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Finding miracles


Judith Murphy June 19th, 2008

Nothing is more beautiful than a miracle. I've been watching one take place. The night after Christmas, my gentle, beloved greyhound Annie got into a fight with or was attacked by another dog. Whatev...

Nothing is more beautiful than a miracle. I've been watching one take place.

The night after Christmas, my gentle, beloved greyhound Annie got into a fight with or was attacked by another dog. Whatever sparked the rage is unknown. The aftermath is unforgettable: Annie was missing fur and flesh. She had wounds of varying severity on almost every part of her body. Nevertheless, she stood up when I came home and limped toward the garage door. Only then did I look down and realize with horror that, within the blood puddled in the biggest and deepest wound on her back, I could see the white bones of her spine.

She knew she needed help. She knew the car could take her to the vet. She got into the back seat by herself and waited for me to take her there. Hands shaking, I found the vet clinic number programmed into my cell phone, pressed the call button, and hoped for an answer, as it was past the clinic's regular hours. The call was forwarded to an all-night emergency veterinary center in Norman. I asked for directions and drove. Annie's surgery lasted four hours as she was stitched and stapled back together.

Because the emergency center closes during daytime, I picked her up the next morning and took her back to the clinic, where she could be monitored around the clock for the next few days. She seemed to be doing fine. Then, about 10 days later, the thin skin on her back began to slough off over the deepest wound and continued to fall away several inches beyond the original boundaries. It couldn't be stitched up again; there wasn't enough skin left to stitch. I visited her in the clinic nearly every day. To look at her unbandaged haunches required disassociation: it was greyhound steak with striated muscle of infinite detail and beauty.

Whenever I left her, I despaired. The massive wound was an invitation to infection, which seemed inevitable. I feared she would die every tomorrow, if not each today. I spoke often with Dr. David Biles, the vet who had made it possible for her to walk again after she was hit by a car three years ago and who was keeping her alive in the new crisis. One day, I asked about skin grafts. He suggested that I take the dog for evaluation to the Veterinary Surgery Center in far north Oklahoma City. He called on Annie's behalf, spoke to one of the surgeons and made an appointment for the next day.

That's how Annie and I met Dr. Susan Streeter, surgeon and miracle worker. She examined Annie and said, "She may not need a skin graft. I have a new technique that we've used on dog gunshot victims. Let's try that first."

So we did. I won't describe Dr. Streeter's technique, in case she wants to present it to a veterinary journal or professional conference. Let's just say it's genius in its simplicity and "elegant" in the mathematical sense. More importantly, for Annie and the hunting-dog patients before her, the technique works. Five months ago, an 8-by-10-inch surgical pad was too small to cover Annie's skinless area. Week by week, the wound grew smaller as miniscule strips of shiny pink skin grew from the edges toward the middle. This week, the last small gap closed. Furthermore, where I had expected a swath of scar tissue, the dog's fur has regrown with the same white diamond reappearing on her brindle back.

To me, Annie's healing is a miracle. At the very least, it's fair to say, the team of Dr. Streeter, Mother Nature and God do work that's worthy of awe.

Murphy is a freelance writer living in Norman.

 
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