Our blind girl Cammie is back home and doing well after her surgery to remove hundreds of shotgun pellets and, yes, a bullet in her knee that we didn’t even know about. I took the photo above yesterday in the living room. She’s normally wearing a cone when she isn’t under our direct supervision, although she doesn’t seem too interested in going after all her sutures.
The bullet was a mystery until the surgeon at BEVS, Dr. Jacob Helmick, palpated her leg Monday morning before surgery and was pretty sure he felt a bullet there. Subsequent X-rays confirmed it:
You can see the damage caused to the rest of the knee joint. It’s remarkable she could walk normally on it with no changes in her gait or any other visible signs something was amiss.
Here’s a side view:
And here’s a bilateral view … you can see how torn up that knee joint is compared to the other leg:
Cammie is at risk of developing severe arthritis in that joint as she ages, so we will be starting her on preventative care in the meantime.
Dr. Helmick also took radiographs of the rest of her body to make sure we weren’t missing anything … and it turns out Cammie had also been shot in her right shoulder, too:
This means that Cammie was shot multiple times, with two different weapons, but whether on the same occasion or at different times we obviously don’t know.
I didn’t mention this in the original post, but she is also missing most of the toes on her left back foot, as if they had been chopped off. There’s just a straight line across her foot where most of them should be.
Remember that big clump of pellets in her neck on the X-ray? When Dr. Helmick called after surgery to tell us how Cammie was doing, he said they had counted 212 pellets from that clump … but that a bunch had fallen off the operating table and scattered across the floor. Well, a nurse later rounded them all up, counted, and that clump had a total of 236 pellets! We still don’t understand how she didn’t get her head blown off by that blast.
While digging those pellets out of her neck, Dr. Helmick was concerned how the tissue surrounding them looked and wondered if there had been leakage into her oral cavity. (If so, this would help explain why her lead levels were so high.) So he asked Dr. Bryan Harnett, the internal medicine specialist, to come in and use his endoscope to see if there had been any penetration. Fortunately, there wasn’t.
Dr. Helmick could not remove all those other isolated shotgun pellets from her limbs and face because it would just cause too much tissue trauma. He did enucleate her right eye (with six pellets lodged inside), but encountered so much bleeding that by the time he got it stopped, he decided to not proceed to the other eye. Cammie’s blood pressure was starting to drop, as was her body temperature, and she had been on the operating table for 2.5 hours already, so the safest thing to do was to stop there. We can always do the other eye later, he said.
In the end, Cammie had ammunition removed from four places: knee, neck, shoulder, and eye.
As I mentioned in the previous post, the treatment goal is to remove enough of the source of the lead poisoning to the point where long-term chelation therapy can keep her lead levels below the toxic threshold. We knew there was no way to get all those pellets out of her, but hopefully removing that huge clump of pellets in itself should reduce her exposure significantly. (We don’t know if that bullet in her knee was made of lead or not.) We will test her lead levels in two weeks, and again on a regular basis to monitor her exposure.
When the nurses brought Cammie out to me on Wednesday, they were in the inner foyer of the building when Cammie sat down and wouldn’t budge. She was scared, didn’t know where she was going, and didn’t want to leave the building. I opened the door, crouched down, and called her name. She cocked her head, listened to my voice as I called her name again, and suddenly bolted straight for me. She crawled into my lap and began licking my face so much she almost took my mask off. Then, just as she had the first time I got her from BEVS, she climbed onto my lap, put her front legs over my shoulder, and insisted on me picking her up and carrying her to the truck.
One of the nurses told me, “She’s just so sweet, we didn’t want to give her back!”
In the truck, Cammie kept licking my face, pawing at me, trying to get me to scoop her up in my arms. She was so relieved we had come back for her, and that she was going home.
A big thanks to the wonderful team at BEVS for providing truly superb veterinary care for Cammie!