Donerail Farm
Dressage and Sport Horses

Muscatyr's Colic Surgery
June 5, 1999

Note: This was written as an e-mail to my closest friends the evening of Muscatyr's colic surgery. I have not edited it from its original form.

Some of you know -- Muscatyr started colicing around midnight Friday night. I gave him banamine and he seemed ok by about 1 a.m.  I went to bed and woke up about 5:30 to find him very uncomfortable. (Also please excuse any typos, etc. -- it is after 11 p.m. and I think at this point I am just running on adrenaline and can't 'come down' enough to even think about going to bed. Also please indulge me since this is also a form of therapy for me.)

Of course I had taken my horse trailer last week to have some regular maintenance/cosmetic work done and for about the first time in 13 years, there was not a horse trailer sitting in my driveway at my beck and call should any need arise.

I called the clinic and Dr. White was on call (not usually the vet I use.) She said she really could not come to the house to treat him since it sounded like he needed fluids. So I had to try and find someone with a horse trailer at 5:30 in the morning. My riding buddy, Debbie -- whose horse is Muscatyr's best friend -- is a police officer and she works the night shift. I paged her since I knew she would be getting home soon. She zoomed over -- probably breaking all speed limits -- but, hey, she's a cop. Muscatyr was down in the stall when she came and we practically had to beat him to get him up. Werid thing, when he saw her trailer in the street he came to life and whinnied and started dragging me to it. Maybe he realized this was the horsie ambulance that could deliver him from his pain. He was in a lot of  pain and he was starting to sort of zone out due to it.

We got him to the vet at 6:30 and Dr. White met me at the clinic and started treating him and I had Debbie take me back home (fairly close) so I could get my truck and go back later and Debbie could go home and go to bed, since by now it was way past her normal bedtime.

I had been home about an hour when Dr. White called and said I needed to think seriously about taking him t A&M because she had been pouring massive amounts of drugs into him and he was still in a lot of pain. She suspected he would need surgery to correct whatever his problem was.

I got off the phone and started trying to get in touch with the place that had my trailer -- but no luck. I would have just gone and gotten it off the lot, but I had given the guy my trailer lock AND the keys and i didn't have any spares. (lesson learned)

I was calling Debbie to just leave her a message that I couldn't go to the feed store for her (I was going to do this for her since she took me to the vet, so she could sleep longer.) and she picked the phone up and said she  would be right over.

I broke down sobbing when I saw Muscatyr in the stall at the vet. he looked dead. He was dripping with sweat and he just looked like he had collapsed in the stall. While I was losing it, Dr. White had her receptionist call A&M and tell them we were coming, write detailed directions how to get to the clinic, with phone number, prepared a chart detailing exactly what drugs he'd been given and when, and she made up a shot of some super duper pain killer to be administered in the jugular vein if he started thrashing in the trailer on the way up. She also gave me crash course primer in how to give a shot in the vein, since i had never done it -- only in the muscle.

Then as we were getting Muscatyr up and loaded in the trailer, she looked mesquarely in the eye and just said "Hurry."  I knew exactly what that meant. It was a good thing Debbie was driving.

We were worried about Muscatyr going down in the trailer. Debbie has a bigger trailer than mine, so it is probably good we ended up taking hers. He was upright for about the first hour and we could feel him go down. But I told Debbie as long as he was down and quiet, keep driving. It is normally about a 2 hour and 20 min. drive to College Station from my house (I go to shows there). We made it in under 2 hours.  But about 20 min. from town, Muscatyr started thrashing around. We had to pull over to the side of the road. I was really afraid what I would see when I opened the trailer door. He was down and he was in very bad shape. He was practically upside down in the trailer. So now I had to give him a shot in the jugular vein, which I had never done before to a horse standing up and still -- and he was writhing on the floor of the trailer. I had a hard time feeling where the pulse was in the vein and when I stuck the needle in, I was not sure I had hit it . But when I aspirated back on the plunger, I could see blood, so I gave him the shot. I was just sure I probably had just killed him by giving it wrong or something. I was really worried because he started bleeding
pretty good from where I gave it.

We shut the trailer doors and got back on the road. Soon, Debbie said, "Oh my god, he has his head sticking out the window!" We had left the windows open since he was so sweaty -- and we never dreamed he would get back up -- but he had, and  now in his drug-induced panic, he was trying to climb out the window going 70 miles an hour down the freeway! Of course he never could have GOTTEN out, but his entire head and neck were sticking out. We stopped and I got him pushed back in . At this point, we just thought we would never get there.

