Monday, July 8, 2013

Harv in the hospital, I

Harv is admitted for surgery at NCSU, 1998
Thanks to commenter Susan for telling me a story that reminded me of Harv's time in the hospital in the late nineties. It relates to recent discussions on the blog about our relationship with horses.

Harv has surgery
Just a few months after I bought Harvey, back in 1998,  he required surgery on his right sinus to remove a cyst. I was working at North Carolina State University (NCSU) Libraries, and  I took Harv to NCSU's vet school for the surgery. The vet science campus was only a few minutes from where I worked at the library. He was only a short bus ride away, and I visited him twice a day--at lunch and after work.

Owner visits were not common -- I think a lot of folks shipped their horses in and hoped for the best. I only saw another owner there once.

Harv had complications from surgery that I think I have described elsewhere, but essentially he developed a bad infection in the surgery site and he colicked. His "two-day" surgical procedure kept him in the hospital for ten days over the course of two stays.

NCSU is a good hospital -- but being a nosy owner,  I caught some anomolies in Harv's care:
  •  Harv's meds chart was posted on his door, and staff were supposed to check a box when meds were administered. More than once I found his pain meds/antibiotics had been skipped.
  • When Harv started to colic, I saw the signs late on a Friday night, a day after the surgery. He was clearly uncomfortable, stretching as if to pee, biting at his sides, etc. The vet student managing the shop that night was in training to be a small animal vet. She thought he was "just stretching."  I found someone else who confirmed he was colicking.
  • I stopped a vet student who tried to  feed him grain during his colic recovery -- she had missed the sign on his door.
I'm sure I was a  huge PITA.

By the way, NCSU at the time had a great crew and I don' t mean to diss them.  I would take my horses there in a heartbeat if I lived in the area.  My horses have been to several hospital facilities, and with one exception (New Bolton)  care issues do crop up.

Be there or be square
Vet hospitals are like people hospitals. They can have a great reputation and the doctors can be the top in their field, but the people caring for your horse are busy and overworked. You don't ship your human loved one off to the hospital and leave them there, hoping they'll get good care. You monitor. You check in. You show up. You ask questions. I think the same goes for horse hospitals.

Equine hospitals vary in how much they tolerate/welcome visits, but if you're respectful and careful, you can probably hang around.  I recommend it.


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  5. I was very lucky. My horse had colic surgery done at New England Equine Practice in New York. Their philosophy seemed to be that the more I was present, the more I would learn about the procedure and the better able I would be to care for my horse upon his discharge. I was invited to watch the surgery behind walls of glass surrounding the operating room ( and eyes full of tears) and then to visit as often as I liked. There were standard visiting hours, but they allowed me to stay as long as I needed. The standard of care was incredible, mixed with such compassion for owner and animal. I think it helped my horse that I was there as A familiar face, but I also knew his normal behaviors, but ,ostly, I learned so much from the staff that I felt much more equipped to handle his dishrag instructions. I cant say enough good things about neep, they saved my horses life, twice.

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