Monday started as a good day. I was motivated to get some things done. My house was in dire need of being cleaned. My floors were filthy, I had a large stack of dishes, and much more to do.
My mother called, and I got to talk with her for a while...we always talk a while anymore. The weather was not perfect, but considering what we had been having,
it wasn't bad. As I was ending my phone conversation with my mom, I looked out my back window to check on a cow that had been laboring off and on all morning. Sure enough, brand new baby calf just coming into the light of this world. It was a good day.
I was making good progress in cleaning, floors just needed moped, dishes we done, laundry was coming to a close. I went out back to check on mom and calf. To my surprise I was going to have another baby, Peppy our favorite, most beloved mare was in foal and due any day. It appeared she had entered into the final stages of labor.
Thunder clouds started rolling in, and the wind picked up. I stayed outside with her for twenty minutes or so. I started thinking about the girls inside, I thought Macy might enjoy seeing a foal be born. I came inside Rozi was still sleeping, got Macy and we h
eaded back outside.
We waited and watched. I started to realize that things were not progressing like they should, and that we had a problem. Saying nothing to Macy we came back inside, and I called work.
One of the vets was in town "shopping", the other said he would come as soon as possible. Thirty minutes later he arrived and I went rushing out to meet him. I had been watching Peppy from the window and I knew things were getting bad. She was up and down, hardly able to stand the pain.
He palpated her, which I had already done, and told him that she was just barely dilated, which is not good. He agreed. Her pain was so eminent, we could not even see her contractions anymore. He gave her banamine (anti-inflammatory) , assessed her as unready to deliver and was packing his bag with instructions to watch her through the night.....I was not impressed. He decided to check her heart rate, by my watch and his count her HR was at 100......incredibly high, close to inducing shock in a horse. At that moment Macy hollered for me from the house, I had to go check the girls.
As I was racing up to the house I was really wishing that the other vet from the clinic would have come, praying for Peppy's safe delivery of her new foal, and that she would be fine, and I quickly added please send the other vet. I soothed Rozi, put in a movie for Macy and headed back out the door. There in my backyard was a bright red Chevy, owned by the other doc. Thank God!
I walked up to them in the middle of discussion. The first Vet was debating on
Colic, the second was asking about Uterine Torsion. That was my exact thoughts and concerns about Peppy. More accurately, I was thinking about the time years ago when I had been told, :well, look at it this way, this is so rare you won't possibly have to endure it again."
There was another emergency for another client and they were debating about what to do. I could tell that Doc number two was highly concerned about my mare, and wanted to get to work on her. Vet One decided to leave and go to the other call. Again, thank God. Everyone has there specialty and horses are not Vet One's.
Immediately Vet Two went to work on Peppy, he also quickly assessed her cervix to be too small to deliver. He decided to sedate her to help calm her pain and keep her still so h
e could exam her better and make progress. A friend called, he was calling for another reason entirely but I told him I needed help with the girls, a man and all, he rushed right over. He only lives two miles away so he arrived while sedation was taking effect. He went right inside to see how the girls were doing. Vet Two checked progress on the cervix, and it had increased in size so he was able to rupture her placenta (break her water) hoping this would increase her contractions. We were still unable to evaluate what was wrong with Peppy. All we know was she had acute pain, her contractions were working against her, and the foal was still alive. My friend came out, Macy was intently watching her movie, and Rozi had fallen back asleep. Vet Two was shoulder deep inside Peppy, and finally found our problem. She was in fact my worst fear, a Uterine Torsion.
To those who are not medical junkies, a Uterine Torsion, is when the uterus in fact twists, just like you would twist a bag to close. Once it is twisted there is no way for the foal to receive it's vital resources from the mare. Blood and oxygen are cut off. The foal will slowly begin to die. Next her body becomes toxic from the death of her fetus, and she to dies. As for treatment, you can open her from both sides while standing, and manually twist the uterus back to the right position. Then you sew her back up, and hope that she can deliver the foal naturally. Unfortunately you need a mare who can stand, and due to the large amounts of pain induced by a torsion, they have a hard time standing. If you do nothing you will loose both mare and foal.
It began raining as I stood there and watched the labored breathing of one of my closest friends. I knew before he began telling me the fate of this great mare. Unfortunately, by some ill fate we had already experienced this once in a lifetime medical disaster. It had ended abruptly, and all was lost.
Vet Two had given me my options, options I already knew. We had to decide quickly if there was even hope of one life being saved. I ran to the pick-up where I knew our .22 pistol was stored under the seat. As I reached for it, thoughts raced through my head and tears, as they do right now, welled to my eyes. Life is such a precious gift, a gift I get to see yearly as our foals and calves are born into this world. A gift I hold dear to my heart as I rock my little ones in my lap. A gift I value as I feed my family, the meat we have hunted or raised. I brought the pistol out from under the seat, and walked slowly back to where she lay.
Vet Two took the pistol with brief instructions, and my friend wrapped his large bear like body around me and held me tight as the wind whipped around us all. One loud sharp sound, and I opened my eyes to Vet Two furiously cutting into her side. I quickly rushed over and helped pull a struggling, slimy mess from within her. I ripped at the placenta with my bare hands, praying for a loss to heal into a life.
A large beautiful bay roan colt emerged, with a tiny white star, and big bright eyes. He was looking deep into mine, as tears still streamed down my face. I watched as Vet and friend dragged him into the shelter out of the storm, he was snuggled into clean warm straw and struggling to grasp life.
Risks are taken as that. You win some you loose some. Life is full of choices, we all make them good ones, bad ones, indifferent ones. This was a good one, a life for a life. A risk worth taking, even at great loss. Don had come home at the end of this tale, his heart was heavy as we tried, and tried to keep those big brown eyes from closing.
This story has an unhappy ending. Those big, dark eyes closed for good that night. He is with his mom in pastures too green. Where horses run free, and clouds never grey. His life would have been tough, and his sentence was grim. He is where he will be best, with his mother forever running free.