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New neurologic stall enhances quality of care for equine patients

"Just Java" Neurologic Stall
A patient in the Equine Medical Center’s new neurologic stall. Photo by Sharon Peart for Virginia Tech.

Made in memory of a beloved family horse, Just Java, who succumbed in 2015 to laminitis, a generous gift from Karen Jones Squires and James Squires supported a much-needed renovation and expansion of a neurologic stall at the Equine Medical Center (EMC).

To acknowledge the Squireses’ vision, commitment, and generosity — and to memorialize the horse who inspired the gift — the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors has approved naming the stall the “Just Java” Neurologic Stall.

An important aspect of EMC’s “New Horizon” operational plan, the new stall, which was completed in spring 2018, replaced a makeshift stall located in the center’s intensive care unit. Small and cramped, the former stall not only made it difficult for clinicians and staff to comfortably treat patients, but also did not fully secure contagious horses.

As a remedy for these significant issues, the new stall was created by combining two stalls in the center’s isolation unit, a critical necessity because neurologic horses often carry a contagious disease. Now, besides being secure, the stall is both private and quiet, greatly improving patient well-being.

Treating neurologic horses can be dangerous because of their instability. For this reason, the new stall has double doors to allow the center’s personnel to enter and exit safely, and it is large enough for equipment used for diagnosis or treatment to be brought directly into the stall, eliminating the need to move the horse and effectively shortening the time required for some procedures. A poured floor, which can be cleaned quickly and easily, removes any obstacles that may trap a horse's hoof. Similarly, the stall’s padded walls and overhead sling help stabilize unsteady patients, further ensuring their safety.

“The Squireses’ thoughtful gift allowed us to create a dedicated space in our isolation unit to provide comprehensive care for neurologic patients who often require special facilities, such as a padded stall and an overhead sling to support those who need assistance to stand,” said EMC director Michael Erskine. “The stall’s location in the isolation unit allows us to treat all neurologic patients, especially those who are potentially infected with the contagious EHV-1 [equine herpesvirus] virus.”

Dedicated members of Virginia Tech’s Ut Prosim Society, which recognizes leaders in the philanthropic community that sustains the university, the Squireses have long championed the vision and plans for EMC’s expansion to better serve patients.

“Having lost a once-in-a-lifetime horse, Just Java, to chronic illness, we thought that funding a first-rate, purpose-built neurologic stall at Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center would be a meaningful way to honor him while supporting the excellent work of EMC,” said Karen Jones Squires, whose daughter, Eleanor, was inspired to pursue equine medicine in her horse’s honor. “It is still difficult for us to talk about ‘Jay’ without a lot of emotion.”

A campus of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, the EMC is a full-service hospital that offers advanced specialty care, 24-hour emergency treatment, and diagnostic services for all ages and breeds of horses. In addition, the center provides a valuable educational resource for referring veterinarians, future veterinarians, and clients and contributes to the advancement of new knowledge through innovative scholarship and clinical discovery.