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Seriously burned horse fights for survival

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pattycake after the fire, in which she suffered 60 percent burns.
(Submitted photo)
A spotted saddle horse that suffered third degree burns on 60 percent of her body is being treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

"This will help rebuild cells and the blood circulation to the burned areas," said the horse's owner, Dorothy Thorpe. "They are hoping she will be ready for skin grafts in a month or so."

Pattycake was tucked away in her stall at Dorothy and Francis Thorpe's Sewanee horse barn, along with the Thorpes' miniature horse, Stormy, when a fire broke out last August.

Heroic actions

Dorothy and Francis' son, Greg, who lives 70 feet from the barn, was the first on the scene of the electrical fire. He managed to get Stormy out of his stall, but thought it might be too late to save Pattycake.

"He finally found a place at the bottom of the door where he could slip his fingers in enough to pull the door open," Dorothy said. "When the door came open, he fell backwards just as a ball of fire came out the door and went over his head."

After Greg regained his composure, he found Pattycake, who had made her way out of the stall.

"Her mane was on fire and Greg ran after her to try to put it out," Dorothy said. "Thankfully, the flames went out ... Miraculously, Greg did not receive any injuries from his act of heroism."

The Sewanee Fire Department was on the scene within minutes. Dr. Cristy Young, of Blue Springs Veterinary Services in Hillsboro, soon followed and treated the horses for their burns.

It was determined that Pattycake had been burned much more seriously, but Stormy also suffered first and second degree burns on his head, neck, back, hip and leg.

Stormy, the less injured of the two, has since been taken in by Megan Taylor, of the University of the South Equestrian Center, for special treatment.

"They offered their services since their facility was better equipped to take care of Stormy and to help take some of the burden off the family," Dorothy said. "He is living in a 12x12 stall, being treated for his burns, and running and romping in a fenced area on cloudy days."

Treatment begins

In the meantime, Dr. Young had Pattycake under her care in Hillsboro.

"Dr. Young had to remove a large amount of skin from her neck, sides and back," Dorothy said. "One of the treatments she used on the burned areas consisted of sugar and honey."

Pattycake before the fire.
(Submitted photo)
Almost a month after the fire, Dr. Young believed that Pattycake needed more intensive treatment, including skin grafts, and she was sent to UT's College of Veterinary Medicine to be treated by Dr. Steve Adair.

"After evaluating Pattycake, he said her condition was much worse than the pictures showed," Dorothy said. "He is leading a team to help Pattycake recover and she is watched around the clock."

Part of Pattycake's treatment, before she can receive skin grafts, includes time spent in the facility's hyperbaric oxygen chamber, where she receives three times the normal amount of oxygen. The chamber will help her rebuild cells and blood circulation to the burned areas at a much faster rate, Dorothy said.

"Everyone who has treated Pattycake talks about what a wonderful horse she is and how she is willing to let them do whatever needs to be done," Dorothy said.

Taylor, the director of the University of the South Equestrian Center, who drove Pattycake to UT, told Dorothy Pattycake has survived the terrible fire for very good reasons ... one of those reasons being to "help veterinary students learn how to perform skin grafts on horses."

What you can do

The cost of Pattycake's treatment at UT has been estimated between $10,000 to $15,000. A special account has been established for the family's beloved pet at Regions Bank in Sewanee. Checks may be mailed to Megan D. Taylor/Pattycake Fund, in care of the bank, or to Taylor at SPO Box 1179, Sewanee, TN 37383.

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