Monday, 12 October 2009

Tommy's Story - A tale from Marrakech

You always know when something awful is happening in our animal hospital in Marrakech.

There is a sudden kerfuffle, perhaps with a certain amount of yelling – then some histrionics – usually involving grown men and women weeping copiously.

So it was last night just as darkness began to descend. Oh, but I forgot to say, at the same time as the histrionics our team goes into overdrive, while at the same time depicting a stony-faced professionalism.

It took a while to find out what was going on.

Apparently, a female donkey had been brought in on a cart, in the last stages of tetanus induced paralysis.

It is sometimes possible to help animals with tetanus, especially tough old donkeys (horses have got almost no chance), but you’ve got to get to them early. And this poor old girl had been left far, far too long – when the only possible and humane treatment is euthanasia – and as soon as it can be administered..

But sadly, this case had a slight complication. She was also in the last stages of pregnancy.

So, there was an immediate emergency caesarean-section, before the poor old girl was put out of her misery, and before our vet, Dr. Boubker, was able to carry the little bundle of uncertain life into the ‘intensive care’ ward – that had been set up about thirty seconds earlier.

A little grey colt foal, all legs and tummy, but at least breathing, was laid on insulated matting, wrapped up in towels, and rubbed and caressed to encourage his fragile hold on life. Not surprisingly the volunteer vets and every other female in sight or earshot rallied to his aid.

But what could we do? Does tetanus cross the placenta? Apparently not, but the toxins from the infection might.

We managed to telephone our long suffering and patient Chairman and veterinary mentor and advisor Professor Derek Knottenbelt at the Liverpool Veterinary School, for some very welcome advice.

The mother’s colostrum would be toxic, but we could take a blood transfusion from another young donkey to extract the plasma which would help his seriously challenged immune system. And tetanus anti-serum would be good, just in case. But what on earth were we going to feed the poor little scrap on? There is no artificial
mare’s milk substitute in Morocco – the best we can do is UHT with a spoonful of honey (Heh, that could make a good title for a song, couldn’t it ?)

Every two hours, day and night. We’re determined to keep that little flickering flame of life alight.

We thought we’d call him Tommy.


KD said...

Good luck with little Tommy!

Equine Rescue France said...

Hand on in there little chap!

Kathy said...

Good luck Tommy!