Today marks two weeks since Earl’s trauma.
Here’s the tough news first. We spoke to Dr. Emelie last night and went over Earl’s current condition. After reviewing yesterday’s x-rays, it’s determined that his C1 and C2 will never fuse naturally because they’re so offset. The gap is just too large for any calcification to bridge and fuse. That means his neck will only be held together with scar tissue.
“Seeing the extent of the subluxation, I wonder how he’s even standing,” said Dr. Emelie. “He’s lucky in that there’s more space for the nerve passage in the first vertebra. That’s my only explanation.”
Earl is not a surgical candidate due to his size. The risk-benefit analysis weighs too far toward the very high-risk. There are multiple fractures of the C1 and the bone is still infected. By performing surgery, there is risk of spreading that infection. On top of that, anesthesia on a horse of his stature adds additional complications.
All of this means that Earl will never ride or drive or partake in any athletic endeavor in the future. This also means he will never be able to mount a phantom for semen collection. Down the road, we may be able to explore ground collection methods, but only if he’s well enough.
The short of it is that Earl may shake off a fly too vigorously and fall down, paralyzed. That’s something we’ll have to mentally prepare for and hope never happens.
Now for some more upbeat news. Andy and I are going to pick Earl up from the hospital tomorrow. Dr. Emelie discussed Earl’s at-home care, which she said was going to be very involved. His wound will need flushing and bandaging twice a day, which he doesn’t like for obvious reasons. Then he’ll need multiple medications pulverized, soaked and administered at 6:00 a.m., noon and 6:00 p.m. One of the drugs is harmful to humans, so I’ll have to wear two sets of gloves. Andy suggested a hazmat suit!
A big strain is Earl’s medications, which will cost approximately $300 per day, and he’ll need to be on them for eight weeks or more. If you’re bad at math like me, the calculator says that’s roughly $16,800. Whoa. That’s a big number, especially on the heels of his critical care hospital stay. We’ve not had the final bill yet, but we’re estimating it to be about $28,000. Plus, we’ve not had our initial emergency response vet bill, which is likely in the $4,000 range. Then we’ve had to invest in making the barn safe for a vision-impaired, special needs horse. Thus far, we’ve got $6,500 sunk in and we’ve not even had Home Telecom come to install the WiFi, nor have we purchased the observation cameras. I’m thinking that will be $2,000. At any rate, we’re looking at a $50,800 bill minimum and the financial finish line keeps getting moved further out. It’s hard not to be discouraged.
I don’t want to give up on Earl. I can’t. He’s fought so hard to come this far. He’s demonstrated grit and determination, strength, and perseverance. He deserves a chance at life – no matter the cost. I can’t help but think of my own trauma and the toll it took on my body and emotional wellbeing. I relied on those around me to lift me up, support me. Earl needs that too. He needs to be surrounded by healing love and encouragement. He needs to know that we believe in him. He needs to know we care.
Full disclosure, I am terrified. I worry that he won’t make the trailer ride home. I worry that I’ll do the wound care wrong. I worry the infection will get out of control. I worry that he’ll bang his head and drop down dead. I worry that he’ll lay down and not get up. I worry that he’ll start to have seizures and I’ll have to put him down. I worry that he’ll blindly hit a wall and sever his spinal cord. I worry… about everything.
Nevertheless, tomorrow Andy and I will make the six-hour round trip to bring Earl home. We’re certain he’ll be happier amongst his friends where he can live the remainder of his life, whether it’s long or short.
WAYS TO SUPPORT EARL:
Charleston Equine Clinic: https://www.charlestonequineclinic.com/