"She was all I had,” said Thatcher of her beloved puppy Athena. “I was single, I was living alone. She was like my kid."
On April 9th Summer Thatcher took the English Mastiff, named Athena, to Quail Pointe Veterinary Hospital to be spayed. Summer was a little worried Athena had just started showing signs that she was in heat.
Thatcher explained, "She assured me it was fine to go ahead and do the procedure so I left here and went home and then a couple hours later I got a call that she needed to take out her spleen."
Veterinarian Kathleen Ford is the main veterinarian at Quail Pointe Veterinary Hospital, but on this day she called in to assist veterinarian Mary Smart when things started going wrong.
Dr. Ford told ABC 4 Utah, "Dr. Smart had held gentle pressure on the spleen. There was more glistening on the surface and it started escalating from there."
Even after the spleen was out Athena was still bleeding.
"She started bleeding not to where we had done surgery, but from her organs and we gave her blood products,” said Dr. Ford. “We gave her everything we could to stop the bleeding."
Thatcher says she was told she couldn't stop the bleeding so they just sewed Athena up.
She read aloud to ABC 4 Utah the surgery report from Dr. Ford’s office. “Identified spleen as source of bleeding applied pressure to spleen to stop bleeding, pressure did not stop bleeding."
Athena’s spleen was removed but that didn’t stop the bleeding.
Thatcher continues to read from Dr. Ford’s report, "Free blood in abdominal cavity still present. Active bleeding from liver. Unable to identify which liver lobe. Closed abdomen."
Thatcher cried, "Why would you close up my dog while she's still actually bleeding? And she told me she was bleeding from her liver and couldn't take liver out.”
When things weren't turning around for Athena in recovery, Thatcher wanted to take her to her emergency vet at Advanced Veterinary Care in Salt Lake City. By the time she finally got there it was too late. Athena only made it to the parking lot before passing away.
"She literally took her last breath in my arms in the parking lot at the ER,” cried Thatcher.
Dr. Ford says she fears moving Athena so soon after surgery may have led to her clots moving and her bleeding to death. She believes Athena died from a blood clotting disorder, but a blood sample that could have proved that was never tested.
Thatcher tells ABC 4 Utah the vets at Advanced Veterinary Care said the claims Dr. Ford was making about bleeding organs didn’t make sense. Thatcher explained, "She was like ‘that's the most bizarre thing I have ever heard.’ She said, ‘even if your dog is in heat she would not start randomly bleeding from an organ.’"
The necropsy report was inconclusive. It didn’t say Athena had a blood disorder, but it did show that the bleeding did not come from Athena’s liver.
Thatcher read from the report, “There was no evidence of the liver itself bleeding i.e. no bleeding, hematoma, lesions."
The general impression from the necropsy was, “Based on these findings, we cannot definitively identify cause of death, however blood loss (with or without coagulopathy) appears to have been a primary contributing factor.”
Thatcher believes something went terribly wrong during surgery and wants an investigation into what's actually going on at Quail Pointe Veterinary Hospital. Dr. Ford says she doesn’t know of any investigation but welcomes the state to take a look at her records.
“We welcome an investigation by the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing,” said Dr. Ford. “We have nothing to hide. We are open for an investigation. Our records will reflect we did everything in our power to provide the best outcome we could."
DOPL would only tell ABC 4 Utah they wouldn’t confirm or deny an investigation is underway, but according to Thatcher’s lawyer DOPL has opened an active investigation into the claims. The case number is 65443. Contact Senior Investigator John Sims at (801) 530-6301.
Thatcher’s facebook webpage “Athena Justice” already has hundreds of likes and dozens of stories from other pet owners who claim to have lost their pets because of misdeeds at the hands of Dr. Ford and Dr. Smart.
Thatcher tells ABC 4 Utah she isn’t considering a lawsuit to make money. She hopes that this will help strengthen the laws against veterinary malpractice and change it so pets in Utah aren’t thought of as just property, but loved family members.