Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tiki is a British Spy

Tiki in the British Spy Stall at New Bolton

Look close at the picture above and you'll get it.....

So, Christmas night, while we're at my parent's house in Baltimore celebrating, I get a phone call from a friend who I asked to stop by and feed the animals for the night.  Thank god Emilie was there.  Our original plan was to have Christmas dinner, stay the night and drive back home in the morning.  Instead, we got our dinner packed up to go, as Tiki was off her feed and down in her stall. Another dear friend stopped by to triage Tiki while we were gathering our things and about to head home. I walked her through some first aid and how to get some vitals and she reported that her temp was 105, Tiki was up and down in her stall and there was no gut sounds or manure in her stall. She gave her some oral banamine and headed home.  This was serious.  We sped home, I took her vitals again and indeed her temp was still 105, her heart rate was 65, and she was clearly painful and colicky, but had finally produced some manure.  Her gut sounds went from being silent to being able to hear them from outside of her stall. Her capillary refill wasn't bad, she didn't seem dehydrated, but her gums were pale, her coronet bands were hot (an early sign of founder) and she was starting to show some mild neurological signs, having trouble chewing, drinking, and unable to eat the little sprigs of hay I was giving her to test her appetite. She acted like her upper lip was so swollen she couldn't use it. 

Tiki down in her stall
Joe and I set up the barn cameras for the night to monitor her from the house, hoping for her vital signs to improve and the need to call the vet in the morning to be negated.  She did produce more manure overnight, which was a great sign, but she was up and down most of the night, with her time down spent craning her neck in pain and splaying flat out trying to stretch out her stomach. So, at 8am I called the vet and he was promptly on the way.

The concerning problem was the fever.  She wasn't presenting as a typical colic, as high fevers generally aren't associated with colic. She was also producing manure, so her digestive system was generally working.  He was thinking more along the lines of Potomac Horse Fever, colitis, botulism, or salmonella.  All have high fevers, cause the horse discomfort, have mild neurological signs at the onset, and lead to diarrhea.  He took some blood, gave her some banamine and tetracycline and said he'd be back in the AM.  He said to start giving her hay, a flake at a time, and keep an eye on her.

By 6pm, she was very painful again, hadn't produced any manure all day in spite of eating some hay, her fever hadn't reduced and her heart rate skyrocketed to 70bpm.  After checking in with the vet, it was decided to get her on the trailer to New Bolton.  The high heart rate meant her body was internally fighting some trauma we couldn't see, and a heart rate 70+ means an emergency. She could have internal bleeding or a twist or blockage in her intestines.  Either way, she was now in a situation where she needed to be seen in a hospital to determine further treatment and possibly prep for surgery.

Off we go to New Bolton......

The problem was that there had been ALOT of rain and there was a severe storm with high winds and hail going on at that exact moment.  Because of some construction earlier in the month, we had parked the trailer far back off the gravel and had backed it all the way up to a fence behind the barn.  It was on soft ground and our truck tires aren't stellar.  While I ran inside to get Tiki's insurance paperwork and call in the claim (thank god for horse insurance!!!!) Joe hooked up the truck and trailer and GUNNED it to get it out of the grass.  In the pouring down rain, I hooked up the sway bar and stabilizer bars and we prepped up the trailer cam for the ride.  I went into the barn and explained to Tiki that she needed to go see a doctor to get better and that she was going for a ride with Ariana.  I told her Ariana would make sure she stayed safe on the ride and it would be ok.

I grabbed Ariana from the front field to be a companion to Tiki for her first ever trailer ride.  By the light of the outside barn lights, in the pouring down rain, with winds at 30mph, I tried to load her onto the trailer.  Normally an easy loader, she planted her feet and REFUSED to get onto the trailer.  No amount of cajoling, threatening with a whip, or bribery was going to load this mare.  There was no time, so I gave up and threw her back out into her paddock next to the trailer, promising to starve her for the next week because I was so pissed I couldn't even see straight. *NOTE: I did not starve the horse as threatened, but I sure didn't talk to her for the next few days......

