1. Vibert, Linda BSN, RN

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Two figures, bundled for the cold, moved through the snow calling, "O'Riley!! O'Riley!!" There was no response.


My 88-year-old mother, affectionately known as "The Ol' Lady of the New Hampshire Woods," and Heidi, my 21-year old niece, were on the track of a 110-lb. goat. It was right before Christmas, and I'd just returned to my mother's home to celebrate the holidays and my newly minted nursing degree. On her 100-acre wooded farmland, my mother has been tending a small brigade of animals for more than a decade.


Of all her animals, O'Riley is the least liked-at least, no one likes him except the Ol' Lady, who adores him. The moment the baby goat arrived, he decided that the Ol' Lady was his. For his entire first summer, he shadowed her, baying, "mmmmaaaa, mmm aaaaaa," when ever she was out of sight. As he got older, the Ol' Lady became his "territory." He challenged anyone who came close to her, delivering a violent butt from his hard head to anyone who stood nearby. Only the llamas were exempt; they loved O'Riley. The llamas, being herding animals, felt much better with four in their herd as opposed to three-even if the fourth was a goat.


Usually, when the Ol' Lady called him in from grazing, he'd emerge from the woods, galloping, braying, rushing to her side, and demanding something to eat. But this time, there was no response. She asked Heidi for help. Begrudgingly (not sure that she wanted to locate the pesky, intrusive animal), Heidi pulled on her winter coat and together they trekked into the cold.


When they found O'Riley, he was lying on his back in the snow, his left front hoof stuck into a tight crevice between two trees. His hoof wouldn't budge. Heidi came looking for me as the Ol' Lady went in search of a saw or an ax.


When I arrived at the scene, my mother was already attempting to cut the tree-but one look at the goat told me we didn't have enough time. So Heidi and I got a good grip on one of the trunks and started to pull. With our combined force, we moved it just a little. The Ol' Lady pulled at his hoof. Within seconds, O'Riley was free.

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We cheered, expecting O'Riley to jump up and butt one of us, but he didn't budge. He shivered, staring up at us, not making a sound. He was in shock. I got down beside him and tried to warm him by rubbing his side and his face with my hands. Heidi ran to the house for blankets. Upon her return, we covered him immediately and continued rubbing him, trying to accelerate the warming process.


The llamas watched us intently from the corral.


We started to worry that O'Riley was fading. We kept talking to him, rubbing him. He looked at us, hardly blinking. When he moved, we stood back to see if he could get up on his own feet. He couldn't. We continued to talk to him and encourage him to get up as we rubbed him to try and stimulate warmth. He tried again to move, and we supported his underbelly. He rolled up to his hind hooves.


But he was still resting on his front knees. We worried his leg was broken. As we continued to encourage him and rub his sides and face he tried, unsuccessfully, to get up on his front legs. Once more, we supported his underbelly and he tried again.


Finally, he stood on all four legs. The Ol' Lady called to him as Heidi and I supported his front sides so there wouldn't be too much weight on his legs. She gave another plea and the stout-hearted animal, so devoted, gingerly took a step. We were excitedly yelling as he took another step, limping and favoring the injured leg. Slowly the four of us proceeded this way to the corral, where the llamas were, by then, pacing excitedly. When I opened the gate, O'Riley practically bounded toward them. They surrounded him and stared at us as if to say, "We'll take it from here." Escorted by the llamas, O'Riley hobbled off to the barn.


The three of us made our way back to the house and, realizing how very cold we were, got out the wine and warmed ourselves by the fire. Next morning, although his leg was a bit swollen, O'Riley was as spunky and as sassy as ever.


"Well, you with your new nursing degree-you just saved your first patient," said the Ol' Lady of the New Hampshire Woods.