It Takes A Lot of Heart

Sometimes we do things just because they are the right thing to do.

Orion was a young puppy German Shepherd when I met him, very sick with a huge abscess (pocket of pus) around his neck and a big fever and a substantial heart murmur which represented bad heart disease. The family that brought him in had a series of children the oldest of whom at maybe 14 was memorable because he was the only one who could speak English at all well as well as he wasn’t wearing a shirt in my examination room.

I was informed they had $50 to care for the dog. This dog had at least $5000 written all over it. The fair and easy thing would have been to put him out of his misery. But the look on the poor dogs face was pretty much mirrored in the whole families look as well. So we had them sign the dog over to our care. They don’t get to call and check on him, find out what happened. He just was to be ours to do what we will.

Part of what made this worthwhile was I had a visiting veterinary student and decided to make Orion her project. She had to sedate him and figure out what to do with the infection. There was a large hole associated with the injury and after digging around and flushing for quite awhile she said she just couldn’t find anything causing the infection. I took a long Qtip and passed it into the defect once and deftly removed a large foxtail. Definitely one of the most magical things I could have done in front of the aspiring doctor.

After the infection cleared and the dog was placed in foster care we needed to figure out to do about his heart condition. Because of the nature of the sound of the heart murmur, a so called “machinery” one (like a washing machine) it seemed likely he had a PDA which is short for a bunch of words which means that he had a communication between the large vessels outside the heart that shouldn’t be there. Most of these dogs don’t live out their first year.

The proper treatment for this condition is surgery. In fact when I was a veterinary student I had a cute fluffy shepherd mix thing that had this problem and I remembered walking around the entire hospital showing him off and sitting in the hall with him resting his head in my lap. Total trust. He bled to death during his operation. As crushing a situation as any I experienced in veterinary school.

Orion had the fortune of going up to the same veterinary school for the diagnosis and procedure. UC Davis was good enough to use teaching funds to perform the procedure which now consists of a special coil stent placed into the defect to make it scar down and is much safer. Orion had a successful recovery and ended up going home with the technician that worked in the cardiology department! One of the more satisfying experiences I have had since I left veterinary school.

The Point:

If you have faith in the process, good things can and will happen.

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