In life there are certain things that will live with you forever and you’ll never forget. That being said in my time working at a vet clinic there were many things that will live with me for probably the rest of my life or I will never forget. A good portion of them I can laugh at now, others when I think about them they make me tear up or bring an enormous smile to my face.
My first night on call. Oh boy like I said in the section about me, if I would’ve known what I was getting myself into that night I volunteered I may have waited for a different night =P. It was a Wednesday night in May and it was a warm night. I had told the doctor on call that if she needed anyone to call me. As I was walking out the door a receptionist came to the back and said a gentleman was bringing in his dog to be put to sleep because it wasn’t doing well. So I clocked back in and waited for the client to come in. We peacefully euthanized the dog, I did the paw print and cleaned up so the dog could be cremated at a later date and went home. I had been home for a total of maybe 30 minutes when my phone rings. I saw who it was and told my husband I had to go. When I arrived back at the clinic my doctor informed me of what was going on. It was a dog that’s owner had called into the clinic about 3 times that day asking if she should bring her dog in because she just Ain’t Doing Right(ADR). We had told her all three times to bring the dog in but she said she was going to wait. The dog ended up getting worse so she HAD to bring it in tonight. When they arrived the dog was completely flat out. She looked as though she was seizuring and had a fowl smell coming from her. We checked to see what her color was, white. For those of you who don’t know that means, we looked at her gums and they where white which is never a good sign, it usually means they are in shock. We checked her over from head to tail and when we had gotten to the tail….BINGO! She had a large amount of bloody mucous coming out her vulva, that’s why she stunk. She had what is called a Pyometra, an infection in the uterus. These lovely things are caused from the animal not being spayed and usually happen a couple weeks after they’ve come out of heat. These can go two ways 1.they are open meaning that the cervix is open and the pus is draining out of her back end(sorry so graphic but it’s not a beautiful scene). Having an open one is ideal because you don’t necessarily have to rush into surgery. 2. the cervix is closed and all of that infection is building up inside her uterus. Those can be life threatening because her uterus could rupture and cause her to become extremely septic and possibly die. We asked when her last heat cycle had been and sure enough she had come out of it about 3 weeks earlier. Thankfully hers was open.
We took her in the back to the treatment area and I placed an IV catheter to start IV fluids. As you can imagine when they get these they don’t feel well, so they won’t eat or drink. She was pretty dehydrated and a bit shocky. We took blood to confirm that that was in fact what we were dealing with. While the doctor was running blood work and I was hooking everything up, the on-call phone goes off again. I look up and she gives me that look like “here we go.” She answered and it was a dog that had been hit by a car. So I finish hooking up the dog we were working on, gave her some pain meds and put her in a kennel in the back. I go grab a rolling table and head towards the back door.
They pull up and the dog can’t walk on it’s back legs. We put it on the table and roll it in to the clinic. Then of course when I need the x-ray machine to actually work it decides to hate the two of us. That didn’t help our night at all. I tried everything I could think of. The doctor called another tech to see what ideas they had. Finally I’d had it and unplugged absolutely everything and walked away for a few minutes. We were in the process of doing blood work on this dog to make sure nothing internal was going on. I prepped everything for another IV catheter and the phone rings again. I just dropped my head and thought “Oh Lord now what?” The doctor talked to the client for a few minutes and then I heard “alright, we will see you in a bit.” She walked around the corner with that frustrated look on her face that I’d come to learn well in the past 4 months. “What now?” I asked. “Dog collapsed while they were out hiking.” Considering how hot it was out I figured heat stroke….I think she did too. I went back into the x-ray room to attempt to take x-rays of the other dog that had been hit by a car and thank the lord it worked! So we sedated it gave it some pain meds and I went into x-rays with it. While the doctor had been on the phone with the third emergency call, I called my husband and asked him to bring me some food since I hadn’t eaten yet. While I was in x-rays the other dog showed up, so I took the hit by a car dog back to a kennel and would finish rads later.
