Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rocky's story

this is not actually Rocky. Just a super cute Chow picture to set the mood.
So here is the story about Rocky as promised. So it was one of my first weeks of working at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital when I was in Denver. Alameda East is one of those places where it’s going to be the very very best care you could ever get. They are a 24 hour hospital that is always on the cutting edge of medicine and technology and only hires the best doctors and staff. They are the place that was highlighted on Animal Planets “Emergency Vets” TV show for years.  Honestly some of the cases they have done and I have been lucky enough to be a part off are truly amazing, things like prosthetic leg implants, lung removals, and transplants. I was thrilled to get a place there and it was there that I found my love for emergency medicine.

One evening when I was working in the ICU we had a couple come in with their Chow Chow dog that has a bloody spot on its side. They said that he’s pretty much is an outdoor dog that stays on a tether in the back yard all day, but they have noticed he had been bleeding for the last few weeks with out its every going away.. The Doctor could immediately smell both alcohol and Marijuana on them as he was doing the exam. Well what was discovered as we started to shave this smallish spot of fur around this bloody spot, is that Rocky was massively infested by maggots. We just kept seeing more and more and more of them until finally we had to shave the entire belly, back, chest and both hind legs, just to expose how much of a problem it was. He was pretty much being eaten alive by them literally.  Millions and millions of maggots were on this poor dog and in all different stages of life. It was amazing that he was being this happy go lucky goof and letting us shave em all off.

See maggots are bad not just because they are eating the flesh, but also because they are depleting its hosts blood supply, causing a huge loss of protein and blood volume to occur. Once the doctor saw how massively chewed apart this poor dog was, we knew that there simple bill for a wound cleaning would suddenly become 20 times that and the chance of saving this dog were grave. The doctor went in to inform the owners about what was going on, and they seemed quite indifferent about it. They did allow us to do some blood work and run IV fluids for the evening but due to their altered state the doctor was wary entering into anything more detailed as far as treatment plans went.

We spend like five hours meticulously picking each and every maggot off this poor dog. His blood work came back with severe Anemia as well and a Plasma protein level that was too low to even read, basically not supportive of life.  It was totally amazing that he was even alive and seriously any second he could have dropped dead. Suddenly his care became way more involved. By morning he was doing ok. Seemed a little brighter and it was time to let the owners know what they were in for as far as his care was concerned. We advised them that he would need multiple blood and plasma transfusions. His skin was so infected that he would need grafts to replace some of the really bad parts. He would need daily wound care like a burn patient when you have to scrub all the dead tissue away in order to promote the new tissue growing. He would need long term inject able antibiotics, pain medication, sedatives, oxygen at times, and IV fluids. He would need lots of repeat bloodwork along the way because you can’t replenish his body too fast. He would have an expected stay in the hospital taking up to a few weeks. And there was a very good chance that he was too far gone to even recover fully and much less weather his skin would be normal or his fur ever grow back. The doctor painted a pretty grave picture about Rocky.  We all figured that after hearing how bad he was, and what his prognosis was, they wouldn’t want to continue forward and would put him to sleep. I mean they were looking at thousands of dollars worth of care for a dog that lived on a chain, got fed once a day, and if he were luck maybe a pat or two.  We all figured that they had made it clear what Rocky’s life had been worth biased on his previous living conditions.

Imagine everyone’s shock when they said that they wanted to move forward and money was no objective. What happened from that point forward was like black and white.  One of these owners would come every day and spend like an hour with Rocky while he was in the hospital. They would watch him suffer, be miserable, they asked tons of questions, they would be excited when he would lift his head enough to eat a few bits, but crushed when he spiked a high fever that we didn’t get to break for five days. They brought him an arsenal of t-shirts to wear, cooked steak and chicken to coax him to eat, and brought him toys and blankets to remind him of home. They were with us every step of the way.  The woman would talk to him and pet him and cry so much. She would tell him how much they loved him and missed him and wanted him to get better so he could go home.  And it’s such an oxymoron because who in their right mind would want to return to the shitty life this dog had before; a life with a chain, some food and no attention? Yeah I bet he was fighting hard to go back to that.  So it was kind of a slap in the face that suddenly these people cared so much. I mean where were you when that very small spot of blood occurred? If you cared so much why didn’t you rush your dog into the vet back then? Why does he have to be in this position suffering and dying to get you guys to give a shit about his life?

But see that’s the thing you can’t do in this field. These people did end up taking home a wonderful dog a week or two later. He was pretty much fully recovered, his skin all looked awesome, his anemia was reversed, his infection under control, his protein all back to normal range, his attitude was amazing, He was a huge love and huger goofball, and everyone was sad to see him go.  He went home to a life of luxury. He got an awesome bed next to the couch, he got to eat in the house with the owners cooking whatever his doggy heart desired, and even better he got as much love as he could ever want. He fought like hell for this life and lucky for him he got it. But how much does it suck that he couldn’t have just had that before. Why is it that he had to almost die for his owners to give a fuck?

Rocky came back in a lot for the next few months and always did awesome. His owners loved the heck out of him and it was really great to see that he got to have such a wonderful home  I guess if nothing else at least I have the knowledge that from now on any animal these people will get are going to be in the best home ever. They will never be put on a chain in a yard and ignored or neglected. They will never feel unwanted or unloved.  They have Rocky to thank for that.  But to this day its one of the worse cases I’ve had to deal with. Because like I talked about yesterday sometimes really crappy things have to happen (like almost dying because of neglect) in order for a positive to be learned (becoming a great pet owner) and sometimes people really just don’t know what it takes to own a animal. I am so glad that I was able to be a part of Ricky’s life and recovery. His story had taught me so much about this field and how to succeed in it.

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