An anecdote I read years ago told the story of several people discussing work-related stress. One man insisted he had it the worst. He sorted oranges all day long, and as they rolled down the conveyor belt he was required to sort them by size, small or large. Moaning, he grabbed his head and shouted “It’s decisions, decisions, decisions! All day long!”
I feel you, man.
First, it was a Monday. I personally like Mondays, but there’s no denying that they can be thickly sprinkled with pets who became sick over the weekend – though not quite sick enough to push their owners into the expense of an emergency call. Second, of three possible veterinarians, I was the only veterinarian working. Fair enough. But that meant there was no back-up for extra emergencies or over-flow. Then again, my staff is awesome. The back bone of the clinic, they place IV lines, take x-rays, run blood tests and help deliver care to all our patients. THIS Monday was off to a good start because I brought in an enormous bag of tortilla chips for staff snacks. (I confess here that this was less a function of my affection for my staff – I treat with root beer floats or Hagen Daz ice cream bars – than that my husband purchased a Costco sized bag of chips. We’re talking enormous. He moved his cashews to another shelf and I think tossed a few cans of soup to wedge the bag into our cupboard. It barely closed. I told him we did not need a six month supply of snack chips and that it had to go). So we were READY!
One tech was sweating before 9, another thought labor pains might be starting, a third thought it was a good day to bring all three of her pets in for exams and vaccinations (she was off). A fourth brought in her limping Beagle for x-rays. On your marks, get set, GO! The dog that began with diarrhea now refused to eat and progressed to a barium study. The cat with bladder stones showed up for a cystotomy to remove them. Three cats and four dogs showed up for other surgeries. A dog who had seizured the night before came in. One of the foxes at the Zoo had an injured paw and the Swainson’s hawk was breathing open-mouthed, so they dropped in mid-morning. Both had to finish their exams under anesthesia. Among the scheduled office calls was a tiny poodle with allergies and an ear infection who might be having a negative reaction to her medication. We flushed and treated her ears then monitored her for reactions for several hours afterwards. She basked under our attention and if she went home and started shaking her head we never heard about it. The dog with the barium study needed follow-up x-rays every few hours. Blood test results from the lab flowed in regularly through our FAX machine. One cat’s test results were so abnormal I refused to believe it and asked the owner to present with the cat at 2 so I could recheck them. A long term family friend came in with her 10 year old cat that had lost 3 pounds and had an abdominal mass. The cat stayed for tests. A Dalmatian who had undergone eye surgery and a French Bulldog with a corneal ulcer were rechecked. I fielded a call from a distraught woman whose 15 year old cat had died. We had not seen the cat in two years. She wanted to know why it had died. We talked (mostly I listened). A litter of five newborn pups came in for tail docks. Two Siamese kittens with an upper respiratory infection came in. Instead of lunch I did surgery (I bring food). We had a rhythm going and stayed on top of things. By 2 o’clock I had finished the morning. All good.
But the cat at 2, whose only symptom was not eating, did indeed have really bad blood tests. She was hospitalized on IV medications with a grave prognosis. Another cat was back in after lab results showed he needed treatment for severe allergies. An adult Pitbull showed up as a “walk-in”, dripping blood everywhere. It came from his mouth. After many napkins and mopping up, I could determine only that it seemed to be near a mandibular premolar. We started tests for clotting times and blood disorders. Fleas and hay fever allergies are in full swing here in our Valley and I saw another Pitbull with a “hot spot” and a Labrador threatening to break out in one. I talked to the State Lab about avian tuberculosis in a swan. A cat that had been worked up for chronic diarrhea had gained 2 pounds (success!) and another family said good-bye to a beloved dog with cancer. A pet rat that I’ve been treating for a severe ear infection is not responding to the third course of medication (failure). It was close to 5 and the bleeding dog had not stopped bleeding. His clotting times were normal, so we took him to surgery, where I discovered a gum laceration just inside a back tooth. Using the laser we cauterized all the vessels and sutured the cut. Then we sat there for 5 minutes to be certain it had really stopped before he was awakened. It had. We woke him up. We took the last x-rays of the day (normal) and sent home the Boxer who had eaten a stuffed toy and obstructed. The enterotomy I performed to remove it was successful. One less IV line.
Unbelievably, two animals were completely normal and received vaccinations. I have no idea what to make of that!
Christine B. McFadden, DVM