SHAW AIR FORCE BASE — On the flight line in the heat a noise that sounded like meowing attracted the attention of several airmen working there. The sound emerged from the unit’s Chevrolet. After the airmen popped open the hood of the truck and began searching, a kitten jumped out and scampered off.
Upon additional searching, the six airmen found nothing else and drove to the flight line dinning facility. However, after they finished eating and tried starting the truck again they discovered something dreadful, said Senior Airman James Helmic, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons team chief and a native of Phillipsburg, N.J.
“When we turned it on again we felt the engine pull and heard a thump,” He said. “When we opened the hood again [a kitten] was laying on the ground underneath it. She was kind of mangled and not looking too well.”
The kitten, who weighs approximately four pounds, seven ounces and is now called Mila, had been critically wounded by the engine, June 26, 2012 and required immediate medical care.
“She had spent over an hour inside of the engine and was in terrible condition once she was spit out,” said Helmic’s wife, Katharina Helmic, 20th Maintenance Operation Squadron aircraft scheduler and a native of Omaha, Neb. “I thought she was going to die.”
“She had a large bleeding head wound, the tip of her nose had been severed, her eyes were dilated and out of focus, her breathing was labored, her fur was matted with blood, and worst of all she could only drag herself with her front legs. Her back legs didn’t seem to work at all. She also had roundworm and a coccidian [infection] which is microscopic parasites that attack the inner-intestines, causes brain inflammation and could have ultimately killed her,” she continued.
Mila was rushed to Cheatham Animal Clinic in Columbia, S.C., for emergency care that took about eight hours.
“When we got there the [vets] had to stabilize her. Then they had to pump a little bit of blood out of her lungs and seal up her lacerations,” Helmic said. “She also had a head injury and brain swelling.”
After further review, it was discovered that Mila’s leg was broken in three places.
“The next day, once our primary clinic opened, we took her for amputation surgery,” added Helmic.
In total, Mila’s veterinary bills cost more than $2,000. However, one month after the accident, $3,000 was raised on Indiegogo.com/operationsavemila.
Seventy-three people made donations to the kitten ranging from $3 to $500. Many decided to leave comments and say their thanks to the Helmic family.
Some of the comments included:
“Such a wonderful, heartwarming story!! Thank you for your compassion in saving a beautiful animal,” said Nicole70.
“Thank you for keeping our country safe & saving the kitten!” said Jwbldr.
“Mila is amazing, as is your family. She is so happy and loved! You guys are heroes,” said Grissomsbuglady.
About the comments, Katharina said, “Regardless of what people say or think we would have done it anyway but it’s great that the community is so supportive.”
She also said that the additional money raised would go to Mila’s future clinic visits.
“Mila still needs to get her kitten shots, get spayed and there are still checks-up she needs,” Katharina said.
According to the Helmic family, one month after the incident, Mila is doing much better.
“Her stitches are healing up nicely,” Katharina said. “She is starting to grow her fur back and she is rambunctious and happy.”
“She gets around really well and likes to steal my socks and drag them all over the place,” Helmic said.
“We also lose a lot of blousing straps and hair ties at our house because the cat hides them everywhere: under the bed, on the stairs and under the table,” Katharina added.
Mila also gets along with the three dogs and the cat the Helmic family had rescued over the years, Helmic said. They loved her immediately though she was terrified of them at first. Now they all get along great. Madeline, a Great Dane, is very maternal and thinks of Mila as her puppy.
“She is just happy to be fed and loved and cared for. I think she is doing just fine,” Katharina said.