I love to put things back together. This is one aspect of veterinary medicine I love more than most, which is good I guess, because horses seem to love to hurt themselves. Over the years, I have sewn up a lot of horses. There have been some memorable ones. You see, when horses hurt themselves, they do it in dramatic fashion. I have archived lots of pictures over the years that I should probably not show without a serious warning to their graphic content. This article could be pages and pages but here are just two examples…
One of my clients called one very hot summer afternoon and asked me to come out and see what I could do with one his young training horses that got loose from the walker and ran into a horse trailer. He said, “Oh and Doc, its pretty bad.” Let me interpret those words for you… It looks like a meat puzzle and I’m not sure she will ever train again let alone if you can put this back together at all, but I’m hoping you’ll try. I spent the next 3 hours picking out bone, putting muscle ends back in proximity, and then overlying skin back over a lot of damaged muscle with sweat dripping in the eyes and flies buzzing around my ears without a slight breeze. I was amazed by how good it looked when it was done. I was even more amazed at how well she healed afterwards. She did go back into training after a good deal of time off.
Another call late one night had me going out to a client’s house out in New London. The horse owner had sold the mare and the new owner came to pick her up late that afternoon. The mare did not want to get on the trailer. In a very impatient way, the new owner tried to bully the mare to get on the trailer and that did not go so well for the mare. She reared up and whacked her head on the top of the trailer, broke the bone of her forehead, and opened a large hole into her sinus cavity. It was a severe looking injury that most people would be afraid to look at for fear they would see brains (of course there are no brains in the sinus cavity, but not everybody knows that is not where brains are). After I reassured the owner that brains were not about to spill out and that I could fix this, I proceeded to pick out pieces of bone from the sinus cavity with long handled hemostats and then close the skin over the hole. Coolest thing, since there was a span with no bone over the sinus cavity, when the horse took a breath in and out, the flap of skin would bulge and then recess. It took about 3-4 weeks for the bone to regrow and fill in the spans so the skin would no longer bubble up when she took a breath. After a few months, you literally could not tell anything happened at all.
Over the years I have sewn back together eyelids, lips, nostril margins, cheeks, faces, necks, legs, chests and rear ends. I have stood in the hot sun, cold wind, freezing rain, or pitch black with only a flash light putting my patients back together. Repairing injuries that are functional as well as cosmetic is fun for me. Yes, I said fun. I think I missed my calling as a plastic surgeon. Just don’t ask me to sew a dress or hem pants.