“It was perfect timing when I got it,” Kathy Johnson said, cradling a rust-orange kitten just retrieved from one of the latest additions to her animal rescue: a baby isolette incubator.
“Now it’s still saving lives – animal lives,” said Carle Conard, York General’s obstetrics director. “It’s nice to give back to the community, because they have helped us in need.”
The incubator, along with a hospital-grade bassinet, were given to Johnson following upgrades at York General Hospital’s obstetrics department. “They just called me one day and said they have an incubator – would I like it? I said, ‘Absolutely.’”
The kitten was about a month old, Johnson guessed, and still needed a stable, warm environment. It was found by city employees in one of their buildings. Johnson received a phone call from a city employee. “He told me there is a box with a kitten on my doorstep,” Johnson said. The rescuers could find the kitten’s mother, or any other kittens. Now the tiny cat stays in the isolette for an artificial heat source, waiting to be old enough for adoption.
“I can put tiny, tiny babies in it,” Johnson said. Before York General’s gifts, Johnson kept very small rescues in bags much like carry-ons. Now she can keep an eye on the tiny rescues, and keep them safe.
After hospital employees delivered the bassinet and isolette, Johnson noticed something. Attached to the side of the isolette is a small plaque, inscribed with “In memory of Dr. Steven Thomas, 1974-2000.” “I thought that was pretty cool when I saw that,” Johnson said. Forty years ago, Dr. Thomas delivered Johnson’s oldest son.
“I hope that he [Thomas] would like us continuing to use something from the hospital, just in a different way,” Conard said.
Johnson’s rescue helps other animals; she has a homing pigeon saved from a grocery store parking lot, a pet bird that was loose but no one claimed and an albino raccoon that had been living in a crammed apartment. Other critters occupy the property, but Johnson handles them carefully – the ultimate goal being released into the wild. “They are not pets. I tell that to everyone,” she said. Johnson is a member of the Nebraska Game & Parks Wildlife Rescue Team, Inc. and rehabilitates animals in need on a volunteer basis. She said some people she encounters want to become rescuers, but it’s not for everyone – there is training, legal aspects and plenty of paperwork involved. Plus, there is the emotional factor. “Wait until you get one that’s dying,” Johnson said, adding “They aren’t cute and cuddly forever.”
Should someone find an animal that appears to need rescue, Johnson asks that people call her right away. No food or water – many animals require specific food, and if an animal is given too much water too fast, it can get water in its lungs. This can lead to pneumonia. “The biggest thing to help me is to keep them warm,” Johnson said.
York General’s gifts will help Johnson make that environment possible and consistent. “The more efficient you can be the better your day is going to be,” she said. Conard said thinks helping Johnson with the items would make Dr. Thomas happy. “I hope that he would like us continuing to use something from the hospital, just in a different way,” she said.