'I keep having flashbacks': Woman recovering after saving 17 foster cats from inside burning home

A woman who has devoted her life to rescuing cats almost gave her life trying to save fosters trapped in a fire on Saturday.

After spending five days in Tampa General Hospital's ICU burn unit, Laura Kile has been released and is recovering with her family. Her hands are still wrapped in bandages, her eyelashes singed off, but the burns to her face are healing and for the first time since the fire, she was able to have her hair washed. 

"So far, my voice is coming back and the pain's not so bad. I didn't have to take a pain pill today," said Kile in an update posted to Facebook. "My body's just sore and bruised. My legs are cut on the back and I didn't even realize it. Bruises on my stomach and my back from coming in and out of the windows."

Early Saturday morning, Kile awoke to the sound of her fire alarm blaring and cats screaming. 

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As the head of Rescue Pets of Florida’s St. Petersburg division, Kile's home doubles as an animal shelter for dozens of foster cats and kittens. Her kennels are especially full on weekends when local fosters drop off animals for her to take to adoption events. 

Despite the spreading fire and smoke, Kile was determined to open cages and smash out windows to save as many lives as she could. She made several trips back into the fully-engulfed house until firefighters arrived at the scene and stopped her from going back inside. 

Kile was rushed to TGH's burn unit. A bloody handprint left on an exterior wall by a window stood as a testament to her love and dedication to her fosters.   

"My heart is having a really hard time processing, and I keep having flashbacks of the back draft and everything that happened," said Kile. 

While many cats were lost, thanks to her effort, 17 are known to have survived the fire. 

"Everyone is starting to eat, and the ones that suffered pretty bad burns are out of the ICU," Kile said in her video. 

The most recent cat was discovered Wednesday night. A small gray tabby, named Piper, showed up at a neighbor’s doorstep after passing showers. Shivering, wet, and still visibly injured from burns, the neighbor brought Piper to Blue Pearl. She’s since been released into the care of a medical foster. 

Support has poured in from around the world. More than 1,500 people have donated to a GoFundMe page set up to help get Kile back on her feet and to help cover her staggering hospital and vet bills. 

Kile is currently recovering with family members, and the cats are receiving specialized care in a medical foster home. Once healed, they will be available for adoption in the coming weeks. 

"I just wanted to thank you because when I get back to Tampa, it's really going to hit hard," said Kile. "I'll have to pick up cremations and pay vet bills and get my kitties that survived and help them heal as well. They're going to need a lot because it's really traumatic on animals as well."

Though her road to recovery is just beginning, thousands have already stepped in to make sure Laura won’t have to walk it alone.