Yoda: With you the force is!



Yoda, the first sheep in the world to have open heart surgery to repair a patent ductus arteriosus or PDA has returned home to Ranch Hands Rescue and is in cardiac rehabilitation. It was amazing to watch the other animals that live at Ranch Hand Rescue as Yoda was brought in. Curiosity abounded as Yoda was placed in his stall, and everyone was glad to welcome him home. Visitors have been visiting the Ranch all day to meet and greet Yoda and witness the little sheep that many say is a Christmas miracle. The clients that he sees at Ranch Hands Rescue cried tears of joy upon his return.

For the first time ever, veterinarians at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences performed surgery on Yoda, a 15-month-old sheep, to correct a congenital heart problem called a patent ductus arteriosus or PDA. Ranch Hands Rescue Counseling Center and Animal Sanctuary located in South Argyle, Texas owns Yoda, one of several therapy animals at the center.

“A PDA is a blood vessel that allows blood to bypass the lungs. At birth it should close off, and now 15 months later it is still open,” explains Baumwart, a board certified veterinary cardiologist. “With Dr. Robert Streeter’s assistance we first tried to correct the problem by going in through a blood vessel in Yoda’s leg with a catheter. However, the blood vessel we wanted to close off was too large.”

Baumwart handed the case over to his colleague, Dr. Danielle Dugat, a small animal surgeon.

“My role was to take Yoda to surgery and open his chest where we could see his heart, the normal blood vessels and the shunting vessel,” says Dugat. “I secured a suture around that vessel and tied it down, closing that vessel completely. Blood flow could no longer pass through that shunt pathway. As a result the murmur disappears, and Yoda can begin the recovery process.”

“Yoda is one of our more popular therapy animals,” explains Bob Williams, founder of Ranch Hands Rescue. All the animals here see clients daily in our Counseling Program, but Yoda, a very sick little sheep, has a very strong connection with many of our clients. It’s amazing to witness the relationship that exists between Yoda and clients, especially children who have suffered severe trauma from physical and sexual abuse. Yoda’s unconditional love and snuggles he gives to all the clients make him a special partner to all who meet him. I believe with all my heart that God brings them to me for a reason; we are their last hope. I call them the throwaways because most people won’t spend the money to save an animal’s life. I believe that all life is precious, and we would go to this extent for any of them. The majority of our animals here at Ranch Hands Rescue have special needs; we love them regardless of their health issues” said Williams.

“If left untreated, Yoda would have succumbed to his congenital heart disease sooner than he should,” adds Baumwart.

The surgery was a success and the case will be written up and published in veterinary medical journals in the near future so that others may benefit from the experience OSU veterinarians gained saving Yoda.

Yoda is in cardiac rehab at Ranch Hand Rescue and will return to OSU in about four weeks for a heart check-up. Yoda has developed a fan club from around the world as people follow and share his story.

About Ranch Hand Rescue: “A sanctuary for animals and a counseling center for people founded on hope and healing made available to all regardless of ability to pay.”

Ranch Hands Rescue Counseling Program specializes in helping individuals, primarily children, through an innovative and effective counseling program. Our Counseling Program is the only mental health counseling program in the country that partners counseling clients with abused and neglected animals under the guidance of fully licensed professional counselors.

Our counseling team is comprised of licensed professional counselors who are highly trained and certified in trauma-informed therapy, EAAC and other therapeutic modalities. Our counseling program helps to fill a void for those that are suffering painful mental health effects such as anxiety, depression, grief, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, PTSD brought on by sexual assault, physical abuse, domestic violence or other traumatic life experiences.

For more information on Ranch Hands Rescue, please visit www.ranchhandrescue.org.

A video link about Ranch Hands Rescue which explains our mission and work is available at https://youtu.be/gKhAuEZyZXA.