When I started to write this story I was sitting in the waiting room of the RSUP Sanglah – Sanglah General Hospital in Denpasar, Bali. Koming had just been wheeled into the operating theatre where her right leg would be amputated below the knee. Koming’s father, Pak Wayan Susilo, was sitting beside me. He is a man of few words, with a kind heart and calm disposition. This calmness runs in their family. Koming has made more trips to see about this operation on her deformed leg than I care to remember but she has never showed any emotion other than it will happen in the goodness of time.
Every day I saw Koming at Villa Kitty but there was never any difference in her demeanor. ‘Bagaimana kabarnya’ What’s news, I’d asked, and she’d smile and in a voice as soft as velvet, say ‘belum’, not yet. I noticed Koming and her friend, Ketut, in September, 2014. They seemed to be around Villa Kitty often. Who were they, I asked, and was told, they had family working with us. They were filling an important role giving our cats and kittens much needed cuddles. It took only a second to realise what an important resource they were. I asked them to invite their friends and we would pay them, of course. Not all of the ‘cat cuddlers’ have stayed on but Koming and Ketut have not missed a day.
In February 2015, a friend asked me if we could do anything about Koming’s deformed leg. No one had really seen the extent of her deformity as she always wore a long, black sock up to her knee and a pair of old ‘crocs’. I had made quiet enquiries about it but no one had said anything more than she had been born with the deformity. After contacting a few foundations, a representative from Solemen came to do an assessment on her leg. In August, 2015, I asked my daughter, Isobella, an orthopaedic registrar, who was holidaying with me, to have a look. Isobella wrote a report that we hoped would speed things up a little.
I wonder if you can imagine the sadness this young girl has suffered. Koming’s beloved mother died in February, 2015, around the time we started the enquiries about her leg. She was just 13 years old. Her mother had been sick for years before cervical cancer was diagnosed. Koming’s older brother cannot read or write. He isn’t stupid, as was thought by so many of his teachers who had no idea about dyslexia; he was just never given the opportunity to learn.
Koming is never without a smile. From the day she started as one of our founding Villa Kitty cat cuddlers, to today, waiting for a bed to be available at Sanglah, and on one occasion to arrive only to be told ‘her bed’ was no longer available, she has never not worn her gentle smile. For the three days in hospital prior to her operation, Koming was calm. When the surgeon and the young interns visited on the day she was to have her surgery, only to find out it had been postponed again, Koming was calm.
When the surgeon explained the operation was not to be an amputation but a ‘snip’ to allow blood to move down to her foot, she was calm. I was not. I asked the surgeon to explain why it wasn’t to be an amputation. As it turned out, this was a mistake. Koming was calm. When the correction was made and a senior surgeon came in to explain that she was to have her right leg amputated below the knee the next day, and that there would be months of physiotherapy before she received her first prosthesis, Koming was calm. On the morning that they wheeled her into the surgery, she was calm.
Friends from Solemen and the Bali Children’s Project have been visiting Koming and making sure she is comfortable. Her dad, Pak Wayan Susilo, has not left her side. Koming has months of learning to adjust to her life with only one leg before she receives her first prosthesis. She will need a new prosthesis every six months as she grows. The foundations who have provided these services so that Koming has a chance of a better life, Solemen, the Bali Children’s Project and Puspadi are only able to provide these services through donations.
Koming will keep cuddling abandoned Bali kittens at Villa Kitty and studying to become… well, she hasn’t made up her mind yet but I know she will be a leader. I am so honoured to know Ni Koming Juniasih.