Friday, 21 September 2012

Knock, Knock, Knocking on Heavans Door

  My time off from blogging has at times been far from rosey. In fact in my time away iv been faced with one of the most trumatic, stressfull and heart breaking situations many horse owners are face with. On Wednesday September 5th at approx 10:30pm i was told by the vet that i was going to have to say my goodbyes to Darla and have her put to sleep...

   Monday September the 3rd, 4 am my alarm goes off. I hear you ask what on earth would get me up at that ungodly hour? My babies of course! My boyfriend wanted me to travel down to Canterbury with him that day to go and check out his new place (he is currantly a student at Kent Uni). He wanted to go for 3 days but i put my foot down "I CANT leave the horses!" So he settled for 2 days but wanted to leave at 6am to aviod traffic which meant at 4:30 am i was at the yard feeding the herd they're breakfast! Everyone was fine and i had asked a friend of mine to check on them at lunch time also, she reported back and still everyone was fine.                                       

Chasing the sun down the motor way.
   Tuesday September 4th, 9pm. After a 3 and a half drive we were finaly back in Hereford and me and my boyfriend go straight to the horses. Its pitch black, i stand at the gate and call them all and all come over waiting to be fed... except Darla. Being a more timid and skeptical horse and not being particularly food orientated at first i didnt think anything of it, it kind of made sense that she would avoid flashing torches and beaming car headlights.
   I fed the 5 that were waiting and supervised the greedy lot whilst my boyfriend when off into the field with Darla's feed bucket to go and feed her where ever she may be. He could nt find her. We switched and he baby sat the 5 whilst i went looking for Darla and i found her in the furthest corner away, stood in the corner, all sweat up, not wanting her tea.
   This was not normal, she always eats her tea. The horses had finished their tea and were running around biting one another over who got to lick the bowls and despite all that she didnt stir or flinch. I checked her gut sounds and they were fine, she had no swellings, tenederness, cuts, bruises, she was hydrated, her gums were pink, no discharge from her nostrils, her temprature was normal, i asked her to walk to check for lameness and she volentarily trotted off, all the 'vet checks' were fine, she should be fine but she wasnt. I know her and she wasnt. I stood with her a while deliberating what to do and by this point the other horses had joined me. Piggles and Shinobi chased her out of the corner and round in a big circle, teeth baring.
"Ah! They've been chasing the poor girl around! Thats why she is tiered and thats why she is all sweaty!"
   It just seemed to fit. It was nearly 10 pm now which meant they had nt had any food bar the field of short grass that they are on all day, when the boys get hungry they get grumpy and its normal for them to pick on the mini's when they are feeling particularly moody. This explained why she seemed so tiered and why she was sweaty, because she isnt a very food orientated horse i just assumed she was too tiered to eat. So we let her be and we went home. BUT i set my alarm for 6am so i could go check on her in the morning, first thing.

   That night i couldn't sleep, i was so worried about her, something just didnt seem right. Then i started having the craziest idea's which just worried me even more. When we bought Darla a year ago she had been covered by the stallion for 3 months so the stud was convinced that she was in foal. Darla is far too small to be examined in the usual way so the only way to get her pregnancy tested is with a blood test. Darla is a Right Brain Intorvert, apprehensive and intolerant of people and i was outraged at the vets attitude towards her that i told him stop and leave (he didnt get the blood test). Lets just say never before has a vets actions towards my horses ever brought me to tears. Darla had improved up untill that point but understandebly she began to feel threatened by humans again so i made the decision there and then to not put her through it at the detrement of our relationship and her mental and emotional health. If she is in foal then when she has the foal id rather that she was as mentally and emotionaly balanced as i could help her become and i want our relationship to be the strongest it can be if i have any hope in being able to handle and work with both her and the foal. Its no good having a horse whom i know is pregnant and when she drops the foal does nt trust me or any other human. As it turns out she wasnt pregnant but my mind had gone awol and i was lay awake thinking the worst...
"Oh no! Darla was in foal after all, she has foaled whilst i have been away. One of the geldings would have for sure trampled it and it would have been too dark for me too see. Darla has foaled and the foal is either dead or dying"