We assessed the third dog that came in, we couldn’t see anything obvious. So took blood ran it and to our surprise he wasn’t dehydrated and his temp was on the high end of normal. While we were running that blood work, you’ll never guess what happened….THE PHONE RANG! go figure right. I kind of wanted to cry when I heard it. She answered it and it was a seizuring dog that wasn’t stopping. So she told them “bring her in.” We told the owner of the dog that collapsed we would have to run some more diagnostics and he’d have to stay the night. We made him comfortable, put him in a kennel and pulled the hit by a car dog out. I was walking into x-rays with it when the seizuring dog walked in, “do you need help?” I asked her. “Nope I think I’ve got this.” she answered as she walked in the room. Then my husband walked in. YAY food!
I took the shots of the dogs hips and down to his back toes. Dislocated hip, so it wasn’t terrible. Nothing one of our orthopedic surgeons couldn’t fix. I put the dog back in the kennel and stopped for a minute to thank my man for the food. He asked how it was going. I gave a little giggle followed by “never ending.” He asked if there was anything he could do, I told him probably put little man to bed. He gave me a kiss and left. The doctor came out and said she needed some diazepam to get this dog to stop seizuring. We gave her some diazepam IV, hooked her up to an IV and put her in the back. The doctors family had gotten there earlier to see what they could get her for food. Before they left I remember one of her kids asking if there was anything I wanted from Wendy’s. I told him a beer. The look he gave me was priceless it was a look of, um have you been to Wendy’s? I laughed and said I was good. Once it seemed like it was calming down we pulled the hit by a car dog and dog that collapsed out to put IV catheters in. For some reason that night after I had put the catheter in the pyometra dog the blood gods decided to abandon me. I couldn’t hit a freaking vein on the other two dogs to save my soul. I was so annoyed because I could hit a vein on a little Boston terrier but not two labs?! It was ridiculous. Once we had everyone hooked up to fluids and comfortable she said I could go home, she was going to enter some notes in all their records. As I was leaving she asked me to make sure that the Pyometra dog was prepped and ready for surgery right away in the morning so when she got there she could walk right into surgery. As I walked out the door I said “have a good night. Hope I don’t see you again until tomorrow morning at 8:30.” When I got home that night it was midnight.
The next morning the night seemed to carry on. I just walked in the door and our treatment tech yelled for help. The dog that had collapsed was crashing and a boat load blood was coming out of his nose and mouth. His blood work was not that bad the night before, so this was kind of shock to me. Not exactly how I wanted to walk into work after a night like that. Just like that the dog was gone. We had the crash kit and everything there but it was too late. We ended up taking blood samples and sending them in to a lab. It came back with a bacterial infection that sheep get, and for the life of me I can’t remember what it was. So I focused on the next task at hand which was the Pyometra dog. I told the surgery techs to prep her first, she needed to be the first surgery of the day. So they prepped her, the doctor got there, walked in and spayed her. Everything was going ok she was staying stable, then I come back from lunch and walked by her kennel we had in the treatment area and see she’s not really moving. I yelled to the treatment tech that had been monitoring her since surgery for the crash kit. She said she had just checked vitals about 5 minutes earlier and she was fine. I’ve never opened a kennel and moved an animal that fast. But once again it was too late…she was gone. I was pist. I think the words out of my mouth were “would anyone else like to crash on me today that came in last night!” The doctor I was on call with the night before walked in from lunch and she looked at me and all she said was “don’t look at me like that.” I told her what happened and she, like me, was pist. The dog had been so septic from the owners waiting so long to bring her in that even if we would’ve done surgery the night before it wouldn’t have mattered. That infection had been in her system for 3 days. We were hoping for the best, but sometimes no matter how much you hope or pray they still don’t make it. No one else crashed that day, the seizure dog went home the next day. We put the hit by a car dog into a cast to try and get the hip to go back into place and stabilize without surgery and then went home a couple days later. Everyone joked that day that the doctor I had been on call with and I shouldn’t be on call together anymore because apparently we are bad luck together. I think they were right because we had a pretty crazy day when her and I were on call on Christmas eve too. But that is one night I will never forget. It was a crazy night that is for sure, but it also showed me that I could handle emergencies and I was a better tech then I was giving myself credit for at the time.
