et us celebrate the selfless love of a young woman. Most of the twenty-somethings that I know are busy exploring aspects of their personality, different jobs, fashions, boys - beginning to stretch their wings to see how far - whether - they can fly.
here is always someone who already knows, who has felt in her bones since she was a child that she is meant to be a lawyer, a doctor, a cat-rescuer. Such a person is Susana Claros Pazini, who lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and who is a Protetora De Animais - protector of animals.
ow, I know a lot of animal lovers, but I have never come across anyone as selfless, as deeply empathic as Susana. And if this story proves anything, it will be that there are times when love transcends even that great, unbreachable barrier between the species.
bit of background here: though I have exchanged messages with her, I don't personally know Susana, have never met her, but literally fell into her world one day when I was researching three-legged cats, then two-legged, etc. and up came the story of Susana and Niño, a cat who was so profoundly disadvantaged he had not the use of even one leg, nor one eye, and a lot of other medical wretchedness.
here are so many scams online that at first I wondered - could there really be a quadriplegic cat? how would it live? what would its care require? And then I found out.
e appeared to be just another slum cat in the wretched Sao Paulo favelas, a clumsy cat, being tormented by children for whom this was entertainment. Susana chased them away and took him home, aware that something was not right.
he named him Niño - child - and immediately took him to a veterinarian who did all the usual things vets do when an animal has been rescued, though he - and Susana - realized that some ugly process, likely neurological, was raging through Niño's body. The question was, could it be reversed?
eep within the cells of our bodies there are various organelles with specialized functions, without which we cannot live. Mitochondria resemble bean-shaped slippers. The maze-like arrangement of membranes within enables them to convert energy into forms usable by the cell. Vesicles are little membrane-enclosed bodies that transport bits from one part of the cell to another.
ysosomes -"Suicide Cells" in the dry wit of the scientist - are, in effect, the recycling centres of the cell, taking in trash - cell debris, bacteria, old organelles - digesting it with various enzymes, patching cell walls and disposing of cell components no longer wanted or needed, such as the tails of tadpoles or the webs between the fingers of developing fetuses. All that cellular trash has to be broken down by the use of enzymes and there is where the problem lay.
ne of the substances that has to be taken apart is long, string-like chains of sugars termed mucopolysaccharides, that have a mucous quality and are found in corneas, cartilage, skin, tendons etc. You see how it works: muco - mucus; poly - many; saccharides - sugars. Woe betide those whose bodies are lacking one of the eleven enzymes required to carry out this complex recycling: they will be affected by one or another mucopolysaccharidosis, abnormal accumulation of the substance in the body.
Among our species their presence is usually evident soon after birth in hydrocephalus, abnormal or delayed development, hearing loss - the list goes on. These disorders are called, among others, Hunter, Hurler, Sly, Maroteaux-Larmy, and vary in severity. To the vet who was examining Niño, it did not matter which syndrome was expressing itself – his primary concern was whether it was reversible or not. . .And then, in April 2011, two weeks after the newly-married Susana had adopted Niño, she got the bad news that the sweet cat she had rescued was not to be hers for long. Neurologically he was already compromised. Many a vet would have recommended euthanizing Niño but Susana had mad a commitment to the cat when she rescued him. She took him to physiotherapy, to acupuncture, to radio-stimulating sessions. A little help and support from his animal friends went a long way to providing Niño with a happy life.
usana opened a Facebook page. People sent her money for treatments, gifts, food, sweaters, a little wagon with a canvas cot suspended in it, with which she took Niño everywhere. She crammed a lifetime's experiences into his one short, bittersweet year.
veryone they visited - whether merchants, veterinarians, old horses, other cats, school children - recognized not just a seriously ill animal, but a deeply loved one. One of whom they might never have taken notice except for Susana's bringing him to them.
hey felt his failing senses with their intact ones. They honoured him with a touch of his muzzle, a pet of his fur, and a deep sense of respect for Susana. The children sent many lovely drawings of this extraordinary being; the newspapers visited, published accounts of this special creature. Susana and her friends took numerous pictures of Niño or both.
ven the animals sensed that here was someone who was special. The horse (above)quite clearly understands that Niño is not just a cat, but a rare and special creature - as is the woman holding him. Animals usually know. Living largely on instinct they trust when their senses tell them to stay - or to run like the wind.
e was presented with a very special cake.
n her selfless love for a profoundly handicapped creature, Susana demonstrated to us all that when one gives love, love is returned. And the more one gives, the more one receives - this is nothing new, but in a time when we seem, all of us, about to go off the rails in self-absorption and egocentricity, this story continues to resound, reiterating the lessons we were taught in childhood.
iño died in Susana's arms at 5:30 a.m., on May 25, 2012.
hat is most remarkable is that, until the very end, when his body had failed him, his senses were dampened down to almost nothing, when Susana came to the heartbreaking realization that he was dying, even then there shone in his eyes great love for her.
You can't miss it. And nobody did; everyone who looks now at photos of Niño sees that this love spanned a gulf made deeper and wider by a cruel illness, but spanned it did. And enriched Susana and all of us who take the time to learn about him.
usana continues to fight for all those helpless little creatures who
too frequently are ignored by a crush of humanity too much focused on
other things - whether the need to get a job, find a place to live, pick
that new nail polish, or give someone the boot. Too often we look but
do not see.
t is given to very few of us to be so completely selfless and devoted to someone in hopeless, terminal condition. When our hearts are weighed in that final accounting, Susana's surely will test the sturdiness of the scale.
Photography (c)Susana Claros Pazini, (c)ensaiopet.com.br
, please advise if your credit is missing.
read about Niño here
ne of the hundreds of drawings by schoolchildren; this one by Carolina Germanotta.
(c)2013 Daisy Morant
Labels: Cats, Hunter Syndrome, Hurler Syndrome Syndrome, lysosomes, Maroteaux-Larmy Syndrome, mucopolysaccharidosis, Niño, Sao Paolo, Sly Syndrome, Susana Claros Pazini