CASE STUDY: Antibiotic-Resistant Infection

An antibiotic-resistant infection is a nightmare of helplessness.  What do you do when all the antibiotics have been tried and your sick animal is now dying in front of you?

The only chance is to go deeply into the holistic toolkit — and pray you are not too late.

This is what happened to Loki, a 10 year old OTTB, who came in from the field on 1/6/24 with a small swelling above the hock on his right hind — and then rapidly declined.

The stable owner where he was boarded reached out on 1/8 to say she might need help with a boarder’s cellulitis horse.  Antibiotics had been started.

On 1/12 she messaged:  “The antibiotics are not working, he is on banamine daily for fever, and the swelling is moving up his leg.  Vet has been here daily, she has never seen a case like this, and she wants you involved.”

Loki’s blood work indicates that his immune system is not responding at all to the infection.

On 1/13 she adds, “He is getting worse daily. On last dose of the fourth antibiotic.”

On 1/14 on my way to see him his veterinarian calls:  “Dr. Faraday, this horse is dying in the stall.  I am on the last antibiotic and it is not working.”

The stable owner meets me at the barn door.  She is a longtime client and friend. 

“Martha, he is dying in the stall.  You have to do something.”

I go into Loki’s stall.  He is standing on three legs, his right hind hugely swollen and oozing pus.  It is excruciatingly painful and he cannot put any weight on it.  He has not laid down in at least a week and his good hind leg is exhausted and starting to tremble.  If he goes down then he probably will not get up — and he knows this.  He is spiking his daily 103-104 degree fever.  He has stopped eating.

“I am dying in this stall.”

Above are pictures of Loki’s terribly swollen right hind, oozing infection from multiple locations.

We regard each other.  I am gauging his will to live.  He is trying figure out why I am there.  If he has given up, then it is very difficult to move toward health.  The body, the heart, the soul have to want to stay.  He doesn’t want to die but he can’t see how this body is going to survive.  If the decision was made to euthanize him today then that would just be the next logical step in this terrible illness that has taken over his life in the last 8 days.

“Do you want to fight?”

He feels so terrible that he struggles to answer because he is at the end of his strength.  It is hard to imagine being well.  I feel him teeter back and forth and then settle just barely on the side that wants to live – just barely -/ 51% if I had to put it in terms of a number.

“Okay.”

“Then you are not dying in this stall.”

I brought an immune boosting and infection fighting arsenal as well as supplements to control pain and push blood flow.  Because he is not eating, it has to be syringed into him three times a day.  The dedicated couple who own the barn commit to doing this for him. They start that afternoon.  This is 1/14/24.  He gets two doses of everything by late that night.

On 1/15 the stable owner texts: “Loki is putting weight on his infected leg this morning and for the first time in days his temperature did not spike.  Holding steady at 99.8.”

By 1/16 he has resumed eating, has not had a fever, and the swelling in leg and sheath is decreasing.

Two days into immune-boosting and Loki is bright and contented at his stall door — with weight on his right hind.

Later in the day he is able to walk down the barn aisle. 

On Day 4 of immune-boosting, Loki is able to walk for the first time in days.

1/17 He lays down for a nap, temp stays normal, leg swelling continues to decrease, eating happily.

First nap in more than a week.

1/19 Walking better, no temp, great appetite.  Dead skin starts to slough off leg.

Cultures come back — two notoriously antibiotic resistant organisms

1/20 All is going well.  He is bright, relaxed and comfortable in his stall.

1/21 Big nap and an afternoon outing.  Firmly on the path back to health.

It is one week since the barn owner, the vet, and Loki told me that he was dying in the stall. 

How is this possible?  The core premise of the holistic approach is that the body can heal itself if it has the support and stimulation it needs.  Anything is possible — No matter how bad things look.  With antibiotic resistant infections, the immune system has to wake up and fight — it is the only way to beat the infection. The therapeutics administered to Loki targeted immune activation in multiple powerful ways — the metaphorical equivalent of having someone pour a bucket of ice water on you while you are deeply asleep and then pulling you out of bed by one foot while screaming, ”WAKE UP!!!!”

It woke up.

Early February 2024 — out on turnout.
Spring 2024 — muscled up and feeling well.

The pictures of him rearing are from April 2024. 

He was out for a walk.  His handler said he was not trying to get away from her — he went up into the air several times out of sheer joy at being alive in the Virginia spring. 

Dying in the stall is a fading memory.

Meet Loki.  He almost lost his way in the dark.  But he found his way back to the light — just in time for Spring.

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