Oso's Lucky Day

April 5, 2010

It seems that there are a lot of dogs on the reservations named Oso, just like the young, playful one that came into our clinic for a routine spay surgery. But no one could've predicted that this particular Oso would create such a stir.

The owners said that Oso had been hit by a car two weeks ago, but, other than a mild lameness in one leg, she seemed to be fine, just moving just a little slower than usual and eating only small quantities at a time. It turned out that the car accident had caused a fracture, but this was healing, and Oso was approved for surgery.

An unexpected turn

Oso was lucky to have the HSVMA-RAVS team on duty.

Everything was going well as the IV fluids were started and the pre-operative analgesics were given. Things seemed routine—until the surgery began.

Unexpectedly, Oso's blood oxygen levels began to plunge, instantly spurring the HSVMA Rural Area Veterinary Services (HSVMA-RAVS) team's emergency care system into action. Experienced anesthesia technicians and veterinarians were immediately at the scene, helping the student anesthetist monitor the dog's condition and keep her alive. It's pretty amazing for a mobile clinic set up on a basketball court, hundreds of miles from anywhere.

Oso was also extremely lucky to have such a remarkable surgical team—Dr. Lily Su and her student assistant Erin Updegrove—on her side (Dr. Su is currently completing an ACVS surgical residency in Canada, and Erin has volunteered with us for years, literally all over the world).

As the anesthesia crew swung into emergency mode, the surgeons found the problem: a huge hole in Oso's diaphragm. In fact, her liver, stomach, and most of her intestines were in her chest, compressing her lungs. This "diaphragmatic hernia from hell" was no doubt the result of the old car accident and easily explained her abnormal appetite.

Closing such a large hole securely is not an easy task, but the team got it done, and Oso's blood oxygen levels went right back to normal. With some intense pain management, she did very well after surgery and was discharged to her family after two days, happy and cute as ever.

The rewards of veterinary medicine

Not only was this a good day for Oso, but like all HSVMA-RAVS clinics, it was a great one for veterinary education.

"My experience in Nevada made me realize how much I still have to learn and how important it is to be able to use the information I see in lecture every day. I feel rejuvenated and motivated to focus on my coursework, because I'll need it the rest of my career. Complications will happen and, as I saw with Oso, it's important to be able to act and think quickly to save your patient," Rachelle Wemmer, the UCD student who was helping with the anesthesia on this case, said of her experience.

"Following Oso's case and seeing her leave as a happy puppy reminded me how thrilling, fun and rewarding veterinary medicine can be and how much I look forward to being in practice."

This is a typical reaction from the veterinary students we work with—and the reason we do what we do.