So, I ran back into the barn, looked at Tiki through the bars of her stall, and spat out at her that Ariana was A DICK and that she was going to have to be a big girl and load all by herself for the ride.  I told her that even though she wouldn't be able to see me from the trailer that I would be with her the whole time.  I grabbed her lead rope and we marched out into the freezing hail and gale force winds.  Ariana was now running around the paddock next to the trailer screaming her fool head off.  If there was anything I could have grabbed and thrown at her ninny self at that moment, to include a brick, I just might have.  SO MAD AT HER.  Tiki and I walked up to the dark trailer (silly me for  not thinking to turn on the internal trailer lights.....) and I walked up the ramp with her following.  I turned around and could see her shaking with the freezing hail bouncing off her coat.  The wind was so strong it kept rocking the trailer and blowing broadside on her body causing her to sidestep to catch her balance.  It was at this moment I thanked myself for having kept up on trailer loading training with her, starting when she was only a weanling and having her walk up the ramp and stand and munch hay.  She looked at me, standing on the ramp, soaking wet, looked at Ariana, who was craning her neck over the fence and screaming at full volume, and looked up and down at the outside of the trailer.  She took 2 steps towards me and peered into the dark interior, thinking.  After a moment's hesitation, she followed me up into the pitch blackness and Joe put up the butt bar and closed the ramp.  I tied her up, showed her the hay, and we jumped into the truck and drove off.  I stopped the truck at several stop signs, running back to the door to crack it open and check on her.  Each time she was alert, but generally calm.  I couldn't believe she wasn't losing her mind.  I had loaded her onto the trailer plenty of times, but I hadn't gotten around to making it MOVE yet.  So, her calm demeanor in spite of her illness was remarkable, especially considering the insane weather and the incredible noise the sway bar makes when going around corners.  It makes for a rock stable trailer but squeals like a banshee on crack. The grating noise alone, without the hail and buffeting winds, could have unnerved the most seasoned traveler.

We were having trouble getting truck monitor to connect to the trailer camera, so while I drove Joe used his iPad to look up the camera specs/manual.  We stopped in a parking lot over the Conowingo Dam to call New Bolton and let the front desk know we were on the way and work out the kinks with the camera.  In less than 5 minutes we had it working and got back on the road.  Tiki was a rock and even with the torrential rain, hail, winds, and squealing sway bar she was just quietly munching hay and concentrating on adjusting her footing around turns.

Tiki calm as a cucumber on her trip home from New Bolton
Once we arrived onsite, I had to just about parallel park the trailer while the doctor team got ready.  I backed it into the spot near the Isolation building.  All critical cases that could have a contagious or unknown nature to them go here, both for the protection of the horse and the rest of the patients.  Also, horses that are immune-compromised go here as well. Tiki offloaded into the storm like a champion, backing slowly down the ramp and walking behind a building into a rollup garage sort of setup.  She walked into the clinic and right into the stocks set up to evaluate her.
Tiki with her IV fluids

Tiki in the stocks and getting ultrasounded
The doctors ran a catheter and hooked her up to IV fluids, did a neurological evaluation, put a nasal tube down her to check her reflux, rectally palpated her, and shaved her belly to do a transabdominal ultrasound.  For each thing they would ask "Has she ever had _______ done to her before?" and the answer was no.  Not ever in stocks, not ever been palpated, not ever been nasal tubed, not ever been ultrasounded.  Each time they were shocked that in spite of her dull condition, she was amicable for everything they were doing.  The bloodtests that my local vet had pulled had JUST come back and her white blood cell count and nutrophil levels were on the floor.  Because of this, they decided to keep her in the Isolation Ward.  After alot of diagnostics, which didn't point to any definite cause, they led her into her stall, MI06.  This stood for Barn M, Isolation, Stall 6.  But in my mind, all I heard was MI6 (British Intelligence).  And in my tired state of mind, I heard myself saying "So, Tiki is now a British spy!"

Tiki in her stall during one of our visits. This is as close as we could be.
The stall is completed segmented from all other stalls.  Each stall has a mantrap-style room where technicians have to don a full-body biosuit, sterilized boots and disposable gloves before coming into contact with the horse.  This prevents cross contamination between horses and introduction of germs from the environment/visitors. 

During Tiki's hospitalization, we visited daily, even though we couldn't touch or even go near her.  We had to observe her through two panes of glass.  Concerned that the next step in her infection would be founder, we brought our Jack's Medicine Boots (ice boots) up for her while the staff kept ice bags tied around her coronary bands.  Thankfully, over several days her fever slowly came down, her heart rate slowly got slower (it stayed pegged in the mid-60's for 2 days), she never developed laminitis or diarrhea as expected, but her white blood cell count remained on the floor.  She stayed laying down for 2 days, dull and listless.

It took 4 days of IV fluids, antibiotics, banamine, and general supportive care for her to finally pull through.  The diagnosis :fever of unknown origin and colitis.  Concerned that a newly-aware-of-her-surroundings, feeling-more-like-herself Tiki would be a handful to get back onto the trailer, we showed up with an hour of daylight to spare to load her up.  She walked out of her stall calm as could be and didn't even hesitate to walk right up the ramp and into the trailer.  I couldn't believe what a mature horse she's becoming. Totally drama-free load, and she just quietly munched from the haybag the whole ride home.  She's back to her normal sassy self, eating, running around and playing again. I'm just thankful that while we had a scare on Christmas, we got a perfectly healthy horse back as a Christmas present a few days later.

1 comment:

  1. MY GOD! What a drama! How frightening! And what a very very good, sane girl she was. Whew!