Friday, February 25, 2011

Our first c-section

I knew it would happen someday. I only hoped to avoid that day for as long as possible.

Wednesday night around nine, I noticed a four-inch string of mucous hanging out of Caboose's back end. Usually that means you'll see kids in a couple hours, so I stayed with her until past midnight. She wasn't even acting uncomfortable, but I decided to sleep in the barn, because you just don't see mucous that long before you see babies.


3:44 a.m. -- Caboose woke me up with a bleat that sounded serious, although it wasn't quite as long as most goat screams that mean the babies are coming. I pulled on my insulated overalls, boots, coat, and hat, grabbed an armful of towels, heating pad, camera, and phone, and I went to the kidding pen and sat down in the straw next to her.

4:37 a.m. -- I go back into the barn office and lay down on the futon, hoping to catch a little more sleep, because Caboose has done almost nothing for the past hour. Every fifteen or twenty minutes, she lets out a bleat that's about half as long as one that means she's really pushing. I spend the next hour feeling like a jack-in-the-box, as I pop up and look out the window from the office at Caboose when she lets out a short scream.

6:05 a.m. -- The sun is coming up, and I still haven't had any sleep, so I decide to check on Caboose again. She seems fine, so I start doing chores, feeding all the other animals in the two barns. About every fifteen minutes, Caboose lets out a real scream that sounds like she is serious now. I run in, thinking I'll see a nose or hoof or something, but there is nothing.

8:00 a.m. -- I decide to do a vaginal exam, thinking that the kid must be sideways or something. As soon as I feel a nose, I'm happy and assume that I'll be seeing a kid within about fifteen minutes.

8:33 a.m. -- Still nothing. I do another vaginal exam and realized that just beyond that nose is Caboose's very tight cervix. She has not been dilating. I immediately think of my friend with Nubians who had to have a c-section a few years ago because one of her does did not dilate. I call the University of Illinois vet clinic and am quickly connected to a professor. He is concerned that she is not dilated after hearing the history and explains how to manually dilate the cervix. If that doesn't work, he says we're probably looking at a c-section. I try to manually dilate the cervix and don't make any progress.

9:42 a.m. I come into the house to call Ellen, another breeder, to see if she has any tricks up her sleeve before heading to the vet clinic. She does, and adds that it could take thirty or forty minutes, so I try again.

10:30 a.m. I come inside and tell Jonathan to help me get a crate in my car to take Caboose to U of I for a c-section. Still no progress on dilating the cervix and when I pulled my hand out the last time, there was hair covering my fingers, so I knew the presenting kid was dead -- had been dead for quite some time and was probably responsible for the current situation.

11:05 a.m. I'm on the road to U of I. Caboose is absolutely quiet. I wonder if she's died. I second guess every decision I've made in the last eight hours. After half an hour on the road, I hear her kick, and my sleep-deprived brain says, "She's not even in labor!" because she is no longer bleating.

12:45 p.m. I arrive at the vet clinic. The crate is placed on a cart that is wheeled straight to the operating room. I feel my throat getting tight and tell myself not to cry. She is going to be fine. Margaret arrives ten minutes later. She is in her senior year as an engineering student at the university. I called her when I knew she was done with classes for the day, and I told her what was happening. Caboose was her goat before she went off to college.

Everything started moving really fast as more than a dozen people were buzzing around Caboose. A vet did a vaginal check and confirmed what I'd said -- she wasn't dilated. It was obvious a c-section was the only answer for a positive outcome. Caboose was weighed and her belly shaved as the surgeon kept reminding everyone that they needed to hurry in case there was still a live kid inside. They shaved her neck to insert an IV line. We discussed anesthesia options, and one vet explained that gas would be the quickest, least stressful option for Caboose, so I agreed. They put a mask over her face, and as soon as she was asleep, they put a tube down her throat. They shaved her ears and attached tubes and wires. Caboose is surrounded closely by six people: the surgeon and his assistant, the anesthesiologist and her assistant, and two students who are holding Caboose so she doesn't roll off the operating table. Half a dozen more masked veterinary students stand around the room to observe.

Caboose's buckling, Marshall Dillon
1:37 p.m. The c-section begins. Within seven minutes the first kid is delivered and handed to a waiting student with a towel. I don't see any movement and know that no one knows if it is alive or dead. I watch as several people start working on the kid and overhear one say that it is alive. I wonder if it is a buck or a doe, but I know that it really doesn't matter. The kid's airway is suctioned, and everything is happening so fast, I can't keep track. I hear excitement back at the operating table and see another kid in a towel. All of those students who were just standing around are now busily working on our kids -- drying them, administering oxygen, giving dextrose, injecting something else, suctioning the kids' airways.

