Unusually Colorful Thanksgiving Tale

Thanksgiving is upon us, and try as I may, I am drawing blanks when it comes to a turkey story. Since graduating from veterinary medical school, I have not had the pleasure of working with turkeys. In fact, the closest critter I have treated that even resembled a turkey would be a peacock. Since it occurred around this time some years ago, I guess it would qualify as a Thanksgiving tale.

Sandra walked into our hospital carrying a very large female peacock. I thought it odd that a person would have a peacock for a pet, but then again, I’ve seen some very unusual situations.

“Hey there, Doc,” started Sandra. “Do you think you could help me with this little gal?”

“What’s her name?” I asked.

“Hmmm, being that we both just met, I haven’t thought of one yet.” Gazing at the peacock in her arms, Sandra thought for a second then said, “Let’s call you Thelma.” Sandra looked up and continued: “I was driving along and accidently hit this lovely creature as it suddenly leaped in front of my car. I think she has a broken leg.”

As Thelma was placed on the exam table, I noticed the fractured leg with the bone poking through the skin. “You’re right, Sandra, Thelma has a broken leg but everything else seems OK. We will need to take an X-ray to see the extent of the damage, but it looks like the fracture is complicated. All in all, I think any medical attention for Thelma will cost a pretty penny.”

“I don’t care if it costs an arm and a … leg,” said Sandra with a smile. “Do whatever it takes to fix Thelma.”

The X-rays revealed a leg that was more shattered than fractured. Altogether, there were about eight fragments in the area that was broken. The challenge was to put all the pieces back together and stabilize the leg so that the body could mend. I explained the situation to Sandra and she insisted that we try.

Being that there are no specific devices designed for peacock leg repairs, a bit of imagination was needed to rig an apparatus that would do the trick. While Thelma was under sedation, I drove four pins into the leg bone — two above and two below the broken pieces. The pins were stabilized with a plastic syringe case filled with a liquid substance that became rock hard after it dried.

A couple of metal wires were then used to bring the pieces of the fracture into close proximity of each other. With a little luck, the leg would heal in six to eight weeks.

Sandra took Thelma home with antibiotics and pain medication. X-rays at each recheck appointment showed good progress and after two months, the pins were removed.

“So what are you going to do now that Thelma is healed?” I asked.

“Although we’ve grown quite close over the past couple of months, I thought I would set her free,” Sandra replied sadly. “I’m sure her family misses her.”

Thanksgiving is about reflecting on hardships and appreciating individuals who helped you along the way. Veterinary medicine is filled with hardships, but then there are individuals like Sandra who do their best to make things right. Thanks, Sandra.

Dr. John Kaya is director of the Windward Community College veterinary technician program and associate veterinarian for VCA University Animal Hospital.