The unstoppable Bean
"Through it all, Bean has just been an inspiration to all of us fortunate enough to care for her. Her will to live, her incredibly kind disposition – considering all she’s been through – it’s amazing and hard to put into words. You just have to meet her."
When a young pit bull rescue named Bean first visited the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, she had so many health problems that her chances of adoption – let alone survival – were slim.
Now after groundbreaking treatment by specialists in veterinary and human medicine, as well as biomedical engineering, Bean has become a teaching assistant of sorts at the vet hospital and an ambassador of hope for people who, like her, have had their larynx removed.
Along the way, Bean so impressed her care providers with her indomitable spirit – even through eight surgeries – that a veterinary faculty couple adopted the dog.
"She loves people, and sometimes she wags her tail so hard she falls on the ground," said Karen Vernau, chief of the veterinary hospital’s Neurology and Neurosurgery Service who brought Bean home to live with her husband, Associate Professor William Vernau, Ph.D. ’00; their two children and two other dogs."We didn’t intend to go down this path with her, but she just sucked us in."
The Humane Society of the Silicon Valley brought the rescued dog to the veterinary hospital in the spring of 2012 for evaluation of her odd way of walking – which Vernau said looked "like an old man wearing flippers."
Corrective surgery ensued for improperly formed hip joints and neurological troubles. Then, in the ensuing months, veterinarians determined that she also suffered from muscular dystrophy, a malfunctioning esophagus and a massive hiatal hernia.
Among her other corrective surgeries, Bean had her larynx removed last fall by surgeon Peter Belafsky, an expert on human swallowing and airway disorders, and veterinary surgeon Bill Culp. Bean now breathes through a small hole created in her trachea, or windpipe; she gets her nourishment via a permanent feeding tube with an adapter that was custom-designed by biomedical engineers.
"Through it all, Bean has just been an inspiration to all of us fortunate enough to care for her," Belafsky said. "Her will to live, her incredibly kind disposition – considering all she’s been through – it’s amazing and hard to put into words. You just have to meet her."