Fortunately he stayed standing until we got there and it was easy to unload him. They really didn't have to examine him to know he needed colic surgery. His pulse was racing despite the absolutely massive dose of various pain medication he'd gotten in the past few hours.  All there was to do was for them to assemble their surgery team and get him to anesthesia, but it took about an hour to do that. Bless Dr. White, she had called ahead with all the info on me and the horse and all I had to do was scrawl my signature on a sheet of paper ((It could have been the deed to my farm for all I knew, but I didn't care at this point.) and get back to the exam room where Muscatyr was. He kept trying to go down. They finally got IV drip for pain into him and started walking him around while they waited for the team to come together. Then they shaved his stomach and started scrubbing him and it was time for Debbie and me to begin the long wait. (And thank God for insurance. Because of a $150 major medical policy I took out on Muscatyr -- none of my decisions had to be based on the hard reality of finances or logic or common sense. His bill will probably be around $5K or possibly more when it is all said and done. He is covered to $7,500 -- damn the torpedos and full speed

It was 4 hours before the vet came out to talk to me. He was out of recovery and so far, so good. I realized they wait until the horse is out of recovery to come talk to you, because recovery is a risky place for a horse. Even tho they put them in a padded room, some horses, when they are coming out of anesthesia, just go nuts and can thrash around so much they destroy themselves. The vets do not want to give anyone any status report until the horse has come through this risky period. Dr. Eastman was our vet and he said Muscatyr was very level headed through recovery. I suspected he would be -- but you just never know what the drugs will do to a horse's mind.

The problem he had was a twisted cecum. In a horse, this is a large part of the digestive system of stomach, small and large intestines. He was not sure why the cecum twisted, but it is not that common. Usually they have twisted intestines. The problem with twisting (for my non-horse owning friends) is that the blood supply is cut off and the intestine dies. But he said they can cut out 50% of a horses' intestines and sometimes more,and the horse can be just fine. They can't do that with a cecum. And they were worried about how Muscatyr's looked, but after they untwisted it, it slowly started to regain its normal color.  He is not out of the woods by a long shot. It will be 72 hours or maybe longer before we really know if he is going to make it. I wanted to see him and Dr. Eastman warned  me he would look bad.

Truthfully, he looked in better shape to me after the surgery than he did before. But he whinnied at me when he heard me! Dig out the Kleenex. I almost lost it for the second time that day. He was very unsteady on his feet still, and he was shivering. The dr. said that is because they get very cold when they take their organs out while they are in surgery. He said it would take a few hours for his body temp to get back to normal. He had a huge bandage around his entire midsection and he looked like he was wearing the world's largest 18-hour Playtex girdle!  As unsteady as he was, he was roving around his stall exploring (tho the 'light' had not come back into his eyes yet) and when he came to the corner where the (empty) feed bin was, he just had to stick his nose into it. I thought that was a pretty good sign.

So, that's where we are right now. It is now nearly midnight -- I talked to the vet at 5 p.m. last and I have not heard from A&M. So that is a good sign. All I can do now is wait. Please send a few good vibes for my good buddy.

Muscatyr spent four days in intensive care at A&M, and came home a week after his surgery. He recovered uneventfully, but it was extremely stressful for him, mentally. First, after surgery, they feed them nothing except IV fluids for several days. Muscatyr was frantic -- he thought he was starving to death. He had never known hunger in his entire life, and it absolutely paniced him. We could not explain to him that he was not starving-- that he was getting nutrients from the IVs hooked to him on a swivel arm on the ceiling. That was the hardest part for me -- because he could not understand what was happening to him -- and whenever he saw me he whinnied and whinnied and I could see the fear and confusion in his eyes. And when he was started back on solid food -- it took several weeks to get him back up to his normal ration. And he lost a lost of weight.  He spent 30 days confined to his stall, with hand walking twice a day and getting fed four small meals each day. Then he spent the next 30 days in a small paddock by himself. And finally, the next 30 days he got to join his buddies in the pasture. And at that point --90 days post surgery -- he finally seemed to have recovered from the physical and mental trauma and recovered the soft, trusting look in his eyes.

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