God’s Amazing Creation
It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, with no emergencies. Suddenly this relaxing couch potato time was interrupted with the all too familiar pager “beep”!
The panicked owner shrieked into the phone, “My dog was just run over by a car. Can you see him?”
I assured the concerned owner I would meet them at the clinic as soon as possible. I instructed them to muzzle the pet, dogs will often bite when moved in pain, and to use a blanket for a make shift hammock to transport the pet to the car.
A pet hit by a car is a true emergency and you never know what to expect. Some have minor abrasions and just need a little pain relief and a pat on the head, while others need surgery and intensive care to save them, still others are too far-gone and we have no option but humane euthanasia. You just have to be prepared for anything.
I arrived at the clinic first and was able to ready myself for the worse scenario; IV catheter, fluids, injectible pain control and gas anesthesia. The drive to the clinic gave my couch potato mentality time to transform into an adrenalin induced mental alertness.
The van came rushing into the parking lot; the owner jumped out of his seat, ran to the rear of the vehicle and quickly released the back doors. Out popped a beautiful Irish setter with long flowing brilliant auburn red coat, bright, alert, and wagging his tail all excited about this unexpected car outing. “Red” was obviously in good shape and I was relieved. Looks like this will be a simple matter of giving a good physical and a period of observation.
I placed Red on the table and began my physical. His gums were pink, had a strong pulse and breathing was regular with no evidence of shock. I pulled out my stethoscope placing it on his chest and felt some moisture. To my surprise I had discovered some blood that his beautiful red coat was masking. In an effort to find the bleeding source I carefully parted the bloody hair and was shocked by what I found. The chest wall had been laid open by the trauma and I was looking directly into the chest cavity at a beating heart and pink lungs.
My first thought was, “This dog should be dead let alone standing upright, happy and seemingly pain free.” With his chest open like this, how could he still be breathing? In the moment I stood there stunned by my discovery, Red gave me a glance and then suddenly collapsed unconscious as his heart stopped beating right before my eyes.
Cardiac resuscitation is rarely practiced in veterinary medicine and usually unsuccessful. It is hard to get good compression of the heart pressing on the chest. It’s best to compress the heart directly but this requires surgery and is usually not an option. But there the heart was, completely exposed! I quickly intubated Red and had the owner manually bag oxygen to breathe for the pet. I reached into Red’s chest with my bare hand, grasped the heart and began gentle compression. The heart was flaccid with no tone; it seemed hopeless and a little over the top. No response - but I kept going, not ready to give up for the owner’s sake and for Red.
What seemed like eternity was really only about 5 minutes when suddenly I felt a small twinge. Within a few minutes the small contraction continued to increase it’s intensity to a full strong contraction with a regular rhythm. I repaired the fractured ribs and closed the chest wall, sucked air out of the chest cavity with a syringe to create a vacuum so Red could breath unassisted, then waited for that first breath.
That first breath came followed by a regular breathing pattern. Red’s pulse and color gradually returned to normal. At this point I placed Red in a run with pads and covers. In those days we had no all night observation available, I needed to get some sleep with a full day scheduled ahead of me. All I could do for Red was done and now it was up to him, so I went home to get some sleep
When I arrived the next morning I was prepared for the worst but not prepared for what I found. Red was standing up, excited to see me, wagging his tail and barking for his breakfast. I was surprised but mostly amazed at Red’s recovery. What a wonderful work of God, the creation of the heart. I’ll never forget the feel of that heart’s miraculous revival in my hand. Two weeks later Red returned for his sutures to be removed, totally normal, with no postoperative complications. The owners were so appreciative with praise and thanks. My first response was to take total credit but I knew better, in reality those of us in medicine see all sorts of healings that have nothing to do with us but rather with God and His amazing creation. We just sit back, observe, and in awe utter a simple astonished, WOW!!