The Impossible - The Story of Choc - Part 3
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   8th Mar 2014   •   8,290 views   •   0 comments
The Story of Choc

To me, putting Choc down was never an option. For a horse so full of life, and so eager and ready to take on her next challenge and fight to keep living, it would just be wrong to take away that chance. This, of course, left two options. The stable rest would have been far, far cheaper. It also would have been less risky to Choc, but what of the end result? After months of stable rest, I’d be left with a horse that ‘might’ be paddock sound? I’d already seen Choc stuck in a tiny paddock with her fractured leg, peering through the fence with her big brown eyes blinking dolefully, and just begging to be let out to run and play. With her whole life ahead of her and a heart longing to compete, I had to give her that chance. As difficult a decision as it was, I think that Choc would have done the very same thing if she could have decided for herself.

We went with the surgery.

This decision, of course, opened up a whole new world of risks and dangers. I trudged like a zombie into a dark waiting room – no windows on the walls, and lit only by the dull, buzzing light of a computer screen in the corner. I just sat there, staring at the ground, tears streaming down my face (I had long since given up on holding them back) and listened while the surgeon discussed the inherent risks of the surgery. Unlike dogs or humans, horses do not traditionally respond well to surgery. Their bodies are inclined to reject foreign objects, and the plate and pins that were to be inserted into Choc’s leg were no exception. This rejection could lead to infection, and with the fracture so deep in Choc’s elbow, there was a strong possibility that the infection could move into the joint, in which case it would eat away at the bone surrounding the plate and possibly damage Choc irreversibly, or force the removal of the plate.

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There was also the risk of the operation itself, being under anaesthetic for hours on end, and possibly never waking up. As if that wasn’t terrible enough, the surgeon warned me that, in these sorts of operations, horses often stand up incorrectly after the anaesthetic wears off, thus bending the plate and even risking the possibility of breaking the leg at the site of the fracture.

Then, assuming the operation went well, she would still be at risk of the bone refusing to heal, the wound not closing, or the muscle damage being irreparable. And even if the healing process went well, she would be at risk of lameness due to strain in her opposite leg, and even early arthritis.

All of these risks, dangers and heartaches for a massive sum of money that, frankly, my family just did not have.

The odds were stacked up against us, a pile that – I admit – seemed far too high to overcome. But we had to try. Time and again, Choc had tried her heart out for me, keeping me safe no matter what, helping me out when things got tough. She deserved this chance, so it was a chance that we had to take.

She stayed at the hospital that night, to go into surgery the following morning. In just a few short hours, I felt like my whole life had been turned upside down.

The night before the surgery, I didn’t sleep. And for the day that followed, I was walking around like a zombie. Never before has time moved so slowly. The hours bled by painfully, and it was not until five in the evening when I heard the news:

“Choc is awake, and on her feet.”

I was so relieved I nearly fainted. To this day I don’t know if I was laughing or crying; all I know is that – after facing a whole day with the possibility of losing my furry child at the end – I could not have been more glad to see the back of it. We weren’t yet out of the woods, but the worst was over, and little by little, my hope began to return.

In the days following, I visited Choc at the hospital every day. Studies have shown that patients (yes, even animals) recover better and faster when visited by their loved ones, and I can certainly see how this is true. On the first day, Choc was a sorry sight. Still pumped full of sedatives and painkillers, she was standing half asleep in her stall – which is saying something for a horse who once dug a hole so deep when standing in a temporary stable overnight, that I nearly managed to bury myself in it the next morning. Her eyes were dull and her head was drooping, but when I went into the stall she looked up at me, and her floppy ears pricked forwards. I held her head and hugged her. For minutes, hours, I don’t know. I was just happy to see her alive. No words can express how terrified I was before, facing the reality that I might have to lose her.

She recovered well at first; perking up quickly and tucking into her food like a trooper, but after the first few positive days, disaster number one began to strike. Her wound was breaking down. It was the plate that caused it, as expected. Her body was rejecting it, and because of that, infection set in. The stitches had to be removed, leaving the wound open and gaping to drain, covered only by a piece of gauze pinned to the skin. Her leg was open to the very bone.

The Story of Choc
Choc's wound one week after surgery

I admit it was a horrific sight, and the first time I saw her wound being cleaned, I very nearly passed out. It was incomprehensible to me how she could be standing and walking – albeit very short distances – with her elbow poking right out into the open air.

But as always, Choc remained unconcerned. She stood in her stable, pawing at the door to get out, and despite the breakdown of the wound, she seemed to be coping well. It would take more than a gaping wound and a plate in her leg to dampen Choc’s high spirits.
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