Told She Has Just A Few Years To Live, Vet Lisa Milella Is On Mission To Save The Teeth Of Abused Animals

Lisa Milella, a 40-year-old veterinarian from Surrey, England, received the worst possible news last August — but the way she has reacted is not only an inspiration to others, but already has made life better for some of the world’s most helpless, abused animals. Less than a year after her devastating diagnosis she’s saved dozens of captive dancing bears, slow lorises, jungle cats, and even a morbidly overweight orangutan.

Milella was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, a neurological condition that causes loss of muscle control, eventual wasting away of muscle tissue and finally, sadly, death. There is no known cure and following diagnosis, most patients are told they have between two and five years left.

“Being told I was terminally ill felt like someone sucked all of the air out of me,” Milella said. “That first night I lay wide awake in bed, numb, wondering what the future held. I started crying when I wondered what would happen to my three pets: a one-eyed, three-legged Siamese cat I rescued called Clive, Hugo an Abyssinian cat and a little rescue ?mongrel called Emily.”

But she didn’t let much time go by wondering. The very day after her diagnosis, she put up the “out of business” sign on her own veterinary clinic and set out around the world, helping animals in distress — specifically, animals in dental distress, because Milella is one of the world’s leading veterinary dental surgeons, a highly specialized profession.

One of her first patients was Pingky, an orangutan who was held in captivity in Borneo, and fed a diet of sweets and sugary soft drinks. Now Pingky had diabetes, was morbidly obese and suffered from severe tooth decay.

“As soon as we opened her mouth immediately there was a stench and 12 of her teeth were terribly decayed, just like a human who’d eaten too many sweets and didn’t brush their teeth. We had got to her in the nick of time,” she recalls.

But Milella can no longer perform the complex surgeries herself, due to her deteriorating motor skills. Instead, she oversees groups of other vets and specialists. In Pingky’s case, it took 10 people just to carry the gargantuan ape to the operating table.

In her travels, Milella has also fixed the teeth of numerous dancing bears in Bangalore, India. The bears trainers routinely just smash out the animal’s teeth with iron bars. Then there were more than 200 slow lorises in Java, Indonesia, whose teeth were clipped by their captors so they could be sold as pets.

Milella and her team were able to return 20 of the slow lorises to the wild.

The vet became a trustee of International Animal Rescue, a group dedicated to relieving the suffering of animals worldwide. She told her story to the British press to encourage donations for for the group.

“I hope that people will read my story and want to do something positive with their lives too. I’m never going to get better and today is as strong as I’m ever going to be,” said Lisa Milella. “You’ve really got to make the most of now and not worry about what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

To see Lisa Milella in action, watch this video of her explaining a difficult dental procedure on a dancing bear in India.

[Image: International Animal Rescue]

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