Sunday, April 25, 2010

Managing a Drunken Dinosaur... or Lilly's Journey to Recovery

I went to pick up Lilly from Doc Sue's on Saturday morning. It took me a few minutes to carefully back the trailer up her driveway, then gather my things and get out... as soon as I got out I wished I'd been in a hurry! Here's poor Doc Sue propped up on the top rail of a pipe pen, trying to reach a bag of IV fluids over the barn rafter, while using her other foot to nudge a drugged up sorrel and keep him from falling over and pulling out the IV! I took ahold of the lead rope-- the poor two-year-old was one of Doc Sue's own horses, and he was in bad shape. He was in a lot of pain, and hadn't passed anything since the night before. Doc Sue said, "You got here just in time! When I saw him this morning I thought, should I just go get the .38? But I decided with enough drugs I'd try tackling it myself. You can see how well that's going."

We spent about an hour pushing fluids, but no change. The only signs he showed of recovery were simply signs of waking up, at which point he'd receive another dose of drugs and go back to sleep. Doc Sue decided she'd go change Lilly's dressing while I kept an eye on the little boy.

Lilly has been at the vet now for over a week. For a 2,000 lb Percheron, she's taking all this doctoring pretty well! But she is obviously getting tired of it. She doesn't want to let Doc Sue have her foot, and she certainly doesn't want to take any more medicine. Poor Doc Sue, she is really ginger about getting in there and insisting Lilly behave. I am sure I am only so confident because I've never really been hurt, but I felt really lame standing there holding the lead rope of a snoring, overgrown yearling while here the vet struggled with my own mare.

Finally, after about twenty minutes, another patient showed up! "I'm just here to pick up some drugs," she said, looking at me warily. I passed her the lead rope, and went to relieve Doc Sue. I wrestled Lilly's big foot into a diaper to keep it clean. Then Doc Sue and I led the big mare off to my trailer, leaving New Patient wearing a confused look and trying not to let the sleeping horse bonk his nose on the corral fence. So it goes: the constant adventure of horse-ownership!

Nearly Losing Lilly

Yesterday I went to feed the drafts at 6 pm, and Lilly did not want to move at all. This made me very sad. I concluded her week-long lameness had probably been a tiny fracture, and her walking on it just made it much much worse and now we were going to have to put her down... I went in and called Dr Sue and her first appt was at 11:30 the next day. So I told Levi, and he got out and cleaned his gun. Together we planned a place to put Lilly down after we got the condemning X-Rays.

This morning it was hell to get her on the trailer. I gave her bute two hours before we left, but we had to get after her to get her out of the pasture. I put her in the front compartment of the trailer with Dixie (the Belgian)mashed in there to hold her up, and we drove very s-l-o-w-l-y to the vet to spare her whatever stress we could. Doc Sue saw her and immediately agreed with my analysis. We got her drugged up right away, and then we got her positioned for x-rays...which was pretty much like trying to maneuver a drunken Tyrannosaurus Rex. There were several close calls, which involved me heaving on drunken dinosaur's head while Doc Sue hollared at her assistant, "Get the X-Ray machine out of there!" and Levi leaned on Lilly's hip or hopped out of danger. Two more ladies appeared with their horse, and alternately cooed at poor doomed Lilly, or tried to calm Dixie the Belgian, who was getting bored.

After a lot of poking and prodding, the tenderness seemed to be in her pastern, and not so much in her cannon bone. So we x-rayed that, and it came up clear. So we X-rayed the cannon bone, and it also came up clear. This took much longer than it sounds, of course, as Lilly still wasn't really moving around, didn't want to put ANY weight on that leg, etc. Finally we got her positioned to do an anterior x-ray of her pastern again, but she didn't want to let her foot down for us. Several minutes of tugging and prodding was just the thing! Doc Sue suddenly stood up and said, "It popped! It's an abscess!" We all cheered, and I put my arms around Lilly's head and kissed her, and the ladies and I got all teary since Lilly wasn't going to have to be put down. It was quite a moment! In reflection, this is the first time I've EVER taken a horse to the vet and had GOOD news! (Shows what kind of horses I always take to the vet, I guess).

The abscess is a quitter-- the first I've ever had. It is leaking out the top four or five inches of her coronet band! Quite large, to say the least. We left Lilly with Doc Sue, as she is hoping she can have the farrier out on Monday to help her open it from the bottom to let the remaining pressure out. While Lilly was still VERY lame, she walked without encouragement to her pen. Doc Sue is hopeful she won't slough the hoof wall, but we'll take it a day at a time. I am VERY relieved. I fully expected to bring her home and put her down, and this was the 1-in-a-million chance I thought she might have (which is why we took her for x-rays and didn't just put her down!). Quite an emotional day. Ted (the other Percheron) is beside himself at missing his partner, but that's probably because I told him to say goodbye to her this morning. I've reassured him she's coming back, but I'm not sure he believes me... he's known her many years longer than he's known me, after all.

Another piece of interesting news... we were told she was near 30, and Doc Sue looked at her teeth and said she's about 17!