Beau’s New Frontier
Patches of white clouds skitter across an endless blue Florida sky, high and wispy. It’s exactly the kind of sky you expect to see at the beach. You’ll find generations of family-owned markets that sell fresh seafood and brochures that boast the area has a heart as big as the bay itself.
But if you look beyond the tourist’s paradise, and beyond the sand and the sea, you will find a very different picture. With just 2400 residents, Eastpoint villagers are tethered to low paying jobs that offer little in the way of career advancement.
Education and resources are scarce here. The local animal shelter is overwhelmed with unwanted companion animals. Dog fighting and animal abuse are common problems, and
there is no money to teach young and old compassionate animal care.
On a typical day in paradise, a villager approached Gabrielle and asked, “Will you take him?”
Gabrielle stared at the five-week old puppy named Beau, a Chow/Lab/Spaniel mix. Nearly lifeless, she knew he was very sick. Without hesitation, she opened her arms and took him. It’s not the first time that she has done so. Over the years, she, her three sisters and mother, have answered yes to that question many times.
That’s why when someone comes to Gabrielle and asks the telling question, “Will you take him?” she and her family know that most likely the dog’s life is in danger. That was the case with Beau.
Full of fleas, they immediately bathed him and took Beau to their vet the very same day. It was a good thing they did. Beau was anemic because of a parasitic infestation. Their vet told them the puppy would have died if they had waited any longer for treatment.
With good veterinary care and the family’s loving attention, Beau bounced back and began to act his age, a spunky, happy puppy. But again, at two months of age, Beau contracted mange. With extended treatment, he finally recovered.
Just as Beau was transitioning into a healthy life surrounded by people who loved him, Gabrielle, her mother, and two of her sisters were all struggling with a transition of their own. Gabrielle’s mother had been the director of a non-profit literacy foundation. But after 25 years, it closed due to lack of funding. Gabrielle is a nurse who cannot find work and recently took a job as a cashier.
None of these women, however, have let their financial situation defeat them. Gabrielle, her mother, and two of her sisters, did some research. They found that medical coding and billing was a promising career path.
If their community could not provide them with the income and career opportunity they wanted, so be it. They would create their own! The four of them enrolled in the medical billing and coding course at their local community college. Later, all four would graduate with honors.
During this time, Grace, their youngest sister, 13, who also has Down Syndrome, needed hip reconstructive surgery. “It was a very challenging time,” Gabrielle told us. “And Beau was an important part of Grace’s recovery.”
Bed ridden following her surgery, Beau stayed right by her side. Once Grace was back on her feet, so was Beau. The two were inseparable. “Thick as thieves,” as Gabrielle laughingly told us. Although the family never left Grace unsupervised, it seemed that Beau knew intuitively that Grace needed a protector. He always stayed close to her.
Outside, Grace loved to throw Beau’s toys while her family watched them. To everyone’s amusement, Beau would retrieve the toys, then sit down and chew on them. Grace would laugh and throw her arms around him. As for Beau, he was always gentle with Grace. That was the interesting thing about him. With everyone else in the family, he acted like the puppy he was, jumping, tugging and playfully nipping. Not so with Grace. He was always the gentle protector.
But in August, her best friend had a sudden and steep decline in his health. Beau could no longer follow Grace from room to room. In fact, about the only time he got up was to eat. Then he would immediately lay back down.
Grace did not understand why her best friend didn’t want to play with her any more. The family explained that Beau didn’t feel well and that they would take him to the vet, which they did. The news, however, was not good.
The vet detected a heart murmur and recommended Beau see a cardiac specialist at the University of Florida’s school of veterinary medicine. It was there that Dr. Estrada found the reason for Beau’s extreme lethargy. He had a genetic heart condition called subaortic stenosis; if not treated, it was fatal.
Dr. Estrada explained that a dog’s heart pressure grade should be zero, but Beau’s was a deadly 176! An extra ridge of skin in his heart was creating pressure; blood could not flow freely because of it. In order to repair nature’s mistake, Dr. Estrada would perform a new surgery that inserted a “cutting balloon” into Beau’s heart. Once it inflated, blades along the balloon’s edges would cut away the ridge of tissue that obstructed blood flow.
