When I arrived at the barn and got my first look at Tennessee, I knew I’d be calling one of the oph- thalmology gurus to refer him right to the hos- pital. Tennessee’s eyelid was grossly swollen and only a small percentage of the eye was visible. There was a terrible laceration across the cor- nea with a torn portion dangling between the lids. To make matters worse, the entire anterior
chamber of the eye was filled with blood, giving Tennessee an angry red glare.
/ The Bad News /
His vitals were normal and there were no other signs of trauma, so I sedated
him and gently lavaged the eye with warm saline. As I cleaned away the dirt and
debris, I could see that almost a third of the cornea was involved.
I gave Tennessee a shot to help with pain and inflammation, started some antibiotics, and went to phone my ophthalmologist friend.
His owner was a nice young woman named Sarah, and her eyes were huge as I
gave her the news.
“Doc, I love my horse and everything but there’s no way I can afford that. No way!”
Somehow I’d known this would be her answer. Few people have several thou-
sand dollars burning a hole in their pocket, including me, so I was sympathetic
and we got to work on the horse.
After numbing the cornea, I debrided as much of the damaged tissue as I dared. It
was a very deep laceration and there wasn’t much standing in the way of the eyeball
A vet’s heroic efforts to save an eye.
BY COURTNEY S. DIEHL, DVM
rupturing. This horse needed surgery,
not drugs, and I wished glumly that
Tennessee was in the hands of a compe-
tent eye specialist.
I installed an eye lavage kit: a long
tube that entered the upper eyelid
and delivered medications directly
into the eye. It saved the struggle of
fighting with an uncooperative patient,
particularly when there were multiple
medications involved. Tennessee was
on five different eye meds, two oral
meds, and needed to wear a special
mask to protect his eye from the sun.
Sarah got the daunting task of treating the eye, a process that needed to
happen four to six times a day. Tennessee quickly got wise to the oral meds,
and she had to keep coming up with
new tricks to get him to take them.
Before the injury, he’d been training as a hunter/jumper, and Sarah had
hoped to start showing him. Now
everything was on hold.