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For Equine Vets Everywhere

A Very Long Minute

A few years ago, Mrs M - my better half - tipped a young horse backwards on top of herself.  The NHS A&E team were brilliantly swift, efficient, caring and no-nonsense.   Having identified various sacral and lumber vertebral fractures but no obvious other damage she was doped up and wheeled off to one of the wards and I returned home thanking our lucky stars that we’d (sort of) got away with it…

Bright and early the next morning I was out walking the dogs in an area with no telephone reception when, somehow, a text pinged up on my phone.  It was from Mrs M: ”looking a bit more complicated..they’ve found a tear in my aorta and are working out what to do”!

Now, even I could recall that the aorta was pretty important and that holes in it would be classified as “very bad indeed”…but the telephone signal had disappeared as quickly as it had arrived so, in order to get a fuller update, I set off … at the run…in wellies…supported by a pack of hounds who had never before seen this sort of behaviour.  Eventually, puffing and wheezing I found a spot where the phone would work.

Tentatively I rang Mrs M’s mobile.

No response…S**t

Don’t panic; call the ward…s**t … what ward is she on?  What’s the number for the hospital?

Eventually I got through to a nurse on the ward;  “I’m Mr M, can I talk to Mrs M or get an update on her condition?”…. a hesitation… then a polite “Just a minute…” then silence.

There I am – stood in a field in the drizzle, surrounded by wagging but confused dogs, mind whirring and waiting…..and waiting….and waiting…

How long can a minute last?  Did I want to get to whatever was at the end of the minute?

“Mr M?”

(Oh S**t again) “Yes?”

“Your wife is unbelievably disobedient” (What? – I know that - but why is she telling me this now?)

“I have just given her an almighty telling off for her stupidity” (Well – Hats’ off to the nurse for bravery but I’m not sure that a ”telling off” will bring her back)

She had been told unequivocally not to move (given the situation with the aorta and her vertebrae) but, full of morphine, she decided not to bother anyone and take herself to the loo….when I went to see if she was awake to speak to you, her bed was empty – so I had to find her and we had to get her back to bed without doing any damage”  (So – not bled out then – not dead at all – still the independent, belligerent, nothing will get in my way, beauty that I fell in love with).

I don’t know who the nurse was, but her words and those few long minutes were some of the most helplessly emotional of my life and will always be remembered.


The NHS team were brilliant - Mrs M is back to her irascible best (although she now creaks a bit in the cold).  The tear was through the intima and into the media of the wall of the abdominal aorta but the adventitia had not been breached. It’s resulted in an untreated dissection which is checked annually but hasn’t deteriorated.

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