The next moment in my technician career is another one I’ll never forget and unfortunately happens to every tech sooner or later. I was surgery tech for the week. We had a cat come in that the owners didn’t want to do any blood work on and she was a little bit older. That in itself made me a little nervous, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and do what the client wants. We sedated her, prepped her and got her into surgery. I hooked her up to the anesthesia machine and monitors and let my doctor do his thing. I sat there the entire time and monitored her. Everything was going ok. The doctor had discovered that she was pregnant, so I had to call the owners to make sure they wanted to proceed. They did because they said they had enough cats running around. So we proceeded. Another technician came in to ask the doctor a question, I had just checked vitals on the cat and listened to her and was writing them down on my monitoring sheet while the doctor clamped off the cats uterus and all of a sudden I hear the other tech say “is her heart rate right because if it is we need the crash kit now.” I listened to her, nothing. No lub dub(the sound of a heart beat) to be found. You’ve got to be kidding me! I run out and get the crash kit and grab another doctor. The other technician listened, the other doctor listened as I was drawing up medication for her and the other doctor that listened looked at me and goes, “don’t she’s gone.” WHAT! come on shouldn’t we even try?! There was really no use. So my doctor started to close her up. I unhooked her from the machine, and walked out of the surgery suite straight to the bathroom and just bawled. I felt like I failed, like I did something wrong. When I finally pulled myself together I walked out and my friend that I mentioned in my previous post hugged me, said it’s ok it happens to all of us at least once. The other tech that had came in gave me a hug too and said there was nothing different I could’ve done. The doctor gave me a hug too and said “I know it’s tough, this is the first one I’ve had die on me too but we didn’t do anything wrong. I think she was just too old and maybe not the greatest candidate for surgery either.” All of that helped a little bit, but I still felt terrible about the fact that an animal died on my watch. I know it’s something that every tech experiences, but secretly in my mind I had always hoped I wouldn’t have to.
(a puppy with Kennel cough AKA animalkingdomitis ;-P)
Working in the vet field wasn’t always rough or sad. There were many times you have success. There’s the Parvo puppies that come in that look like they aren’t going to make it through the night and then you come in the next morning and they have made a complete 180 and are bouncing off the kennel walls and jumping up and down barking so obnoxiously that your like “oh yea your better, you need to go home.” or others that come in and their prognosis is grim and within a couple of days they are so tangled up in their IV line because they are better and ready to go home. I had one of these last year a couple months before I left. It was a springer spaniel that had come in and was really struggling to breathe. I was treatment tech that week and came into the case midway. So I don’t remember all the details except from the moment I walked in and on. He had blood work done and I think x-rays was what confirmed that he had pus in his thorax(around his ribs) and that was pushing on his lungs making it difficult for him to breathe. The doctor decided to hook him up to IV fluids and put chest tubes in. This poor guy was so down and out. It looked grim. I had to go in three times a day and pull pus off his chest. The most I got once was around 300 ml. That’s a lot of fluid putting pressure on his lungs. He was there for a little over a week so by day 3 he knew the routine. I’d open the kennel door and he’d come out just enough to place his head in my lap and look up at me like “help me please.” Then every time I’d finish up he’d look up at me and it was almost like he had a smile on his face. We ended up doing two plasma transfusions to help his platelet count come back up. The first one we did, he laid in my lap pretty much the entire time. Whenever I would disturb him to check his vitals he’d just look up at me with those droopy sad eyes and it was those eyes that made him wiggle his way into my heart. I wanted to do everything I could to make him comfortable and wanted him to pull through this so badly. By the second transfusion you could tell he was feeling better. There was no sitting in my lap this time. He wouldn’t sit still! He kept getting up and coming and kissing my face and wiggling all over the place with what looked like to me the happiest look on his face. Every time he licked my face it was like he was saying “thank you.” He’d lay down with his head in my lap for a few minutes and look up at me with the brightest eyes and that butt going a hundred miles an hour. After about a week at the clinic he walked out of the clinic and went home a new dog. Watching him go from so dumpy not wanting to hardly do anything to practically bouncing out the door made my heart fly above the clouds. I still smile when I think about him and think to myself “that’s it, that’s why I entered that field.” He has a special place in my heart and he always will. We think he had a grass-on migrate to his thorax, he was a hunting dog so his nose is on the ground all the time and that does happen often with hunting dogs. It’s success stories like that that tell me some day I’ll go back, I hope.