Caboose's doeling, Miss Kitty
I see the third kid get pulled out, and it is obvious this is the dead one that had been stuck in the cervix. The amniotic sac looks like it is filled with mud. As I suspected, the kid has been dead for some time. A student wraps it in a towel and sets it aside. I look at it and see that it was a buck. I want to know exactly what happened and why, but as I start to look at him more closely, I realized a fourth kid has been delivered. At some point, I hear the anesthesiologist say, "Get me a crash cart" and know that's not good. I leave the dead buckling and walk over to the kids that everyone is trying desperately to save. The anesthesiologist looks up at me and asks if it's okay to intubate the kid that they're losing. I nod and say, "Yes, that's fine." A few minutes later, she asks if I want them to keep trying. I ask if there's a heartbeat, and when she says no, I respond, "That's okay. We have two kids."

Miss Kitty stands!
For the next two hours, the kids are the stars of the hospital. The little doe finds her voice, which brings everyone within earshot. People squeal like children when they see the kids -- the little doe learning to walk and the little buck wrapped in a "bear hugger" to bring up his temperature, which has dropped to 91.6 (ten degrees below normal). No less than five people say they want to take the kids home with them. Professors, students, receptionists, and custodians are all captivated by these tiny little angels.

5 p.m. Margaret and I finally decide to leave the vet hospital. Caboose is awake and now has a walking epidural, so she won't be in pain, although she attempted to stand once and was completely unsuccessful. The little doe is a champion nurser. The little buck never quite figured it out, so they fed him some of Caboose's colostrum through a stomach tube. It was hard to leave them at the hospital, but the surgeon assured us that they would be carefully monitored at least hourly.

If Caboose can do all the normal goat things like walk around, eat and drink, she and the babies can come home Friday.


Kathy ~ Cackles and Berries said...

wow- what a night! So happy to hear that you didn't lose the whole little family. Hope recovery is quick for the mama.

SkippyMom said...

Glad that Caboose and [at least] two babies are doing well. Sorry she lost the other two, but at least you saved her life.

I would be captivated too if I saw them up close - I ooh and ahh at he pictures they are so cute.

Hope you get some rest. Soon.

Mama Pea said...

So relieved to hear you were close enough to the vet hospital to have that as an option. When I read your title I thought you had done the operation at home! I was in awe thinking, "OMG, that woman can do anything!"

I'm still in awe of your knowledge, talent and ability, and am so glad this adventure turned out as well as it did. Hoping Caboose sails through her recovery.

Michelle said...

What a story! My ewes are due to start lambing while my vet husband is out of town; I sure hope not to be faced with a similarly critical situation then. So glad that you got two kids, and hope that Caboose recovers quickly.

Nancy K. said...

Oh, poor Caboose! It is amazing what these tiny creatures can endure. I'm glad that you have a healthy doeling and I hope the buckling thrives as well. You are so fortunate to be within driving distance to the University Veterinary clinic! If I recall, their rates are quite reasonable because they are a teaching facility. Is that the case where you are? Oh my! Six more to go??? I think I'd leave town...

Kate said...

Wow. This post brought back memories, not of goats but of my own failed delivery! After 54 hours of labor with failure to dialate they c-sectioned me. Luckily I didn't have 4 of them in there, just the one, who is happy and healthy and 13. My prayers to Caboose and her kids for a fast recovery, and continued health!

LindaG said...

Congratulations on 2 births. It's great that you have a place so close when there is an emergency.
Good luck!

Barb J. said...

Talk about a busy night! Congratulations on the two new babies.

Will Webbyte said...

I love goats. They have great sense of humor.

Terri said...

We haven't had a c-section here (yet), knock on wood. If you don't mind me asking, what does it cost?

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

The cost of a c-section can vary tremendously from one place to another, so I highly recommend that you call around and see what vets in your area charge, so you can make the decision ahead of time. I read an article in a goat magazine a couple years ago, and this family took a goat to their vet, who charged them $400 for an ultrasound to tell them the kids were dead, and it would be another $800 for a c-section to save the life of the doe. They made the heart-wrenching decision to have the doe put down. I immediately called around -- and I'm glad I did! Our total bill was $400+, but it could have been $150 less if I'd asked them to do the c-section with a local, rather than using gas anesthesia, and Caboose got the epidural for pain afterwards. There were also lots of drugs for her and the kids, but they were a dollar or two, whereas I know they would have been $20+ each at a regular vet, so the bill probably would have been doubled. One vet I called a couple years ago said it would start at $600. That's one reason I drove the two hours to U of I -- and it was great to have so many hands available when they started delivering those kids!


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