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First-ever heart procedure on sheep successful

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Ranch Hand Rescue founder Bob Williams and Yoda.

For the first time ever, veterinarians at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences performed surgery on Yoda, a 15-month-old sheep, to correct a congenital heart problem called a patent ductus arteriosus or PDA.

Argyle-based Ranch Hand Rescue Counseling Center and Animal Sanctuary owns Yoda, one of several therapy animals at the center.

“A PDA is a blood vessel that allows blood to bypass the lungs. At birth it should close off and now 15 months later, it is still open,” explains Baumwart, a board certified veterinary cardiologist. “With Dr. Robert Streeter’s assistance, we first tried to correct the problem by going in through a blood vessel in Yoda’s leg with a catheter. However, the blood vessel we wanted to close off was too large.”

Baumwart handed the case over to his colleague, Dr. Danielle Dugat, a small animal surgeon.

“My role was to take Yoda to surgery and open his chest where we could see his heart, the normal blood vessels and the shunting vessel,” says Dugat. “I secured a suture around that vessel and tied it down, closing that vessel completely. Blood flow could no longer pass through that shunt pathway. As a result, the murmur disappears and Yoda can begin the recovery process.”

“Yoda is one of our more popular therapy animals,” explained Bob Williams, founder of Ranch Hand Rescue.

“All the animals here see clients daily in our Counseling Program, but Yoda, a very sick little sheep has a very strong connection with many of our clients. It’s amazing to witness the relationship that exists between Yoda and clients, especially children who have suffered severe trauma from physical & sexual abuse.

“Yoda’s unconditional love and snuggles he gives to all the clients make him a special partner to all who meet him. I believe with all my heart that God brings them to me for a reason, we are their last hope. I call them the throwaways because most people won’t spend the money to save an animals life. I believe that all life is precious and we would go to this extent for any of them, the majority of our animals here at Ranch Hand rescue have special needs, we love them regardless of their health issues,” said Williams.

“If left untreated, Yoda would have succumbed to his congenital heart disease sooner than he should,” added Baumwart.

The surgery was a success and the case will be written up and published in veterinary medical journals in the near future so that others may benefit from the experience OSU veterinarians gained saving Yoda.

Yoda will have another heart sonogram on Monday and should return back to Ranch Hand Rescue on Tuesday where he will recuperate.

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