sedated and comfortable.

Kona survived the night, and while his prognosis was good, it would be a long road to recovery. Crystal would need to make some major decisions.

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“I knew that the girls could have one of two experiences in this moment,” says Crystal. “They could experience saying goodbye to a pet. Or I could teach them that, because he’s part of the family…we wouldn’t be limited in what we do for our pets.”

When Crystal was a young girl, she went through a similar experience when her cat was hit by a car. “I tried with all my strength to save up for medicines and food for him and to keep him alive,” she shares. “It just crushed my soul when, a while later, I had to put him to sleep.” She just couldn’t stand to have her own daughters go through the same pain.

Crystal acknowledges that the financial aspect of Kona’s treatment was a major concern. “Money really shouldn’t be a [factor], but sometimes it has to be.” During this time, the family was in the process of moving and expecting a baby. Money, unfortunately, was a consideration; but not one that would keep the family from doing all they could to keep Kona as a member of their family.

The bills mounted up: several overnight stays at the animal hospital, eight hours in an oxygen kennel, surgeries, medicines, a wired jaw, feeding tubes, and IVs. But again, how do you put a price on family or on love? Or on compassion?

Crystal expresses her gratitude to Jon Fink, DVM, of Animal Center West Omaha, the veterinarian who helped care for Kona. “He has been phenomenal,” she says. “He would call in the evening…to see if we had any questions, and we were able to bring him in to Dr. Fink daily for a few weeks to check on [his progress].” Crystal also says that the practice was very accommodating when it came to paying for Kona’s care. “He was a really great vet to work with…very responsive.

“Pretty much, the moral of the story was we wanted to do everything we could to keep the cat alive as long as he wasn’t in excruciating pain…and not to make money an issue.”

From climbing the once-insurmountable back-of-the-couch to wrestling with his old pal and family dog, Bailey, Kona is well on his way back to being his old self. And Delanie, Veronika, and Crystal couldn’t be more thankful.

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