The "Georgia Operative" of Project Samana
Most of you may remember our team from TVV Lilburn-Stone Mtn. participating in the veterinary outreach program, Project Samana, in the Dominican Republic last November, 2014. As Dr. Carrie McColgan said in her article posted prior to that trip, she envisioned "developing a long-term international program that could be supported and maintained by [our] colleagues at The Village Vets, as well as colleagues from other veterinary practices in the Atlanta area. Dr. McColgan's vision is close to becoming a reality...
Dr. Tyler, Treasure Dreher, and I are currently putting a team together and finalizing plans to return to the Dominican Republic, September 13-19, 2015. This new “Georgia Operative,” as it is known by our Project Samana teammates, will include a small group of veterinarians, technicians, and assistants from our TVV practices, and a few seasoned Samana vets and techs from around the U.S. Project Samana is a non-profit organization based out of the Boston area. For more than 22 years, veterinarians, technicians, and assistants have been providing volunteer medical services to animals in the Samana peninsula of the Dominican Republic. Our TVV team will be leading what we hope to be an annual trip there to offer surgery, medicine, knowledge, and training to an underserved part of the world.
Guided by Dr. Will Draper and Dr. Francoise Tyler, The Village Vets has provided low or no-cost veterinary services to local rescue organizations over the past 15 years. Project Samana offers a way for us to expand this service in a different part of the world - where even more animals are in need - but in areas that have little to no resources to get the care needed. Our passion is to become a continious resource of that care.
Each trip has a small and large animal or equine team. The small animal team focuses on sterilization of male and female cats and dogs (pets, but they are usually left outdoors to roam), wound and or trauma repair (hit by car cases are common with animals off leash!). The equine or horse team castrates dozens of stallions, mules and donkeys and also provides medication for sick or injured animals. These are “working equids,” animals that are critical to the survival of a family as a result of the income they provide from transportation, tourism (horseback rides to a waterfall, anyone?) or hauling. The large animal team also treat sick and injured dogs in the field, and give out hundreds of doses of deworming medication.
We are starting our fundraising efforts now to help raise money to offset the travel and accommodation expenses and to bring supplies and medications with us. Tax deductible cash donations, or supplies such as dog collars, leashes, and heartworm, flea and tick preventative are welcome!
**Our TVV team members are donating their veterinary skills, time and effort to participate in this very important mission, to help improve the lives of the animals and people of Samana and the surrounding region. If you would like to make a contribution to support Project Samana, please click here.
Here’s an excerpt from Dr. McColgan blog of the November 2014 trip - as an example of a “typical” day during the trip.
Day two started out with an early morning group out for a refreshing, but ultimately very soggy run from our hotel, down to the town and along the water. It deluged. The rain didn’t let up much…we were rained out of our morning appointments (3 mule castrations), but had a great time helping out the small animal team at the clinic. Several members of the equine team performed dog spays and got a taste of how that well-oiled “mash unit” is able to accomplish 50-70 surgeries per day, providing high standard of care to so many dogs and cats. Around midday we got word that it was dry enough in El Limon (about a 30 minute drive from Samana) to tackle the first of up to 19 castrations that await us there over the next few days.
We stopped back by Kim’s farm to collect biopsy samples from an abscessing and granulating chest/left forearm wound of 5 years duration on a beautiful and sweet grey Paso Fino stallion named Caprichio. Possible causes include fungal or bacterial infection, a foreign body (wood shard) somewhere in the chest, or cancer. (*The University of Georgia evaluated tissue samples after we returned and made a diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma- poor prognosis but as of early 2015, he is still doing well at home on the farm).
By far one of the most educational parts of the day was our lunch stop before heading out to meet the horses. We stopped at the restaurant Manzana, a regular stop annually for the equine group, for a delicious, filling meal of chicken, beef, yucca fries and beans. The restaurant is located a mile or so from a very popular waterfall- tourists stop here, rent a horse, and ride up to the falls for a gorgeous view. Our trucks pulled in just as an enormous bus-load of Russian tourists stopped there. We watched as each of the dozens mounted a horse for this adventure. Incredibly, the tour guides did not differentiate between the large and small men and women when choosing the horse for the rider. This scene made it totally clear how diligently these small horses work- the trek for horse and rider is a mile up a muddy trail- and why back, joint injuries, and saddle sores are so common.
From here we headed down the road to meet a small group of horses and mules. In only 24 hours our team of 4 vets (including our talented and fearless leader, Celeste), 3 students, and one practice manager (Village Vets’ own Treasure Dreher) had streamlined the operation of examination/castration/powerfloating/deworming into a well-oiled machine. The students are gaining hands-on experience with the Henderson castration tool –perhaps to the shock of some locals- and all of us are having a great time. It’s amazing how quickly our team has bonded and developed a working rhythm. We finished only 3 surgeries today before being rained out yet again. We stopped back by the Manzana to look at a lame gelding. Based on exam, palpation and flexion tests, ringbone (pastern arthritis) is the likely diagnosis. Fortunately, he has been given a vacation from tourist-hauling for the time being, and his owner now has a plan for medication, foot trimming and rest for the next 3-6 months.
As it was getting dark and we were about to load back into the trucks, we were informed that a neighbor’s dog had been hit by a car that afternoon. With limited small animal supplies, I assessed his condition (no fractures found, but possible thoracic and abdominal trauma) and treated him supportively for pain and shock. Tomorrow we will check in on him and follow up as needed. (* follow up recheck was amazing- the dog was up and wagging his tail!)