"I have never seen this before. I cannot explain it." That is how Phoenix's vet described his near-immediate and unexpected healing today. Two days ago, he was labeled as being in "critical condition" needing emergency veterinary care. But just 48 hours later, Phoenix has been labeled as "perfectly healthy".
Thousands have followed the story of Phoenix, whose original article spread like wildfire online and through social media (see here). In short, he was found weighing a meager 27 pounds--severely emaciated for an adult pit bull.
His vet described him as "less than a 1 on the ideal weight chart, that ranges from 1 (severely underweight) to 9 (grossly obese)."
He was flea infested, full of intestinal parasites, and was found to have a high load of heartworms. But, because he was so thin, there was not enough fat and muscle on his body to start the heartworm treatment injections.
So, Hearne, Texas animal control volunteer Deborah Fatheree spent countless hours soliciting funds for treatment and searching for a rescue to accept him. He was taken in by Selah Ranch All Animal Rescue (see update article here). Because he was malnourished, his veterinarian began the low heartworm load treatment to see if his body could handle the medicine, and asked to see him back in two months if he was healthy enough to start the much more strenuous high load heartworm treatment of injections. (To understand more on heartworm treatments, click here.)
Two days before Phoenix was to arrive in Texas to begin treatment, Selah Ranch owners describe him as having a coughing fit so intense, that he could barely breathe and his nose and lips turned bright red. The vet deemed him critical and urged them bring him in as soon as possible. They headed to Texas from Virginia immediately.
Today, a miracle has happened. After being praised for Phoenix reaching his ideal weight (47 pounds in 10 weeks), the veterinarian decided to repeat the heartworm tests before starting the injections. There was an audible gasp in the room....
The test showed a stark negative. Phoenix was clear of heartworms!
The staff was in disbelief. How did Phoenix manage to go from high heartworm positive (heart riddled with worms) to being cleared in just 10 weeks?
"Impossible," the staff said in doubt.
So, they repeated the tests a second time (the same ones conducted on the initial visit)--bloodwork, a "snap" test, and Xrays. Clear, clear, clear. All Phoenix had in those 10 weeks was a month of antibiotics and steroids, and one dose of heartworm prevention each month. His vet stated,
"I have heard of some cases where that has spontaneously happened in 10 or 12 months--never, ever this quickly. I just cannot explain it, particularly knowing how emaciated and malnourished he was during that time. I am completely stunned."
Kitty Martin of Selah Ranch, a Christian based and oriented rescue, is not surprised at all.
"I can tell you exactly what happened. That is the power of God."
Kitty says in addition to daily prayers for Phoenix's healing by both the ranch and their supporters, they also held prayer circles before heading back to Texas. Occasionally, they would lay their hands on Phoenix and pray for his health and healing.
"For those who are not believers, they cannot understand it. For those of us who have full faith in God's healing love... we get it," Kitty insists.
Is it the power of prayer? Is it just luck? Or, could it be, as his vet deduced, that the frightening choking and coughing spell two days ago was him aspirating out the heartworms? Heartworms can lodge themselves not in just the heart, but the lungs as well. If the ones that died (miraculously) so quickly, did so in the lungs, could he just have been aspirating them?
The only thing we know for sure is that 10 weeks ago, Phoenix was in critical condition (see thread here) and the vets were worried he would not even be able to digest dog food, much less be well enough to be neutered and treated for heartworms. But, today that is a distant memory. He is the "ideal" weight and (somehow) heartworm free.
Phoenix is heading back to the ranch in the morning to get back to life being the owner's "pocket pal" and accompanying them everywhere they go. He spends his days running around the ranch with dogs, cats, horses, and calves, but more importantly, he is happy, healthy, and loved.
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The author, April Plemons, is an animal rescuer and welfare advocate. She is part of Long Way Home Animal Sanctuary & Pit Bull Rescue. Check out their Facebook page below!