Thursday, January 8, 2009

My Bid For The Darwin Award

Life with pigeon fever is never dull, especially for a careless caretaker. During my first few misguided attempts to dose Argus orally with the "horrible red stuff," the antibiotic Rifampin, I was christened with a face-ful of red goo, some of which ran into my eyes and mouth. I wore gloves, but ignored the red that escaped past my hands and ran down the sleeves of my jacket.

Knowing that I am especially sensitive to antibiotics, I always administer them carefully when I have to handle them with my horses. This time, I was not careful enough. Still, it was a surprise to me when I woke up Sunday morning with swollen eyes and a puffy face. By Sunday evening, my face, neck and scalp were itchy. By Monday, I had aged a few years, the swelling around my eyes creating strange wrinkles that were giving me a preview of myself at 50.

On Tuesday morning, I peered into the mirror. Either I'd gotten a really great tan over the weekend, or I was turning into an Ooompa Loompa! My face was a strange shade of orange, and my skin felt like fine sandpaper. Finally, I sought medical advice, and learned that one of the most common side-effects in the human use of this drug is --- you guessed it --- orange-tinted skin. I felt like a fool as I looked back on all of my accidental exposure.

Needles, syringes, more needles, mixing up paste to give orally. It's a dance of attaching needles to syringes, filling them, and holding needle covers in your mouth while you carefully push the needle into the horse, trying all the while to keep these powerful drugs away from your body. I have a new appreciation for veterinarians and the care in which they must handle these substances in their jobs, every day.

We've gotten the routine down pat now, me in gloves, long sleeves held tightly closed, and protective goggles, taking care to keep my mouth closed while I shoot red stuff down Argus' throat. I look like some sort of mad scientist. Argus is an angel about it, at times even seems to enjoy the sweet liquid, and he stands quietly while I gently slip the syringe into the left side of mouth, rub his forehead, then tilt his head back, and plunge it down his throat. I hold his nose up high so that he is forced to swallow it instead of spitting it out all over me. Afterward, he gratefully accepts a cookie or an apple slice. My attempt to make it all up to him.

This morning, when I handwalked Argus, my normally lethargic friend surprised me by spooking at a worker in the nearby vineyard. I felt joyous as I held on tight to the leadrope. Having enough energy and awareness to be scared of things is good!

Argus continues to have swelling at the injections sites on his neck, and the subcutaneous (under the skin) injection sites along his shoulder. We are going to try to get through a few more days of the injectable Naxcel ("liquid gold" as one reader put it), and then reconsider if he can continue to tolerate this drug. He has loud rumbling sounds coming from his colon, and he grunts painfully when he poops, all signs of GI disturbance (I'm giving lots of probiotics, which helps). Dr. Miller, bless his heart, calls me daily to discuss Argus and counsel me on what to do next.

Yesterday, Argus had a new and very promising swelling on the left side of his chest. It looked like an external abscess trying to form. This morning, it was still there; by the lunchtime feeding, it was half gone. I felt let down.

Overall, I think we're making slow progress. Argus is still alive, after all, which is success itself. We have a long, long road ahead, but I am hopeful.

Here is a slide show that one of Argus' fans and supporters made and sent to me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Thank you again for all your support. I tell Argus everyday that the world is pulling for him, and he looks at me with his brown eyes, and I know that he understands. Odie, Half Pint, and Caleb stand patiently in the pasture next to Argus' paddock, helping Argus while away the time with playful nips and tales of wild gelding parties under the full moon. They make me smile, and I know they make Argus smile, too. The love of the herd for their ailing mate is a healing thing, too.

LIGHT A CANDLE FOR ARGUS

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi I do horse rescues too tried to post this the other day do not think it worked...when one of the abcesses starts to form have you considered hot moist compress to help draw it? years ago I fought multiple cases of pigeon fever one horse had severe abcess on skull above eye .used a moist towel and human heating pad at vets recommendation to help draw abcesses to mature?Horse seemed to think it felt good.. hugs!!

LuvMyTBs said...

Hugs for Katie and lots of scratches and sweet talk(Good Boy Argies,Good Boy!!)for Argus.I know he is being such a good patient because he knows you are helping him and the love you have for him along with the love of his Watermark herd and the prayers of his many friends and supporters will pull him through this.I have to believe that God in his wisdom and kindness would not have sent Argus to you for a short stay after the hell he has already lived through.I believe his plan is for Argus to live out the rest of his days well into old age with you,Ridge and Odie.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Sorry to hear about your orange skin. But am happy to hear Argus spooked. I'm new to your blog, but wish you and Argus all the best. He seems like he knows you are trying to help and is being a good boy about his meds. It's so good he has herd mates along with you to help him through this.

OldMorgans said...

