Tuesday, 20 January 2004

January 20, 2004 Orion's Blood Work

As many of you may have heard, we are now in Alaska, but our trip was plagued by some problems. First and foremost are the issues we are having with Orion. 

To backtrack and recap some of what has already occurred - Orion has been having a tremendous season in harness - One of the best of his career actually. On the 7th of January he went with the rest of the Race dogs for our 'pre Alaska' vet checks. Orion checked out fine, as expected - however his blood work showed a very low platelet level. We drew a second sample, which also showed a low platelet level. Tannis (our vet) was concerned that we were getting a false reading, as Orion showed no signs of being at all sick, and we scheduled a follow up test for Saturday. Saturday's sample again showed the same abnormality. We drew blood again on Monday morning and I left with steroids and antibiotics that I was to put him on once I talked to the vet from the road. I spoke to the vet on Tuesday and it was decided to start Orion on the medication. 

Thursday evening when we 'dropped' the dogs Orion had a stool that was very dark and 'tarry' looking - a sign that there is bleeding somewhere, however his appetite and attitude remained high. Stools where the same on Friday morning and night. We arrived in Wasilla on Friday afternoon and I made arrangements to visit our vet here, the Big Lake - Susistna Vet Clinic on Saturday morning. 

When Dr. Baetsle saw Orion at first of Saturday and was going over the records that were faxed up from the Westlock Clinic, he was very optimistic about Orion's condition and the possibility of him still making my Iditarod team. Once he drew a blood sample though, all that changed. The blood work showed that Orion's blood values had basically bottomed out. His hemocrit level, a value that mushers watch quite closely on their dogs had dropped from the mid 40's to 17. Dr. Baetsle said that 20 was critical. More tests, which answered none of our questions, were run. Orion went home on a whack of medication and we hoped for the best. 

Sunday was the first day Orion seemed to be showing signs of his condition He was fairly depressed and obviously tired. A check of his blood at the clinic showed his levels continuing to fall - now down to 14. We ended up running a transfusion of Oxyglobin - a chemical blood replacement and adjusting his medication. 

Monday (yesterday) Orion was VERY depressed and down. For the first time, he turned down food, but at least continued to drink. The bright spot was that the blood seemed to be out of his stool. 
This morning I ran him into the vet again. The good news is that his platelet level has raised somewhat, however his hemocrit level is now down to 9.5 and he is running a fever of 104. We again adjusted his medication and he came home with me. 

His prognosis is very poor. We are pretty much at a dead end for the treatment we can do on him. There are some tests to help us determine what is killing him, but they are risky and they won't allow us to help him anymore then what we are, so I'm hesitant to do them.
What does he have - we have no clue. It might be bone marrow cancer, but it might not be. Whatever it is, it really doesn't matter, as the symptoms are what are now killing him. His body is, basically, rejecting and destroying it's own red cells. 

To say I'm devastated is really an understatement. Two weeks ago this hard driving, fun loving leader was blazing up the trails and now he is on the verge of death. I was not at all prepared for this. 
Orion is a finisher of Iditarod, Beargrease, Race to the Sky, Grand Portage Passage, Klondike 300, Knik 200 and more. He is my dear friend and a very loved companion - if you are at all inclined - prayers are very appreciated.


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