21 May More than a Hitching Post: When the roles reverse
Lexie Conrow, LVT
August 30th, 2019 will be a day I will never forget. Something I hoped would never happen to me or my horse, happened. My horse had colic surgery.
I have spent my life as a horse woman and my career as an equine veterinary technician, watching countless horses and owners, friends and strangers, go through this experience.
It starts with the confusion and panic of the “before”. The “is she colicing or is she not?”, the “ok — now what” phase. I’ve met them at the door of the hospital, given a somber welcome and gotten to work. I’ve seen my patients, the horses, show us how they feel; heard them speak as they tell us in any way they can, the amount of pain they are in. I’ve watched the anguish and confusion of the owners who have to wrap their heads around what’s going on, who blame themselves for something that no one can control. I’ve been an integral part of the veterinary team, who do their best to relieve pain (horse and human), and to try to offer clarity in a world that is often blurry.
The place I feel most confident in my professional life is my ability to be a part of that team. When the horse has spoken loudly enough and the owner has made the decision that surgery is our next step, I know exactly what to do. The dosages for drugs, the fluid rate and additives, pain management, ventilation, perfusion, blood pressure, all the things. Throw it at me. I love it and I live for it.
I’ve seen horses who have had colon torsions, displacements, enteroliths, lipomas, diaphragmatic hernias, sand impactions, parasites, gastric impactions, ileus — the list could go on and on and on.
In recovery, I’ve seen horses stand up like nothing happened and I’ve seen horses flop like fish and break their legs. I’ve seen horses not make it to the recovery stall at all.
I’ve seen horses go home after three days and I’ve seen horses be sick for weeks after surgery.
I’ve seen horses go home and back to work whether that be on a racetrack, the jumper ring, cutting cows, making babies, or eating sugar cubes from their (human) kid. Minis, Drafts, Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Mustangs…it doesn’t matter. I’ve seen them live and I’ve seen them die. I thought I had seen it all.
What I’d never seen before is it be my horse….my love… my life…hanging in the balance. I’ve never had to be the owner who gets handed that paperwork and had to make that call. That Thursday night, I didn’t know how to be that person. More specifically, I didn’t know how to be both people, especially when my horse needed both people. How does someone who has seen what I’ve seen, who knows what I know, reconcile all those thoughts and emotions?
What I tried my best to do, is to rely on my work family, the veterinary team — specifically the veterinary technicians who I work so closely with every day — to give my horse the best care possible. Like we do every day. For every horse.
Going through this journey with my horse reminded me of why I became a nurse in the first place — to relieve suffering, both horse and human. It reminded me that all the long hours and long nights, the years of study, the literal blood, sweat and tears… It’s all worth it, if we can bring that one owner, that one horse, a little relief. Veterinary technicians are good at what we do because we love what we do. We are more than a hitching post.