Camp counselor saves horse's life with emergency tracheotomy

Camp counselors at Camp Kitaki hug Moo, the horse they saved with emergency surgery.
Camp counselors at Camp Kitaki hug Moo, the horse they saved with emergency surgery.(KOLNKGIN)
Published: Jun. 13, 2019 at 4:32 PM CDT
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A Camp Kitaki counselor is being a hailed a hero, after she didn't hesitate to save one of the camp's horses.

"Sometimes there are things at camp that you don't think, you just do," said Associate Executive Director Natalie Roberts-Day, who saved Moo the horse. "This was one of those things I didn't have time to think about the situation. It was a matter of minutes and not hours."

Moo had been battling an upper respiratory infection known as "Strangles."

"It's kind of like the horse flu," said Executive Director Jason Smith.

Moo had been fighting the infection hard, but Roberts-Day said it came back with a vengeance. As they were loading up Moo to take him to the vet, they noticed something was wrong.

"It became clear very quickly that he was not able to breathe and his airway had completely closed up," Roberts-Day said.

With the veterinarian's office 30 minutes away, Roberts-Day said she only had one choice: to do a surgery herself.

"We called the vet and said, 'This is very bad. What can we do?' and the fabulous Dr. Dana Dolch said 'What you can do is, if you feel comfortable, you can try an emergency tracheotomy," Roberts-Day said.

With the veterinarian on FaceTime, Roberts-Day used a pocket knife, a milk jug, and some duct tape to make a make-shift trache for Moo.

"She radioed up to me, and asked for some horse tranquilizer and then asked for a sharp knife, and that was the moment I realized what we were trying to do," Smith said. "When I got there, the first thing I noticed was how calm Natalie was. She was under control and was just doing it."

After 25 tense minutes, Moo was finally able to take a breath.

"You could just hear and feel everyone's sense of relief and the vet in that moment of quiet on FaceTime said, 'You just saved its life,'" Smith said.

Immediately, Moo got back up. He was able to be taken to the vet's office for further medical care.

Moo is on the road to recovery. He's expected to be just fine and be back taking campers on trail rides again by the end of the summer, all thanks to the quick action of a few camp counselors.