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June 2010 My NorthStar Miracle
Day 1: It was a fast paced night in our Emergency Dept. Though it was October the day had been exceptionally warm with a cloudless sunny sky and temps in the high 70's. Couple this with it being a Saturday and you have a combination that almost guarantees a busy emergency night at Northstar.
I was entering my third year at the hospital as a technician and though many homeless pets had come through from good samaritan's and animal control I had never adopted one. Little did I know that this was about to change. As all of us technicians in our treatment room glanced occasionally at our ER board the receptionist wrote the next "about to arrive" patient. The words "stray" & female chocolate Lab, caught my attention. It was close to 11pm and she would be here soon. A local animal control was bringing her in to the hospital so his drive would be short. She was non-ambulatory, and that meant she was not walking. I began to wonder….
Everyone that I work with is amazing. Being in the field of Emergency and Specialty Veterinay Medicine is a "different animal" if you will. It takes very special, talented, strong yet resilient individuals. A childhood dream of caring for animals, soft purring kittens, and warm puppies is not usually the order of the day here. Though we see those types of patients, they usually only come to us with great needs. They can arrive broken, extremely ill with diseases like cancer, geriatric after a life well spent or collapsed from an abdominal mass gone unnoticed. Nevertheless, they come and they require the most expedient specialized care. Sometimes they cannot be fixed or their owners innately know it's time to selflessly let them go. Most of the time we can help them and that is what we strive for. Each one of our hearts is imprinted by these special animals and their owners. It takes compassion beyond words to deal with it daily and an inner strength that I feel is supplied by divine providence. NorthStar's technicians bare this quality and I am very blessed to work with them each day.
The triage was called and the animal control officer asked that the techs come out to the truck to receive the stray. He was uneasy with her and afraid she would bite. When she was carried into our treatment room and placed on the table we all noticed how emaciated and pathetic she looked. Her coat was dull and sun bleached. The look in her eye was one of complacency and dullness. Actually there wasn't even fear, there was nothing. In our terms she was neurologically inappropriate and dehydrated. Her vitals were taken and she was weighed. We waited for our ER doctor, Christopher Weisner to consult with the Animal Control officer to find out what our next orders would be, blood, x-rays, or none of them. Her fate was in the hands of the officer. It would be his call. With midnight approaching and my shift coming to end the overnight techs bid me good night. They would handle the rest. I patted the sweet dogs head and said, "I would take her". They were soft words directed to no one in particular. I left the hospital and noted the beautiful full moon above. It was a beautiful night.
I signed the surrender papers the very next day. I became the proud owner of a very debilitated labby with an unknown history. Found in a cornfield by some good samaritan day trippers. I had no idea what was to come, how serious her injuries were and how it would affect my life for the months to come. Dr. Weisner had gotten the okay from the animal control officer to admit the stray that previous night with stabilization as the goal, IV fluids, some chest radiograph's and blood work along with some antibiotics and of course much appreciated food. Just one night later she was mine, at least if no one claimed in eight days. Thus far, she had a pneumothorax, bloody diarrhea and neurodeficits. She had her chest tapped twice. That was just the beginning…
Day 2: Dr. Joy Weinstein did a Surgical/Neuro exam on my new very unstable baby. She was non reactionary and unable to stand without support. She was "knuckling" on a front and back leg. Basically in laymans terms her toes when placed on the ground fold under. Dr. Weinstein ordered spinal rads. She turned to me and said something is very wrong here. I was a nervous wreck. Another technician and I carried her to x-ray and she was the perfect patient. We snapped the radiographs and the doctor reviewed them. I still remember as she began to say the words, "Your dog has three spinal fractures, cervical, thoracic and lumbar. The good news is they are not displaced, but you cannot move her!" So now I have a dog with a broken neck, middle and lower back! One incorrect move could paralyze a dog like this and I knew it. How could I keep a young lab inactive and quiet for the next 6 weeks? I was frantic. Dr. Weinstein even thought about a full body cast. Five more days more in the hospital. What was I going to do?
As the days passed, the weeks at home were arduous and long for me and my new special girl. The recommendation from the doctors was confinement and rest. Appropriate medication, including muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories and anti-biotics were added as well. Sedatives only if needed. As days went on Becky was restless and cried in the night so much so that I had to sleep curled up right next to her on the floor in my breezeway. She could not stand and two weeks had passed. She wasn't progressing and I became worried. I consulted our surgeons again and Dr. Laura Culbert had decided to add a steroid to our regime. With all the spinal inflammation it was worth a try. About 10 days later I received the greatest news by phone, while I was working; "Becky" stood for the first time and took about 3 steps! The road to recovery had begun and prayers were being answered. Progress and hurdles came quickly thereafter. Becky moved into my bed and we slept many comfortable winter nights away together.
As I throw the ball for my happy chocolate lab, she runs like a gazelle with my other black lab Tommie I often reflect upon the journey. It's not only about this special dog that entered our hospital on a busy ER night, but how I came to work at NorthStar. The irony for both Becky and I. How life's twists and turns brought me back to veterinary medicine after years of working in business. I never knew that when I applied for a job at the veterinary hospital a mere seven minute drive from my home it would change my life so much. I gained a family of friends, met so many terrific people and animals and continue to do so. Becky and I came to NorthStar in a serendipitous fashion, unknowing what the future would hold. We both got more then we bargained for. Both of us were lucky or maybe our destiny together was truly laid out in the stars.
My sincere gratitude goes to Dr. Christopher Weisner for "seeing something" in Becky that night she arrived and Dr. Joy Weinstein and Dr. Laura Culbert for their expert advice in helping heal her, all of my contributing technical team mates for your exemplary care to Becky and the animals we see everyday and special thanks to God for putting her in my path…