Hurricane Irene Aftermath
September 9, 2011 Facebook TwitterMore...

Local vet helps the pets of Hatteras Island after Hurricane Irene


The cats and dogs of Hatteras Island also have had difficulties getting to an off-island medical facility after Hurricane Irene severed Highway 12 in four places on Aug. 27.

Frisco resident Terry Cribbs was at the end of his rope trying to find help for his beloved 8-year-old kitty.  Norma Jean is a small but good natured cat that sustained a terrible puncture wound in her left shoulder that quickly abscessed. 

For days, Terry knew that something was wrong with Norma Jean and tried to nurse her the best he could, but her condition only worsened.  He is a man with limited means and felt awkward about calling friends to help, since the island was reeling from the punch Hurricane Irene had just thrown.

All the vets listed in the phone book were not here on Hatteras, which was locked down for many days following the hurricane.

Someone suggested he call the Frisco Volunteer Fire Department looking for a lifeline for Norma Jean and he got one.  Coastal Animal Hospital, which is located in Kitty Hawk, has a mobile vet unit parked in Hatteras village. 

Terry made the call and got an appointment rather quickly.   Norman Jean was put into her carrier, and she meowed all the way down the road.

The modest mobile clinic is a mid-sized white RV parked at the Ballance Oil Company across from Rocco’s Pizza.  Veterinarian Christinia Ballance Hicks met Terry in the parking lot and led the patient and owner inside the efficiently laid-out interior.

The sick kitty was gently removed from her carrier and weighed.  Vitals were checked and everything was fine.  The vet found a wet spot in the kitty’s shoulder and shaved the area for a closer examination.   The area was swollen and infected and was drained.  Norman Norma Jean was a model patient during the entire process.

Hicks determined that a drain had to be put for three days, and the cat would need to be sedated for the procedure, which she couldn’t do at the moment.

Knowing that Terry didn’t have a car, the warm and friendly vet offered to drive Norma Jean home later that afternoon.

Norma Jean came home on schedule and was immediately on the mend.  She is taking her medicine everyday but impatiently waiting for Saturday when the smiling vet will be making a house call to remove the tube that drained the infection.

“If there is no way for people to get to me, I will go to them,” Hicks says.  The day after Hurricane Irene, she went on an emergency call to Rodanthe to help an animal injured by the vicious weather.

Christinia Hicks is a born and raised Hatteras village girl who endured Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

“I didn’t want residents to be stranded here without vet care,” says Hicks.

She graduated from North Carolina State’s Veterinary School in 2010 and has been working here ever since.

Before the big storm, she traveled Mondays and Fridays to work at Coastal Animal Hospital in Kitty Hawk but worked out of the mobile unit locally Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Obviously, her travel schedule off the island has been curtailed due to the broken road.

Hicks provides 24-hour emergency care for domestic critters, as long as she is around.  Regular appointments are scheduled from Kitty Hawk.

It is common for outside or porch pets to be injured during a dangerous hurricane such as Irene.  Puncture wounds, like little Norma Jean had, cuts, broken bones, and even spinal injuries can happen to our furry friends that won’t come inside during a major weather event.

There is no X-ray equipment or diagnostic equipment for analyzing blood work in the mobile van.  But a vet can provide vital care, even if it is just stabilizing the animal so it can be transported north.

“We will not turn away any animal care,” offers Hicks.  “If transportation is an issue, call us and we will work it out.”

Terry Cribbs was thrilled with Hicks’ winning beside bedside  manner for both pet and owner.

“She was wonderful.  She picked up that I had limited transportation and offered to bring Norma Jean home on her own accord.”

He was comfortable and confident with the care his little furry friend received when the day before he was starting to give up hope.


You can reach Hicks through Coastal Animal Clinic at  252-261-3960.


On Saturday, Sept, 10, at the Chicamacomico Life Saving Station in Rodanthe, the Coastal Animal Clinic is hosting a clinic for the dogs and cats in the Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo area.  For $5, animals can get a rabies shot and an exam.  Through donations by Coastal Animal Clinic and others up the beach, dog and cat food, kitty litter and other various pet supplies will be available to those who need them.  The clinic starts at 10 a.m. and will last until the supplies run out.


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