Our Tuppence’s 1st birthday present was brain surgery.
Tuppence is a beautiful Border Collie with severe hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) and secondary syringohydromyelia.
Tuppy is one of the sweetest natured dogs I have ever had the privilege of knowing and her story is one of courage, love, kindness, patience and survival. I’m telling it in the hope that it may offer hope to others or simply just to help people believe in the power of love and miracles.
Tuppy was born extremely tiny and became very ill, but she fought so very hard to survive, so I fought with her, day and night. I have lost count of how many times she nearly died. One time when she was around 4 weeks old, my husband found her cold and stiff in the little box that she lived in and nearly buried her, thinking she had passed away! Her vet and I suspecting that she had a brain infection. Eventually Tuppy made it through to 8 weeks. She was still very tiny, compared to her littermates and had obvious brain damage, particularly affecting her mobility, temperature control and vision. However, she was such a happy, quirky little girl that she endeared herself to everyone she met. Tuppy learnt to eat her solid food, with it smeared on a licky mat, propped upright to help to strengthen her front legs, this was then followed by hydrotherapy in the kitchen sink, which also helped to clean off any excess food.
Fast forward quite a few months and Tuppy started to go downhill badly. Her weight had dropped from 14kg, to 10.5kg as she had stopped wanting to eat. Tuppy’s vet was trying everything to help her and to find a specialist to see her, but the waiting lists were so long. We were suspecting hydrocephalus (even though her head was a normal size), and our little one was rapidly running out of time. That is when my vet found out that we could go to SASH Adelaide, as an emergency patient.
From our first phone call, to the minute we walked in the door at SASH, we were treated with so much care. Tuppy was admitted for blood tests and an MRI. Then the phone call with the news we all dread arrived. Tuppy’s emergency vet was very compassionate as she explained that it was hydrocephalus and syringohydromyelia, but so very, very severe that they didn’t think a shunt could help her and there wasn’t a surgeon in SA who could do her surgery.
I drove back to SASH, in tears knowing the decision I had to make. The reception staff were beautiful, so sweet and comforting. This is when another miracle happened in Tuppy’s life. There have been many. In the 15 minutes it took me to drive back to SASH, Dr. Andrew Dunn was shown Tuppy’s MRI and said that he could do her surgery!
Dr. Dunn explained in detail all that would be involved, and the risks, of Tuppence having a ventriculoperitoneal shunt. As Tuppence only has a 2mm rim of brain left, if the fluid was removed too quickly, that her brain would collapse inwards, so a special high pressure shunt was sent from SASH Sydney in preparation for her surgery. I cannot speak highly enough of Andrew as a skilled surgeon and a wonderful, caring person, and I am so very grateful for everything he has done for Tuppy both before and after surgery.
It was a long surgery, with a little girl that was incredibly sick and was now only weighing 10.2kg, but Andrew and his surgical team did a brilliant job getting her through it all. One of Tuppy’s surgery nurses, Courtney Dawson has become particularly special to us, as she has seen Tuppy on all of her visits to SASH.
Tuppy’s ICU vet Dr. Nici Kalnins was just so lovely and brilliant with her care of Tuppy. Especially when you consider Tuppy was not like a “normal” patient with her responses to things and even her body temperature control being different to other dogs due to her brain damage. Knowing that I live three hours away from the clinic, Dr. Nici and the ICU team kept me up to date with photos and phonecalls, which were so very appreciated.
Tuppy ended up back at SASH, 5 weeks later for a CT scan, as she was struggling and her weight had dropped to 9.6kg. She was on the verge of needing a feeding tube. In the end I got quite inventive with what to feed her, and over the next few months she made tiny improvements, in her weight gain, pain levels and skills. It brings us so much joy to see her master new skills and re-learn some old ones, such as wagging her tail, walking without falling or stumbling, putting herself into bed, smelling the flowers, bouncing around with our other dogs, lining up by the treat cupboard and even chasing the vacuum cleaner.
It’s exciting that we now have a neurologist Dr Dillon Devathasan and it’s extremely comforting to know that if Tuppy has any health issues or needs shunt revisions in the future that we have both Andrew and Dillon who will be able to help her.
Although it has been a long and at times a hard road, I can now say that the last 5 months have been amazing, We have our happy, quirky, fun-loving and painfree little girl back, weighing a healthy 15.5kg.
There is so much to love about this special little soul, and I will always be incredibly grateful that she has been given this chance to live her best life, and simply for the love and kindness that has been shown to her by so many people. She makes me believe in miracles.
Thank you SASH.