   Wednesday September 5th. My alarm was set for 6 am and at 5 am i finaly fell asleep... At 8:30 i woke up. AHHH! I threw on a pair of jeans and drove like a mad woman to the yard... Darla was still in the same place i had left her last night. I ran over to her and tried to get her in the stable only now she didnt want to move and she had been scouring really badly. Something was definately wrong. I finaly got her stabled and called my friend, explaining what had happened and i wanted her opinion. Whilst she was on her way, i checked for gut sounds, on the left thet were fine but on the right they were quieter which at the time i didnt think anything of. Her temprature was still normal but she looked so drained and tiered.
   When my friend arrived she agreed that she didnt look right either but she also could nt pin point what was wrong, the only new symptom was slowed breathing, it was now 8 over a minuet. I called the vet and in the 10 minuets between calling the vet and the vet arriving Darla got considerably worse. Her breathing became more laboured, she was trying to go down and her stomach began spasaming. It was at this point i thought it was a case os spasmodic colic. The vet arrived and was also slightly confused becuase her symptoms were not the "Textbook" symptoms of any one illness, they were kind of bits of one and one of another. So far her symptoms were
  • Laboured breathing
  • Spasaming abdomon
  • Really bad scouring
  • Quiet gut sounds on the right
  • Wanting to lie down
  • A worringly high resting heart rate of 80+ (their resting pulse should nt be higher than 40!)
   Darla was given a huge does of Buscapan and Penacilin for her gut and we were told that if we didnt see any improvement in an hour or two to phone again.... Darla's condition continued to worsen and we called the vet for a second time. 
  • Her breathing had worsened and was now getting faster
  • She was lying down flat on her side then sitting up on her stirnum but NOT rolling
  • Her abdamon was continuing to spasum
  • The gut sounds on the right were getting quieter
  • Her breathing was so laboured we could no longer hear her heat beat under it
   The vet confirmed that Darla was a very very sick pony but he was just as confused as the first vet as to what it was as again none of her symptoms fitted one particular illness. He diagnosed that Darla's laboured breathing was due to fluid on her lungs and so this was of the greatest importance and ergency. He didnt have enough of the drugs he needed on him so had to drive back to the surgery. Before he left i asked
"What happens if the drugs dont work? What if the drugs dont get rid of the fluid on her lungs?"
He told me we would have to put her down before she drowned then he drove off. My 5 year old baby faces either drowning or euthinasia. I cried and begged her not to leave me.
   The second vet had been called into surgery so a third vet came out under the previous vets instruction to dehyrate Darla with a drug in the hope it would get the fluid off her lungs, this was the 5th lot of injections she had had so far today and she had taken each one like an angel. A pony of Darla's size would usualy be given a dose of 2ml, or sometimes 2.5ml as an absolute maximum... Darla was given a dose of 5ml! By this point her breathing was painfully erratic. I tried to count her breaths over a minuet but i stopped when i got to the high 50's and still had 15 odd seconds left. Her symptoms continued to get worse and this third vet much like the 2 prior was confused as to what the problem was, but disagreed with the previous vets and thought her laboured breathing was actually her way of dealing with pain, much like when a woman pants when in labour, which was a more optimistic diagnosis i guess. All we knew was that Darla was gravely ill. He administered the drugs, gave me a sympethetic look and told me 
"Im sorry but she is well and truely in the lap of the Gods. Only time will tell"

I lay with her in her stable, her head in my lap, all day

   At approx 9pm, 3 hours after her last vet visit her breathing began to return to normal and her abdamon stopped spasauming, atlast i thought, some hope! She showed these improved signs for 10 miuets or so then she urinated and they started all over again. 
   The vet came out again at 10pm, he took one look at her and his face said it all, she was still so very ill. Still baffled at what was happening the vet defied all laws of physics and managed to stick his hand up under tail in order to get a better idea of what was happening. Being such a tenny tiny 30inch pony he could only insert a third of this arm.
   The diagnosis was the worst. He felt a tight band. A twisted gut. She had coliced tuesday, twisted her gut and we were witnesing the painfull aftermath. For those less horsey a twisted gut is fatal. The horses have a bad tummy and "colic" they roll around which twists the gut. As soon as the gut is twisted the intestine gets severly damaged, an operation can repair it but the chances of survival are slim and the chances of this reoccuring are in the 90%s. 

"We need to put her out of her misery. You must understand she is very sick and id be surprised if she makes it through the night. Its cruel to keep her like this"

      I kept trying to wake myself up, this had to be a nightmare, it wasnt happening, but the pain and effort coming from my little girl everytime she struggled for a breath kept me anchored to the reality. I just stared at her, stared at her pretty little face, her big brown eyes, memorising it, trying to take in every last detail so as i never forgot. I carressed her feathers as i sat down beside her, i wanted to remember her by sight, smell, touch, i wanted to know her in everyway, a last attempt at keeping her alive through memory.

