I can say that without a doubt, 2013 has been one of the most difficult years Lim has had. It seems as if she was only 100% sound and healthy for two or three months this year. There were problems large and small in each of the remaining months.
The past month has been particularly rough.
On Friday November 22, shortly before I left work, I received a text from a fellow boarder--we'll call her Boarder A--informing me that Limerick was coughing, had a lot of white/clear stuff coming out of her nostrils, and was not eating. I immediately knew it had to be choke so I asked Boarder A to call the vet. "Call Dr. C or Fox Valley," I said. Then I added, "Actually, just call Fox Valley. I will be on my way soon."
I was out the door within minutes and received a text response as I walked to the car: "Boarder B (another boarder, a vet tech) is on her way." I responded, "Did you call the vet? I am leaving work now." A few minutes into my drive to the barn, I received another response: "No, Boarder B will help you."
I'm not one to text and drive so arguing with Boarder A while on the road was out of the question. Lim was at the forefront of my mind, anyway. Although choke doesn't grip me within the same stomach-churning terror as colic, it's still an emergency and must be taken seriously.
Long story short, Boarder B gave Lim a Banamine injection in her neck and--you guessed it--an abscess formed. If you are not familiar with how serious an abscess caused by a Banamine IM injection is, then read this link.
The abscess in Lim's neck did not form quickly. I first noticed it on the following Monday evening. It manifested as a small warm lump and although Lim seemed okay, alarm bells immediately began going off in my head. I decided to return the follow morning and check her neck again. The lump was slightly larger so I immediately asked my husband to call the vet for me.
The vet found three small pockets of gas/fluid so she made an incision in the outer two pockets then another incision through the center pocket. She placed a drain through all three pockets. She instructed me to give Lim 15 tablets of SMZs twice daily, metronidazole twice daily and bute once daily. The above photo was taken shortly after the drain was placed into the neck.
The above two photos were taken two days later. I had the vet come out again because I felt another lump on the other side of her neck and, being extremely paranoid (and cautious), I wanted to be sure it wasn't another abscess. To my great relief, it was just a nasty muscle knot (likely from holding her sore neck stiffly).
The relief I felt when the vet told me the other lump was nothing to worry about? Words cannot describe it. I was a shaking, crying mess that morning before the vet appointment. I do not pray but I was that morning, hoping and asking and begging that Lim would be okay. Needless to say, when the vet left I was exhausted. Luckily I didn't need to go back to work so I spent a few hours in the cold with Lim, braiding her mane and cleaning her incision/drain and massaging the awful muscle knot in her neck.
This photo was taken a couple days later. At this point, the metronidazole was suppressing Lim's appetite so I had begun giving it rectally, upon the vet's advice. It helped, as did taking her out daily for short hand-grazing sessions.
The above photo was taken after Lim's first-ever Reiki session. I wasn't sure what to expect of it but Miss Lim was very relaxed throughout the session and appeared to enjoy it.
At this point in time, she's a little more perky and although her appetite isn't 100% yet, it's much better than before. I had been taking her temperature twice daily, too. Sometimes in the evening her temperature would spike a little--to 101, which isn't too high for a horse, but higher than her more normal 99. Keeping her happy was stressful but I would have moved mountains for her if that's what it took.
In the above photos she's off the antibiotics now--finally!--but her digestive system was taking its time returning to normal. Gas and bloat were a serious concern so I decided to try using her cribbing collar again. To my surprise, she didn't become aggressive or crabby with it on like she did a little over a decade ago. I am very happy with this and have begun leaving it on her when she's in her stall (it's removed for turnout). I also had her on 5 tablets of Gas-X twice daily as well as ProBios paste (along with her normal daily probiotic supplement). She wasn't yet going out with the herd but I turned her out in one of the arenas or round pen every day for some stimulation and exercise.
The above photo is of my husband scratching Lim's withers (which she loves!) This was her first day back with the herd so we went out to the barn in the morning to watch her for a while. After three weeks away from the herd, there was a chance that she would have a difficult time. But to my relief, she eventually found her boyfriend and they were reunited again, at last.
I learned a very hard--and frustrating--lesson from all this. Even though I twice requested that my vet be called for the choke, my request was not honored and instead, alternate plans were made for me. In the future, I will be very firm about what I want for Limerick, particularly when it comes to veterinary care. I am very grateful and relieved that she came through this potentially disastrous illness with nothing more than two small scars on her neck.