Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Thot Plickens

Eposide I: The Queen is Not Amused

After my initial meeting with Dr. Fischer (for which I paid $175 just for the pleasure of his company), I had lingering questions. Questions that burned in the back of my head and kept me from sleeping, mostly because I knew that attempting to call Dr. Fischer and ask these questions would be an exercise in frustration. I might as well save the call and bang my head against the wall instead - the results would be the same.

By Friday morning, Tina had the same questions as me, and recommended we get a second opinion. There is a vet down south, in Escondido who has done miraculous things with lameness in horses, so we set up an appointment with him for March 18. In the meantime, I called the equine hospital to get a copy of Snoopy's medical records. When the office found out I never got a copy of his discharge papers, they had the blonde intern email them to me. In her email, she said if I had any questions, to contact them. It was the typical "if there's anything else we can do" company line.

That's when I learned her name: Antje. I also learned her email address. This came in handy. On Sunday, I had an idea. I sent the following email:

"Dear Antje,
Thank you for the discharge papers. Yes, after mulling it all over, I have tons of questions.

1. We have been handwalking Snoopy since August. Another 60 days of "more of the same" does not sound like we will improve anything, does it?
2. Couldn't Snoopy's x-rays from the initial break, through the last series, be evaluated and compared to see how much (if any) the angle of the pastern has changed? If I could see that, for example, his pastern was lower and now it's getting higher, I'd have a lot more faith in the therapy, knowing that he's on the mend, but it will take a little longer.
3. Only walking was discussed as a cure for his problem. Is there no other physical therapy to be considered? Stretching exercises? Anti-inflammatories? Ice?

I'm frankly getting frustrated, not that it is any fault of the hospital. Dr. Fischer is a good surgeon and I am satisfied with Snoopy's surgery. However, I am having a hard time getting a local vet (apart from Dr. Murphy) to become engaged in Snoopy's recovery. After our appointment on Thursday, I had time to think and consider the questions above; however, my inability to access anyone with expertise to answer my questions frustrates me. My phone calls to Dr. Fischer go unreturned, so I clearly cannot seek out his advice.

I plan to be as pro-active for my horse's recovery as my wallet can afford. My next step will be to contact UC Davis' equine program to see if they can give me any other ideas.

Thanks again,..."

Antje replied, rather quickly, that she'd talk to the good doctor about my concerns on Monday.

Episode II, Where Gayle Gets a Rise Out of the Doctor

I expected a phone call, maybe on Monday, but maybe not for another week, since Dr. Fischer did not have a good track record with me and the telephone. Amazingly, I got another email later Sunday evening:

Dr. Hinz forwarded me your email. I had assumed that the communications were being handled by the referring DVM's. They had sent us the films and we called them and I assumed that you were informed. Obviously, something broke down. The issue is not your horse's pastern angle but the fetlock.
Why don't you call my cell phone at <***> after 8:30 tomorrow if you have further questions and I can try to answer them. Alternatively, email works for me but it can be hard to make sure that everyone is understanding everything.
Ted Fischer"

Holy smokes, it's the great and powerful Oz himself!

I sent him the following reply: "Thanks. I'll call tomorrow. Pastern or fetlock, my questions are the same."

Episode III: Making the Call

I called around 8:45 on Monday and got the doctor on the phone. We talked for almost an hour. According to him: 1) he and Dr. Murphy did try to compare previous x-rays, but couldn't find one with a comparable angle; 2) there is no drug or treatment other than time to heal a suspensory ligament; 3) there was no earthly reason for us to have to sedate Snoopy in order to walk him, and 4) while very sorry about the breakdown in communication, there was no way it was his fault.

I couldn't argue with 1 & 2, but we had a rather lively discussion about 3, where I kept repeating, "He's five years old and he hasn't been able to run free for ten months," and he kept giving me examples of psycho race horses who didn't need sedation to be handwalked. I don't care what he says, either he hasn't truly seen a "psycho race horse" or he thinks it's normal for a horse being handwalked to need four people keeping it from floating away like one of those Macy's Day Parade balloons.

As to his 4th topic, I explained to him what it looked like on my end of our tin-cans-with-string: Dr. Pollard takes x-rays and says we'll know what our next step is when Dr. Fischer reviews the films. I wait a couple of days and call, but Dr. Fischer doesn't call me back. After another week and another call, I tearfully explain it all to Dr. Murphy, who drives to the hospital, x-rays in hand, and hunts the doctor down to get our next step. By then, our 60-day rehab has turned into 75.

He still wasn't willing to concede fault, but he said he was certain our communications problems were behind us. They should be. I have his email address and his cell phone.

Epilogue: What next?

Half of me wants to believe he is correct, that walking will put Snoopy back on track. Half of me still wants that second opinion. So today, I emailed Dr. John Snyder of the UC Davis Large Animal Hospital, Equine Department. I explained Snoopy's injury as briefly as possible and asked if he would be willing (for a fee, naturally) to examine Snoop's medical records and see if he concurs, or if he'd like to see my horse for more tests.

I'm sure I'll have to auction off my organs to pay for any tests/treatment from UC Davis, but if I can return my horse to good health, it will be worth it.

Stay tuned for The Return of the Frustrated, Bitchy, Yet Proactive Horse Owner.

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