I graduated from Mary Carroll High School, Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1969. My best friend from 7th grade to 12th was Eddie.
My father was a teacher at Richard King High School, across town, and Eddie and I became acquainted at South Park Junior High because both of our fathers had to drop us off early in order to be at work on time. We had time to kill each morning and became fast friends as we discussed all of the topics that thirteen-year-olds discuss, from girls to music to cars.
Now, 45 years later, we’re still quite close, even though we live 600 miles apart and see each other only once every few years. We still call each other “brother.”
Three Christmases ago Eddie started a tradition. Always the pet lover, he sent me a check for $200.00 and asked me to put it to good use for a deserving pet owner. That year I felt led to help three different families with unequal amounts, but proportional to the amount of care the pets needed.
Last year the scenario was very similar, with the most memorable case being a lady who had come from North Carolina to visit an old friend, but found herself here with a desperately-ill dog and almost no funds. This kind soul was so grateful that she cried when I told her what Eddie had done to help her.
Of course, in most of these cases our animal hospital has contributed additional pro bono help.
This year a totally different story unfolded. Eddie’s Christmas card was propped up on my desk as a periodic reminder that his Christmas funds were waiting for the right family in need to happen along.
One day, Lucy, a Cocker Spaniel, came in with yet another ear infection. Her ear canals were so chronically swollen that it was obvious that neither medication nor ear cleaner was reaching the horizontal ear canal. You see, dogs and cats have an L-shaped ear canal, with the vertical portion of the L on the outside and the horizontal part of the L going down into the head to the eardrum and middle ear. The tremendous swelling at the junction of vertical and horizontal canals means that massive amounts of infection are trapped inside.
After giving the family the news, shortly after Christmas, the thought of Eddie’s gift popped into my head. “This,” I realized, “is the perfect family, the perfect case, the perfect pet to put Eddie’s annual giving to the best use.”
Lucy will have a surgical procedure next week pioneered by a Dr. Zepp. The Zepp Lateral Ear Canal Resection surgery will remove the outer half of the vertical ear canal, giving us direct access to the horizontal canal. It will also create a “drainboard” below the ear as a means of protecting that area.
The practical result will be an ear that is easier to clean as well as easier to medicate.
The Zepp procedure is not for every patient with chronic ear infections, and it is not a treatment all by itself. Lucy’s owners will still have to clean the ears weekly and after every bath. They will still need to bring her in to be evaluated at the first sign of ear odor, drainage or pain. They will still be using ear drops and oral medications when infections occur.
However, we expect future ear infections to be much further apart and no longer impossible to control. Most of all, we expect Lucy to be happier.
See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.