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'Miracle' saves dog

March 25, 2002|BY DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

After being hit by a car in front of South Hagerstown High School, Emerson - a 6-year-old Weimaraner - needed a miracle to live.

He got one.

Emerson's miracle was Oxyglobin, an intravenously-delivered fluid for dogs that is made from the hemoglobin in cows' blood and carries life-saving oxygen to organs and cells.

Oxyglobin manufacturer Biopure describes Oxyglobin as an oxygen therapeutic. It also has been described as artificial blood.

Emerson typically spent a few minutes in the late afternoons running around the fields at South High while waiting for the end of lacrosse practice.

It's a chance for Emerson to tire himself out, said Tim Chakwin, an English teacher and boys lacrosse coach at South High who co-owns Emerson with his girlfriend, Melanie Sutula.

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During his Monday afternoon run, Emerson was hit by a car.

"Some kids came running up and said, 'Coach, your dog's been hit by a car,' " Chakwin said.

Emerson had a few cuts and scrapes. He was bleeding from his mouth and leg, but he was walking.

After about 60 yards, Emerson fell. Chakwin carried him to the car.

On the way to Cumberland Valley Veterinary Clinic on Virginia Avenue, Chakwin called Sutula on his cell phone.

"I never let it in my mind that he wasn't going to make it," Chakwin said.

Others were less optimistic.

"The dog came in in bad shape. ... (Emerson) would walk two steps and collapse," said George Engstrom, the veterinarian who treated Emerson. "I didn't think it would live."

"The doctor asked if we would allow him to use this new technique using artificial blood to get oxygen (to Emerson's organs)," Sutula said. "We of course said, 'Do whatever you need to do. We don't care what it costs.'

"I didn't think he as going to live."

Emerson was in a "classic case of shock," Engstrom said.

Many of Emerson's arteries and veins had collapsed, and his organs were starving for oxygen, Engstrom said.

"They gave me permission to do everything I could to make him live, and this was everything," he said.

Engstrom gave Emerson Oxyglobin in an effort to get oxygen to the dog's organs. Oxyglobin can make its way even through collapsed arteries and veins because the molecules in it are smaller than the molecules in blood, Engstrom said.

Oxyglobin has been used by veterinarians since 1998. Engstrom said he has used the product about 12 times over the last two years.

Emerson's treatment cost about $400, including $215 for the Oxyglobin, Sutula said.

Engstrom said that before Oxyglobin was available he probably would have tried to save Emerson with steroids, but he thinks that treatment would have failed.

"This case needed a small miracle," he said, adding that if he had tried the steroid treatment, "This dog would be dead."

Instead, Emerson was back on his feet the next day.

But it might be a while before Emerson is again patrolling the fields around South High.

"He's a leash dog now," Sutula said.

Chakwin and Sutula have owned Emerson for nearly two years.

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