BURTON, Ohio – Miriam places her stethoscope with precision, listening for the ka-dunk, ka-dunk, ka-dunk of heartbeats. She concentrates, counts, and goes back to her toolbox for another syringe filled with anesthesia.
Within a minute, the horse wobbles. The dapple’s legs give way, and a padded squeeze chute lets her slide gently to the floor.
Two doctors in the stall, plus the anesthesiologist and another technician, work quickly. They intubate the equine, attach straps just above the hooves and hoist her off the ground.
Moments later, she’s on her side on the operating table.
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The Equine Specialty Hospital in southern Geauga County is one of the foremost equine hospitals in the country, according to its board certified veterinarian-owners.
Yet William and Cindy Jackson say many horse owners, even those who have the clinic right in their backyards, don’t know the place exists.
But they’re always glad it’s there when an equine emergency arises.
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Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was rushed to the New Bolton Center in eastern Pennsylvania after shattering his right hind leg at the Preakness last year.
The Jacksons’ hospital is the same concept and caliber as New Bolton.
William says they’re one of the best equipped equine hospitals in the nation, noting the Geauga County hospital rivals Ohio State University’s vet hospital – a place that’s often seen as the only option for equine enthusiasts in this area.
Here they’ve got all the bells and whistles: They can do CAT scans, digital X-rays, bone scans, ultrasounds, endoscopy, and will get a horse-sized MRI machine this summer.
“They’re the same tools as human medicine and surgery, just on a grander scale,” Cindy explains.
And they’re all to help the Jacksons give better care to their patients.
“With [the technology] we know exactly what to do, where to go, and the exact plan of what everything looks like before we even pick up the scalpel,” William said.
They’ve cut a 40-minute surgery to just 25 minutes.
“There’s no exploratory work anymore. We just get in, get it done, and get them into recovery.”
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A little foal, less than a week old, is bedded down in fluffy straw near his stall door in the hospital’s intensive care area.
His momma watches over him, nudging him with her nose, but he’s still weak. He doesn’t lope and nurse like other newborns.
He’s made lots of progress since he was admitted less than a week ago, Cindy says, but he’s got a ways to go. Right now, the biggest concern is his scratched eyes.
Cindy and an assistant, Sabra, practically lay in the stall’s straw to tend to the little guy. Cindy drops in a dye to see where the scratches are and diagnoses major injury near his lower eyelid. The eyelid is beginning to roll inward, creating more damage, she says.
With the mare watching over her shoulder, Cindy sutures the eyelid to hold it in place, cooing at the foal the entire time. In less than 20 minutes, the procedure is done, the stall door is closed, and the veterinarian is on to her next patient.
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The Equine Specialty Hospital started small, with just one veterinarian-surgeon, Arthur Segedy, in 1994. Segedy, the racetrack veterinarian for Thistledown, had a small animal practice nearby and employed other veterinarians for farm calls.
The Jacksons found a home and a career when Segedy hired both of them in 1999. Each was backed by intense research and surgical residencies – his in orthopedics, hers in internal medicine – from some of the nation’s foremost equine programs.
When Segedy succumbed to liver cancer in 2004, the Jacksons jumped at the opportunity to make the hospital their own.
The Rapids Road facility currently has 27 total stalls, but the Jacksons say it’s not enough. Since the Jacksons took over the practice, they have more than doubled their caseload, and last year treated some 2,400 horses.
They plan to add 10 more stalls and an additional treatment room within the next year, and are looking at adding more property to the practice, too.
The Jacksons have 22 employees, but that’s not enough to handle their demand, either. And after a two-year search, the couple just recently signed on another veterinarian, a colic specialist, to join their practice this summer.
“We looked long and hard, but she’s the caliber we expect and will bring something new to the practice,” William says.
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Each horse that visits the equine hospital suffers from something major, whether it’s an emergency trauma or a disease that’s beyond the reach of your typical large animal veterinarian, the Jacksons say.
Most horses are referred by their everyday vet for diagnostic work, surgery, foal care or intensive care.
And here, the hospital is staffed 24 hours a day by people who William describes in one sentence: “Horses are their life.”
“If they have to sit with a foal all night, on the floor, and feed it or stand it up every hour, they do. We would expect that kind of care for ourselves, and that’s what we want for the horse,” he says.
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William, in his blue scrubs, works a heavy lather from his fingertips to his elbows, then rinses and dries, flipping his towel in a way that only doctors know. He slips into a surgical apron and dons latex gloves, ready to get the job done.
Another veterinarian, a specialist from Kansas and a favorite of this horse’s owner, flew in to be the primary surgeon on this elective throat surgery.
The dapple mare’s neck is shaved and prepped, and her entire body is draped with surgical cloth. Spherical overhead lights are illuminated and positioned.
The surgeon makes his cut.
(Reporter Andrea Zippay welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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