   My mum said No! We agreed on giving Darla a huge, i mean HUGE dose of pain killers so as to make her as comfortable as possible and just clung on to the hope that she would make it through the night. The vet said If, and its a big IF she makes it through the night, if she isnt jumping around her stable when i arrive in the morning, if there is no improvement then we need to put her to sleep. We agreed, he left and i burst into tears.
...I cried for 5 seconds for me and i cried the rest for Darla...
   She was just a baby, it was so unfair, cruely unfair that her life would be taken away, she is a baby. She has got so much life left to live, she has got so much potential to uncover, she has got a heart and spirit to reveal... she has a life that needs to be lived.
"Im so sorry my little girl. I should have been here for you when you needed me most"
   I felt so guilty, i should have never gone away, i should have been here for them, for her. The horses depend on us for so much that when you stop and think about it it is quite daunting and impossible to comprehend doing it right. 

   That night i made a bed out of horse rugs and settled down, Darla came a lay beside me and rested her head in my lap and i covered us both over. At first i thought she wanted to lie flat and so moved my legs out of the way but she then remained sat upright... i put my body back beside her and she flopped into my lap. I lay back also, stroking her beautiful face. 
   We were surrounded by family and rows of now empty coffee cups and we just waited. As night became late night and late night became early morning, one by one they all went home till it was just me and Darla lay together in the stable and my mum in the car. 
   It was so cold that night, i remember having to reajust the mountain of folded 5.9' rugs that i had drapped over Darla to help keep her warm. I didnt want to sleep, fearing that when i closed my eyes Darla would nt be with me when i woke up. I was nt going to leave her, not again, not ever. 

   Thursday, September 6th. 5 am and the sky was becoming lighter... it was morning...

 Darla was stood up, her breathing had improved, her spasms had improved and she was no longer wanting to lie down. I remember looking up at the sky, it was bright and clear. We had come through the darkness to find the light on the otherside. The nightmare was over. 
   Me and mum allowed ourselves to thor out and her partner arrived at 7am with a fresh flask of coffee. Darla's condition was definately not getting worse and i dared say it in fear of jinxing it but it actually appeared to be improving.

Darla turned out in the Mini pen
   I wanted to let her out of the stable and observe what she did. Yesterday she was so poorly she didnt want to move, I thought i could gage how well she was feeling by observing what she wanted to do. I haltered her up and open the door and she could nt get out quick enough!!! I took her into the mini's paddock and was nothing more than a passanger on the end of the rope to ensure she didnt do anything silly. She wondered around... and began eating!

   Whilst at the time it was everything not to burst with joy and relief i didnt want to get too ahead of myself. Darla was still incredibley weak. She had been panting like a woman in labour for over 12 hours, it was Thursaday morning and the chances are she had nt eaten anything since Monday afternoon, but it was promising. 
   The vet arrived an hour later and his jaw hit the floor when he saw Darla out in the paddok walking around and grazing. He examined her and her breathing had returned to normal, her spasams had stopped and most importantly she looked like Darla, i could she the spirit returning to her eyes. 
   The vet put his hand up her bottom again, not only could he not feel the tight band he did the night before but he also pulled out a handful of poop! Gross i know but since the awful scouring on Tuesday she had nt done anything, this just proved that her gut WAS working and that there was no twists or obstructions. I bet youd find it hard to find a horse owner that hasn't spend the night with their horse waiting for them to do a dropping! (quite a normal thing amoungst us horse owners!) He gave her a final does of Penacilin, her 7th injection in less that 24 hours!

  As the hours past she began to look more and more like the fiery little mare i had grown to love and admire. We turned Ebony and Kocoum out with her and within minuets she was bossing Kocoum around, she was definately returning to her old self! We kept a close eye of her the few days following, she was still quite quiet but thats understandable, she was gravely ill and it would knocked even the biggest horsen for six. As the days past she regained strength and i decided that she was well enough to turn out into the big field with the rest of the herd, i opened the gate and she went cantering off with Ebony and Kocoum by her side. The tears welled up in my eyes as i watched my little girl, the baby that she is, living the life that was recently so cruely nearly taken from her.

   We never did find out what was wrong with her. She was seen by 3 different vets and each one disagreed but were mutualy confused, the only thing that all 3 vets did agree on was that is wasn't Ragwort poisioning. Each vet had their theroy but thats all they were, no diagnosis.
  • Extremely bad case of gateritis with complications on the lungs
  • A twisted gut
  • Poisioning of some kind 
  • A flipped colon. The colon was now resting between the Splean and the Kidney
   The fact that Darla made a full recovery without surgery blows most of the theorys out of the water. We will never know what caused it and what was actually wrong with her. All that matters now is that she is a happy and health little pony. 


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