Thursday, May 7, 2009

A date with the doctor

We did it! We went to see Dr. Martinelli, and his cast of thousands.

As hard as it seemed to do two weeks ago, it was much easier today. Of course, it wasn't cheap. Tina is on vacation this week and Christine is taking care of the horses and the dogs; these are my two go-to gals when I need Snoopy to be hauled anywhere. Unfortunately, the ultrasound specialist, Dr. Rantanen, was only available today, so I had to call a professional horse transport.

Enter Chuck and Stacey of Chuck Erb Horse Transport. Chuck's name is actually much longer than "Erb" – it's got about 25 letters – so he just uses the first three. We arranged for pickup at 11:30, to be down at Dr. Martinelli's by 2 pm.

Before we left, I decided to groom Snoopy a little so he'd look nice for the doctor. As usual, Snoopy wanted to bite my shirt, play with the brush and generally invade my space. We spent five minutes working on our tough-love relationship. I'd curry him and he'd stretch his neck out to enjoy it, then he'd turn and try to nip my shirt and I'd smack his nose.

When Chuck arrived, I warned him that a) Snoopy is a land shark, and b) he might be a little high-spirited. Snoopy proved me wrong by walking quietly out to the street, to Chuck's enormous vehicle. It was like a horsie limo – it cost about as much, too. Chuck was, however, a really nice man, and very good with Snoopy.

So I followed Chuck and Snoopy from beautiful Chino Hills,

To beautiful San Marcos.

This is the route we took.

When we finally got to the Twin Oaks Farm, Dr. Martinelli's intern, Dr. Walker met me. She immediately had men to take Snoopy to a stall and unwrap his leg (we had put a standing wrap on it for shipment), gave me paperwork to fill out, and then escorted me to the office to meet with the other doctors. Talk about efficiency!

Let me just say that I loved, loved, LOVED Doctors Martinelli, Rantanen, and Walker. They put me at ease, and spoke to me like we were all people trying to figure things out, and not like a team of gods answering the tiresome questions of a mortal.

We began by reviewing Snoopy's x-rays. They all agreed that Dr. Fischer had done a really good job and that the bones had properly fused.

Next, we went outside to watch Snoopy trot.

"Wow, he's really lame," Dr. Martinelli said.

As Gibbs would say to DiNozzo on NCIS, "Ya think?"

Dr. Walker then administered a little cocktail to sedate Snoopy so he wouldn't kick Dr. Rantanen during the ultrasound. My big black horse was in dreamland within moments.

I watched over Dr. Rantanen's shoulder while he slid the sensor over Snoopy's fetlock and pastern. At first, the screen reminded me of my first ultrasound of my son when I was pregnant. Then a bizarre shape took form in the graininess.

"See that?" he said. "Looks like an alien."

"So that's what's wrong with Snoopy," I told him. "He's got an alien infection."

Dr. Rantanen took a series of snapshots of the foot with weight on it and weight off it. He followed the suspensory ligaments from one insertion point to the next. While I watched, Dr. Martinelli began to talk to me about bone scans as another diagnostic tool in our search for Snoopy's lameness. As he talked, I thought I saw the dollar bills floating, out of my wallet and into the walls of the barn.

Between the x-rays and the ultrasound, I waited for those magic words: "Aha! There's the problem." But they never came. Dr. Rantanen kept saying that he saw no problems with Snoopy's ligaments. He showed me the pictures he'd taken and explained what he was seeing in each one to prove his point. Quite frankly, I had to just believe him. I mean, he could have pointed to a dark spot and said, "See that? It's Swine flu." Who was I to argue?

In a nutshell (and completely paraphrased for the medical-terms-impaired), this is what Dr. Martinelli told me:

"Dr. Rantanen can't find any soft tissue damage, so there's no need to do shock wave or stem cell treatment. His x-rays show that the bones are fused properly. So basically, there's nothing wrong with him, except that he's lame.

"I think, although radialogically, he's fused, functionally, he hasn't. He just still hurts from the initial injury and surgery. I won't give you a 100% guarantee that he'll end up completely sound, but I think right now it's still too soon to tell.

"In the meantime, I think you should take the kid gloves off and let him be a horse. Turn him out, don't worry if he runs around and kicks up his heels. If he's quiet enough, ride him at the walk. Just don't let him do any reining slides again."

What he said made sense to me when I equate it to human injury. I've never broken anything, but after my C-section, there was a loooonnnnggg period of time where I could not do situps because there was a range of motion where I just couldn't feel my stomach muscles. In addition to the fracture, Snoopy has had an incision to install plates and screws. The bone has to be traumatized by the foreign objects. When you toss in the blood vessels, muscle, nerves, etc that needed to be cut or moved around to get to the bone, why wouldn't he still have some soreness at the trot?

So the good news is there's nothing wrong with my horse. The bad news is that he's still lame. The better news is that I can relax and let him have a little fun.

Oh, and BTW, Snoopy was a complete gentleman at Twin Oaks and never tried to eat any of the doctors or attendants, which Dr. Martinelli teased me about constantly. "Oh, watch out, he's gonna chew on you," he'd tell the helper as Snoopy laid his sleepy nose in the crook of the guy's arm. Isn't that just like a kid?


  1. That's great news Gayle!!! Any surgery is so invasive to our system and all type of battles start to happen until it finally figures out what's going on. (I've had 3 and it took my bod about a year to get back to normal each time.) Hopefully easing Snoopy back into his regular fun and games will prove the same:-) This has been traumatic for you both and I am so glad to hear this outcome:-) Hugs --Chrissie

  2. Thanks, Chrissie. Even if it takes another year for him to be right as rain, I feel so much better now that I can let him run and play. You don't know how it broke my heart to see him every day, standing in the stall or being sedated in order to be handwalked. I can't wait to let him run into the middle of the round pen, and have a good roll in the dirt.