"The veterinarian must be a good observer"...My lecturers told me that and I have learnt it the first day I started seeing my first cases 17 years ago. A veterinarian's patient does not talk and all assessment and diagnoses must be based on objective measurements and sometimes subjective observations. But what happens with the years, is that you start observing the people too..you start unintentionally recording body language and behaviour of the owners. Everything is based on emotions or the lack of it; here is a brief overview of the past few emotion-laden days of consulting at the Island Vet Clinic:
Wednesday - Oversized 8 month old dog brought to the clinic with a midshaft fracture of the right femur. Whole family came and a six year old boy kept asking me if his "bhaya" would be ok; if "bjaya" would be able to run again...and my heart just melted! For those not understanding, "bhaya" means brother in hindi. Turns out Rex is a full member of the family and is the companion of little boy."Bhaya" went home with a fixed leg at practically no costs!
Thursday - Old friend from University days calls me in panic and asking for help because he ran over his own dog whilst reversing in his alley. "Ru-ruz" is 14 yrs old and had some difficulty ambulating before the accident...now he was just lying down in shock!I was going to a meeting at PAWS; so scheduled an intervention there itself. During all the procedure and surgery (broken leg again!)he kept saying "I could never be a vet...I would never be have been able to do what you are doing"..."I want to help but I cannot...not feeling well, must be the smell". This guy is a tough-built triathlon athlete known to be the "rock" in our group of friends...but I guess guilt and seeing his dog under the scalpel overruled all this...Emotional phone call again the next day to tell me Ru-Ruz is doing fine and even trying to walk!
Friday - Dog Breeder brings in a cute Rott pup and when asked to hold the baby up for me to inspect the belly, he violently grabbed the latter by the loose skin at the scruff and the rump to lift it up!Like a mere sack of meat. Wow! I was irritated by such lack of compassion and made him understand that he should respect the animal. Answer I got was: "I read that it was not painful! His dog trainer always does this too!" My answer to him was:I guess those idiots who wrote that it was not painful do not know that there are pain sensors in the skin; and that "trainer" should be grabbed in the same way and kicked in his butt to learn to treat animals with respect ! Angry Dr Sam moment.
Well...that was yet another Dog Breeder who believes dogs are just commodities...just ways to earn easy money.
Saturday - "Poupoune" comes back to the clinic after one week supportive therapy and a battery of blood tests...still not eating; vomiting, difficult breathing and somewhat distended abdomen. Every night I have been receiving phone calls about her and I could sense that this animal was very important to that couple. So Poupoune sitting and breathing heavily on the exam table; Dr Sam analysing the blood results...definitely some infection going on but what? Palpation reveals very painful abdomen. So I decide to go in for abdominal exploratory laparotomy...lady starts crying and told me that they do not have any children and that this dog is all she has!
Talk about putting more pressure on me now!! Anyways, I am not the type to "grope in the dark" and give medications arbitrarily and keep my fingers crossed that one of them will work...and I still manage to make them understand that exploratory surgery is the best option; that if something is wrong inside the abdomen, I should go in and try fix it.
Good call!! Upon opening of the abdomen, a massive uterus, full of pus, litterally "popped out" onto my drapes!Amazing how this animal was carrying that infected uterus! Anyways, surgery went well and Poupoune recovered "relieved from a big weight"
Saturday itself - Very beautiful lady walks in with her daughters carrying a carton box with a cat in drastic state. Later, I learnt that the lady was Miss Mauritius 1989 and she is now a senior lecturer at the University of Mauritius. I googled her and I must say that she is far more beautiful now in her late forties than in 1989 when she wore the Crown!
Hmmm!Okay...visibly, Miss Mauritius triggered some emotions here...but lets get back to "kitty-in-carton-box"! She was found on the street by one of the daughters and had a purulent nasty wound on her right hind leg and she seemed to have been starving.As if all of this was not enough, she had a bad respiratory infection and ocular discharges. tried my best for this cat but I have a guarded prognosis on this one. We'll see what are the news tomorrow....when Miss Mauritius brings her back for follow up.
Did I mention that the lady was dressed with rare taste? No? Looool! Well she was...and that was like adding sugar to honey!
Today (Sunday)- Went out to the clinic to clean but had an early appointment for a "pawicure" for an old friend. "Pongo" is the very first dog adopted out at PAWS. He was found in a garbage bin in 1999 by one of the founder members and has grown up along the years from a mangy skinny puppy into a fiersty little "survivor"full of energy...taking on even Rotts as per the "tales" of the owner. I had to sedate the animal to be able to cut his nails properly. During that process, Pongo had to be restrained and was putting on a whole vocal show. Diazepam did the trick but as soon as the dog was lying down sedated...the daughter of the owner fainted!Gosh!I guess that seeing our own animal being stressed gets us all "upside down" too.
My "Emergency Red Bull" went into the human reanimation process and both Pongo and Michaela went home safe!
So...being a vet is not just smelling like a dog, treating all sorts of animals,spending lots of hours away from your family, walking in cow dung,getting scratches and bites etc...it also involves,at least for me, a good dose of emotions; positive and negative ones. If you really are into being a veterinarian out of compassion to animals then you will be flooded with these emotions. The trick is how you react to them...and sometimes it is so hard to rationalise or find any logic in them. I chose to accept them and try to make a change wherever I can. I really appreciate the positive emotions coming from more and more owners these days...making me think that there is light at the end of the tunnel!
In the choice of being a Vet, I guess the heart has to have the last word...