Lucky, Part Two

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Here is the second part of an (edited) excerpt that began last week from a chapter entitled “Lucky” from the nonfiction book Equine ER: Stories From a Year in the Life of an Equine Veterinary Hospital by Leslie Guttman, coming out in August 2009 from Eclipse Press. (See earlier post below for Part One.) Last week, Lucky, a six-week-old Tennessee Walker foal from Louisa, Kentucky, was mauled by a stallion named Willie, after the stallion broke the latch to Lucky’s barn door, and the foal wandered into Willie’s paddock. Lucky was taken to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, the “Mayo Clinic” of horse hospitals and the setting for Equine ER. The open wounds on both sides of the foal’s neck, but particularly the left, were both severe and horrifying to view.

After looking at Lucky for a while, you got used to the grotesqueness of his wound. Rood & Riddle surgeons couldn’t close it because there wasn’t enough skin. What was there would be like suturing tissue paper. If all went well granulation tissue would form a bed of tissue that would fill the wound level with the surrounding skin. The wound’s edges would contract to cover the granulation tissue with skin.

However, with an open wound like his, an infection could easily start and become deep-seated in the muscle. It was summer, flies were in the air, and the wound was itchy. Lucky had to be watched constantly to keep him from rubbing the area too hard against the side of the stall, the feed bucket, and the water pail, creating more tissue trauma. If his blood supply didn’t stay strong, the edges of the wounds on both sides of his neck could die off further, making it expand instead contract. Dr. Brett Woodie was worried about the jugular vein and associated nerves that were exposed. If any of those were damaged, the foal could have a loss of nerve function to the left side of his larynx. In addition, it was important to keep the foal’s pain under control so he’d keep eating and stay healthy.

Vets knew if the foal took a downward turn, it would be hard to turn him back around. A few days after Lucky arrived, another foal came into Rood & Riddle that had apparently been kicked in the head by another horse. Despite surgery, that foal died three days later after lapsing into a coma. In a couple of months, yet another foal would come in that had been attacked by dogs, family pets, no less. He would die as well

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