Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Securos Veterinary Tools

In 1976 I was trained to perform spinal surgery in dogs and cats by the flamboyant and very skilled Dr. Eric Trotter of the veterinary teaching hospital at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. I was ending my neurology residency at the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell was one of the premier institutions for veterinary neurosurgery. Little did I realize that in just another year I would be opening one of the first private practice veterinary specialty hospitals in the country and the lessons I learned in Ithaca would be indispensable.

One of the procedures I learned was how to perform a cervical ventral decompression. In this procedure, once the trachea and esophagus are moved out of the way, one is looking right at the bottom or ventral aspect of the cervical spine. Once the muscles are removed a high speed drill is used to carve a slot through the intervertebral disc and adjoining vertebrae and then comes the fun part. An opening is made into the spinal canal and through this tiny opening the protruded disc material is removed. The surgical approach can be quite deep, as much as seven inches sometimes. The hole carved into the bone gives one a 1/2 inch to a 3/4 inch slot to maneuver this offensive, abnormal disc material, out of the hole so it will cease to irritate the spinal cord and the associated nerve roots. This abnormally positioned material which originally was part of a once healthy intervertebral disc, produces one of the most painful conditions in the world of the dog.

I can't remember what instrument Dr. Trotter used for this procedure, but after I performed several hundred of these surgeries I found a dental instrument that was just perfect for teasing the abnormal disc material safely out of these tight, deep quarters. Having hundreds of these procedures in my future (by now I have performed several thousand cervical decompressions) I purchased about a half dozen of these perfect dental pics.

The pics had two ends and over the years the instruments were either misplaced or an end broke off because they weren't of the finest steel. Twenty some years later, I found myself with just one single pic with only one working end and the manufacturers of this instrument out of business. In earnest, I bought instruments that looked similar from catalogs and off the exhibit tables of our national shows. Only trying these supposed replacement instruments, did I realize that the predicament I was in was more serious than originally thought.

Along comes a gregarious and passionate tool maker/artist Harry Wooton. Harry and I met at a surgery conference and ended up at dinner together arranged by a mutual friend. Harry was the President of a veterinary company, Securos, http://www.securos.com/, that designs instruments for the veterinary orthopedic market. Harry shared his passion for design at dinner and when I described the instrument that I could not find, he assured me he could make it to my exact standards. With giddiness, I started imagining slight changes I might make to the "perfect instrument" that just moments before was irreplaceable.

When I expressed my concern about allowing this one-of-a-kind instrument out of my sight, Harry assured me if I overnighted it to him he would copy it and I'd have it back in just two days. This became the only hitch in our relationship. The instrument wasn't back in three days and now I was worried. When I called Harry with trepidation, he told me he didn't think he could do the instrument justice copying it in the office so he had sent it to Germany for a better reproduction, my heart sank. I envisioned every nightmare that ended with the irreplaceable becoming the irretrievable.

Not all nightmares come true. Harry's team of engineers went into high gear and reproduced this instrument with my exact recommendations, making this beloved instrument even more perfect. A few prototypes later, I now have six of the most perfect instruments for this delicate procedure. They fit my hand and my need perfectly. Harry's the best.


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