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Story of the Month - January 2003    

"Princess"   

           
                                                                          

On May 1, 2002, my husband, 12 year old, and three doxies were all playing in the house, having a great time. They would chase each other all around the couch, chairs, and into and out of the rooms. This has been a daily ritual for a long time. All of this "exercise" is done in moderation with the little one's safety and protection foremost in our minds. After taking a water break, the hooman kiddo runs through the living room and into the bedroom. The doxies were on the other side of the couch. Merlyn and Evee take no time to get on his heels and Princess takes off to catch up with them. Princess ran about three steps and started yelping. I took off to see what was wrong with her, only to find her still trying to run and her back legs dragging behind. Poor thing was still yelping in pain. By this time Merlyn and Evee had come to her "rescue". Merlyn would not let my husband or myself near Princess at first. I guess that he thought that we had hurt her. I picked Merlyn up, loved on him and called the vet, while my husband got Princess and headed for the front door. On the way to the vet, Princess was arching her back, and breathing real funny. And her pupils were dilated REAL big. I would look at her and just start bawling. I am a Registered Nurse and the signs and symptoms that she was showing were not good in my mind.
Upon arriving at the vet, they took her in immediately. The tech did a quick exam and noticed that she did have some sensation in her back legs. I was relieved, but still very cautious. She left the room and not two minutes later in walks the Vet. When she does the neurological exam she finds that Princess has absolutely NO sensation in her hind legs. Oh my gosh!!! What has happened to my baby in such a short time??? Immediately they are on the phone to a doggie neurosurgeon and send us on our way. It is now close to 5pm and traffic is horrendous here in Austin. Thank goodness I am an aggressive driver!! LOL! All I can do is pray that God gets us there safely and that Princess does not hurt too bad. (Princess was not given anything for pain so that the neurological exam would not be skewed when we got to the neurosurgeon.)
Upon our arrival to the neurosurgeon (5:30pm), he immediately takes Princess from my husband's arms and whisks her into the exam room. We were right behind him. He does his thing and tells us that she is in need of immediate surgical intervention. YES!!! YES!!!! ANYTHING for my Princess. Now comes the bad news. Dr. Dudley tells us that there is LESS than a 50% chance that she will ever walk or be able to do anything on her own again. We could care less. We just want our Princess out of pain and him to do what he can to help her. Off to have a myelogram done and then to surgery. Dr. Dudley assures us that she will be ok, sends us home, and promises to call when she is out of surgery. Gosh what a L-O-N-G drive home we had. And then the wait for the phone call was even worse. The long awaited phone call came in at 9pm. Everything went well with the surgery. She had blown out the T12-13 discs in her spine. He removed those discs and cleaned out the spinal cord area. Then Dr. Dudley tells us that she did have SEVERE spinal cord damage and the odds were even less for a full recovery. Again, I don't care. All I want is for her to be alive and out of pain. The best news is that she gets to come home tomorrow afternoon. How stressful the wait was. I think I called the office several times checking on her. My daughter and I went to pick her up about 4pm.
We were shown/given instructions on the exercises she needs for strengthening and how to express her bladder, since she can not do it on her own. Then we were told that she needs to stay in a small enclosed area, like her crate, for several days to protect her from hurting herself. And NO sleeping in the bed with me. NO on the crate. Too confining and did not want her to feel that she had done something wrong. So I stopped and purchased a playpen.
On the way home, I made up my mind that Princess was going to beat the odds. That she was going to recover and would walk again. That we were going to show the neurosurgeon how tenacious and resilient she is. When we got home, Merlyn and Evee were SO happy to see her. There were several minutes of doxie lickies and kisses and lots of tail wagging. Then we started the exercises. Princess slept right next to the bed, in her playpen, for several nights. Evee and Merlyn took turns watching her. EVERY movement she made, they would wake me up. So we quickly moved to the bed where Evee and Merlyn could keep a close eye on her and sleep next to her. Princess did have to wear pampers for the first three days. And after that she started whining to let me know that she needed to pee. So off comes the diapers. WOO HOOO one step in the right direction. The exercises were supposed to be done three times a day. We did them many, many more. It seems that we were always exercising. And every time we were exercising, Evee and Merlyn were right at Princess' side. Her own personal cheering section. After about 8 days of exercises, she began very slowly withdrawing her left hind leg when I pinched in between her toes. WOW a sign of improvement, small, but a sign. In the meantime, our regular vet calls several times to check on Miss Princess. She informs me that Dr. Dudley had told her that Princess' spinal cord injury was "the worst he had ever seen". Won't he be surprised to see the progress we have made?
Next comes her two week check up and stitches removal. We get to Dr. Dudley's office and he asks how she is doing. I proceed to tell him of the "progress" that I have seen. He is puzzled by her ability to pee/poop on her own. I tell him about the withdrawing of her hind feet and he says that a lot of times that is an autonomic response. And does not necessarily mean anything. Geez....what a let down. In comes the tech to help him do a neurological exam. He gets a pair of hemostats and holds her back foot in his hand. When he pinches between her toes, he is looking for a papillary response (the pupils to get bigger). That signifies that she is feeling pain. Well, low and behold, her pupils did get bigger. So now I am feeling a whole lot better. We get instructions to continue doing what we are doing and come back in two weeks.
For the next two weeks I was bound and determined that this girl was going to walk again. Evee nurses her incision, Merlyn taunts her to chase him, and I get completely obsessed with her exercises and encouragement. Princess starts showing small signs of regaining strength. First she starts by standing in front of the food dish (she had been sitting). After that, she started taking small steps. One or two at a time, but HEY!!! they are steps, in the right direction. One month check up.......I am so excited to be going to this one. Won't Dr. Dudley be amazed??? When we get to the office, Dr. Dudley meets us at the door. Me with a big smile on my face and Princess wanting to go home. I put Princess down on the floor and off she goes. Of course, she walks like a drunken sailor. Wobbling and stumbling all over the place. Dr. Dudley is totally astonished. He is standing there watching her with his mouth open and the biggest sparkles in his eyes. He tells my daughter and me how totally amazed he is at her and what a wonderful job we have done. Then he tells us that all we will see for the next five months is complete and total progress. What she has 6 months out from the surgery will be probably all she regains. What she has regained in one month is the best news for anyone.
Since Princess' June 1st checkup, we have stopped the exercises. Since she is walking, I figure that that is enough. Merlyn and Evee encourage her to play with them outside, and she really tries hard to catch them. They run real close to her and slow down just so she can take a couple of steps to get them. Around the middle of June we got another little doxie. Princess took right to her as she has the others and they are the best of buddies. Now that Shyla is a little older, she too takes part in the running and taunting of Princess to play tag. To all of our surprise, Princess took off running the other night. It is not the most coordinated run. Kinda a fast hop, hop, hop. She is getting there. Can't wait to see her actually run again. The walk is much much better. Still has a wiggle, but no wobbles or stumbles or staggers. I am sorry that this is so long. It is real hard to put all of this in something brief. There have been too many milestones that we have stumbled upon and passed. Thanks for reading to my ramblings of how my precious Princess has overcome a severe spinal injury.
You can go and look at her recovery page here: http://princessramsesandfriend.homestead.com/recovery.html

- submitted by Janice Adams

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