She beat the odds; now Buffalo Township woman helps cats do the same

| Monday, April 1, 2013, 12:17 a.m.

While Animal Protectors volunteer Kristen Vidra works closely with rescued cats in the New Kensington shelter, there was a time, about 10 years ago, when the roles were reversed, and a cat was there for her.

That was not long after she came home from months in, first, the hospital and, later, a nursing home, after a near-fatal car crash. Vidra, now 27, was given a 1 percent chance of survival, according to published reports.

She not only beat the odds, but, to everyone's surprise, progressed further than doctors could have imagined.

“They did not expect her to even come close to where she is today,” said her father, Albert Vidra.

Several years after the accident, which left her with injuries like a fractured pelvis and severe head trauma, she received her diploma from Freeport Area High School. Today, while her recovery may not be complete, she is clearly healthy and active and even works in an insurance office five hours a week.

With just a smile, her optimistic humor shines through, as she and her dad recount the many who supported her and her family while she recovered.

“We look at that absolutely as why she is where she is today,” her father said.

Though the majority of supporters, as can be expected, are human, there is a certain feline that both dad and daughter credit with providing extraordinary support.

That would be Misty.

Now deceased, the Vidra family's first cat shared a special bond with Vidra, barely leaving her side during recovery, whether she was in a hospital bed, wheelchair-bound or using a walker.

All she had to do was snap her fingers and the black cat would be at her side.

“A lot of things have contributed to where I am today,” Vidra said. “And she is one of them.”

It may not seem surprising, then, that the Buffalo Township resident gives back in the way she does: feeding, cleaning up after and socializing with cats at Animal Protectors.

She credits her aunt, Audrey Moore, with getting her involved, joking that the Harrison resident “made” her volunteer.

Those at Animal Protectors are clearly glad she did.

Board member Kathy Abraham said the animal shelter is lucky to have Vidra there.

“Kristen is so enthusiastic at the shelter,” she said. “She knows every cat and their likes and dislikes and is perfect at finding the right match with potential donors. Everyone just loves her.”

Board president Jeanne Lessing agreed.

“She not only does a great job working with our cats and kittens, but she's a pleasure to be around with her unexpected sense of humor,” she said.

For Vidra, volunteering at the shelter twice a week, which she's done for nearly five years, is something that has helped her in numerous ways.

One is that it gives her a chance to interact with others.

Since she can't drive, she doesn't always get to go out and meet people as much as she'd like. It's her aunt, an administrative volunteer at Animal Protectors, who takes her to the shelter each week, which gives her a chance to spend time with not only the feline friends but human ones of all ages.

Then there are the lessons she has learned from the cats she cares for, like the importance of patience, being kind and even politeness.

In addition to her bi-weekly duties at the animal rescue, Vidra is also involved with its fundraisers and special events, like the Tails on the Trail dog walk that is held in Harrison Hills Park each fall, its annual spaghetti dinner and raffles for Pittsburgh Penguins tickets.

Vidra enjoys every aspect of helping the no-kill shelter to succeed.

There, she has a chance, not unlike in much of her own life, to see pleasant surprises.

“It's still exciting every day,” she says. “You never know who will get adopted or who will come in.”

Julie E. Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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