The family was in shock. No one had imagined anything like this! It was a risky operation for sure, but it was Beau’s only chance at a normal life. Dr. Estrada stressed the good news. At 10 months old, Beau was the perfect age for this surgery. The longer the condition went untreated, the greater the damage to the heart and the less responsive the heart is to treatment. Truly, time was of the essence.
As you can imagine, the price tag for this procedure was way out of this family’s reach. Still, it didn’t stop Gabrielle and her family. “We knew we were not going to throw in the towel,” Gabrielle told us firmly. “We had brought him this far and Beau deserved a happy, healthy dog life.”
Dr. Estrada put Beau on an anti-arrhythmia medication to help temporarily bring down his heart pressure. He needed to stay on it for a month before he could have the surgery. It didn’t take long for the medicine to take effect. Once again, he was glued to Grace’s side, following her from room to room, and playing again.
In the meantime, Gabrielle got to work and set up a GoFundMe campaign and asked her community to help. But a village struggling to put food on the table could not hear Gabrielle’s heartfelt plea. No one responded.
Undeterred, she got to work researching financial aid sources. That’s when she found The Mosby Foundation. Immediately, Gabrielle filled out an application and sent it in. Gabrielle’s family wasn’t asking anyone to pay for Beau’s surgery. All she wanted was some help, and that was in very short supply in her neighborhood.
You can imagine how surprised she was to hear from Dreama, one of our office staff. “She is such a wonderful lady. Dreama is so kind and has a wonderful heart!” Gabrielle told us enthusiastically.
When The Mosby Foundation sponsored a special fundraiser for Beau, “It brought me to tears,” Gabrielle said. Financial aid aside, sometimes we feel that perhaps the greatest gift The Mosby Foundation gives is unwavering support at such a difficult time, especially when there is so little support for the family.
“I’m completely overwhelmed by your generosity and your concern for my dog Beau!” A grateful Gabrielle told us. “The Mosby Foundation’s donation will be saving Beau’s life and I can’t thank you enough.”
Thirty days later, Gabrielle and her family took Beau back to the University of Florida for his pre-op testing. While they waited, Dr. Estrada was scrubbing up. That’s when she got the text message that changed everything. Frantically, she texted back, “Don’t cath Beau! Stop right now!”
An intern appeared in the waiting room and told the family that Dr. Estrada wanted to see them, but it wasn’t bad news. When Dr. Estrada entered the room, she was almost floating on air. “We’re postponing the surgery at this time, “she said, elated.
Shocked, the family asked why. Dr. Estrada couldn’t talk fast enough to share the unexpected good news. Beau’s heart pressure grade had dropped a staggering 80 points. The norm is 10-20! “I could have fallen out of my seat!” Gabrielle told us. Dr. Estrada had no explanation for why Beau had such an incredible response to the medication, especially given the severity of his condition. In fact, this dramatic response had never happened before. Even the receptionist said that no one scheduled for surgery has ever left without having it. It truly was a miracle!
The news got even better. Beau’s heart muscles were starting to return to their normal size. “We were blown away!” An ecstatic Gabrielle said. Beau’s pressure is still considered severe and the ridge in his heart is still there. But as Dr. Estrada noted, this is a new frontier in subaortic stenosis treatment.
The hope is that this medication is the answer for Beau’s condition. Dr. Estrada will check Beau again in 3 months to monitor his progress. Gabrielle summed up how we all felt about Beau’s progress. “I am hoping and praying that his response to drug therapy treatment will continue to be the answer for him. Thank you for all that The Mosby Foundation has done for Beau! Thank you with all my heart.”
For the family that took a desperate employment situation and turned it into an opportunity, it takes a lot of heart to do that. We have no doubt they will be successful. And for the dog that had no hope and no love, Beau now has an abundance of both.