On July 9, 2009, my beloved dressage horse Amiritta (AKA Suki) was critically burned when her barn caught fire. Suki's survival and recovery are considered miraculous. Her courage has made her an inspiration to people around the world. This is the story of our journey.....
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Continued progress (November 2011) and current musings
I know this photo is dark, but I love Suki's expression in it!
Graft Site, autumn 2011: notice the tufts of hair on some of the plugs! The graft site continued to heal beautifully, with the entire area of pink delicate skin shrinking. I am now certain that Suki will be able to wear a surcingle in the spring so that we can begin the long lining work. Wouldn't it be wonderful if by 2013 we could perform in exhibitions such as at some of the horse expos or shows!
The other night I spoke to the resident from New Bolton who was one of the admitting doctors the night of the fire. As I contine to write the book I have started to arrange interviews with the many people involved in Suki's rescue, treatment and recovery. Many of them witnessed key events including those at which I was not present. Their insights and details will offer more depth and understanding for the book. When Dr. X received the call, the team who would meet Suki when she arrived at the hospital prepared to admit a horse that was critically injured, most likely in respiratory distess. The team anticipated performing a tracheotomy, as horses involved in barn fires have severely damaged and swollen air passages. When Suki arrived and the trailer doors were opened, the entire trailer smelled like fire. Suki, whose skin was charred and black over most of her body, quietly stepped off the trailer. Her eyes were swollen completely closed, all of the hair on her head and face gone, with badly burned skin exposed. Dr. X was surprised that Suki's breathing appeared normal and she calmly walked beside them to enter the hospital. Once led into the stall Suki began nibbling on hay and looking for more to eat. This, Dr. X said, is a horse that you know has a chance to survive, although the road ahead would not be an easy one. She was amazed that throughout her entire stay in ICU, that hearty appetite never wavered! Dr. X described many of the difficulties encountered while trying to treat Suki. The extensive wounds on her body could cause many complications, including skin infection, systemic infection and laminitis. Whenever there is a harsh assault on a horse's body the threat of laminitis is ever present, and for many, what causes them to loses the battle. With damaged airways and possibly damaged lungs, pneumonia and respiratory distress were also concerns as Suki was monitored daily. That first day every specialist at New Bolton examined Suki: opthalmologist, surgery, orthopedasts, internists, etc. Human burn specialists were consulted. Severe burns are not routinely seen (although lately there seem to be too many)and the veterinary team needed advice. Dr. X strongly believes that Suki would not have survived without spending time in a university hospital setting. The extra care from dedicated veterinary students and nurses 24 hours a day were crucial to the success of this case. We marveled at Suki's ability to just raise her head and escape from their grasp. Oh, but that team became quite proficient in handling Suki, another testament to their strength and dedication. Dr. X again reinforced that while the care and treatment that Suki received saved her life, so did Suki's shear will to live.
February 12, 2012: Suki now has me trained to feed her a handful of treats while I moisturize her ears. I know, this is just perpetuating bad behavior, although sometimes I just pretend there is something in my hand....With closed fingers I reach down in front of Suki's nose, forcing her to seek out the treats from beneath my fingers as I reach up with the other hand to moisturize her ears. Yes, this breaks many training rules. But for now, with the alternative of Suki throwing her head high in the air and hitting a beam or a light, it will just have to suffice! I don't allow her to get away with other indiscretions such as pawing while on cross ties. This is a lesson that I am also working on with Nikki who at nearly age 5, still demonstrates the impatience of a baby. I use the "princess stick" (jumping bat) to whack her when she paws in the crossties. Typically that is met with a bemused look by the little princess, but I do think we are gaining some ground. She had developed a habit of misbehaving while having her saddle put on. Last time I was met with that was when Suki's back was bothering her. This is not the case with Nikki, as I investigated that possibility immediately. We worked through it and now she stands patiently while the saddle is put in place and the girth lightly tightened. She does't like to have her belly groomed, so the saddle issue may have been a case of me tightening the girth too quickly for her. I never tighten it quickly on any horse, but maybe she is a bit more sensitive about it. Lovely, although short ride yesterday. With today's frigid temperature and high winds I did not do my 7:30 AM ride.