Vet-Ma Tales

James Herriot has already captured the market for tales of a farm country vet, but I am seriously considering beginning “tales of a farm country vet’s mother” – slightly different twist, eh? I’m sitting at the corner table, looking out the window at a pouring rain and thinking about all that’s going on in the life of my veterinarian daughter. She is preparing to move to a new town to start practicing what she’s been learning for the past four years. 

I could write about the move, because I’ve been at her house packing boxes for a couple of weekends already, but no, I’ll wait until we know where she’s going to put all these boxes. There is no house yet.  I could write about a couple of client visits she’s made already. These early experiences are always story material because she goes not knowing what she’s going to find or if she has the supplies she needs. But that can come later. Today I’ll write about the minor surgery that has just taken place down in the barn.

Two weeks ago her appendix mare Fea turned up with a rather large hole in her neck. Things happen to horses, usually when no one is looking which leaves one wondering what the full story is.  Since this didn’t appear to be a bite, Julie examined the hole and thought it was pretty deep. The question was, if something went in that deep, did it then come out in one piece? Hard to tell.  It is now two weeks after the incident and there is quite a bit of swelling and the remaining concern about a possible foreign body somewhere in there. 

I thank God the girl is a veterinarian, and has faculty friends from her recent schooling who are willing to give her a hand (and bring out special equipment to aid in the treatment). Dr. M. arrived, the horse was tranquilized and the two of them proceeded to ultrasound and probe for whatever might be there, or at least to create a way for the area to drain itself of infection.  I got to hold the horse. Well, really I could only hold the horse’s head steady.  Normally it is a job to hold a horse when it’s being treated in painful ways, that is unless it is tranquilized. Then it becomes a job because the horse is acting like it’s going to fall down and gradually leans on the holding person more and more.  Horses are big and heavy and if they decide to fall you are not going to hold them up. Fea didn’t fall. I’m just saying this so you will know what my part of the surgery was.

I wish the “surgery” had produced a clear benefit but midway through it became apparent that both doctors were having their doubts and were wishing they had x-ray eyes.  At one point there was a long forceps stuck down the original wound, another forceps stuck in a new drainage hole below the wound and a long plastic pipette that kept disappearing farther and farther into the wound to who knows where. Trying to get the two holes to connect so a drain could be inserted just wasn’t working. And it never did work, but Julie now has one very sore horse who definitely doesn’t want to move around much. And Fea will need some attention for a while now.  Fortunately, Dr. M. volunteered to keep Fea at her barn if she’s not better by Tuesday when Julie leaves for the family reunion in Wisconsin.  The timing isn’t good. What can I say?


Keep in mind that when photographed from the front a horse’s head always looks huge compared to the rest of the body. Here is a sad horse with multiple holes in her neck.



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