Part IV “Surgery Day”
by Holly Peterson
December 6, 2013. It was o’dark-thirty, cold and raining when I went to load him. I couldn’t get the interior trailer lights on our borrowed trailer to work, so I had to ask him to trust me enough to load blind. Come on baby-boy, you can do it…. He loaded as if we had practiced it a million times, and we were off.
We had made it! It was surgery day. It was hard to believe it had only been one month ago that we had found the keratoma in Stash’s hoof. Four short weeks to raise enough money to save him and we were now on our way.
Now I had a two and a half hour trip to Rhinebeck Equine Hospital, alone, to worry about all the ‘what-if’’s. What if it was worse than we thought? What if it’s now affecting the bone? What if it’s more expensive than we thought? What if….What if…..Let’s just say it was a very long ride for reasons other than miles.
Stash however was trailering like a dream. It was only the second time I had ever trailered him. The first was bringing him to the farm and he hadn’t really enjoyed that trip very much. I stopped only once along the way to give him a rest. He stuck his head out the trailer door, looked around, then looked at me as if to say, ‘Are we there yet?’.
I hate being late so we were there early and hung out in the parking lot until they were ready for us. Not a peep out of him while we waited. When they were ready for us, we were ushered into a beautiful facility, where Stash proceeded to make the rounds, charming all the techs. The sad fact is, this horse knows he’s cute and milks it for all its worth.
As a former veterinary technician, I was already familiar with most surgical procedures but was excited to learn about this one, as it was new to me. For me it felt like old home week. As Stash got started with a pre-surgical exam to be sure he was healthy enough for the procedure, I met with the surgeon, Dr Jim Nutt V.M.D, to discuss what exactly we were doing. There was a question as to whether or not we were going to sedate him and do the procedure standing or if we were going to lay him all the way down and put him on full anesthesia. My concerns were for the bottom line, the surgeons was for accessibility……and his back
After the pre-surgical exam, Stash was moved to x-ray. They took a series of x-rays to recheck the size and position of the keratoma. Dr. Nutt used bb’s taped to areas of his hoof to pin point it’s exact location. We were excited to learn, that while it had grown it was not affecting any of his bones. Stash’s prognosis just got a little brighter.
All his favorite surgery toys…I mean tools in place, it was time to start the surgery. It was ultimately decided that we would lay him all the way down and put him on full anesthesia in order to give the surgeon the best access to the hoof. They sedated him to lay him down, then hoisted him by his feet to move him to the surgery room. Don’t worry this is normal. Horses don’t always cooperate and lay down where they need to be for surgery, and they certainly aren’t going to lay down on a surgery table, so this is the only way to position them.
As you can imagine, the hoof is not exactly a sterile area, so it needs to be scrubbed multiple times and then draped and wrapped to keep the surgical site sterile.
Unlike the pictures I had seen on the internet while researching this surgery, Stash was not about to get ½ his hoof cut off as I had feared. His surgeon was planning to bore a small hole in the hoof wall and extract the keratoma using a tool that looked an awful lot like a melon baller. The ultimate goal was to remove all of the affected tissue until only healthy tissue remained. After he drilled a nickel size hole in the hoof wall right over the site of the growth, he proceeded to start scraping out the keratoma.
Pre-surgery we had discussed some of the more important details, like what music they should play during surgery. I happened to mention how Stash loves to listen to Eminem when we ride; so Eminem it was. At one point mid surgery, Stash started to move. Everything stopped while they checked to be sure he wasn’t waking up. Turns out he was just rocking out to his favorite song. Surgery continued as soon as it was over.
As far as surgeries go, his could not have gone more smoothly. From start to finish, Stash cooperated with the plan for his treatment. Now we needed to get him home and start his recovery, which posed a whole new set of challenges.
(to be continued..)
Authors Note: Some of these passages were fully intended to be humorous (and yes it’s really how things happened). At no point was Rhinebeck Equine Hospital, Stash’s surgeon Dr Nutt, his many technicians and the entire hospital staff anything less than completely professional in their care of Stash. I am infinitely grateful to them for everything they did for him; mentioned and unmentioned.