The Story of our preemie Bobby Brave Heart

The Story of our little preemie Bobby Brave Heart has been followed by so many on social media, that we feel we must share it with you here, too. Bobby Brave Heart was born early, at 333 days of gestation and at a low birth weight of only 4.5 kg.

The kids did call him Bobby at some stage during the time he spent with us at the house. And then we get a request from Helen, one of our long-standing visitors and supporters asking whether he has been adopted yet. With most of our adoptions you also get the chance to name the cria, so we explain to her that there is the problem that little Bobby is named already by our children. Not a problem at all, she came back – What about calling him Bobby Brave Heart? It brought tears to my eyes, a name so fitting for this little cria. Thank you, Helen, for your kind words and support!

Should you wish to adopt a cria, too, please find more information here.

Here is the story of his first few days:

17 April 2020 – We are in the midst of our birthing season, and in the morning we get a quite urgent phone call from one of our farm workers, about a newborn cria that is not breathing properly.

Down in the barn we find a newborn cria, out of Allouette. The little male looks nearly dead, the eyes are glazed over already, there is no muscle tone, and breathing is very shallow, he is still wet with bits of the membrane still clinging to the fleece. A quick look around tells me the afterbirth is already out. Baba must be already an hour or so old, and Allouette, his dam, wasn’t yet on my radar for being due, meaning he must be early, too.

Most likely the cold got to him as it is a beautiful, but crispy morning with dew on the ground.
Picking him up by the hindlegs, head and neck downwards, we grab a towel – that are all over the place during birthing season – and quickly wrap it around him to preserve whatever warmth there might be, head and neck still dangling until we are sure that the air way is clear. Now it is off to the house.

Hair dryer and infrared lamp, down on a blanket in our living room. I get the kids to start drying him with the hair dryer, while I go look for a thermometer. Anybody else’s thermometer also going missing when you need them most? Get the dogs out of the house, they are all over the cria – again. Finally found the thermometer, and his body temp is below 32 degrees, the lowest temperature reading our thermometer gives us. Not too good news…

Half an hour later he is dry. I have put him in kush, where he remains, amazingly stable. And it looks as if he really wants to lift that head, but cannot… yet. Temperature is still below 32 degrees. We keep him under the lamp, and keep blowing him with the hairdryer on hot, especially onto tummy and legs. The one eye is full of dirt, caked to the globe, but some tears seem to be coming back. If he makes it, he will need that eye, so I get some of our eye drops – non-medicated saline, and try to flush as much of the sand out of the eye as I can. It works kind of.

Off to feed alpacas.

When we come back, the kids come running to the door ‘He is not dead’. They have been watching him while we were feeding, so that is some good news. Baba is still in kush, and his eyes have a bit more life in them, more moist and blinking now. Temperature is up to 35 degrees – yeah!

Time for breakfast for the humans.

While having breakfast, the head comes up and there is a first feeble attempt to stand. Improvement thereafter is amazingly fast. Within an hour he is looking for milk, so we give him a bottle of colostrum and drop him back with mum. Outside the sun is nice and warm, and we put them in the wind shelter of the barn. We keep feeding him every 2 to 3 hours, and he is drinking well. Unfortunately it is not just the ears that are floppy, indicating prematurity, but also the hip is terribly unstable, not allowing him to stand on his own without his hindlegs splaying all the way, just like a little frog.

We use masking tape and tape the hind legs, so that he can still sit, stand and walk, but in such a way that they cannot splay. In the evening he still feels very fragile, and has been standing, but only shakily. No attempt to drink of mum yet. It is a quick decision to take him into the house for the night to protect him from the chill.

18 April 2020 – He takes the bottle readily and looks a bit stronger the next morning. So off to the barn we are where mum is very happy to see him again. Bottle feeding throughout the day, and a first attempt to drink from Allouette, unsuccessful though… He is more stable, but we are still protecting his hip by taping his hind legs. He is coming to the house for another night, especially as by now the kids have named him Bobby, and many people are following his road to recovery on FB 😉

19 April 2020 – Stronger again, and insatiably hungry. Back to the barn, again, and mum greeting him eagerly. We position him under mum and give him a little shove and he actually starts nursing. A bit more bottle feeding throughout the day, just to make sure he is taking enough in. In the afternoon he is passing the meconium and the first faeces – what a relief – the final confirmation that his digestive system is mature enough and in working order.

By the evening he is drinking from Allouette on his own, and feels a lot better, so he stays with his dam for the night for the first time.

20, 21 April 2020 – Bobby is getting stronger every day, but his hip is still not as strong as it should be, so we are still taping his hind legs and are confining him in a small pen. But our hope is that tomorrow we might be able to remove the tape, making him a perfectly happy and healthy cria by day 5.

22 April 2020 – Today was meant to be the day to take the tape off his hind legs. But as we arrive in the barn, we find him splaying, unable to get up. The tape had broken at some stage during the night, and he was unable to get up once again. So, back on goes the tape, and he will have to stay in the small pen with his mum Allouette for another few days.

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