Case of the Mondays

Like most things in life, do something long enough and often enough, and it gets easier. Drawing blood, placing catheters, passing a nasogastric tube, suturing…do it often, with a goal of doing it well. Then, there comes the added benefit of confidence. And there’s no better way to appreciate a skill, than to have acquired it and then lost it. About halfway through a “typical” day, I was made aware of those skills I take for granted.


BAL Gone [every kind of] Wrong

It started with performing a bronchoalveolar lavage on a gelding with intermittent coughing over the past year which fluctuated with weather, exercise and environment. With non-specific findings on ultrasound, we proceeded in our diagnostic plan to determine the nature of the cough. We elected to retrieve a non sterile sample from the lower airways to evaluate for RAO and IAD. I’ve passed an endoscope countless times, and performed it successfully and easily enough that I consider it at acquired, reliable skill.

By the conclusion of the BAL, I felt like I had rehearsed for a performance demonstrating everything that could not go right. The highlights of this performance included:

  1. BAL tubing hit the ethymoids, causing a profound nosebleed
  2. Projectile, unrelenting spraying of clots across self, assistant, owner, trainer and three innocent onlookers
  3. BAL tube entered the esophagus, rather than the trachea
  4. BAL tube retroflexed and came out the oral cavity
  5. BAL tube severed by teeth when traveling through the oral cavity
  6. BAL tube #1 ruined, retrieved BAL tube #2
  7. BAL tube positioned correctly in trachea, cuff would not inflate
  8. BAL tube #2 leaky cuff confirmed
  9. Continuation of #2 problem (Projectile, unrelenting spraying of clots across self, assistant, owner, trainer and onlookers)
  10. BAL tube in position, cuff inflated, saline injected in…unable to collect any saline
  11. Added more saline through tubing, retrieved <40 ml

I was relieved when the whole thing was done. After all the above complications, at least the sample was collected and submitted. What else could go wrong? Then, I got the lab report stating:

Sample has insufficient cells, inconclusive. Recommend collect second sample for analysis.

This was just the first appointment of the day.


Miscommunications, mistakes, mishaps and misfortune

When not a soul could be found at our second appointment, I called the owner. Turns out, the appointment had been rescheduled to the following week…news of which, didn’t happen to make it to today’s day schedule.
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Our third appointment canceled.

Our fourth and fifth appointments had the wrong addresses (showed up at a neighbor developement and then mistakenly went to the owner’s house instead of the boarding facility).

Collected the wrong blood tubes, forgot to dispense a medication refill, double-charged on an invoice, made at least 12 U-turns…

And the cherry on top? At 6pm, as we’re wrapping up at the last appointment and about to begin our 90 minute drive home through late rush hour traffic…my assistant hesitantly asks,

“Hey, have you been having problems with the gas gauge?”

I hadn’t. No one had. About 4 minutes later, the thing we were dreading came to fruition. We ran out of gas.


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A whole ‘nother species

Even though I was hired on as a predominantly equine vet, and have concentrated my efforts, time, professional endeavors and life to equine medicine, I accrued a decent amount of experience with small ruminants both before and throughout vet school. I’d like to place the emphasis on the descriptor ‘small’ ruminants. I’ll ride along with my boss on any call, no matter the species. There is one species (well, excluding camelids and pigs) that I absolutely don’t feel confident in. Cows.

On my treasured Saturday off after a rough week of colics and lacerations, I knew something was up when my boss rang. She sounded optimistic, “Whatcha doin’?” I was honest, and she knew my sleeping habits by then. On any Saturday I have off, at 9 am you can bet I’m sleeping. She informed me she had three emergencies that had simultaneously called and were all in different directions. She was nearly to one, and the next one was a horse with a laceration of unknown proportion. She didn’t have to ask because I knew why she was calling. “What ER would you like me to take?”1500039069095-542038303

Three words over the phone and I was wide awake.

Sick.

Down.

Calf.

The other calf they recently acquired had died in the night, and my boss suspected this farm call was more in the direction of euthanasia than heroics. I headed out with the address plugged into the GPS and an ETA of 30 minutes. Highways to streets to gravel road and the numbering on possible driveways became scarce. Luckily, I had discovered the Google Maps’ satellite view and this helped tremendously with locating barns and houses. But, satellite imaging via Google Maps was nothing without mobile data. This ran out with about 4 miles to go and I ended up taking a long gravel road that zigzagged past caved in barns, abandoned double-wides and the occasional deserted house. The road ended at a picnic shelter camped out in front of a lake…I hadn’t passed anything matching the physical address of the house I was looking for.

Out across the open pasture, I spotted an old, tiny run-down cabin. (I might have overlooked it as a storage shed, but after a couple months of farm calls in this area, I never underestimate what structures serve as someone’s home). I heard the lawn mower first, then spotted the red riding lawn mower as it rounded the shack. It’s rider was a shirtless man in his 60s or 70s, with tattered suspender straps over his shoulders and a wide brimmed straw hat. He sported a cigarette from one corner of his mouth, and a long piece of straw out the other. His jack Russell sounded the alarm. I waved as he slowly made his way over to the truck. Over the barking dog, I asked if he happened to have a sick calf. He left the lawn mower idling as I got out of the truck. He gave me a once over look and shook his head. He looked disinterested and slightly annoyed and motioned over his shoulders “My neighbors have a calf.” Then he gave directions that sounded as helpful as google map’s “no network” message.

I started to get into he truck when he hollered. “Are you the animal doc?” And I answered yes.

After I answered yes, he gave a mischievous grin and winked. “If you’re the doc, I’m an animal. You want to work on me?”

I shook my head and put some effort into a laugh, one of those ha-ha very funny laughs. Then I got in the truck and performed a 7 or 8 point turn as the self-proclaimed animal on the riding lawnmower made cat calls.

The truck’s diesel engine is loud, but wasn’t loud enough to drown out the series of howls he let out from under his wide-brim hat.

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