Friday, 7 March 2014

Oliver artfully dodges death


Oliver home with his family 
Most of us study veterinary medicine because we love animals. We want to fix things which are broken, save life’s or help animals in need. During university you don’t really get taught how to deal with “when things go wrong” and I had to learn how to manage it during my 10 year long veterinary career so far and even after all these years it is still something I find hard to get used to. Unfortunately no matter how hard you try, patients will die. Sometimes its known from the start, sometimes unexpectedly. The week leading up to meeting Oliver, I had one of those weeks where all my cases seemed to turn the “wrong corner” and being someone who has a habit of getting attached to my patients it had left me feeling empty.

I was called out to Oliver to examine him for not being quite himself. When I laid eyes on him my heart sank, Oliver was reluctant to move, trembling, salivating, his heart rate was very high and his heart sounds were muffled. He was breathing heavily. I had seen this before, he was showing all the signs of Atypical Myopathy caused by poisonous plants, this Autumn it had been mainly linked to Sycamore seeds but it has been reported with other plants, grasses and dead leaves. We had seen a lot of cases this year in the UK and mainland Europe. Often fatal, unfortunately our practice hadn't had any survivors.
Oliver’s illness was confirmed with blood results and he was admitted to our hospital 2 hours later. He was lucky to have parents who, even with the very poor prognosis I gave them, they were willing to do everything to save their boy. Oliver had been part of their family for over 20 years.
The previous cases we had with similar signs as Oliver would become recumbent quite quickly and I felt as soon as that happened it was a losing battle. So I made a pact with this handsome man, he had to stay with all feet pointing to the ground and I would do everything in my power to get him home safe and sound as soon as possible. And whilst I was wrecking my brain reading almost every article written about similar conditions and questioning all our staff at what else I could give him, Oliver was fighting for his life. The gelding was on around the clock treatment which was mainly aimed at supportive therapy, trying to correct the imbalances caused by the damage done to his body systems due to the poisoning as there is no cure for this horrible condition.
Oliver whilst he was fighting for his life
 Although shaking, weak and painful, Oliver never laid down. His recovery was slow but every time I saw him he would give me a little sign he wasn’t giving up, a little chew on my jacket, a threat with his ears back at my dog Fynn for wanting to steel his untouched feed, or just a stamp of his foot showing me he was not happy about being ill. His lovely owners made daily visits to reassure their beloved friend. It took 5 intensive days and nights to flush everything through, and get Oliver’s body system to resume their normal function again. It’s funny how excited vets can get about seeing normal looking poo’s in a patients stall! After a few interrupted sleeps my heart jumped for joy when Oliver greeted me happily with his head over the door early morning, instead of standing in a corner with is head down which he had been doing whilst being so ill.
Very happy to see him healthy again
Oliver showed us he is made out of tough stuff by beating an often fatal condition and made me remember how good it feels to actually save a life!! it was great to see him again happy and healthy 2 weeks after he left our hospital In his own environment.

"If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a  lot of humans" James Harriot


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