I am going to warn you before I get started that this story is pretty graphic if you're the squeamish type, and it has some graphic pictures. It is an amazing story, but you have been warned! On Monday, May 16th, while out on a run in the woods, Abby, a 4 year old German Short haired Pointer, let out a loud yelp. Her father who was a few yards behind her came up upon her trembling and bleeding from her chest. Quickly thinking, he wrapped her up in his shirt and raced her to the Redmond-Fall City Animal Hospital. Dr. Terri Hartung was able to stabilize Abby with pain medications and antibiotics. There was a stick protruding from Abby's chest and she was referred immediately to Seattle Veterinary Specialists.
When Abby arrived at SVS she was in shock. She was given fluids, additional pain medication, and it was found there was fluid around her heart. Abby was anesthetized, and after the bandage was removed, the doctors could see the stick moving in rhythm with Abby's heart beat. Emergency surgery was performed by board certified surgeon, Dr. Kristin Kirkby, who was assisted by Dr. Kim Podlecki. Anesthesia was performed by a licensed veterinary technician and board certified anesthetist Tina Branham.
Abby's chest was opened and her breast bone was split down the middle using surgical saw. The stick was about 7 inches long and 1 inch thick. It entered the chest between the third and fourth rib and was lodged in the heart. In order to fully open the chest to prepare for removing the stick, the stick first had to be sawed in half at the point were it entered the heart. The piece through the ribs was removed through the entry wound.
Once the chest was fully opened, they could see the stick had entered the heart in the right ventricle, just missing a main coronary artery, and exited in the muscle between the right and left vetricles, just below the coronary artery. As the assistant removed the stick, Dr. Kirkby tightened down both sutures and minimal blood was released from the heart. Additional stitches were placed over the two holes for added security. Once the stick had been removed, the chest cavity was flushed with several liters of sterile saline to remove blood clots and splinters from the stick. The entry wound was cleaned and bandages were placed over the incision and entry wound. Because Abby had lost a fair amount of blood in the original trauma, she received a blood transfusion during surgery.
Following surgery Abby has had irregular heart beats (arrhythmias) which was expected after such severe damage to the heart. Cardiologist Dr. Adonia Hsu closely monitored Abby's ECG and performed an echocardiogram to assess any residual damage. During surgery, there was concern that the coronary artery would get trapped in the stitches, which would cause a heart attack. Thankfully, there were no signs of this complication after surgery. However, a small clot was seen, and Dr. Hsu prescribed anti-arrhythmic drugs to control the irregular heart beats, and a blood thinner to help prevent the growth of the blood clot.
Three days after Abby's first surgery, she required a second procedure (performed by Dr. Kirkby) to clean the puncture wound, flush any residual debris from the chest, and place a feeding tube to provide complete nutrition during her recovery. Abby recovered remarkably well from the second surgery and left SVS exactly one week after she arrived.
It seems so natural to want to pull out anything that is sticking out of, or through the body, even though you always hear not to! Abby is alive and well today because the stick was not removed from the chest by the owner or primary veterinarian, and she was able to receive emergency surgery, advanced monitoring, and 24 hour care by the highly specialized and skilled staff at SVS.
I am so thrilled and amazed at the happy ending to this story. Abby has another follow up appointment this Monday. She has been doing remarkably well for such a traumatic event. Kudos to the owner for his quick action, smart thinking, knowing where the closest vet hospital was located, and to all of the veterinarians, surgeons and support staff that worked as a team to get Abby back safely to her family. As you can imagine, this has been a huge unexpected expense to the family, but we all know that when our loved ones need us, we will go to go to great lengths to save them and have them with us again. This traumatic event has created a hardship for Abby’s family and donations are being accepted at SVS for Abby’s medical care.
Published on July 23, 2011.Home » News & Blog » Abby's Surgery