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True Stories by Steve Keely
Red and the Hemlock Society
A poignant post rests in Daily Speculations, How could she wish death on the mother she loved?. While others juggle numbers to rake profits during these good times, as should be, few ponder the turning point in everyone’s life about which revolve the bittersweet issues of the right to die, physician assisted suicide, and the Hemlock Society, since 2004 called Compassion and Choices. I like the boldness of the original name. I, no stranger to suffering and death, wish to gently authenticate Mark Goulston’s story with a short piece of my own.
Red was like a son to me, a 120-lb. surgical pony during my large animal rotation through vet school. He stuck out like a small finger along the five stalls of other ponies assigned to our surgery class. Every Monday, as the stockiest of our four-person team, I trotted to Red’s stall, hefted and carried him 100 yards through the hard hallways into the surgery clinic. I rest him on his side upon a 10’ cold steel table, pat him good night, and we administered general anesthesia. Out flashed the scalpels and scissors, needles and suture, and each week a new operation took place. I vividly recall how to perform an intestinal anastomosis, eye enucleation, sinus trephine, pin a broken tibia… until I want to scream for physician assisted suicide.
But after each surgery, I carried Red back to his stall and lay him on the straw to recover. I also sneaked him extra antibiotics and analgesics from the dispensary, picked his hoofs and groomed him over the weeks until he was one of two surviving ponies at the term’s close The reward at the end was to be fed a quarter, go to sleep, and the vet students fell like beggars onto the stomach. Red wasn’t revived to thank for the two-buts but rather, at last, our final assignment was to euthanize him I pumped a lethal overdose of anesthetic into his big heart, felt the pulse instantly race and then slacken under my finger, and I stroked the throat and Red died. I dedicated myself at that moment, more or less, to the relief of pain by whatever means.
As sequel a few years later my beloved mother, destabilized by chemotherapy, died in my arms choking on yogurt with a shocked expression and my final words, ‘It’s ok, ma.’ It was and she passed to the next great experiment.
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