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Nurse of the Week Diane Foxen has two callings. The Sunnyvale, California nurse cares for human infants during shifts lasting up to 16 hours in the neonatal ICU at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, and works part-time at El Camino Hospital as well. After she leaves the ICU, Foxen goes on shift at home, treating newborn felines as a volunteer for her local Humane Society. Her home-grown kitten clinic has been a refuge during the pandemic: “Kittens are bouncing around, running around, jumping up in the air. There’s no way you cannot laugh if you have a kitten or puppy in your life because they are just funny. And in this time of COVID, everybody needs a little bit of funny.”
Over the past decade, she has fostered some 200 homeless kittens, occasionally making room for 13 at a time. Foxen’s first feline charge was Smudge, a young tuxedo cat who was suffering from lymphoma. Smudge was expected to live for no more than six months, but under Foxen’s care he survived for three years. Cristie Kamiya, chief of shelter medicine at the Silicon Valley Humane Society said, “Having a foster parent of Diane’s caliber taking on some of the most challenging cases has been critical to our mission. Diane has literally saved the lives of the many kittens she has taken in.”
After she had taken Smudge under her wing for the Humane Society, the Society was quick to adopt Foxen: “I started getting phone calls from the Humane Society, saying, ‘Hey, Diane, we’ve got this really sick kitten—it’s just like NICU nursing—can you take care of it?’ And so now my specialty is fostering very sick ringworm kittens.”
Although ringworm is a skin fungus, it is so contagious that many cats are put to sleep simply to prevent it from spreading. When Foxen fosters kittens with ringworm, she isolates them in a special room, where she treats them with medicated baths and oral fungicides until they are worm-free.
Tending to the rescued kittens is emotionally rewarding, and also helps to relieve the stress of working in an ICU. Foxen told the Mercury News that “They say that we’re heroes but actually, especially after that second lockdown where I sheltered away from my sister, these kittens were my heroes. They’re giving me that contact that I need. They’re giving me a safe place to cry my tears where I’m not burdening anybody else who has had a hard time with this themselves.”
Her volunteer work with animals complements her career and enriches her life: “Having this transition from a kitten that may not make it to this healthy kitten that is now running around and playing, that is just reward in itself,” she said. “Having a foster—whatever animal—I highly suggest it; it can really help people make it through tough times.”
The full story on Diane Foxen is available at Los Altos Online.
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