Beating the odds: Honey’s inspirational story of survival

This entry is article 6 of 8 in the June 2013 issue

Name: Honey
Age and breed: 8-year-old English setter

Honey-Pick 013 b

Medical challenge: When one of Cindy Tingle’s three beloved English setters, Honey, looked droopy-eyed, was attempting to vomit unsuccessfully, and had a misshapen belly, Cindy immediately thought of what had likely killed Emma, her old Gordon setter—bloat.  A life-threatening condition that requires immediate veterinary care.  The condition commonly referred to as “twisted stomach” can cause a rapid onset of clinical signs and in many cases death may result.

Cindy acted fast!  She brought Honey to her local veterinary practice for emergency care.  Honey was evaluated and one questionable area near Honey’s esophagus was identified by Ms. Tingle’s family veterinarian.

“As Honey’s condition worsened, she was scheduled to undergo exploratory surgery.  The veterinary practice called in specialist from out of state to assist in the procedure.  But, the specialist insisted on an ultrasound first, Cindy added.  ”The ultrasound technician was lined up, but cancelled at the last minute due to a family emergency.  I asked frantically at that point, what are our options?  We needed to save Honey who was getting more sickly by the day.  We were told we could transfer her to another hospital.  I said, OK, well, who can be ready for us at this point? The vet gave us two options and one of them was Tufts Foster Hospital for Small Animals in Grafton, Mass.”

The Tingle family was Tufts-bound!

Treatment plan: An hour later, Cindy and her husband Jeff found themselves on the highway in the rain headed to Tufts Foster Hospital for Small Animals in Grafton, Massachusetts. It was raining and dark and Honey was in the back of an SUV with a plastic hood over her. “I could hear her struggling,” Cindy said. “I could hear her moving, trying to get comfortable. I could hear her breathing against that hood. I climbed back there and took the hood off. I lay with her. Other than the sound of the rain, I sang to her. I sang a song my son had played at his guitar lesson the day Honey originally had surgery, about a week before: “Here Comes the Sun.” I found it very comforting for both of us. We made it to Tufts. I thought the whole ride, we still need Honey and she was telling us that she was fighting. I really hoped and prayed that this wasn’t our last moment with her. Jeff opened the back of the car, and the medical staff whisked her inside. It seemed almost immediately Dr. Moyer had us go into a consultation room.”

There, Cindy and Jeff learned that Honey had infections, fluid, and a hole, which meant they needed to start surgery as soon as possible. “We gave them permission after going over the plan. I think they started within a half hour of us arriving. Everything was so fast. It was great. They were incredibly compassionate. You could tell they understood how much we cared for Honey and really were trying everything to be able to bring her back home healthy.”

The emergency staff at Tufts found a hole about the size of a quarter at the bottom of Honey’s stomach and patched her stomach back together, joining healthy tissue to healthy tissue and cleaning up her abdominal cavity. “It didn’t end up being as straightforward as everybody hoped,” Cindy explained, “and it dragged on a little longer. They had to figure out why she wasn’t eating, why she kept getting fluid in her chest. They just kept coming up with strategies. To me, it sounded very methodical so I trusted them. They were really thinking things out, trying to make progress but not taking too many risks at once so they could keep her stable. And, Honey was responding. Even though they were baby steps, they were nice, they were great, they were encouraging. Even though she looked skinny, she was wagging her tail,” Cindy said.

“From the time we arrived, I sensed that this was what my husband called a house team for veterinary care. We sensed that right away. They have this team; they’re going to figure it out and they have all the resources. I mean, as soon as she was whisked in, they did a quick ultrasound. [The staff at Tufts] went into this emotionally attached to Honey and the situation and I could tell they were going to fight for her.”

Outcome: “I will always be grateful for the staff at Tufts Foster Hospital giving Honey back to us, allowing her to get well and come home. She’s Honey again. She’s the same dog that we had before. It’s amazing. There isn’t anybody who is familiar with Honey who doesn’t think the same thing. A lot of people were cheering for her and wanting updates. They are all amazed. I wouldn’t have had the confidence anywhere else. They put their minds together; it was a transfer of information within the staff. Everybody was always aware of her situation and what the current strategy was. It was a great team. That’s the only way she made it: a team effort,” Cindy said.

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