Specialists at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital were cautious to speculate Thursday on the outlook for Rachel Alexandra following a long surgery to address complications from the birth of her Bernardini foal Tuesday morning.
“I think right now it's too early to say,” said Dr. Bonnie Barr, internal medicine specialist. “We need to see how she responds to treatment and take it one day at a time.”
Barr said the 7-year-old mare is receiving intravenous fluids, antibiotics, nutrition and anti-inflammatories and is undergoing abdominal lavages regularly to continue to flush out bacteria and inflammatory cells.
Barr and attending surgeon Dr. Brett Woodie, along with Stonestreet Farm representatives, held a press conference Thursday afternoon to update Rachel Alexandra's condition. The champion race mare was admitted to the hospital late Wednesday for exploratory abdominal surgery following her delivery of a 140-pound filly by Bernardini at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Stonestreet farm manager Garry Megibben said that the foaling was “difficult”, but mother and foal were doing fine in the hours after the birth. Some time on Wednesday, the mare became lethargic and stopped eating, so Megibben and the mare's owner, Barbara Banke, made the decision to rush her to Rood and Riddle.
There, she underwent exploratory surgery to investigate the source of a bacterial infection. During the procedure, Woodie discovered a section of the small colon which had lost its blood supply, compromising the abdominal wall and allowing the bacteria to gain access to the abdominal cavity. He suspects the blood supply was damaged during foaling. The segment of damaged intestine was removed. Recovery from anesthesia was uncomplicated for the Horse of the Year, and Woodie said she is “doing as best as we can expect at this stage in her recovery.”
Barr said it is too early to determine whether Rachel Alexandra will be able to carry foals in the future.
Veterinarians do not believe that Rachel's current complications are in any way connected to her difficulty with the birth of her first foal last year, a colt by Curlin. Abdominal infections are “not uncommon” in broodmares, according to Woodie, but do happen. The veterinarians also said that the difficulties Rachel Alexandra's dam Lotta Kim had as a broodmare have likely not had any impact on Rachel's current health issues.
“She looks brighter today, so that makes me happy,” said a somber Barbara Banke. “It's a day-by-day, hour-by-hour type of thing. It's very serious.”
Rachel Alexandra's Bernardini filly is said to be bright and active and adjusting well to a nurse mare at Stonestreet. Megibben said the pair is being monitored closely and will likely be turned out tomorrow.
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