Moses update 7 August


This week has been an emotional rollercoaster as Moses had his hernia op last Tuesday.  We started Moses on penicillin injections twice daily on Monday night in preparation for his op – this has made us all very unpopular as he does not appreciate injections at all and is intelligent enough to see me preparing the syringe and start running away but it is a necessary evil to give him every chance of fighting any possible infection. On Monday night the enormity of the op and the risks really hit home and I came to realize that there was a 50% chance that this could be the last night that I had with Moses – did not sleep at all once that thought had crossed my mind.


On Tuesday morning I informed Matimat that Moses would have to have his last bottle at 8am and then nothing until after the op which would take place in the afternoon – he looked at me in disbelief and said “ but Madam have you not seen how cross he gets if we are just a few minutes late with his bottle and that means he will be cross from 10am and for sure he will break the kitchen” at which stage I explained the reason for starvation prior to an anesthetic ( and the dangers involved with ignoring this  - exaggerated a bit - as I was sure that if I did not Matimat would feel sorry for Moses and just sneak him a bottle). At 9 I left for Chipata in Zambia where I was to meet Dr Ian Parsons who was driving through from Mazabuka ( a 9 hour drive for him). I had the easy time that morning as I didn’t have to witness Moses getting more and more agitated and left Stewart, Louise and Dr Catherine Wood to transform the pool room into an operating theatre – they did an amazing job with everything disinfected, a stretcher made up from a mattress and disinfected plastic sheet for Moses to lie down on after his anesthetic and be lifted onto the pool table which made a great operating table. Moses got rather involved with the preparations, investigating everything with his trunk which meant re – disinfecting but at least took his mind off the fact that he was not being fed.


Ian arrived with a full set of operating equipment including a heart and oxygen monitor and at 3 pm we started the surgery. Catherine took over keeping watch over the monitors and control of monitoring the anapestic drip, I monitored his breathing to make sure that he exhaled through his trunk on every count of 4, Rachael ( from the ele orphanage in Zambia who came though with Ian) acted as Ian’s Vet nurse, Stewart was on hand in case Moses needed restraining at any point if he started to come round sooner than planned and he controlled the drip under Ian and Catherine’s instructions and Louise was there as a general go for if we needed anything whilst Ian performed the surgery. It was a tense atmosphere in the theater as Ian had warned us all that anapestic on an ele this young was extremely risky and if any of us noticed a slight change we must inform him immediately so that he could react in time. The surgery went well and an hour and a half later he gave Moses the reversal drug and Moses stood up within 5 seconds of receiving it – was a little sleepy but otherwise stable which was a huge relief to us all as we had crossed the first hurdle successfully.


The next hurdle to cross was for Moses to get over the trauma of going through the op and start drinking again – very often elephants just give up at this point and go into an emotional decline. From 5 that evening until 11 I battled to try and get Moses to drink his bottle without success, he kept rumbling and asking for his bottle but when I gave it to him he took one sip and refused to drink any more, we injected him with pain killers in case pain was the problem, spent time reassuring him and cuddling him to make sure that he felt loved and protected but still no success with getting him to drink. Eventually at 11 I came up with the idea of putting glucose into his mouth together with the bottle – Moses is very sensitive to taste and smell and if his formula changes in taste at all he wont drink it no matter how hungry he is and I remembered that after an op I always had a metallic taste in my mouth and wondered if it was the same for him. The strong sweet taste of the glucose would mask any metallic taste, he loves sweet things and at the very least the glucose would give him a bit of energy to keep him going – this did the trick and he drank 2 full bottles of formula so we were though the 2nd hurdle.


Louise and Stewart drove Ian and Rachel back to Chipata first thing Wednesday morning as Ian has an extremely busy schedule – must say I watched them go with a bit of trepidation as we still had such a long way to go with the post op recovery and so many things that could go wrong but at least I have Ian’s number on speed dial ( sometimes wonder if he ever regrets giving it to me)


From Tuesday until Friday Moses had very little sleep as every time he tried to lie down he would put pressure on his wound and so would only sleep standing up in 5 minute slots so by Friday night both Moses and I were exhausted ( luckily I had taken a weeks leave so that I could be with Moses so the lack of sleep was not an issue for me). Finally on Friday night Moses lay down and had a good nights sleep only waking up twice for feeds.  The 3rd hurdle to cross is infection and it looks as if we have been able to cross that hurdle with the twice daily injections and the clean surgery as we are now on day 7 and his wound is cool and clean and his temp is normal.


The 4th hurdle remains which is to get back his energy levels and regain the huge weight loss as a result of the trauma and pain of surgery as well as the stress of injections. Moses reacts to any form of trauma or stress with diarrhea and this in itself is draining and we are still fighting this battle as he still has very bad diarrhea which we are trying to combat with corn starch and rice starch in his formula and another 5 day course of antibiotics – a sulphar based drug this time so we are not yet out of the woods but Moses still has a fighting spirit so he has not given up which is a very positive sign as if he gives up the fight is over.