I Got Into Vet School... For a Day
Before we get into this crazy 4-month adventure that is me getting into vet school, let me preface that when I say I got into "vet school", I really mean I got into the building. And when I say I got into the "building", I really only got into the lobby and the “healthy” section of the equine wing. And when I say "I" got in, I really mean my horse got in and because he got in, I was also in… the building. But hey, I was there and let me tell you; it was one of the best veterinarian experiences I have ever had (Even if 6-year-old-vet-wannabe-Sam was completely jealous of my horse the entire time I was there).
Flashback to May 2017, the day I got back to Virginia for the summer, and also my 19th birthday. I showed up to the barn for what I thought was going to be a lesson with my best friend who had just gotten back from school in Kentucky. I walked into the barn and was greeted by my entire family and a beautiful palomino Thoroughbred gelding covered in red bows in a decorated stall. Yes, I was surprised with a horse for my birthday… every crazy horse girl’s childhood (maybe even adulthood) dream. It was perfect. I had tried Sunny in Ocala during my spring break where my trainer, dad, and I decided he would be a great project for me. After he was vetted, my dad and trainer lied and told me that he had failed the vet check and we were back on the hunt for horses (ironic… I know).
Of course, it couldn’t all be perfect. A friend of mine who works at the barn soon informed me that the vet had already come to see Sunny for a cough. He was originally diagnosed with nothing more than just allergies. He was put on Zyrtec and we moved on. Long story short, it was not allergies and after 6 more vet visits, 10 different diagnoses, and a move to Georgia, the cough had only gotten worse. I’m not talking “Oh, he coughs a little more than he did originally”, I’m talking “My horse is coughing so bad I can’t even ride him without him losing a lung.” No one could figure out what was wrong with my horse. So, after another visit with the vet in Georgia, we were referred to the University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
At this point I lost it. My only thoughts were, “This is it, my horse is dying from some crazy incurable disease that no one knows of” and “There’s no way I’m going to be able to afford this vet trip.” Two days later Sunny was admitted into the UGA vet school. We trailered him over around 8AM where a vet student who escorted us into the building greeted me.
Sunny was a champ; he walked right through the automatic doors and up onto the scale where they measured his height and weight. He was complimented on his behavior because apparently that doesn’t generally happen. We were then escorted back to one of the cleanest and biggest stalls I have ever seen. Not even 5 minutes later Sunny had a team of 5 different vet students, residents, and specialists looking at him. They started off just running through the basics, taking his temperature, heart rate, and respiration rate, all while making sure to get as much history from me as possible. The weirdest part for me was signing the medical information release form. It truly made me feel like I had a child in the hospital as I put down my mom and trainer as emergency medical contacts. After that I had to go to class, but not to worry, one of the vet residents sent me text updates after every procedure. It was such a relief that I didn’t have to wait until I went back to know how everything was going.
The number of tests and procedures they did on Sunny was incredible. We had a full set of X-rays done on his chest, blood work, an ultrasound, a bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), and they scoped him. Not to mention the full physical exams they did on him at the start. By the way, a BAL may be one of the most terrifying and interesting procedures I have ever seen done. Basically, they stick a tube up the horse’s nose and into the lung to rinse the lung out with a saline solution in order to collect cells to test. During this procedure Sunny (of course) got a nosebleed so I’m standing there watching him cough and bleed everywhere while he’s heavily sedated thinking about how sorry I was and trying to telecommunicate that it would be over soon. Lucky for us, the BAL is where we found our answers.
The lab results from the BAL confirmed that there was blood and inflammation in Sunny’s lungs. The diagnoses: Inflammatory airway disease (IAD) and exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhaging. He was then prescribed two different inhalers to help open his airways and reduce inflammation. We finally got to leave around 5, but honestly, I found myself wishing he could stay overnight just because of how nice everything was. Between the giant stall (with a window to the outside), feed selection they had given me incase he did have to stay overnight, and the quality hay that was provided for him during his stay, it was like we were checking out of a five-star hotel.
So at this point you’re probably wondering, “Are you homeless form these vet bills?” Or maybe, “How many organs did you sell to pay for this?” Let me tell you that this was quite possibly one of the most affordable vet visits I have ever had. My show bills are more than what this vet bill was and I was in shock. Yes, this includes the stall, hay, sedation, and all the procedures. The vets were extremely thorough and personable. The facility itself was amazing. I truly cannot stress how impressed I was by this entire experience. If you live near a vet school and you have the option of going, please, do not hesitate. You can’t beat the technology and facilities that they have, especially the UGA Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
For those of you wondering how Sunny is doing, I completed his treatment and he did get better. However, his diagnosis is something that he will have the rest of his life. Because of this I felt that the job that I was giving him was too stressful and that it was unfair of me to ask him to perform at the level I wanted him to be at. That being said, Sunny is with a family friend in North Carolina, living a much easier life on a cattle farm. I get updates often and am able to make sure he is in a home where he is well taken care of. While this may not have been the outcome I had hoped for, I do believe that it was the right choice for Sunny and his health. If I hadn’t gone to the vet school, Sunny’s diagnosis would have been much more delayed causing way more stress on him and me. I cannot thank the UGA Vet School enough for letting me in… even if it was just for a day.