From the Daily Mirror in Britain:
Vet told she is going to die draws up bucket list to save endangered animals
June 15, 2014 13:45
By Sarah Arnold
Vet Lisa Milella launched a mission to help some of the world’s most endangered animals after being told she has motor neurone disease
When vet Lisa Milella was told she would soon die that triggered an amazing mission to help save some of the world’s most endangered animals.
Selfless Lisa, 40, was stunned when she was diagnosed with incurable motor neurone disease in August 2013, the Sunday People reports.
But instead of wallowing in self-pity, she created a brave bucket list to help bears, orangutans, leopards and tigers all over the globe.
Lisa, one of the world’s few specialist animal dental surgeons, feared something was wrong when she could not work one of her machines and her legs nearly turned to jelly for no reason.
In August she received the devastating news and was told the average life expectancy for motor neurone sufferers is just two to five years.
She said: “Being told I was terminally ill felt like someone sucked all of the air out of me.
“That first night I lay wide awake in bed, numb, wondering what the future held. I started crying when I wondered what would happen to my three pets: a one-eyed, three-legged Siamese cat I rescued called Clive, Hugo an Abyssinian cat and a little rescue mongrel called Emily.”
The day after her diagnosis, Lisa closed her successful veterinary practice in Byfleet, Surrey, and her ambitious bucket list was born.
She said: “This really was now or never. I’ve never wasted any time in my life and I wasn’t about start.”
Lisa’s ticked off the first wish on her list in December by sledging with huskies in Norway with the added bonus that she saw the northern lights.
In January she fulfilled her second ambition by flying to Borneo with her practice nurse to oversee the life-saving surgery of overweight, diabetic Pingky, an orangutan raised in chains and fed on sweets and fizzy drinks.
It took ten men to carry Pingky to the operating table.
Lisa said: “As soon as we opened her mouth immediately there was a stench and 12 of her teeth were terribly decayed – just like a human who’d eaten too many sweets and didn’t brush their teeth.
“We had go to her in the nick of time.”
Six of Pingky’s teeth had to be extracted and the rest were filled in a five hour procedure. Lisa could not physically pull the teeth but instructed the team. “As she was carried out, I looked out of the window and saw the jungle and I realised what life is all about.
Three days after saving Pingky, she revisited International Animal Rescue in Java which rescues slow loris from the black market pet trade – number three on her list.
Lisa said; “I chose 20 most desperate cases so they could be released back into the wild. During the back-to-back operations over five days I trained a team of vets and nurses, so they could continue the work.”
Fourth on Lisa’s list was her 40th birthday party in February surrounded by all the friends she’d made through her love of animals.
A month ago Lisa flew out to Machu Picchu in Peru, number five, to see llamas and alpacas on the Inca trail and visit the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. “When I reached the temples my overwhelming thought was ‘this is amazing, why didn’t I do it when I was fit and well?’”
From there Lisa ticked off number six by the Galapagos Islands to marvel at the dazzling array of wildlife. She said: “It was a magical place. The seals even opened their mouths wide for me as if they wanted me to check their teeth!”
Animal lover Lisa had wanted to be a vet since she was five and when she completed her training, in 2005, Paul Cassar, of International Animal Rescue, phoned her.
He wanted advice on how to repair dancing bears’ teeth, smashed by their previous owners.
Lisa went to Agra in India to help. Her first patient, a 180kg bear called Anthony, had to be revived with CPR after a gruelling four hour operation to remove an agonising mouth tumour.
She and Paul operated on more than 100 former dancing bears. Last week she returned there to help Paul for the last time, seven on her list. Lisa was unable to perform surgery but taught a team to work with Paul in the years to come.
In India she also fulfilled numbers eight and nine on her list – to operate on a wild rescued leopard and a tiger who both suffered from toothache.
Lisa said: “Operations like this are more tense as one swipe could break your neck. You are constantly vigilant for signs he might stir, like the blink of an eye or a twitch.”
Now Lisa hopes to be able to fulfil number 10 on her bucket list – to persuade 100 strangers to raise £100 each for International Animal Rescue.
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