Austin's Story

Austin, a sheltie dog

I wish to compliment a number of your staff in regards to the care my sheltie Austin has received at the University of Minnesota. I have been bringing him there for a few years, ever since he was diagnosed with diabetes. Although he has always received excellent service, a recent medical crisis occurred that reinforced my feelings on what an excellent facility you have.

In August 2011, Austin was brought in after successive days of not being able to eat nor hold down water. He had not been given his twice daily insulin injections due to not having food in his system to counter the medication.

His condition was serious. Dr. Rivara, his primary care veterinarian, called me after a day’s examination with the bad news. Austin needed his gall bladder removed. Simply put, if that was not done, his prognosis would be that he would have to be put down.

My girlfriend and I came to the University and met with Dr. Rivara that evening. Austin had been hydrated intravenously all day and looked a bit better but obviously the situation was very serious. Dr. Rivara was very honest with us. Telling us the probability of Austin even surviving the surgery as, at best 50%, and that was if there were no complications. His diabetes and age made the entire situation even more difficult. Dr. Rivara was very upfront about his chances, both during and after the surgery as well as his lengthy stay in ICU afterwards. She was comforting, honest, and supportive of whatever decision we might make.

Here is a little background on Austin. I fostered and then adopted him from Minnesota Sheltie Rescue, as his previous owners no longer wanted him. After I had him for about 3 years, he developed diabetes and he went blind from cataracts within a few weeks of the diagnosis. He received double cataract surgery and is seeing well. His life has certainly had its ups and downs and my girlfriend Kelli and I felt we would rather lose him trying to save him than just having him put down. So we told Dr. Rivara that if Austin was in good enough condition to proceed with surgery the next morning, that’s what we wanted
to do. Dr. Rivara was very supportive of our decision.

Before being brought in to surgery, Austin was brought out so we could see him. I spoke to one of his anesthetists, Dr. Daniel Almeida who was very comforting and assured us that he would take good care of Austin during the procedure. The surgery went better than expected and throughout the surgery we were kept well informed of the progress by both Dr. Rivara and intern Amanda Doran. We were given every indication that things were going very well.

After the surgery we spoke with Dr. Liz Lafond who explained the procedure, what was actually done and what Austin’s prognosis was at that point.

Austin’s care from the ICU staff was excellent and he was able to go home after a few days.

Shortly after Austin was home, he developed an infection at the J tube site. We were concerned enough to bring him into the clinic late one evening, I believe it was after 11pm, to have it checked.

Dr. Daniel Bucy was working that evening and Dr. Rivara even came in from home that evening to assist in the evaluation of Austin’s infection. I can’t tell you how comforting it was to see Dr. Rivara walking down the hall that night. Knowing her level of commitment to her patients helped us feel better about his situation. Dr. Bucy and Dr. Rivara offered various suggestions for Austin’s care. We chose to bring him home and monitor him closely with return visits the next day. With some extensions of his antibiotics, Austin recovered well and is now completely back to normal.

I know I have not mentioned everyone who helped in Austin’s care in this letter, so please indulge me as I do so now:

Dr. Catherine Rivara
Dr. Daniel Bucy (Intern)
Dr. Liz Lafond (Surgeon)
Dr. Daniel Almeida (Anesthetist)
Dr. Lynelle Graham (Anesthetist)
Amanda Doran (Student)
Kelsey Brown and Julie Johnson of the ICU Staff (among many others I’m sure)

Simply put, you have an amazing staff at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Clinic!

Without the professionals mentioned above, I know Austin would not have survived. They are kind, compassionate people who do more than just “care for the patient”. They care for the families of the patients as well and I cannot ever thank you all enough!

Sincerely and with great gratitude,

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