Rescue horse gives blood to save life of sick foal

  • The life of a four-day-old foal has been saved by a blood transfusion from a horse rescued by the Blue Cross.

    The warmblood colt named Conker had been diagnosed with a fatal foal disease known as neonatal isoerythrolysis, which is similar to Rhesus syndrome in babies. The condition is caused by antibodies absorbed from the mare destroying the foal’s red blood cells during pregnancy.

    When vets at Pool House Equine Clinic in Lichfield saw Conker they knew he urgently required a blood transfusion. Luckily, Blue Cross Harold (picture below left), a 15-year-old gelding who had been placed on loan to practice vet Richard Stephenson, was on hand to provide the life-saving fluid.

    Harold stood patiently for over an hour while three litres of blood were collected and transfused into the sickly foal, literally breathing life back into his veins.

    “The effect was like a miracle,” said Richard Stephenson, who treats horses at The Blue Cross equine centre in nearby Rolleston-on-Dove.

    “Conker went from collapsed and lethargic to lively and energetic in less than an hour. By the end of the transfusion we had to sedate him to keep him still!”

    Blood tests after the procedure confirmed that the foal’s red blood cell count had doubled to a safe level. He was closely monitored over the next 10 days and went on to make a full recovery.

    “Without Blue Cross Harold we would certainly have lost the foal,” said Richard. “Fortunately he has the perfect, laid-back temperament to cope with being a blood donor.

    He stood perfectly for over an hour while we took the life-saving blood and afterwards behaved as though nothing unusual had happened.”

    Kath Urwin, manager of The Blue Cross Rolleston centre said: “All the staff at The Blue Cross are so proud of Harold.

    “When we placed him on loan to the vet practice we never imagined he could end up saving another horse’s life. And as a rescue horse himself, it’s lovely to think that he was able to help little Conker.”

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