Archive for Thursday, September 22, 2005

Pet Talk

Tears of joy, sadness part of vet’s day

September 22, 2005

It was 7:58 a.m. I realized I had left my cell phone outside in my car overnight. What was I thinking? Maybe I was assuring my subconscious self of a good night's sleep. Who knows, but when I peered through my window as the dawn's light allowed, I could see I had a call from a client. I quickly unlocked the door and dialed the client directly.

Luckily, I had only been two to three minutes late in my response. Not bad, I pondered as I remembered it took my personal physician half the day to call me back last time. I could have stroked out.

At any rate, my client was beside herself and needed her precious 2-year-old hound put to sleep because of an incurable inherited disease. I told her I would be out as soon as possible after opening the shop.

It was not a happy reunion, but we were both resigned to do what was best and merciful for her dog, even as much as it grieved both of us. Modern medicine could not help here.

After returning to the clinic, I fell into my morning routine. Once free of office visits, I summoned my assistant to bring in our first surgery. Our patient -- an Australian Shepherd mix -- had apparently swallowed a ball, walnut or rock. X-rays indicated the foreign body was trapped between the stomach and small intestine.

After prepping the belly for surgery, we opened a sterile pack, draped off the upper abdomen and made our incision. After only a few careful palpations of the stomach, a firm spherical object was felt. The foreign body was removed just as we were ready to cut through the gut wall.

At that moment, the lights went out. A passing thunderstorm, a seemingly common occurrence this year, had zapped the De Soto power station. We all scrambled for a light source. Erica opened up the side door shedding outside light and an occasional flash of lightning on my work. She grabbed the otoscope with its bright light and showed it on the incision site.

My wife, who was grooming at the time, offered to go purchase a flashlight.

I sat in total limbo hoping for a miracle. Just then the lights went back on.

We finished up the gastronomy and closed the belly, having saved the expensive ball we retrieved previously after the lights returned.

Our patient recovered smoothly only to wag his tail at me before I headed out on my afternoon calls to vaccinate horses for West Nile virus.

Sometimes you walk a fine line between victory and doom, as you can see in this profession. Then there are times joy overflows and all else becomes secondary, as was the case of my next surgery.

After vaccinating 10 spunky Appaloosa steeds in west Lenexa, I was carrying on a chat with my client's 4-year-old son. He suddenly brought a small grasshopper to me for medical attention and possibly surgery.

"Dr. Banderbelly, you have to do sumpthen with this grasshopper. His leg's bad or broken," he chided in.

Looking at his patient/pet, I professionally replied, "You know, I think we need to amputate and right now. OK, buddy?"

His eyes got real big, like saucers.

I teased the hopper's broken leg from his knee joint and gingerly set our patient down in the grass to recover.

My little client was eyeing his little hopper friend with a consternation I've not seen in some time.

All of a sudden, as I was just about ready to leave, he yelled out, "Dr. Banderbelly, you forgot to put a Band-Aid on him."

We all had a laugh, but that comment hit home like a hunter's broad head.

Somewhere I forgot about that procedure back in vet school. I guess humanity comes with this joyful ending of an up and down day.

As I returned from my last call, I realized I had one more thing to do for a long-time client and friend. It was time to let go of his 16-year-old terrier.

With tears in our eyes, we helped Blackie go home gently.

One thing is for sure -- like Kansas weather -- if you find today boring, wait until tomorrow. It always changes around here. No two days are alike.

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