Not knowing if this was our last time together, right before she went back for surgery.
I honestly thought my terrible luck was over. The first half of the year was great but ever since July things have taken a turn downward. Just when I thought the tables were turning, on 14 November I had every horse owner's worst nightmare happen to Super B.
Late that afternoon I was at work when my phone started going insane with texts and phone calls. Bits and pieces that I could gather and I knew something very bad was going on with B. I got the word that she was on her way into the clinic and likely needed surgery. I ran out the door and got in the car to get to the hospital as fast as I could. Her vet gave me the run down of what all had happened/was going on as I was on my way.
By sheer luck a vet tech had been at the barn to see another horse and heard a commotion going on. She went to investigate and found B down, thrashing around. She called for back up and a vet came rushing out to stabilize B enough to even get her on a trailer. Our barn manager and her husband came to the rescue by getting a trailer hooked up and ready for when they could get her on a trailer. They managed to get her on and to the hospital. I got there just a few minutes after she got there. She already had a bloody belly tap and had a rectal where they could tell there was a major problem and she needed surgery NOW. I said yes let's go and the team there began running around getting everything ready in organized chaos.
We had no idea what we'd find in surgery because we all know that you THINK you have an idea but you could be totally off once you're actually in there and find the issue. They found the issue pretty quickly. It was an Epiploic Foramen Entrapment with Strangulated Illeum, meaning part of her small intestine had been sucked into her large intestine. That part of the small intestine had its blood supply cut off and was dead.
Dr. Moser, Dr. Clawson, Dr. Winchell and their amazing team saving B's life. The person you see in the foreground here is the vet tech that heard the noise and went to investigate at the barn, she is the reason we even made it as far as this picture. Seeing that catheter in B's neck with a syringe gave me flashbacks of the one in Wes' neck and that was REALLY hard to see.
Our vet came out of the OR and explained everything to us and told us we were at the point where we needed to decide to continue or discontinue. She was very honest and realistic through the whole thing, something I really value and appreciate. I could not BELIEVE I was AGAIN at this point where I had to decide the fate of one of my animals less than two months since the last time I was in that position. B had a 60-70% chance of survival and would make a full recovery with no limitations. The things I take into consideration when making these decisions are quality of life and what the chances of even making it past recovery outside of the hospital are. They were all in her favor.
As much as I love my animals and will do anything I have to for them, there is a line that I think all animal parents cannot cross, it is the line where you are doing something for yourself and not them. For example with Manny, the survival rate with his emergency surgery was incredibly low and the surgeons said that while they COULD make the repair in his situation the immediate post-op recovery was incredibly painful and most patients never made it out of the hospital under the same circumstances. Why would you do that to them? I could never do that to them, as hard as that decision is. However, this was not the case on the 14th of November.
The Other Half and one of my best friends (the one that flew out with me to Philly to say good bye to Wes) was there with me. I rely heavily on their judgement as well because sometimes my own judgement gets so clouded I second guess myself. I trust them more than I trust myself sometimes.
We decided the odds and the recovery were good enough to go ahead, and we did. They removed the two feet of small intestine and performed a jejunocecostomy, or a bowel resection. The surgery went great, we have an amazing team here in Vegas at Desert Pines Equine. The next hurdle was to come, waking her up. While I have been lucky enough to have never had to go through this prior to that night, I did know that waking a horse up from general anesthesia is extremely risky and dangerous. They wake up much like people, some of them have no idea where they are, some of them wake up swinging, and some just want to sleep it off.
Luckily, B was the latter. It took them over an hour to get her to her feet. She would sit up and groan like "If you could just turn the light off and leave me in here, I'll just sleep here tonight, it's fine." She was not combative at all, and when she got to her feet she was able to walk to her stall shortly after. Big sigh of relief to see her standing and in her stall. She was trembling all over, an effect of the anesthesia, but that subsided after about 30 minutes. I stayed with her until that stopped and then decided to let her have some quiet time to settle in.
Dr. Moser and Dr. Clawson helping her into her stall after surgery.
Settling in after surgery.
Not only are there vet techs on site 24 hours to monitor her, her vet was checking her on the cameras every 30 minutes around the clock, if she wasn't there in person. I went home that first night in shock. I really could not process any of what just happened and I was dreading the first 30 seconds you wake up the next morning before reality hits you and you realize all of it WAS real.
