Little Molly was left a shell of her former self after a horrifying car smash – but she is back to her old self, thanks to rescued moggy Teddy.
A mum whose daughter was blighted by night terrors after a horrifying car crash has praised a rescue kitten for easing the six-year-old’s post-traumatic stress disorder.
In February last year, civil servant Jen Ritchie, 36, got a call that every parent dreads, telling her that her girl Molly had been involved in a serious collision.
Incredibly, the youngster escaped the wreckage with just a few bruises – but whilst physically, she was okay, mentally, it was a different story.
Within months, she began to suffer with night terrors, and would often lose control of her bladder.
Doctors confirmed that Molly was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – an anxiety condition triggered by a distressing event – and referred her to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), recommending that a pet may be therapeutic while she waited for more specialist help.
Heeding their advice, Jen, of The Wirral, Merseyside, adopted two rescue kittens – Teddy and Evie – in August, and within weeks, Molly’s symptoms eased.
Jen, who also has a son, Michael, 15, said: “Molly was chuffed to have two little kittens running around the house, but it was clear from the start that her and Teddy were going to have a special relationship.
“From the moment he arrived, he was fawning over Molly. He was immediately drawn to her and, by the end of the summer holidays, I couldn’t believe the impact he’d had on her.”
When Jen received a phone call from her ex-partner Adam – Molly’s father – on February 22 last year, telling her that the pair had been involved in a crash on Queen’s Drive ring road in Liverpool, she immediately rushed to the scene.
Although he had reassured her that they were unharmed, nothing could have prepared her for the sight that greeted her when she arrived.
“Molly’s dad had been driving along, and a car was racing through the crossroads and didn’t stop,” she explained. “It slammed into their car, hitting them with so much force they went over the barriers in the middle of the road, flying over to the other side.
“I got there and the whole crossing was cordoned off – it was like something off the telly.”
She continued: “There were police everywhere. It was overwhelming enough for me. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Molly.”
From there, Molly was taken to Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, where she appeared fine, running along the corridors as she waited to be assessed.
With doctors ruling out concussion, she was able to return home that same day, with little more than some faint bruising on her right cheek.
“Everybody just kept telling us how lucky we were,” Jen added, “The police, the nurses and doctors – they couldn’t believe it.”
Back home, Jen, who is in a relationship with fellow civil servant Mike Potter, 54, did not notice any immediate changes in her daughter’s behaviour, other than Molly being “a bit more needy” than usual.
She added: “Molly definitely wanted a lot more cuddles, and would want to know where she was going and who was going to pick her up in more detail, but that was it.”
But, when Molly broke up from school for the summer five months later, she became a different person virtually overnight.
Jen continued: “It went from zero to 100 – just like that. Suddenly, Molly wouldn’t leave a room without me, and if I tried to leave her on her own, she’d have full on tantrums.
“She was having terrible nightmares where she would call out in her sleep about car crashes and how she was ‘lucky to be alive.'”
She continued: “It was like she was regurgitating information from the day of the crash, but in her sleep.”
Before long, Molly became so anxious that she refused to even go to the bathroom on her own, which led to her wetting herself – something she had not done in years.
“I confided in a couple of friends I go dancing with, who are nurses, and when I told them the symptoms they mentioned delayed PTSD,” Jen continued.
Jen added: “I did some more research online and knew that Molly must be suffering with some form of it.”
At the end of July, Jen took Molly to the GP, who confirmed she was displaying signs of PTSD.
According to the NHS, serious road accidents are a known cause of the condition, symptoms of which include nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia and feelings of isolation, irritability or guilt.
Putting Molly on a waiting list to see a CAMHS specialist, the doctor suggested that Jen also look into adopting a pet, citing the possible therapeutic effects animals can have.
So, she began researching local animal re-homing centres, and came across Cats Protection.
“I’d always ummed and ahhed about the idea of getting the kids a cat, so when the doctor suggested it to help Molly, we didn’t need much persuading all,” she said.
She continued: “Molly was over the moon with the idea. She helped us go through every step of the process.”
After three weeks, the family were matched with two kittens – Evie, who was taken from a home that could no longer care for her, and Teddy, the only surviving cat from his stray mother’s litter.
And when the adorable pair of British Shorthairs arrived at Jen’s home at the end of August, it was clear that Molly and Teddy had a special bond.
Jen said: “Molly has a bunk bed, with the top bed reserved for all her stuffed toys, and straight away Teddy decided he wanted to sleep in there – we didn’t encourage it, it was all his own doing – but she was thrilled.”
Within just a fortnight, the schoolgirl’s sleep pattern was back to how it had been before the accident.
“Within two weeks, she was hardly every getting up in the night – and she still doesn’t over six months later,” Jen said.
She continued: “I’m without doubt that it’s down to Teddy being in there with her.
“I was so grateful to have her back in a healthy sleeping routine by September, when she went back to school.”
By Christmas, Molly had broken away from her “unhealthy attachment” to her mum, too.
“I don’t want to say she’s swapped her attachment from me to Teddy because she’s got her independence back and I don’t want to downplay that,” Jen continued.
“But ever since she’s been able to carry Teddy round like a baby, she’s been a lot calmer.
“The two of them are inseparable. When Molly gets up in the morning, they do their reading together and the moment she’s home from school, on the iPad or doing homework, he’ll sit with her.”
She continued: “The pair of them are like best friends. They’ll even go exploring in the garden together without me or Mike looking in – something she never would have done before.
“It was such a blessing seeing her back to normal.”
With Molly still suffering the occasional night terror, Jen knows that Teddy has “by no means been a fix all” solution – but has no doubt that the sweet-natured moggy was a lifeline while she waited for the CAHMS assessment.
The appointment, which took place in October, saw Molly officially diagnosed with PTSD and separation anxiety – the upset a child experiences when separated from their primary caregiver, according to CAHMS.
“We started to have monthly group therapy sessions with other children to talk through Molly’s problems in more depth, and hopefully rationalise them, but with everything that is happening with coronavirus, those sessions have been put on hold,” said Jen.
“We’re so lucky to have the NHS, but I can’t help but think how much worse things could have got if it wasn’t for Teddy.”
She concluded: “He’s especially proven his importance during the past few weeks. I was dreading what the disruption would do to Molly’s mental health but, to my amazement, she’s actually enjoying being able to see more of Teddy.”
Merseyside police have confirmed that no arrests have been made in relation to the crash.
To find out more about Cats Protection, visit www.cats.org.uk
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