Rocco had always had a good bill of health, every vets visit they confirmed all was well. But then they confirmed he had developed a heart murmur, was on the scale of 2 - 3 out of 6 so was told nothing too serious to worry about and they said no need to follow up. (I'd recommend anyone now to follow up with a cardiologist as the earlier caught the better) Fast forward 3 months and it all started when Rocco who is super energetic, was in the garden. I was feeding the birds and he liked to run off with bits of bread as a game.
He suddenly started to stumble and look like he was choking. I picked him up and tried to look into his mouth but couldn't see anything, he stopped breathing. I had to think quickly as there was no time to get to the vet. I decided to resuscitate him myself. I put my mouth over his nose and mouth as hes only small, and blew in. I felt his chest expand. I then used his body weight over my hand on his chest to let the air come back out. On 3rd attempt he coughed and came round. He had wet himself so he looked more embarrassed and confused than anything else. I thought he had merely choked on a piece of the bread.
6 hours later he was back to his normal self so went to take him for a walk, we got about one house length away and he started to stumble again. I managed to pick him up and calm him. He was struggling to breath again so I blew in his mouth for him again which was enough to help. This frightened me as was obviously more than choking on food. I took him straight to my vets which have an emergency after hours clinic and astonishingly they turned us away as 'he looked fine now' I wasn’t happy with that so next morning after not sleeping all through the night I took him to a new vet. They immediately got an x-ray done confirming he had heart disease. Was told like many vets would at the time that it would eventually claim his life and that he'd be on medication till then as there was nothing else anyone could do.
I was devastated. Rocco had been my soulmate and got me through some of the darkest times, he was the light in my cave. I knew I needed to help him back. I went home and searched the internet endlessly trying to find any way I could to help prolong his life. Natural remedies, treatments, exercises.....anything! I then stumbled across someone's post on Facebook about the disease and a lady had commented about Dr Uechi and that he'd been performing successful surgeries. I starting researching him and found an article about this man who saved his dog with the surgery. After speaking to the newspaper journalist I managed to track the guy down and get his story myself. He also gave me Dr Uechi’s details.
He was doing the surgery in Japan and France. I couldn't afford the cost so I started a campaign to try and raise the money. I was laughed at, mocked and made to feel stupid by some, I ignored them as nothing was going to stop me. It showed who the beautiful people in my life were too, who stood by me and helped me. I was only half way in raising funds and Rocco started to deteriorate. He had less and less time. His heart disease progressed extremely quickly. I had to resuscitate him twice more and ended up taking him to the vet where they'd increased his medication to stabilize him. Best thing was to keep him as calm as possible, to keep his heart at a slower pace. In the meantime I realized I was never going to save enough money for the surgery. But I then found out Dr Uechi had trained one UK Vet, Dr. Dan Brockman.
I contacted Dan and he agreed to see us right away. He was very honest and humble saying he'd not been doing the procedure very long so statistically the odds were lower. I knew it was a higher risk but I was running out of time and options. I tried saving a bit longer and was even working two full time jobs, I was exhausted. Rocco took a turn for the worst, myself and my vet Dr. Mark Oakley managed to stabilize him one last time as the meds were now at full throttle. I put one last pledge out to everyone I knew. I had no time left so I put all my faith into Dr. Dan Brockman and the team to do the surgery. Luckily a beautiful friend of mine said she would lend me what I was short by so we got Rocco booked into surgery asap as a last minute slot opened up.
The night before the surgery, I had many negative mean comments online from people left, right and center. One even told me off for not having Dr Uechi do it etc. I was starting to doubt and question everything now. 'Do I just keep Rocco going another month? maybe two so I get to have his final moments with him?' Or 'do I risk the operation which could possibly save his life?' It makes sense to take the leap of faith considering he was dying anyway. Yet the thought of going through it all and losing him anyway and not having those last few days, weeks or maybe months was devastating. Then I realized that I would always regret not trying to save his life. If it didn’t work then at least I knew I tried the best of my ability to save him.
Luckily I'd met some wonderful people online who'd gone through the same thing, one being Nate Estes. He was there for me on the phone whilst I was in tears the night before the surgery after dealing with all those negative cruel people. Nate comforted and reassured me what was important and helped to calm me and keep me focused for the surgery to come. We were all in a group and it was starting to have quite a lot of people join so they decided to make the Mighty Hearts Project Facebook group and page so no one would ever be alone or uninformed again. A lot of people were rapidly joining who were in the same boat as I, so they started following mine and Rocco’s story. It was a new venture with the RVC also, so all were rooting for them and us. So all were sending positive comments and messages which really helped me through it all.....don’t know what I would have done without them!
The day of the surgery I was numb, was the longest wait ever. But to my delight, Rocco made it through. He even made it through the first night. They were starting to get him eating and gave him a lovely variety of food. Although Rocco had a funny habit.....he loved baked beans! He even stole my baked beans which I'd left on the side the morning before surgery at the hotel. If there were beans he’d sniff them out. I gave a can to the RVC team. We wash the sauce off (as can contain too much sugar) and he would eat the beans. The team found it hilarious how much he actually liked them so he'd have them alongside his chicken and other food.
Even on his road to recovery he was still his usual character. But was not over yet, Rocco suffered a blood clot go to the brain so had suffered seizures. They'd increased his meds and helped stabilize him. Unfortunately he had two more seizures. He went blind and had suffered what appeared to be brain damage as was not himself. They warned me he may never get his sight back or go back to normal. I was devastated, but at least he was still going. They had slowly been adjusting his medication and had managed to get Rocco stabilized for the seizures to stop and he started to get better. Luckily his eyesight slowly came back. He was still not himself though, was acting more like a puppy seeing me and everything for the first time. I was allowed to take him home. I watched him get stronger and better.
Then one morning, as I woke up, I saw him notice and then come jump up at me like he used to with his paws on my chest. Could see in his eyes and mannerisms that he was back. His little personality so happy to see me. Was like his memory had come back. Was such a happy day. He even went searching for my baked beans, so knew he was definitely himself again! Since then he went from strength to strength. Dan Brockman and his team was absolutely amazing with him and I had no reason to worry.
He is now one of the leading specialists for the procedure and has saved many dogs lives. Rocco is now off all meds and has had good news at all health checks. I'm now glad I didn’t listen to the negative comments as Rocco was a pivot point in history and gave hope to so many. He is the RVC’s poster boy and I hope always a beacon of light to anyone considering surgery. The op was over 2 years ago and hes still going strong!
The mighty hearts group is now bigger than ever and are there for anyone else unfortunate enough to have to deal with this horrible disease. The knowledge, support and kindness they provide is invaluable. I now have a 1 year old son who Rocco gets to play with and they adore each other. Was so worth it. Whatever was to happen, I am so glad I tried. Thank goodness for Dr Uechi and his procedure and the likes of Dr. Dan Brockman, Poppy Bristow and the RVC team. They all have the willingness to do whatever it takes. Thank you.
Samantha & Rocco Hosker
Breed: Long haired Chihuahua cross Jack Russell
Age: 8, now 10
Diagnosis: Stage D Surgery Date: July 24th , 2017
Hometown: London, UK Owner: Samantha Hosker Cardiologist : Dr. Mark Oakley at Kynoch Vets Surgical Team: RVC, Dr. Dan Brockman & Dr. Poppy Bristow