Hugs to both Argus and you. It is good news that he spooked; may he continue to recover. You, continue to be careful w/those meds. Orange skin is bad enough, but some meds could cause worse.
Sending prayers & care.

sagebeasties.blogspot.com

excaliber813 said...

Oh Katie,
You had me "belly laughing" at the
Ooompa Loompa reference. You have such a wonderful, positive attitude. One which Argus completely understands. Once again we laugh with you, shed a tear with you, and jump for joy at the "baby steps" Argus being spooked! Hurray~ You, Argus and the herd: Ridge, Odie, Half Pint, Caleb, Angel and Ginger! are never far from my thoughts!

Prayers for continued healing
Doe

SOSHorses said...

Oh Katie, bless your little orange face. Did they tell you how long it would last?

I am so glad to hear Argus is doing somewhat better. Keep up the good work, we are hanging in there with you.

Tracey said...

What a beautiful gift that slide show was! And I'm happy to hear that Argus has an external abcess forming. Pigeon fever isn't fun, from what I've read.

KC said...

I sympathize with your sensitivity to antibiotics! The only one I can touch or even be near without going into heaves followed by hives, is penecillin. Keep the Benadryl on hand!

Hugs to you and Argus. Give him an extra ear scritch for me!!

Schnitzie said...

Hi Katie,

Keeping the vigil here. Glad to hear of Argus' progress and his willingness to take his meds and keep eating. That he spooked today is another encouraging sign.

When you described his shaking as you prepared to give him his shots, it reminded me of how much shaking he did when you first got him -- shaking just at the prospect of having a pasture to walk around in, shaking at the reality of a loving, normal life, so much sensory overload.

Now the shaking is for an understandable reason, very common for any horse to respond this way. A sign that, because of you, Argus is normal. And an angel.

I keep thinking, how fortunate that he did not get adopted by anyone else. He belongs with you, and it is such a good thing you chose to hold onto him. As hard as all this is now, imagine if he had come down with internal pigeon fever in another home. You would be utterly tormented and worried sick for helplessness if you could not care for Argus directly.

So much has turned out as it should have...moreso than anyone could have guessed. Argus has to get well, and I can't imagine any better set of circumstances to help him get exactly what he needs. I am so glad he is with you and that he is getting the love and support of your local community and from admiring friends around the world.

300 candles from people in 6 different countries for Argus! Wow!

Sport's Mom said...

Sweet, good tempered Argus. How could anyone NOT love him?

Anonymous said...

How awesome that Argus is now standing by the gate, wanting to go out!

A Bay Horse said...

Oh no, that was too funny about the Oompa Loompas. Been following along. I hope Argus feels better soon. Best wishes for his health and happiness. :)

excaliber813 said...

"Overall, I think we're making slow progress. Argus is still alive, after all, which is success itself. We have a long, long road ahead, but I am hopeful."

Katie,

Throughout this setback you have shown strength, courage and perseverance.

“Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength.”
author unknown

My day starts and ends with thoughts & prayers for you and Argus!
Give "Argies" a nuzzle for me.

Doe

Anonymous said...

Thinking and praying for you and Argus today, while I lit some candles. Glad to hear he is hanging in there! Go Argus!

S said...

Here's a plus. You match the famous down jacket now! hee hee hee ;D

Sport's Mom said...

"S" is me. It didn't do what I wanted it to. Stupid computer!

Elliott Elijah said...

Oh no.... I read your blog every now and again through links off other blogs that i frequent.... I didnt realize the good ol boy was so ill. I had read about the pidgeon fever but not the internal pidgeon fever until now.

Sending good thoughts of health and healing his way! I understand the antibiotic sensitivity as well... I'm allergic to, well, almost every antibiotic.

Pinky said...

I am sorry to hear about Argus' illness. I hope all the antibiotics kick in soon. He is a true fighter. We will be hoping the best for you here in Maryland.

Anonymous said...

KATIE, I'VE BEEN OUT OF THE COUNTRY FROM RIGHT AFTER CHRISTMAS UNTIL YESTERDAY, SO I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT ARGUS UNTIL I CHECKED TODAY. MY PRAYERS ARE WITH HIM AND YOU, HIS WONDERFUL CAREGIVER. PLEASE KNOW THAT IF YOU NEED ADDITIONAL FUNDS OR ANYTHING ELSE, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS SAY THE WORD. SO MANY OF US HAVE REJOICED IN THE STORY OF ARGUS AND HIS REBIRTH THROUGH YOUR LOVE AND CARE. AND YOU CAN'T IMAGINE HOW THRILLED I WAS WHEN YOU TOLD US THAT ARGUS WAS GOING TO STAY WITH YOU. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE AND ARE CURRENTLY DOING TO SAVE "OUR" BOY. JOANN DREW