Keep reaching.

And carry on we do, sometimes kicking and screaming…most times trying to stop the child from kicking and screaming…but sometimes there really is nothing you can do to stop them besides maybe give them your car key. But try to avoid that.

As time passed I was juggling two vet jobs (plus a few outside jobs here and there), and it was just becoming all-encompassing. I was starting to feel crazy with the lack of sleep. By the time I got home I’d be too tired to want to play with my son and dog. The goal became to get my son to bed asap. How terrible am I? Not to mention that as a younger vet you tend to take on the weight of each and every case. Each and every complaint. It all comes home with you. I would start doubting my abilities and go to work looking all distressed with my drama-queen self, then co-workers would stop to ask “gyul what happen to you, you only been working here a few weeks”…and for some reason the way that Trinis speak makes you feel instantly better and you can’t help but laugh.

And just when you feel like you can’t endure administering another vaccine and you need something to spice up your life, you get an interesting case. YES. This was a 10 year old Rottweiler who presented in lateral recumbency, body condition score 2 out of 5, paralyzed in his hindlimbs with severe muscle wasting and no deep pain on one side and of course the pressure-sore-turned-maggot-wound in his perineal area. Maggot wounds are about as common as the totally-made-up gossip is in Trinidad. So we see them very often. He had been treated 3 months previously with AmoxyClav for a bite wound on his back from another dog and never fully recovered. He would seem to be walking fine one day and then regress. He was given steroids which always seemed to perk him up but the same cycle would repeat itself. Steroids are like Ben and Jerry’s after a bad break up. It helps in the moment but when the ice cream tub is finished honey, those tears come straight back. Although steroids can obviously be useful in certain cases like severe skin issues or certain types of inflammatory reactions, I avoid them. They trick you into believing that your pet is cured. And no one likes a tricker.

Anyway so the owner of this very lucky dog named Max is a lovely man who just doesn’t know what else to do to help his beloved dog child so he brought him for me to give him one last go. He would come in to feed him delicious rotisserie chicken for lunch and allowed me to do any diagnostics that I felt were necessary to help him. It isn’t often you get a case where the owner gives you that luxury, so I was like a kid in a candy shop. I did radiographs and found that there was some mottling in his lumbar vertebra consistent with osteomyelitis. He got IV fluids for his dehydration and IV antibiotics (Zinacef) for the bone infection, Gabapentin and Tramadol for the pain (we don’t get good opioids easily in Trinidad) and laser therapy along his entire spine twice per day. During his third night of hospitalization I casually checked the cameras to see what he was doing after hours and my “paralyzed” dog had managed to get out of his kennel and drag himself half way across the room! It was extremely exciting. But I did have to go back into work and put him back into his kennel – with great difficulty because he was aggressive and heavy… not without help from my brother and his girlfriend (thank God for them). But it was a fantastic feeling to see some progress.

Of course, he started getting urinary tract infections because he was immobile and he wasn’t able to urinate properly – it would just leak out at random times. Kind of like those men you see at random times in random inappropriate places, just peeing. So we had to express his bladder multiple times throughout the day (up to 1200ml at any given time) which wasn’t helping my prognosis. If he couldn’t control his bladder on top of his inability to walk, his quality of life wasn’t high enough on my scale to keep going. It wouldn’t have been fair to him. Doctors are allowed to try everything under the sun to keep their patients alive…Vets on the other hand are usually restricted by cost concerns and frequently have to put animals to sleep for various reasons. Ending an animals life, even when they are suffering isn’t easy. It sticks with you. I always feel so guilty, like a murderer, and to be remembered as the vet-who-put-your-pet-to-sleep isn’t the best feeling. But sometimes it does feel good to end an animal’s suffering. That’s what keeps us from getting too depressed about euthanasias. At least it does for me.

A week of tossing and turning trying to figure out what I’m missing, what else can I do for him – and my Max was still not walking, although he did sit up fully on his forelimbs and was able to drag himself around. Progress, but not nearly good enough. He needed to walk again. I started questioning my judgement…should I not have put him through all of this? Should I have recommended euthanasia? Am I making a poor clinical decision? Jesus this bill is high. I filled out my trusty quality of life form daily and it reassured me that he was still well enough to keep trying, although the people around me also seemed to be questioning my judgement. Gotta go with your gut.

Another week later while outside trying to get Max to weewee, he WALKED. He took a few steps. It was miraculous and amazing and I wanted to cry of joy. The next day, the lady who had brought him into the clinic initially, came back to pick him up. She brought the stretcher inside and asked us to help her put him onto it. The look on her face when I told her we didn’t need the stretcher went from confusion to tears when I brought him out, walking. She hugged me tight and we celebrated quietly in that moment. And these are the cases that reignite my love for the job.

Meanwhile, I had been chatting with a recruitment agent from a very well known and respected Veterinary company in the UK. Since Charlie was 3 months old I had been in touch with her about working for them as a vet. I told her my entire life story (because I think being open is key) and she was so supportive and kind through it all…it shocked me. Especially because of my previous, scarring experience working for a big company in England. Charlie was now a year and 4 months old. Or as some mothers like to say, 16 months…which, who the hell knows what that means? It always baffled me why people say that and I thought maybe when I’m a mother I’ll understand. Nope, don’t understand. 

“Hi Steffi, how old are you?”

“354 months”

…it’s just weird, man.

Anyway, now that Charlie was over a year old and I felt confident that I can keep him alive all on my own, I decided to go for it. Apply for the job, it can’t hurt. So I did. Then I had to do a timed test online before getting an interview. The day after the interview they called to say that I got the job which starts on March 4th. Which we all know is…DUN DUN DUN. Carnival Monday. Naturally.

I was elated, ecstatic, smiled all day, felt euphoric and was so excited to tell my parents. Dad congratulated me and was so happy and excited for this next step.

Mum said…”What job?” The one I had to do the test for, the one I’ve been telling you about all year, the one I had the Skype interview for yesterday, mom. Then she cried. Lol.

I was given a choice of clinics based on location and went up to England the month after I got the job to scope them out – see which one seemed most doable with a baby and dog on my own. I chose one… and I felt my life change a little. Of course this was after I was detained in the airport for 2 hours for questioning. Every single pocket, paper in my diary, piece of clothing, dollar bill… was searched, taken for inspection and then brought back to me. Literally all they didn’t do was ask to have a peek inside my you-know-what. Then a Trini angel appeared. An officer strolled up to me casually in true Trini fashion with the biggest smile on his face exposing a gap where a tooth once lived. “You from Trinidad?” He asked. Yes, I am. “Ey me too!” And the conversation started. I thanked my lucky stars for Calvin that day who managed to take the devil out of the immigration officer and make him human again. The officer apologized for how he treated me explaining that it was just part of his job, while his trainee who couldn’t get the gloves on over her long stuck-on sparkly nails apologized for searching my bag so thoroughly after Calvin told them that I’m from a “rich” part of Trinidad. LOL. This isn’t true whatsoever but I needed to get the hell out of that airport and go for a drink so I entertained the silliness, accepted the apologies and off I went.

Max sitting up for the first time, 3 days into hospitalisation

“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.” 
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s