After applying for a volunteer position with The BEVA Trust, Rossdales veterinary nurse Lynn Irving was chosen to travel to The American Fondouk, a charitable veterinary hospital based at Fez in Morocco, to assist and pass on all the valuable skills sets she has learnt whilst working at Rossdales. Lynn was chosen alongside a skilled farrier, Jeff Newnham from East Sussex, so together they embarked on an adventure.
The American Fondouk was founded in 1927 and provides free treatment for thousands of animals in Fez Medina each year. The hospital is staffed with resident veterinarians including interns, a blacksmith, grooms, technicians and visiting veterinarians and veterinary students carrying out externships.
Lynn’s experience as a theatre nurse came into play on her first day as she had a tour of the clinic, which included the operating theatre, where she watched clinicians repairing a hernia to a horse that had been butted by a cow, which had caused damage to its abdominal wall muscle. A week of hard work followed, each day commencing at 7am, when every patient had a clinical exam and medication was administered. This was followed with rounds at 7.30am, where every patient (normally around 30-35) was assessed and a care plan was devised, including any treatment or bandage changes. After rounds, the team split into two groups, half dealing with the in-patients and the other half dealing with any out-patients or emergencies.
Lynn explained that as the cases being dealt with in The Fondouk involve working animals, they can be difficult to see as their owners are doing the best they can in a difficult situation. Lynn said that after spending time talking to the owners, it became clear that there really is no malice intended and a lot of what they have been taught has passed down through the generations.
Lynn said that the team at The Fondouk is doing an excellent job and has a superb clinic. She she was pleased to be able to add to this with a few hints and tips to ensure a 'gold standard' level of care was in place. She spent a lot of time watching how the team and technicians worked, so she was then able to assess their protocols and procedures to see if she could assist in any way or implement improvements.
Lynn explained that the donkeys, mules, and horses in Morocco have to combat a huge range of diseases of both viral and bacterial origins. Many of these diseases are no longer seen in the West as most animals are routinely vaccinated. Fortunately The Fondouk has excellent laboratory facilities in-house, including haematology and biochemistry machines, and equipment to evaluate blood gases and electrolytes. These diagnostic tools are critical to forming a rational and effective therapeutic plan for the animals that are treated at The Fondouk, as colic and diseases are probably two of the biggest killers of working equids in Africa. The vets are often faced with animals suffering from tetanus, rabies, influenza and herpes virus; they are also vulnerable to colic, a problem that affects horses worldwide. In Africa, however, the causes of these gastrointestinal problems are numerous. One of the most common reasons for developing colic is eating plastic bags.
The vast majority of working donkeys and horses seen at The Fondouk are lame in at least one limb, if not multiple limbs. Overwork and a lifetime of poor farriery means that lameness is a common reason for seeking treatment and Lynn's farrier colleague, Jeff Newnham, was able to pass on some of his knowledge and expertise during their trip.
Lynn’s week spent at The Fondouk involved a lot of bandage changes, wound cleaning, and intravenous and nasogastric fluid therapy. She said: "It's hard work but very rewarding to see the happy, thankful owners taking their animals home, but it is also heartbreaking when there is nothing that can be done for a patient except the kindest thing which is putting them to sleep, and sadly taking away from the owners their only means of making a living and feeding their family. There is no company that comes and removes the deceased equids - they are loaded into a truck and taken to the tip. As a horse owner myself, it broke my heart to see this, but it is the way of life for The Fondouk in Morocco."
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