Saving Emma

Uploaded by AuburnUniversity on 12.07.2012

I got the call that the owners were on the way with a 2-day old miniature donkey foal
that had a severe flexural limb deformity in the hind limb. When they arrived, we took
her in to radiology and got some radiographs and assessed the extent of the deformity then
discussed the options with them. They elected to attempt an amputation and placement of
a prosthesis. When they showed interest in that, we contacted a representative from Hanger
Prosthetics, Billy Fletcher, and he was very excited and enthusiastic to assist from the
get-go. We were really thrilled to hear that. That’s the same company that’s been associated
with the Dolphin Tale, which you’re probably familiar with. So, he came down the following
morning and met with us and he felt like he could work with us and he thought we could
develop a prosthetic for her hind limb.
We received a phone call from Dr. Liz Yorke at Auburn and she asked us if we would be
willing to participate in Emma’s rehab. We’re always looking for a challenge and
looking for an opportunity for a case that maybe would provide some inspiration to our
human patients as well. We were definitely able to see that in Emma when we came out
and looked at her for the first time.
We have transitioned her from the cast that she originally had on after the amputation
to her first prosthesis and certainly, it has been a group effort on behalf of the veterinarians,
technicians and students here at the college, as well as with the help of Billy Fletcher
with Hanger Orthopedic Group in getting a wonderful prosthesis designed for the limb.
She absolutely loved it from the get-go. She did very well in it and it was a very impressive
We started the day of surgery, coming over and assisting and putting on a post-op prosthesis,
so to speak. It was a cast with a prosthetic foot attached that she could use for some
partial weight bearing – it turned out to be full weight bearing – over the first
couple of days. After 2-3 days, we made a finished prosthesis that we could put on her
and have her go ahead and be using. That came up above what would be the ankle joint of
the horse, and in doing so, we were able to get her up and running. Over time, she has
grown and the growth has required that we provide a socket a little lower, so we’ve
reduced the height of the overall prosthesis as far as the amount it goes over the stump,
her residual limb and then over time, also lengthened the height of the foot so that
as she’s grown, we’ve been able to keep her level and keep her up and running.
Next, we’re still working to ensure that the stump completely heals. Once we get to
that point, then certainly, I’m going to take a little sigh of relief. There’s nothing
that looks like we’re not going to get there at this point; it’s going quite well. Then
as she continues to grow – she is growing at a quite rapid rate – Billy will work
with us in incorporating newer prosthetics as she grows out of the other ones. It’s
been a very unique case; it’s been a wonderful case. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from
this case. That’s why we’re here, that’s why we do what we do. The ability for a prosthetic
limb to be an option in horses is something that’s pretty exciting.
This case means a lot to me. I did a residency at a children’s hospital in Massachusetts,
so I was used to seeing congenital cases on a daily basis. This has been inspirational
for me to be able to see and be a part of. I think it’s also going to be great for
our patients to see, especially with the fact that she’s dealing with some wound healing
issues. We have patients who have for instance, dysvascular complications associated with
diabetes and other diagnoses as well that tend to have these types of problems with
wound healing, so it’s great for them to see her situation, to see her get back up
and running and doing what she wants to do. It can be an inspiration to those human patients
as well.