This happened a long time ago (well, just the beginning of the month but that seems SO long ago...). But it did... and I haven't put up this post because I was scared. I didn't know how you would take it.
You see there are days that it all goes wrong on the ranch. And we can't turn away from it. We have to jump in to whatever mess there is. Even if it is a cow with a uterine prolapse.
Remember when I told you the story about that calf we tried to save when I was out on my morning run? Well the day didn't end there. The momma heifer to that baby had some serious problems not long after. When we went to check her again we found that her uterus had prolapsed.
The heifer had been on her back and pushing for such a long time that morning. Between the pressure of the contractions and the pressure of her awkward situation, it was too much for her birth canal. With everything being stretched and weak, it was unable to keep the uterus from also being pushed out.
Is any of this making sense? I wish you could have been here to see her, because it would be a lot easier to show you than to just explain... But I'll keep going.
So we saw she was in trouble. As much as we wished we could just do nothing and it would all go away, we knew it wouldn't. In fact this was an emergency situation that needed IMMEDIATE help. To top it all off, Rancher Sr. was gone to watch Cowboy E at his wrestling tournament with all of the other help. I was the only help The Rancher had... And even though I am the best help he has ever had (hehe), this was more than what the two of us could do.
In fact, we wanted some professional help, like a vet. But vets are busy some days and can't come. And a cow in this kind of a condition is not one to load up and take in. This meant it was up to us to fix it!
Luckily we have a neighbor that was home and able to come help. And as an added bonus, he had done this a few times so he knew a lot more than what we did. Phew...
The cow was already down from other birthing complications but we still had to do a sort of nerve block. This kept her from moving around or twitching her tail at us. It also worked as a pain block because I don't know how lovely it would be to have three people pushing your insides back in.
Once we knew she was blocked we elevated her back legs and rear so that gravity could help out. And it also kept the uterus cleaner since it wasn't on the ground any longer.
The next step was cleaning her uterus off. Its only the nice thing to do when you put a uterus back inside. Don't worry, we had some heavy duty, yet gentle, disinfectant to do the job. We didn't want anything to end up growing in there. We had to be careful to not get too rough as we worked. There are several massive raisen looking things lining the uterus called cotyledons (here is a look if you want more of an anatomy lesson). They are what provide the nutrients to the growing baby. If one of these is badly cut or torn, the cow could hemorrhage and die. So we tried to be careful...
That was all the easy part. With all of the prepping and cleaning we were finally ready to shove (with love) the uterus back in. Now image a bean bag the size of a large basketball being shoved into a hole the size of a grapefruit but weighs as much as a big bag of sugar. And add a half a bag more. That's what we were doing. You would think that it would just slip back in... but it doesn't.
My job was just to hold the uterus up. Just to keep it there to make it easier for the other guys to shove in. And they had the job of shoving, hard enough to gain ground but careful enough to not cause any damage. Occaisonally we would switch around and I would get shove. It was tough because as soon and I thought I was gaining ground and would pull my hand back to push again, everything that I had just pushed in with the last push would fall out. And then sometimes the heifer would push against us (because ouch!) and we would lose more ground.
It took us about 45 minutes of pushing and holding and working to finally get everything back inside. Ya know, where it belongs... (internal organs never do well outside the body). Our final step was to sew her up so it wouldn't all come falling out again.
The Rancher had the honor of doing this. He had a sergical string that reminded me of a shoelace. Just remember that we are working on a big cow and she needs more than a few little stitches to keep her insides inside. Then he took a few hog rings (real technical, I know, but it works awesomely) and clamped them along the edge of the vulva. He threaded the string through the rings and cinched it up tight like a duffle bag. This would allow her to still pee and any discharge to go out, but not another prolapse.
With the work done, all that was left was to give her a shot to boost her immune system and let her go.
It seems so easy when I tell it to you, but I was so tired after it all. Especially my forearms, from holding her heavy, heavy uterus.
It was a learning experience for us, not one that everyone needs to learn. I highly recommend a vet to be the man in charge on this kind of a project. Other things I learned that day- 1, how to fix a prolapse (obviously), 2, that a tractor is a great way to elevate a cows backside, and 3, definitely wear work clothes for that kind of a job. And one other recommendation- make sure that your cow isn't buy a busy road. Just think what those travelers were imagining!
Because the pictures are a little graphic and not all of you will want to see it... click "read more" for the photos.