GREENE – Michael Chesbrough broke his back once. This hurt more.

“It still boggles me,” said Chesbrough, sitting in the hospital with one arm connected to an intravenous drip. The other arm sat bandaged, hiding the scars of four operations in six days.

A cat’s scratch started it all.

Two weeks ago, Chesbrough was walking near his lakeside home in Greene. He was carrying his tiny dog, a Pomeranian, in his arms. Meanwhile, a neighbor was walking her cat. He moved to pet the still-kittenish tiger cat and she lashed out at the dog in his arms.

That cat’s claws punctured the back of Chesbrough’s hand in three neat little holes. They bled. He washed the cuts, treated them with disinfectant cream and went on with his day.

The next day, the wound swelled and the pain worsened. The following day, the swelling worsened, and his fingers turned blue.

He went to St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center. Within minutes, he was scheduled for emergency surgery.

“They told me if I waited another day, I’d have lost my hand,” Chesbrough said.

He was diagnosed with cat scratch disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the disease is caused by a bacteria spread by cat scratches and bites.

The disease can cause fever, headache, fatigue and poor appetite, according to the Centers’ Web site.

About 40 percent of cats carry the bacteria sometime in their lives. Among them, kittens are most likely to be carriers.

Chesbrough never knew it was real.

He said, “I thought it was just a song by Ted Nugent,” the 1970s rocker who sang about “Cat Scratch Fever.”

It felt real, though.

“There was no pain pill that could touch it,” he said. The soreness pulses with each heartbeat. “Ba-boom, ba-boom. It doesn’t stop.”

For the next three weeks, he’ll go to the hospital every day for the intravenous drugs. Maybe, he’ll get the full use of his hand back.

He moved his fingers and winced.

“They don’t know how much further it will go,” he said. “People ought to know the danger in a regular cat. I will never go near another one, that’s for sure.”

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