Saturday, May 12, 2007

The call every horse owner dreads

It was a typical Saturday morning. No alarm was set, but Limo, my mutant hound is wide awake and ready to be fed. She was EXTRA obnoxious this particular morning and I do believe now she heard my cell phone ringing in the next room. It's a little past 8am and I FINALLY cave and get up to feed the dogs. This is when I first heard my phone. I see that it's my friend and farm owner, Laura so I answer, thinking she's going to rag on me to get my butt out of bed and come ride and clean stalls. I wish now that the phone call had been about just that, but it wasn't. It's the phone call that every horse owner dreads to hear:-( Laura calmly, but in a very serious tone says the follwing, "Don't panic, but Lester is colicing bad and he probably needs to go to Auburn, I'm hooking up the truck and trailer now". So I quickly get dressed and throw on a hat and the whole time, I'm thinking that this could be the day that I lose my Lester forever. And I was not ready for that.
On the way I call Laura to get more of the story. She tells me to not be alarmed when I see his face, as he's scraped it up pretty bad from thrashing around in the wet sand. She said she was taking her dog back up to the kennel around 7:30am and heard "splashing". She turned and looked to see Less rolling then just laying on the lake bed. She and her dog ran over to check on him and she got him up and immediately knew he wasn't in good shape at all. His halter was hung on the other gate up the drive way so she ran and put her dog up and headed to get Lester. He knew she was there for him and started making his way towards her, almost falling into a ditch. Matt and I arrive at the farm and John Parker, the farm owner, is walking Less in a circle in front of the barn. With tears streaming down I reach them and the vet. Even with 100 mgs of banamine, an injectable pain medicine, Less was still trying to buckle down in pain. My vet, Dr. Olsen of Southern Crescent Equine Clinic, handed me a business card with Auburn's Large Animal Clinic number on it and said "I assume you want to do everything you can for him and his only hope is to go to Auburn." Lester is NOT insured, but YES I wanted to get down there and give him a chance. Lester loaded perfectly as he always does. Matt drove the trailer and did a beautiful job with the help of my back-seat driving.

Having never been to the clinic before and in a panic stricken mode I didn't know where to go or what to do. I was talking to a lady at the front desk over the phone as we pulled in and she told us where the trailer parking was; I hung up before I got the information that we had to "check him in" before unloading him in the proper location. Matt went into the building to check us in and I unloaded Lester in their main parking lot. He unloaded nicely and looked a lot better than before we left, but that didn't last. A student came out and had us load him back on the trailer- again he did it without hesitation. We unloaded him again, this time in the correct location. A female student took him from me and walked away and Matt and I followed. He was weighed (1249 lbs) and taken into the building to begin a work up on him. I was present for the whole exam, students were all over him, checking this and that, I stood by him where I thought I would be the least in the way and stroked his shoulder. Sometimes they asked me questions about his feed and history, sometimes they told me "what" they were seeing and "what" that meant, but honestly I didn't hear or take in much of it. At one point I was told that maybe he didn't need surgery and they could possible "jog" him to jolt "things" back in place (course they used more technical langauage, BUT again it went in one ear and out the other). The next thing I remember is some students poking into his abdomen and seeing blood drip down. They got two vials of blood and the vet, Dr. Pinto showed them to me and said "This is not good, is surgery an option for you." I said it was, and a whole new feeling of fear came over me.
The more Lester stood there in the little stall/ cross tie holding area the more painful he got so the girl took him to the hallway near the surgery room where it was shady and walked him. I was given the percentage rate of 60% that he would make it through surgery. Matt and I joined up with Lester and the girl, and I asked if I could walk him and she said sure and handed him over. With Lester being so doped up and in so much pain he wasn't Lester at all:-( but I felt like I had to "do" something for him. The female student returned with clippers and began shaving his belly. I told her to make it pretty, but I don't think she heard me;-) As always Lester stood there and let us do whatever we wanted to him. We walked until the surgeon(s) arrived. I wanted Lester to have a chance, but at the same time I was thinking about the cost, his life and everything in between...were we making the right decision? The thought of him going under terrified me because I have heard a few horror stories of horses waking up and breaking legs because they are so out of it (I now don't think this is the norm, and unless you have a crazy, untrusting horse, they will probably come to just fine). Having doubts, it was decided that the surgeon, Dr. Waguespack, would begin the surgery and see what we were dealing with and then come talk to Matt and I. I signed a waver between $5-7K and off he went into surgery. 45 minutes into it we were called to the door of the surgical room. Dr. Waguespack told us what he had found. He stood there in his scrubs covered in Lester's blood and flesh and said it was the worse of the two scenarios. First scenario was they would get in there and just have to move things around and second was that they would find dead intestines that had to be removed. He gave us more percentages that 80% he would walk out of the clinic alive and 60% that he could colic this bad again within a year. He said that after we made it past a year then he had a much better chance of it not happening again. He asked if Lester was insured and said with complications it could be rather pricey. My first and immediate thought was to let him go:-( -selfishly thinking I NEVER wanted to experience a moment like this again, but I decided to take the short time I had and make some phone calls. I first called my friend Mindy who has a colic surgery surviving horse and just bursted into tears. I finally mumbled what was going on and she told me her horse's story that she was going to do what ever it took to save her horse Ed and that he's been fine ever since. I also called Laura and asked her what I should do, not fair- I know, but I was at a loss. A thought entered my head of letting him go and using the money to buy a new horse, as fast as the thought had come up, it was back out of my head- the thought of another horse made me sick to my stomach and thus the decision was made to continue with the surgery and save him. Plus it helped when Matt hugged me and said "We can afford this." Lester had 15 ft of his small intestines removed, the technical term of his colic is called "epiploic foramen entrapment" and he also had a twist. The surgery was successful and besides the 13 ft of dying intestines that had to be removed (the extra 2 ft was so that they could resection with good/ living tissue) everthing else looked good.

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