Monday, November 21, 2011

Preparing for life on the outside

After nearly six weeks in ICU, we started to prepare Suki for discharge. Other than the one brief (and heart pounding for the student) walk, Suki had not been outside since being admitted to New Bolton. It was now August, and very hot and buggy. The ICU is air conditioned with no flies. It would be an adjustment! She continued her four times a day walks, which got her out of the stall and a chance to motor around a bit. For the most part she was very good about the walks with only occasional incidents! Neither man nor beast was injured!

New Bolton become almost a second home to me, and although the circumstances were quite precarious at first, we had all settled into a routine, and knew that Suki would survive. I think that was one of the most difficult aspects of Suki's case. She was in such critical condition when she arrived that her survival had been questionable. The staff in the ICU dedicated themselves to her care and though I know that is their job, there were many occasions where they went above and beyond their job description. We all kept waiting for the complications and setbacks. Thankfully, they never came.

Suki's first student caretaker, M, was amazing. She was diligent, dedicated and patient. When M saw how much of the VERY EXPENSIVE SSD was being used, she contacted the company and asked if they would be willing to donate any of their product for Suki. The company sent a CASE of large SSD jars. This saved me thousands of dollars. We made a thank you card with a picture of Suki and sent it to them. The kindness of strangers was beginning to overwhelm me! The receptionist who was always so kind to me brought carrots from her garden for Suki, and strangers would approach and ask me about her.

The tips of Suki's beautiful ears finally fell off. It was very sad to see. I know that sounds vain, but at the time it made me cry. One of the nurses told Suki that because she had eaten so many gummy bears, she grew bear ears! Those short ears are now her most endearing physical feature. There is a lesson to be learned here as well. When humans suffer from a disfiguring illness or injury they become self conscious, embarrassed and are subject to stares from others. While animals are also subject to the stares, they are not aware that they look different from "normal" and so are free to be who they are. Attractive physical attributes are wonderful, but they are nothing without the beauty that comes from the inside. Animals give love without condition, and do not hold themselves to the same physical standards that humans do. Suki is who she was before the fire, and that makes me smile. She still does her super model runway walk to show the world who she is!

Suki's skin required extensive daily treatments. The sensitive new skin needed to stay clean and moisturized and the small are of burned skin that remained across her back required gentle cleaning. We were seeing daily improvements and new hair growth as a result of the quality of care that she was receiving. In addition, there were the daily medications, which because of preparation and supervised feeding was fairly time consuming. I was worried that Kelly would feel overwhelmed. This was a huge undertaking, and I did not know how long this type of care would be required.

Each time I visited Suki I would look around the ICU to see who was there and what they were in for. One evening I saw a beautiful Clydesdale in the stall. The nurses told me that he had had laryngeal surgery which is apparently common to the breed. Usually it is very routine, but this guy experienced an anesthesia reaction and had to visit CU for a few days. I looked on his stall card and saw that it said "Budweiser". "How cute", I said. "His name is Budweiser!" "No", said one of the nurses. "He IS a Budweiser!" Any of the Budweiser Clydesdales that require this surgery are sent to New Bolton to have the procedure performed. I just thought that was so cool! He was VERY cute!

While Suki was in the hospital, a fundraiser dressage show was held in the outdoor rings at Pink Star, site of the fire. Initially this money was to be distributed among all of us. Someone decided that it should all go to Suki. Again, I was grateful for their kindness.

November 21, 2011
I got home from the conference at 1 AM. Uggh....VERY tired!
This morning I went over to check Suki, and of course, when I called her name she answered back. It felt wonderful to throw my arms around her neck and hug her (even if I would have to go to the office smelling like a horse!). Can't wait to see Nikki tomorrow.

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