Another thing you never forget as a tech, or really never get used to is euthanasia’s. It’s apart of the daily life at a vet clinic unfortunately. Some aren’t as hard as others, then there are the ones that will be burned into my mind forever. The dog that had been shot and we worked so hard to keep him alive. I remember the owners wanted to come and see him and he was still covered in blood because he was so painful and everyone was afraid he was going to bite, I don’t think his breed helped much. But for me it didn’t matter. I had one at home, and she’s the greatest pitbull I knew. So I took a chance. I filled a bowl with warm water and opened his kennel and slowly and gently washed the blood off of him the best I could. He never once snapped at me. He just looked up at me with those sweet pitbull eyes as to say thank you. I honestly don’t remember if we ended up putting him to sleep because his quality of life was slipping or if he went on his own, either way that one will stick with me forever.
There were the euthanasia’s where the owners would go completely weak in the knees and I had to catch them, and ended up actually crying with them. There was one where I did that and I couldn’t help myself, watching her completely fall apart over her baby was so emotionally overwhelming and I knew that hurt. I’d done it 4 years earlier, it’s one of the worst feelings my heart had felt. Or the ones where there were grown burly men that looked all tough who would just melt down over there best friend, those were hard to watch. I’ll never forget the family that brought there dog in because she was getting extremely aggressive towards people that didn’t live in the home. In my eyes she was just protecting her family, but they were afraid she was going to turn on them. I remember looking up and seeing the little boy in the corner just crying, he was trying so hard to hide the fact that he was crying, it hit close to home because it made me think of our little man and when the time comes that Eva will go. I pray she goes in her sleep and I don’t have to euthanize her. But the tears I tried so hard to fight back in that appointment weren’t easy to hold back, and when I left the room I just let them roll. There was the one were we spent about 2 hours drawing blood off of a dogs abdomen and basically recycling it by putting it in empty IV bags so we could do an auto transfusion and put the blood that had built up in her abdomen back into her system and not wait for a donor for her during surgery. Then we opened her up and she was covered in lesions, her liver, gallbladder, intestines. It was a loss. We called the owner and let him know, he struggled with not waking her up because he was going through a divorce and about to loose his kids and she was all he felt he had left. It was times like that or instances like that tugged at your heart just enough so you’d notice. I seriously lost track of how many times I had cried over someone else’s pet. There were so many that I helped with that will always stay with me. No, I never got used to doing them, I just learned to deal with them in different ways, whether that was completely falling apart after the owners had left and I was making the paw print or crying with the owners. It is one part of the job I don’t miss, but the part I miss is being there for the owners to help them understand and accept that this was the right thing for their family member.
(Above, the girls I went to tech school with. we were distracting our surgery patient so we could get blood drawn…how many techs does it take? =P Then old faithful on the bean bag chair.)
There are many aspects of the vet field that I miss, and it truly takes a special person to do it all. Its not that I couldn’t do it either, because I could. No I wasn’t the worlds greatest tech, I wasn’t even the states greatest tech or that clinics. But I did my best and I loved what I did and the memories I made working there will live on forever with me, not just from working with the animals but the friendships I made. It’s a chapter in my life that I loved. I still love it. I love everything honestly about the vet field and I miss it more then I care to admit. Yea it had it’s moments when I just wanted to throw in the towel, but they were rare or because of certain individuals I had to work with. But like I said, maybe some day when the time is right I’ll go back to it. But right now my babies need me to be there for them. The vet field will always be there waiting for me to dust off my stethoscope, phlebotomy, anesthesia, dental, and restraining skills and step back in to help save lives and be their for the clients that need us.
(a thank you I received from a client whose cat I helped put to sleep. It still makes me giggle a little that we would get thank you’s for putting someone’s pet to sleep, but they were rare when we would save their pets =P)
P.S. going on vacation for two weeks….be back then! Have a wonderful memorial day weekend my friends!