Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn


On Tuesday afternoon, July 8th, I received a call from Liz, one of the owners of my boarding stable. It's a funny thing, when I get a call from someone that I'm not expecting to hear from, a friend that hasn't called in awhile or even someone that I usually talk to at night but they call in the morning, etc., I never register surprise or shock BUT when the owner of the barn calls, out of the blue, and I'm not about to have a lesson or the Farrier isn't scheduled, you know, those kinds of things that you might expect a call about for one reason or another; well then, the ol' fear factor strikes the heart immediately! And when she began to talk, the only thing I heard was the word, "colic". She briefly explained that after utilizing Valie in a showmanship lesson, he was then taken back to his stall and within a few minutes time, he was covered in white, lathered sweat and was looking quite ill. He was given Banamine and she told me that she would call me again in 10 minutes, when she called back, she said that it appeared as if the Banamine took hold and that he was on his way to feeling better. She also said that if I didn't hear from her throughout the afternoon that I should not worry and that she would see me when I arrived in the early evening. At 6:00 PM, I entered the barn and found Valie in his stall, he didn't appear to be ill, he just looked exhausted, he was standing in the corner of his stall. He immediately came to me and hung his head on my shoulder and we nuzzled for a bit. I spent some time with him, went outside to talk to a few people and then was ready to leave. I went back to his stall to make sure he was all-set for the night and I was shocked to find him down in his stall and violently rolling in pain. Unfortunately, the barn owners had gone out to dinner but Katie, their barn manager, was there and she quickly helped me get him up, we began to walk him and called the BO's by phone. They said to give him another dose of Banamine and to continue to walk him but even at the walk, with Katie walking him and then with me walking him, he continued to try to go down and roll even when we were walking outside on the concrete. The BO's returned and called the Vet, the Vet came and after an invasive inspection she found that the large intestine was distended and out of place and she made it clear that he should be rushed to Tuft's. On the trailer he went and off we set for Tuft's (thank God it is so close to us, less than 1/2 hour away). When we arrived at this remarkable facility, I was amazed at the speed at which they began to attend to my guy and the "second-to-none" team effort that converged as they attempted to get to the crux of his problem. After an ultrasound, another invasive exam, belly fluid was then drawn to determine whether or not it was bloody (which would have been a very bad sign). However, even though the fluid was clear, he continued to show signs of pain even though he was sedated and on pain meds. The Vet, Gustavo Abuja, DVM, an incredibly talented man that has a great manner in dealing with equines and humans, then informed me that surgery was probably imminent BUT that he would like to wait a 1/2 hour to see how Valie felt when the sedation/pain meds wore off. It was approximately 45 minutes later when they called me to come to his stall (I had been sitting in the waiting room attempting to get myself under control, you know, a lot of crying and a lot of praying) and when I arrived at his stall, there he was lying down and passing gas so loud that it appeared as if a fog horn was blowing! It was an absolute miracle that Valie's body had begun the process of healing itself and with that, they called off the surgery, albeit temporarily and sent us home and he was then offically a patient of Tuft's. I was told that if he took any steps backward at all that I would be called and surgery would begin but by 9:30 the next monring, all the gas had passed and upon yet another invasive exam, his large intestine was back to normal. He was still ill and had to be hospitalized for several days as they monitored him and slowly got him eating again but none-the-less, I don't remember, in my recent past, ever feeling so devastated but just as happy at the same time! Our horses depend on us to make the right decisions for them and I'm so glad that I was able to make the right choice for his well being. Moreover, I thank God that I have insurance on him which made it so easy to be able to send thoughts of $$$$ to the back burner of my mind and also, what with the ability to transport him to Tuft's and the expert care he received at the barn and then at the hospital, I am glad he received that level of care and I was thankful that I was able to be there with him for the duration!

He's home now and doing well and I am there with him on a daily basis and attending to his every need while he is on stall restriction (only 1/2 hour of turnout and hand walking twice a day). He's lost weight but that will come back in time and as I sit here and type this tonight, my eyes are heavenly bound that such a miracle took place, how grateful I am that he didn't have to have surgery.

I want to thank all of those people that supported he and I that night and into the next day. My dear friend, Cathy Fleming who drove all the way from Connecticut to stay with me at the barn and at Tuft's until the wee hours of the morning, Mike Murphy and his wonderful Mom, who trailered us, Liz Murphy and her sister Kathleen, who provided help and emotional support and Katie Speer, the one person whom I would not have made it without, had it not been for her patience in walking him for hours in that humidity while I was off crying and generally breaking down, God knows how I would have handled that without her!

Ohhhhhhh, what a night and one that I will never forget but I will say that I now understand why the word "colic" has been said to strike fear even in the most experienced horse owner! I think that I have been fully inducted into the "Equine Colic Survivors Group for Significant Others" and for all Valie knows, he's getting pampered and loving every minute of it, with what he went through no longer foremost in his wonderful equine mind!

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