In her first in a series of blogs, read about vet Jo Hardy’s experience of volunteering with SPANA in Morocco. Jo recently appeared on the BBC Two programme, Young Vets.
I arrived at Marrakech airport excited to volunteer with SPANA for two weeks. I was greeted by a smiling man named Boujemaa, who kindly drove me to the clinic in the SPANA horse lorry that is used to pick up injured or abandoned equids. There I met another English volunteer, Chloe, as well as Omar and Samir, two incredibly skilled vet technicians who work in the centre.
Over the next week I would be working in Marrakech before heading to a more rural clinic in Chemaia. The Marrakech clinic is stunning, and I was told that appearances made a big difference to the amount of respect that the locals give the place. There are 26 hospitalisation boxes, a knock-down box for surgery, a small paddock for stray or recovering equids, and two sets of stocks where treatments can be done safely.
The day started at 8.30am, after the horses had been mucked-out, watered and fed. We would then go around the inpatients and give the medications, followed by spending the next few hours treating wounds and bandaging legs, as the majority of the inpatients had injuries from carts or kicks. After that we saw new patients, many of which were suffering from lameness or dental problems.
One case that really will stay with me was a little stallion with a pretty pony face called ‘Little Bay’. His owner cares about him so much and he came into the clinic in a bad way. His gums were pale, his temperature was through the roof and he was lethargic and dehydrated. On top of all this he had a terrible cough.
I took a blood sample to look at under the microscope. The red blood cells were crawling with a parasite transmitted by ticks. He was given an injection of drugs to kill the parasite and some antibiotics. We also gave him pain relief, and put a catheter in his jugular vein to give him intravenous fluids to correct his dehydration.
An hour later, after looking like he was dying, he was brighter, comfortable and looking for attention, as if to say, “I’m fine, sorry I scared you!” Over the next few days, he went back and forth between being bright and relapsing, as his temperature fluctuated between high and normal, but generally he was improving and coughing much less.
We bought him carrots, and his owner came in every day to give him extra hay. He’s still in the hospital, but on the up and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for him.