Even at work. In the middle of a consultation – Charlie pops into my head. Gosh he has been coughing for over a week now. I wonder if he ate at nursery today, or if he got bitten by a kid again, or if he sat on any of them. “Sorry, how long did you say your dog has been vomiting for…?” My mind is all over the place.
Then I sit for approximately 4 minutes to eat lunch (If I’m lucky – most days there’s no sitting involved), open LinkedIn and see that it’s “World pneumonia day” on the WHO’s account which says that almost 1 million children under 5 died in 2015 from pneumonia, and my stomach sinks. Jesus, does Charlie have pneumonia? But the doctor said once he’s getting better, which he is, that he should be fine. And I reassure myself that all is ok…after I call the nursery to ask whether he ate and whether he’s still alive. You never stop worrying.
Yet the day goes on. Some fly by and others seem never-ending…until a case comes in that shakes and wakes you right back up. An owner comes in with a dog who has been chopped with a cutlass, by accident. The owner was hunting and the dog jumped in front of the cutlass at the last second directly in the line of fire…right along her face. Her eyeball was dangling, jaw broken, sliced all the way from the top of her head to the tip of her nose. The first thing you usually feel in brutal cases like this is of course, anger. I was angry, upset, horrified, sad. Up until I sat down and spoke to the owners and realized that they are truly genuine, kind people who actually really adore their pets and brought her all the way from the other side of the country to get help for her. I still get a shiver when I look at the ‘before’ photo – which I will not post because it is just a bit too much.
And because I know certain people who would buff me cause their tummy’s can’t handle it.
You see, when you decide to become a vet it’s usually because you love animals more than people, you feel like you were strategically placed on this planet to help them, you feel an inexplicable level of anger that channels your inner virago when people mistreat them, and you cannot explain its depth. Because they are innocent and pure and amazing. Why can’t we be more like them? Things change though, when you actually start working because you realize that it’s just as much about helping the animals as it is about helping the people who own and love them. Your job is about the human and the animal as a whole…one unit, it’s a cycle. By helping one you help the other and vice versa- a unique symbiosis. It’s more responsibility than you ever thought it would be and not something you were fully prepared for, but theres no escaping now.
Anyway – The whole situation was totally depressing until I had an epiphany. Of course, the owner must be devastated. Of course the owner is feeling a guilt that we cannot imagine. What is wrong with me, why am I so angry? I quickly realized that they were in a much worse position than I was and snapped myself back into professional mode. No judging. They were humble and kind and didn’t complain about the cost of the surgery and after care, which is a rarity. I felt guilty but thankful to be reminded that you should give people the benefit of the doubt in certain circumstances. Like this one.
We were in surgery for about 4 hours. I enucleated her almost already fully detached eyeball and we wired her jaw back together. Her soft palate and nasal cavity were torn apart, as was her gum from her jaw, and we sutured her face back together from the frontalis muscle to the orbicularis oculi to the levator nasolabialis. When she woke up I felt relief and shock. How on earth did she survive this? It had happened the night before and she hadn’t even tried to bite, snap, she didn’t even cry…she just sat there, helplessly waiting for us to fix it. She woke up all stitched up in dreamland and I imagined that she felt like I did after my c-section…high as a happy kite. I didn’t expect her to recover that quickly from surgery and sure as hell didn’t expect her to heal that well. I sent her home with a few different medications which were color coded so that the owner wouldn’t be too overwhelmed- various antibiotics and pain medications. A few weeks later the owner sent us pictures on WhatsApp and my stomach sank, fully expecting her to say that her wound dehisced, or she had an infection, or she didn’t pull through… but nope. She was totally back to normal, back to hunting, her good old self. I sat for a second, reminded of why I chose this profession. Medicine is truly incredible. Oh how I love it.
*Of course, the owner gave me full permission to post a picture of her lovely pet-child, and tell her story 🙂 *
Then the day which was initially taking decades to pass has suddenly turned into night and I fly home at inappropriate speeds to get Charlie from my mum. Hug, feed, bathe, play, sleep. Exhaustion. Netflix, wind-down and eat. Then bedtime – the time I’ve been waiting for all day. So tired I excitedly think that tonight I will knock out in a millisecond, yes. Then I toss and turn for hours on end contemplating life, Charlie wakes up for a beppm, Skye cries to go weewee outside, I run to weewee after that, then sneak back to bed wondering how many hours I can get in before it’s time to start another day and force myself not to check the phone. I lie down, heart racing, trying to work out what time it could possibly be then sorely give in, click my phone and it’s 4am. I lie back down distracted by all of the things to remember to do tomorrow, check that Charlie is still breathing 1,000 times using my phone light and swear to myself that one day things will get easier…then I must have fallen asleep because I wake up to “MummaMummaMummaMUMMA” at 6am. Here we go again! Another day.
“When you think things are bad,
when you feel sour and blue,
when you start to get mad…
you should do what I do!
Just tell yourself, Duckie,
you’re really quite lucky!
Some people are much more…
oh, ever so much more…
oh, muchly much-much more
unlucky than you!”
-“Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?” Dr. Seuss