Sunday, May 17, 2009

Marye - AeroMask update

It works!

It really does work!

When Marye came to TREES last summer, emaciated and with severe COPD, we didn't know if we could offer her many more days on this earth. Initially we were able to manage her symptoms well enough to allow her to eat normally, but her breathing was never "normal" until well into November.

As a last resort, this spring we appealed to TREES' visitors and supporters for an Aeromask Equine System. We'd never heard of this system before, and knew no one using it, but thought it looked promising. In April, two of our most dedicated volunteers, Gene and Carol, donated funds for the mask. It arrived within a week.

The main parts of the inhaler system include a plastic cup that fits over Marye's muzzle, a tube to direct the medication into the cup through a rubber port, and a "human inhaler" that expels the medication into the tube. Marye was prescribed two different medications, one to be given in four "puffs" once a day, the other in eight "puffs," twice a day. Easy, right?

Well.......sort of. Its easy once you get the hang of it, but there is a little bit of a learning curve. In order for the treatment to be effective, the timing must be just right. If the inhaler is "puffed" as Marye is exhaling, the medication will go right out the exhalation valves. So, the person doing the "puffing" must watch the valves closely to determine when to express the meds. It may vary a little depending on the person's reflexes and reaction time, but it seemed the optimum time to puff is just before the exhalation valve closes completely. It probably also depends, to some extent on the horse's breathing rate and how much time you have between the exhale and the next inhale.

Now, add to that waiting 30 seconds between puffs. So you're watching the valves, watching the clock, and remembering to "puff." All while keeping an eye on the horse's "eye" and attitude about the whole idea.

Marye, though, is a real trooper. She seemed to understand the process and stood as still as she could as we asked her to breathe through a plastic cup filled with some odd smelling vapor.

In the days before first treatment, Marye's breathing ranged from 36 breaths per minute to just over 40. (At her worst last year, her rate weas close to 60 breaths per minute.) At the end of the fourth day, on May 3, her respiratory rate was down to 18 breaths per minute. On May 2, a rainy spell began that lasted for 11 days. As the pollens were washed from the air, we discontinued treatment on May 4, and Marye's breathing has remained normal. As we go into summer, we may need to resume treatment, but for now Marye and all her humans are thrilled with the results.

Thank you, again, to everyone who supported this treatment trial and to those who offered other ideas to manage Marye's COPD. Her Ladyship is feeling very pampered and extremely grateful that no one gave up on her.

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