Veteran With PTSD Finds New Purpose After Adopting Amputee Cat
Lifestyle| | By Brian Delpozo
A U.S. army veteran suffering from PTSD has found solace caring for a cat dealing with unimaginable difficulties of its own. Karolyn Smith served as a machine gunner in Baghdad between 2003 and 2005. She explained her succinct view on war to Today, saying, “Every day you either live or die: There’s nothing in between.”
In April 2005, Smith nearly ended up dead as the convoy she was traveling in was hit by a roadside bomb. She described the moment as, “…the most brutal experience and it should have killed me.” She went on, explaining the effect it had on her. “I lost my innocence and my invincibility on that battlefield.” Smith suffered injuries to her brain and spine in the attack. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after having trouble adapting to life back home, especially when it came to discussing her service. “How do you talk about being in life-threatening combat where it was 142 degrees in the summertime? It’s just so different from complaining about a broken fingernail,” she said. Smith sought out help from other veterans and slowly put a life together for herself. Finally in 2014, Smith was browsing through the Facebook page of her hometown San Diego Humane Society when she saw a post advertising several cats who were up for adoption. She was smitten with one in particular, telling Today, “The marking on Sophia’s nose was rapturous. It’s like God told me, ‘This one. You need to look at this one among all the others.'” In addition to the cats markings, something else caught her eye; Sophia had to have one of her legs amputated during her youth. Smith successfully adopted Sophia and her sibling Leonidas after winning the right to do so in a Facebook contest. Not content with simply taking the animals in, Smith contacted San Diego-based Fab Lab, a “production workshop and small-scale innovation hub equipped with digital fabrication machines and technologies for the production of objects, tools and electronics,” and got in contact with them about producing a prosthetic leg for Sophia. According to Fab Lab’s operations manager Allen McAfee, the first of its kind final prototype “…should be ready in two weeks.” Smith, who plans on writing a children’s book entitled Sofia, The Bionic Cat, has come to rely on the cats instead of medication for her PTSD. She says, “They’re so funny and uplifting. When my fingers touch their fur, my mood improves. The cats have motivated me to go out into the world and be more productive.” Psychologist and fellow veteran Kristen Yuhl Torres agrees with Smith’s assessment. “Karolyn is a champ, powerful and inspirational, and Sophia is the light and joy in Karolyn’s life. Her kitties have given her purpose beyond her despair.”
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