Monday, November 24, 2008

Emma Has Surgery

As I handed Emma to Erica, the surgical vet tech, she said, “OK, Emma, here we go.” And then Erica looked at me and said, “ We’ll take good care of her.” I told Erica thank you, but felt myself begin to tear up as Emma looked at me with her large eyes. If only I could have explained to her what was going to happen. If only she knew the surgery on her knee was necessary so she could run agility again and go snowshoeing and running again with Griz and me. I felt as if I were betraying her. But off Emma went and I, too, for a short drive just to gather myself up before running errands. I knew Emma was in good hands and kept telling myself the surgery was necessary for Emma’s overall health and longevity.

Dr. Erik Egger, a small animal orthopedic surgeon from Colorado State University’s teaching hospital, performed Emma’s operation. He also performed the first surgery on Emma’s right knee in March. The procedure, called a medial patella luxation or MPL, is an involved orthopedic surgery. Because the kneecap dislocates, Dr. Egger deepened the groove under Emma’s patella so it will rest properly there. The patellar tendon is then reattached to the top of the tibial crest after a section of bone from that area is sectioned and moved into proper alignment with the kneecap. The patellar tendon is then pinned to that site.

Throughout the morning, I envisioned Dr. Egger’s hands ably conducting Emma’s surgery. I’m never sure if I believe in the power of thought from one human being to another, but I was comforted in thinking it might work. Emma’s rehabilitation period after the last surgery was challenging, but successful. So, I knew I could face the challenges again, if only I knew it would successful again. I didn’t want to imagine Emma lame for life if the surgery didn’t work. It just couldn’t be an option for such an energetic, athletic dog.

About 11:30 AM, Dr. Egger called and said, “Mary, this is Erik Egger.” I knew immediately from the sound of his voice that things had gone well. “We just finished Emma’s surgery a little bit ago. She’s having some acupuncture right now. But she’s doing well and the surgery went quite well. There was some real deterioration on that ridge and under the kneecap, so it was important we did the surgery. I was quite pleased with how it went. You’ll be able to pick her up around 4 PM. Be sure to keep her iced. So, she’ll need eight weeks of rest and then we’ll talk about how to bring her activity along.”

I was relieved to hear Dr. Egger’s news. I always hope a doctor is having a good day when there’s an operation on someone close to me. And knowing there was considerable deterioration in the joint made me feel better about putting Emma through the surgery. My angst about putting her through the surgery began to die out as we spoke.

Before we hung up, I asked Dr. Egger about the use of acupuncture. He told me it was used as an adjunct pain management therapy at my vet clinic. I was pleased again imagining the Asian approach and philosophy somehow seeping into Emma and her knowing she’s being warmly cared for, even though it hurts.

Emma’s home now and quiet, very quiet for Emma. She’s asleep by the desk in my study as I type and she will be for a few days and she recovers with regular applications of ice and medication.

For those interested in another small animal orthopedic surgery story, please visit this site:
Dr. Egger was responsible for the invention of a prosthesis with a rubber foot for a Saluki, saved in Kuwait by an American volunteer. It’s a remarkable story of the power of hope and Dr. Egger’s orthopedic ingenuity.

For more in-depth information on MPL surgery, go to:

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