D. E. Larsen, DVM
It was almost comical to watch Tom struggle to get through the front door with both arms wrapped around a large white goose who had no intention of coming inside. The goose was squawking, and in trying to bite an ear, it had knocked his hat off. Finally, Mary rushed over and held the door open as Tom half fell through it into the waiting room.
“That was a struggle,” Tom said, almost out of breath.
“It is a little too early for Thanksgiving,” I said. “What’s up with the goose.”
“This is Samson, I ran over him with the tractor a few minutes ago,” Tom said. “His one leg is broken or something. He can’t stand on it.”
“Tom, I don’t do birds,” I said. “Maybe I can find some place to send him.”
“Now listen,” Tom said, “you are good enough for my cows, you are going to damn well be good enough for my goose. Samson makes me more money than any of my cows. He’s the top breeder in the area. The money from his stud fees sends the old lady and me to Reno every year.”
“Sounds like I better get a look at that leg,” I said. “Let’s get Samson in on the exam table.”
The exam table was an excellent thought unless you are a barnyard goose. Samson had no intention of being put on a table, much less holding still for an exam on a messed up leg.
“Tom, we are going to have to sedate Samson to get an exam,” I said. “It might take 20 minutes or so. Do you want to wait?”
“Doc, I have a bunch of heifers waiting for their morning feeding,” Tom said. “I want you to fix the leg. You give it your best shot. I have every confidence in you. If it turns out that it can’t be fixed, will so be it. I don’t want a bunch of phone calls. I will be back in the morning after my chores.”
Tom left us with Samson who could not stand, did not want to be here, and had no thought about being cooperative.
“How do you want to handle this?” Mary asked. “You are supposed to be out to Elliot’s right after lunch. They will have their heifer calves caught for vaccinations.”
“You need to give them a call and let them know we have an emergency, and I may be late,” I said. “I don’t want to sedate Samson more than once. We will give him an injection, do the exam, probably will need to get an x-ray, and then go right to surgery, if that is required. That probably means we work through the lunch hour so I can get out to Elliot’s.
My experience working on birds was almost non-existent. We got an estimate of Samson’s weight by Mary holding him and standing on the scale, then subtracting her weight. I gave him a good dose of ketamine for anesthesia. It only took a few minutes, and we could lay him down on the exam table.
I was surprised that Samson was relatively free from any other injury except the left leg. The leg was a mess. It didn’t feel like any fractures were present, but the knee was totally ruined. There was a definite rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament and also the lateral collateral ligament. We took an x-ray to make sure there were no fractures.
With Samson still under anesthesia, we started plucking feathers and prepared the leg for surgery. I incised over the lateral stifle (or knee). It looked more like a turkey drumstick at Thanksgiving than anything I had looked at before. I carefully dissected to where I could reflect the knee cap to the inside of the leg and expose the knee joint.
It looked better than I was expecting. The lateral collateral ligament was torn, and that fact allowed me to examine the joint a little easier. I spread the joint open, the cartilages were intact, and the anterior cruciate was completely torn.
“How do you repair this in a goose?” I said to myself.
Samson would put far less stress on this knee than a dog, so a repair should have a better prognosis. I decided to use a modified Paatsama procedure. I looked for a good strip of fascia to use to replace the cruciate ligament and found a suitable piece of lateral fascia that would work. I could leave one end attached near the knee. I drilled a hole with an IM pin through the lateral condyle of the femur, exiting at the location of the cruciate ligament and continued it through the tibia to come out on the medial side of the tibia tuberosity. I thread the strip of fascia through this hole and placed anchoring sutures on each end of the strip of the fascia. I was a little surprised at how stable the joint felt when I was done.
I repaired the lateral collateral ligament with stainless steel sutures. Then I returned the knee cap to normal position and closed the joint. I used Dexon sutures for all the closures and a subcuticular suture for the skin closure.
We placed Samson in a kennel for recovery. I was surprised when I returned from my farm call. Samson was up standing on the repaired leg like nothing happened. I glanced at the clock. With any luck, I could get Tom in here to take the goose home this evening.
“Tom, can you pick up Samson this afternoon,” I said into the phone when Tom answered.
“Is he okay?” Tom asked.
“We did surgery and repaired the leg,” I said. “He is fully recovered and walking well. He will probably be better off in his barn than here tonight.”
“I will be right there,” Tom said.
“I told you that you guys were good enough for my goose.” Tom beamed as he scooped up Samson and headed for the door. “Remember that when you fill out the bill.”
When the breeding season came, Samson was in shape and functional as ever. He paid for another trip to Reno for Tom and his wife.
Samson had learned to avoid the tractor, and I had learned that I would be stuck working on farm birds for the rest of my life.
Photo by Eric Muhr on Unsplash