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Equine May/June 2007 (Vol 2, No 3)

The Final Diagnosis: "Emergency Response"

by Doug Byars, DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC

    We remember cases for various reasons. I've remembered this one for over 30 years, primarily because it involves two of my heroes in our profession. This case occurred in 1975 when I was an ambulatory intern at the University of Georgia. I got back to the hospital shortly after hours one evening and saw Dr. Dilmus Blackmon, the department's veteran ambulatory clinician, loading students (including the eventually infamous Dr. Tom Divers) into an ambulatory vehicle to go on a colic call. Because it was late in the day and the call involved a client of known high intensity (Mrs. R), I offered to go in Dr. Blackmon's place. For the same reasons, the ever-gracious Dr. Blackmon sent me home, thereby protecting the potential exposure of my backside.

    According to Dr. Divers, Dr. Blackmon made it to the farm in record time, and the ambulatory vehicle skidded to a stop as close as possible to the barn. The horse's head was down to the knees and drenched in sweat, the ears were prone, and the lower lip dangled like a rotten banana peel. The mucous membranes were black and blue, and the heart rate was just under a million beats per minute. Dr. Blackmon knew this was a "bad deal" with a tough client. He approached Mrs. R with the plan to at least have the students pass a stomach tube in the hope of relieving possible gastric reflux. Dr. Divers and his cohorts had barely touched the horse when it stiffened, eased backward, and keeled over ... it was gone instantly.

    Mrs. R was frantic and challenged Dr. Blackmon with numerous questions, ending with the perennial, "What have you and your students done to my horse?" With a calm demeanor and the wit of any Georgia graduate, Dr. Blackmon answered, "Ma'am, I'm not rightly sure, but it appears we arrived 5 minutes too soon."

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