Tag Archives: adoption

Melissa Pruitt: Future owner of LaGattara Cat Café.

A feline first: Cat café coming to the Valley

Seventeen years ago, an entrepreneur in Taipei, Taiwan opened the world’s very first café with cats as the guests’ accompaniment. With this attraction being as bizarre as it sounds, word got out and the cafés began to blossom worldwide.

These “cat cafés” have become such a trend that they have gained publicity on shows like “Shark Tank” and “The Amazing Race.”

Entrepreneur and cat lover, Melissa Pruitt, decided it was Arizona’s turn. Pruitt plans to open LaGattara Cat Café by January 2016. As of now, there is not an exact location. However Pruitt says, “We are looking at some locations in Old Town Scottsdale. Old Town is a great area that is walkable and quite central.”

Thinking back, Pruitt proudly explained that rescuing cats is in her blood. Her father, the sheriff of a small town in Illinois, was always one to feed, rescue and find homes to stray alley cats.

“I say it’s in my blood, because I only met my dad once and I have all the same traits as him when it comes to cats,” she says.

Pruitt’s inspiration to take action came from Adam Myatt and Anne Dunn, the owners of Cat Town, the United States’ very first cat café in Oakland. After paying a visit, Pruitt immediately knew that this is what she wanted to do. She loved the idea that cats can get out of the stressful environment of a shelter, and into a safe place where they can roam free, relax and receive healthy attention.

“The ultimate goal for the café will be to provide a calm open space for the cats and people to come together,” explains Pruitt. The cafe will have roughly 15-20 cats, all of which will be able to sleep freely about the café, as well as have access to a private room where they can be alone.

Pruitt is also making adoption an option.

“All cats will be adoptable!” Pruitt exclaims. “We are still working out the details with our partner shelters, but most likely we will do the application process at the café, and all adoptions fees will go back to the partner shelter.”

The café is currently in the process of finalizing these partner shelters, including All About Animals. There will be adoption packets loaded with information and Pruitt plans to go over it in detail with each adoption as every situation is different.

There will also be some new, exciting ideas that will make her cat café unique and fun. Not only will LaGattara Cat Café be incorporating a wine bar, Pruitt plans to include events with the cats like yoga and paint night. Customers can also rent out the café for birthday parties and corporate events.

Pruitt has lived in the Valley for 12 years and has independently rescued more than 300 cats and kittens with her own money.

“Making this a business, I’ll be able to help in a bigger way,” she says. “I’ve been in property management for almost 20 years and I’m ready to follow my heart and do what I love.”

heart transplant helps 3 year old

3-Year-Old Receives Heart Transplant At UAMC

After chemotherapy damaged her heart, Mary Olivia Bingham received a successful heart transplant at The University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus.

A 3-year-old Vail, Ariz., girl is back at home, jumping on the bed and teasing her four siblings after receiving a heart transplant at The University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus last month.

Cardiothoracic surgeons in the UA department of surgery performed the April 12 heart transplant on Mary Olivia Bingham after chemotherapy damaged her heart.

“This is a miracle,’’ said the child’s mother, Taber Bingham, as she held a sleeping Mary in her arms a few days following the heart transplant.

This beautiful child with wide, brown eyes and a dynamic spirit has endured great challenges. She came to live with Taber and her husband, Burke Bingham, and their four children when she was 3 weeks old. The Binghams took foster children into their home on an emergency, short-term basis.

When Burke first saw Mary, he somehow knew this child would become his daughter. While Mary had a family that adored her, they could not care for her. The Binghams were set to adopt her in fall  2010, when Mary was 18 months old.

The day before the adoption was to be finalized, however, the family received devastating news. Mary, who had been in pain, was diagnosed with acute monocytic leukemia, rare in children. Tests showed the cells had invaded as much as 90 percent of her bone marrow.

The best chance of survival came in the form of more than five months of intense, in-patient chemotherapy. To finalize the adoption, the judge traveled to the hospital room at UAMC, with Mary surrounded by the Binghams and her four new siblings, Beck, 10, twins Jake and Raven, 13, and Sierra, 15.

The Binghams knew the very toxic chemotherapy could damage Mary’s heart. “I thought, ‘We’ll deal with it when it comes,’” said Taber, a labor and delivery nurse.

She and her husband, an employee with the City of Tucson, staggered their schedules so one of them could always be with Mary. The child’s biological grandmother would sing songs to her over the phone.

About a month after discharge, with Mary in remission, it was discovered that the chemotherapy had indeed damaged the child’s left ventricle, and her heart was pumping half the normal amount.

It was hoped that medication might help the heart recuperate, but Mary’s condition worsened. On Thanksgiving Day 2011, she had a seizure and was airlifted to UAMC. Her parents thought they were losing her.

Always the fighter, Mary rebounded. It was clear, however, that her heart was not improving. In early April, she was placed on the heart transplant waiting list.

On April 11, the family ended up at UAMC after Mary became ill. While in the hospital, word came that a heart might be available.

While the size and genetics of the donor heart were excellent matches, it wasn’t clear whether the heart itself would be in good enough condition – the donor had required CPR, which can damage the heart. Also, the donor was several hours away by air, and a delay of more than four hours also can damage the organ.

That night, Dr. M. Cristina Smith, assistant professor in the UA department of surgery and director of heart transplant and ventricular-assist device services at UAMC, flew to the donor, who was on life support with no brain activity. There, she determined the heart was “perfect.”

As Smith rushed back to Tucson with the heart, Mary was prepared for surgery. When the wheels of the aircraft hit the ground, Mary was placed on the heart-lung bypass machine, and her heart was removed.

The donor heart was transplanted in the early morning hours of the next day by Smith and Dr. Jess L. Thompson III, pediatric cardiovascular surgeon and assistant professor in the UA department of surgery.

“The surgery went extremely well,’’ said Thompson, adding  that about 300 pediatric heart transplants are performed each year in the U.S. “The heart function was excellent.’’

Dr. Michael F. Teodori, professor of surgery and director of pediatric heart surgery, added, “Drs. Smith and Thompson did a terrific job with the entire team continuing the pioneering work of the heart transplant center here at The University of Arizona Medical Center.”

The Binghams are joyful over the heart transplant, but know a family is grieving the loss of their baby. They are thankful for the gift that saved their child’s life, and for the UAMC team.

“It is a fantastic team,’’ Burke said.

Said Taber, “They have all collaborated for Mary. They are almost like family.’’

The couple said they were relieved they did not have to leave Tucson.

“We didn’t have to go anywhere else,’’ Taber said. “We didn’t have to uproot our family and leave behind all of our resources in the community. We’re very fortunate.’’