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CUHA vet drives an hour to save imperiled chihuahua

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From left to right: Chris Hughes, Dr. Jared Baum holding Mabel, and Mariesa Hughes. Photo courtesy of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

A veterinarian from Cornell University’s Hospital for Animals (CUHA) went the extra mile to save a 16-year old Chihuahua who was close to death.

Mabel, who is missing her bottom jaw and teeth, had previously received a tracheostomy, which was successful for almost three years until she suddenly began to have trouble breathing again.

Her owners, Chris and Mariesa Hughes called Dr. Jared Baum of the CUHA who recommended they bring Mabel to Cornell for a different cannula. During the three-hour drive to the school, Mabel lost the ability to breathe completely and began to suffocate, her tongue turning purple.

Chris pulled to the side of the highway, and with Mariesa on the phone coaching him, proceeded to give mouth-to-trach resuscitation and light chest compressions to revive her just enough to get her to the closest local veterinary hospital.

There, they put Mabel in oxygen, but could do nothing else for her but to remove the problematic cannula. She was unable to breathe outside of the oxygen incubator and had no new cannula available to stabilize her airway.

Meanwhile, Dr. Baum, accompanied by assistant professor of small animal surgery Dr. Galina Hayes, grabbed a temporary tracheostomy, an oxygen kennel, and a tank of oxygen, and began a one-and-a-half-hour drive to treat Mabel.

“I forced myself to come to terms with the fact, that not only would she not be coming home, but that the last time I saw her was in fact the last time I would ever see her,” said Mariesa. “For a mother, whether of a dog or a human, that reality is earth-shattering.”

When Dr. Baum and Dr. Hayes arrived, they placed the temporary tracheostomy and got Mabel in the oxygen kennel and proceeded on route. Once at Cornell she was placed into oxygen and had a peaceful night.

“When Dr. Baum said he was on his way I dropped to my knees in tears,” said Chris. “We never asked them to do this, we never expected them to, and at 10 p.m. on Saturday, it was just beyond anything we could have asked for.”

The next morning, Baum and Hayes placed a new, differently-shaped cannula that accommodated Mabel’s specific trachea issues. Mabel recovered well, breathing easy once again.

In honor of this act, the Hughes created the Dr. Baum Compassion Award, a gift of $2,500 that can be awarded to anyone at the CUHA who exhibits exemplary compassion. The first award was given to Dr. Baum himself this summer at the college’s staff service award celebration.

Original story by Lauren Cahoon Roberts.

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