(Please note that this article contains graphic pictures that may not be suitable for young children or the queasy)
Regardless of whether we’re talking veterinary or human medicine, the Emergency Room is a place rife with stories. Ranging from comedy to tragedy, we’ve seen it all here at A2AH ER, but when Denise and Niko’s story came rushing in one night, it took many of our “I’ve seen it all” ER docs and techs by surprise!
Denise and Debbie were on vacation in Greece when they discovered Greek sheepdog puppies in a dumpster. Being passionate about dogs and pet welfare, they’ve taken in many rescue dogs over the years; they decided to adopt one, and named him Niko (short for Nicholas, Greek for Victorious One). What many of us don’t realize is that other countries have their own adoption policies and that to take an animal from one country to another often requires a time of quarantine. Niko’s quarantine was 3 months. He is now approximately 8 years old and has been a wonderful addition to Denise and Debbie’s pet family—they currently have 4 big rescued dogs. Denise describes Niko as a fatherly guard dog, often patrolling the perimeter of their wooded lot.
Denise was in bed when she heard the other dogs running around and barking, and Niko came to the side of her bed. She saw what she thought was a burr in the fur around Niko’s face. Denise took a closer look and realized that it wasn’t a burr at all, but rather a 2” long stick protruding from Niko’s eye socket. Understandably Denise and Debbie were horrified but strangely, Niko didn’t seem overly distressed. Debbie consoled Niko as Denise tried not to panic while gathering everything they would need for a trip to the ER. She knew she needed to be calm and strong to help Niko get safely into care. During the car ride, Niko laid his face in her hand to protect his eye.
Upon arrival at A2AH ER, Niko’s demeanor hadn’t changed. Dr. Engers, the ER Doctor who treated Niko, explains, “We immediately gave him a pain medication injection, despite the fact that he seemed to be carrying on pretty happily with a stick in his eye—a fine example of how pets mask pain.”
Both Denise and Dr. Engers suspected that Niko would lose his eye. “We could not see the eyeball itself and we were concerned it may have been ruptured by the stick, requiring a removal of the eye,” states Dr. Engers. Once Niko was under general anesthetic a more thorough exam could be performed. The stick was gently removed from his eye and they found that there was as much stick embedded in the socket as was protruding from it, about 2” deep.
“The eyeball was still buried under inflamed conjunctival tissue and difficult to evaluate, but once in surgery, I was able to fully examine the globe,” continues Dr. Engers. “Surprisingly it appeared normal, with only a tiny scratch on the cornea (discovered using a fluorescent dye test). The stick had gone directly above the eyeball and was impaled deeply into the conjunctiva. The wound was flushed and we removed some hair that had made its way in with the stick. I sutured a small laceration on his eyelid and that was it!” Niko stayed over night at A2AH and was sent home the next day with some pain medication, antibiotics, and an E-collar (Elizabethan collar, commonly called a pet cone) so he wouldn’t rub the sutures in his eye.
Denise, Debbie, Dr. Engers and the ER staff at A2AH couldn’t be happier with the very fortunate outcome of this freak accident. Denise reports Niko is doing well but gets frustrated with his E-collar. She comments that his eye seems itchy but he loves his eyedrops. At the time of this writing, he seems to see from his eye, and is running and playing exuberantly in his usual way. Everyone can probably agree that Niko is one very lucky pup!