He was discharged from State on Monday, but still had to be hospitalized through Tuesday. His personality has completely returned when I stopped for a visit Tuesday morning; and he has hit the "cranky" phase of recovery - where he feels good enough to protest the oral meds, shove people around during feeding time, and generally act like a cantankerous turd. Ladies and gentleman, the PIG is back!!!! (Note - this is the ONLY time I will look upon these behaviors as a "good" thing!!!!)
We still have a week and a half left of medications, and he was sent home with a long-term catheter to ease administration. I still can't believe he made it. I know I keep saying it, but I REALLY thought I was going to lose him. I knew by about the third day in that it wasn't good - I had this general feeling in my gut that no one could talk me out of. I am so glad we made the decision to take him to State.
They still are stumped at the initial cause of the pneumonia. Three types of extremely rare bacteria were found, one of which is a pretty icky strain. I have racked my brain, trying so hard to find the signs I missed, the blame that I feel the need to shoulder....just SOMETHING to point me in the direction of how to prevent another event of any similarity. I have discussed it to death with the vets at State and here; and we will more than likely never know. But here is what I HAVE learned; with unfailing certainty:
1. A fever is not something to be taken lightly. Not that I did; by any stretch. There were plenty of sleepless nights in the barn, fighting endlessly to keep it down. The area where I "failed" is in letting it go on so long. As one vet who consulted on the case told me - if you have a fever that multiple doses of banamine fails to even bring down to normal; you have a major problem.
2. You HAVE to trust your gut. This is scary, and I will be the first to admit it. But with that comes a responsibility to EDUCATE yourself. If you don't have a scrap of knowledge behind your gut instincts, I will be the first to admit that you probably should rely on the professionals. I have spent many years knocking myself down because I am still very new to this; and learning new things on a daily basis. I have buried my own instincts to not cause waves; and in this particular instance, I failed. I use that word lightly; because anything that carries this valuable kind of life experience really isn't a failure. But it very well could have been. I truly believe that one more day could have meant the difference between life and death for this horse. It was touch and go for a full 48 hours. Not having access to the plasma, especially, would have brought about a different end to the story. I saw things turn around before my own eyes, and I have several people to thank for that.
3. If you are going to carry the responsibility of owning a horse, you need to be able to man up and carry the financial burden that can inevitably come with it. If you are like me, and aren't fortunate enough to have reserves of cash stocked away for this kind of emergency, then you NEED to INSURE YOUR HORSE. If for nothing else; carry the major medical. I can assure you - being backed into a corner of making the decision of how much your horse is "worth" - it's a sickening feeling. It was the question I kept shoving down on the four hour drive to Raleigh, it's the question that nearly stopped my heart as I initialed authorization on treatment estimates. Even now, the follow-up hospitalization in Charlotte, a visit scheduled for Saturday for more meds and bloodwork, a trip to Southern Pines for an ultrasound....it just keeps adding up. If I had the average medical coverage of $5,000; the majority of this would have been handled by insurance. So please - I beg you. If you don't have the means to come up with this kind of cash for the bizarre emergencies that CAN and WILL arise; insure your horse.
Lastly - I owe an invaluable debt of gratitude to many, MANY people throughout this ordeal. My amazing family, friends, boarders...everyone who offered prayers, emotional support, helped cover the barn and many responsibilities while I was gone...
Most especially, Dr Amy Edwards; of Internal Medicine at NC State - Her patient, caring demeanor - both with the patient AND the distraught owner - will never be forgotten. My husband, for being unbelievably supportive; both in the emotional and financial decisions throughout this entire ordeal. Robyn, for making it through the sobbing phone call of not knowing which direction to turn. Ivy, for the prudent and timely advice that undoubtedly saved his life. Dr. Hamilton, for the unlimited generousity he has extended in answering so many questions. The list goes on and on - every one of you who kept my boy lifted up in prayer, sent messages of support and encouragement...you are a huge part of the reason I made it through this. I may have gone to Raleigh alone, but there wasn't a single day that I felt alone. You have all touched my life in indescribable ways.
Last night, I turned onto the barn driveway with Samson safely in tow. The moment I hit the gravel road, the tears started rolling down my cheeks. There were many, MANY moments I feared I may pull back in with an empty trailer. But it wasn't meant to be - he's a fighter. In so many ways; ways that inspire ME to fight just as hard. For him, for April, for any horse that comes my way. They are the reason we do this. It is too easy for us to make it all about US, but if you aren't in this for the horse, you need to get out now. If you aren't inspired by the unfailing spirit of a horse with the odds stacked against him; who refuses to give up; then you are missing a piece of the human spirit I can't tell you how to replace. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from the movie Seabiscuit; and I think it sums up Samson's story in a simple sentence:
"You don't throw away a whole life, just 'cause it's banged up a little" - Tom Smith
I hope that I will never lose sight of this kind of inspiration. And I hope that one day, I can have a mere fraction of the fighting spirit this guy has shown me over the last week.
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