Saving Yoda

Berry and Ganjei perform surgery on Yoda
Sabrina Berry (left), clinical associate professor of small animal surgery in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (SACS), and Justin Ganjei (DVM '11) perform the surgical procedure on Yoda.
Villm and Yoda
Jessica Villm, small animal clinical sciences internal medicine resident, and her cat, Yoda

While working in Colorado last year, veterinarian Jessica Villm was practicing her ultrasonography skills on her 6-year-old tabby cat, Yoda. Although she discovered stones lodged in his left ureter, he was not ill, and she could not afford surgery to remove the stones at that time.

After beginning a residency in the college’s Small Animal Clinical Sciences, Villm had occasion to recheck Yoda’s ureters and kidneys with ultrasonography. Not only were the stones still present in his ureter, bloodwork indicated that Yoda was in kidney failure.

Unlike in people, lithotripsy to break up the stones is not an option in cats, and surgical stone removal introduces extensive complications. In response, Villm’s colleagues on the internal medicine service recommended a novel treatment that had recently surfaced in veterinary care: inserting a subcutaneous ureteral bypass (SUB) device.

Villm and Yoda
A postoperative radiograph of Yoda reveals the SUB device: the white tubing traveling from the kidney down to a round metal hub and then continuing back to the bladder. The hub allows a needle to be inserted to collect urine samples to ensure that urine is flowing from the kidney to the bladder.

Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) internist David Grant, who has a special interest in kidney and urinary tract diseases, contacted his friend and alumnus Justin Ganjei (DVM ’11) about Yoda. A staff surgeon at Veterinary Surgical Centers in northern Virginia, Ganjei agreed to return to Blacksburg to work with VTH surgeon Sabrina “Bini” Barry and Grant so that the three could collaborate on the fluoroscopy-guided surgical treatment.

Justin Ganjei (DVM ’11) and (right) David Grant (chemistry ’94, M.S. ’03)
Justin Ganjei (DVM ’11) and (right) David Grant (chemistry ’94, M.S. ’03), associate professor of internal medicine in Small Animal Clinical Sciences

In December 2018, Ganjei surgically placed the SUB device in Yoda, effectively teaching Barry the procedure.Yoda recovered well, and a sonogram a month later revealed that his kidney distention had dramatically decreased and his kidney was much healthier.

Case closed: Ganjei’s knowledge, abilities, and generosity speak to the nature of the college's alumni, always eager to give back to their alma mater.