The next day was hard. While she did have great odds, no recovery from colic surgery is without pain. Our team did a wonderful job managing her pain but it was also very difficult for me to see her drugged out of her mind, but it was necessary. When I would come to see her she would perk up and look right into my eyes. She knew I was there. I would hold her head in my arms and she would fall asleep in my arms, standing up. She's so strong. I told her before they took her back to surgery that if it was too much she didn't have to stay because she doesn't owe anyone a single damn thing, not me, not anybody. She WANTS to be here. I must have apologized to her close to 2,000 times for this ever happening. Even thought it was nothing that we did, I just wanted it to be me, and not her.
We spent hours like this.
This was the majority of her first day after surgery. It was heart breaking.
The first 18 hours are another milestone, and I knew from the experiences with friends that they can look great in the first 18 hours and then do a 180, crash, and you lose them. I held my breath, and the first 18 hours passed, then 24, then 36, then 48, then 72. I watched the clock. She never had any reflux and the only real rough patches the first few days is when things started moving in her system again.
We knew when she was about to pass some manure because she would start to get agitated and paw. You could tell she was very uncomfortable. An anti-spasmodic helped her through those. The second day I got there for the evening visit and she was actually down from having one of those little episodes. She was down, groaning and actually fell asleep in front of us for a minute she was just so exhausted. One of the techs that was there could tell I was about to lose it and looked me right in the face and said "This. Is. Normal. Ok? This is normal." I was really relieved to hear that. This was all new territory for me. While I have known quite a few friends that have been through this, I wasn't there every step of the way. I cannot say enough how awesome the Desert Pines Equine team is, every single one of them have been amazing.
The episode where she was having pain right before passing manure. Why did I take these pictures? I want to show the reality of this whole ordeal.
Feeling better after getting some Buscopan.
Back to resting as much as she could.
We started to see manure with oil on it, which was a great sign because that came from her stomach, meaning it made it through the area where the resection is. Then we started to see new manure from the little bit of hay that had been re-introduced. So everything was working!
The DPE team was so sweet with her. They are always so kind and caring, you would think every horse on that property is their own personal horse no matter how big or small their medical issue is. When she got to the point where she could have a tiny bit of hay they made her a hay buffet of like five different kinds to see if she wanted any. She had a pretty decent amount of edema in her face the first couple days due to standing with her head down so much and it seemed like her mouth must have felt weird as far as eating with the swelling. Our vet actually put a little piece of hay IN her mouth for her and it was like a switch flipped like "OMG MY MOUTH DOES STILL WORK!" and all of a sudden she was trying to eat more.
Hay buffet with a little senior in the middle!
I was there three times a day to visit her. I would just stand and hold her head, if she was laying down I would sit with her and pet her face. We would listen to her favorite Pandora station (she likes Sublime, Everclear, No Doubt, etc...) and just hang out.
I began to feel better when she was interested in what was going on outside her stall. Everyone was surprised she is off the track because none of the activity bothered her. Not the trash truck coming in, all the traffic, the other upset horses, etc... She just quietly observes.
Her first full flake post surgery! Best alf she's ever tasted!
Another brighter day!
By this point she was tired a lot of the time. She slept a lot and I was so relieved to see that. She finally was at the point where sleep was RESTFUL and not because she just couldn't fight it anymore from exhaustion. One night she was laying down sleeping for hours and they heard her snoring on the camera.
Out of the ICU!
I had asked them that when we get to the point of her being able to go home if she could just stay a couple more days for good measure, just to be absolutely sure. Of course that was no problem. I was still there every morning and evening to see her and take her for her hand walks. She began to look less and less sleepy and more bright and like her usual self. She started handing out the mare glares to people too so I knew she was feeling pretty good. I reminded her she might want to be careful with those though because everyone in that place had a hand in saving her life.
Morning hand graze.
The incision looking great!
She LOVES having her neck brushed.
All tucked in for bed.
Catheter out and a warm compress for the site.
Asking for Bel-Vitas.
So, yesterday morning I picked her up and she got her freedom ride home.
She has no restrictions on feed and can be hand walked for 30 minutes per day. Once we reach the six week point our vet will come out to take a look at her to make sure everything looks good and at that point I can get on her and just walk. It looks like February 7th will be the day that, if cleared by the vet of course, she can go back to real work and by that I mean a gradual build up to real work again. There is absolutely no rush of course. I'm just happy she is here.
True to form, my terrible luck as of late hit me with a left and a right, not only because this happened in the first place but...I was in the middle of getting her insured when this happened. She is my only animal that is uninsured, so yes, this is all out of pocket.
Don't I know it.
At least the tax is cheap, right?
From here on out, I'll keep you all updated on her road to recovery as well, in hopes it helps someone else through a hard time. As for us, we will never look back.