Confessions of a New Grad Streetfighter #2: Hard Lessons

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We are going to share with you some of the most difficult situations vets encounter so that when this happens to you, you will better equipped to deal with it. Here is the next story in our new grad vet series:

Apart from the interesting people it’s really the sad cases that stand out for me.

One busy day I had a little dog present bitten by another dog. It had thoracic injuries, so I was worried about the potential for pleural space disease. A thoracic radiograph looked pretty normal, so it got some pain relief and went in a cage to wait until I had a moment to deal with it.

I did take the time to call the owner, a little boy, and tell him that his dog did not have the chest injuries I was worried about and that he should be fine.

Since this is a sad story, you have already guessed the little dog died in his cage. Attempts to resuscitate failed and on post mortem he did have penetrating thoracic trauma and a pneumothorax.

From this case I took the lesson that when you are worried about the potential for a serious problem someone needs to keep checking in on the case no matter how busy you are. Problems may take a while to develop, and if it is something serious there might not be much of a window between signs becoming apparent and the animal dying. Going back to the thoracic radiographs I still could not see any evidence of a problem brewing.

Needless to say, I felt pretty awful when I called the little boy’s father to tell him his son’s pet had died. He was a human doctor so he at least understood what I was talking about, and luckily was a very understanding man.

From this I also took away the lesson that being overly positive never pays off and that even in a litigious society admitting your mistake and saying you are sorry goes a long way.

Working at a university of course brought some good times and some bad times. Being on call for 72 hours straight over the Christmas break and ending up working nonstop for the first forty-something hours I strangely count as a good experience. At least now I know what kind of abuse my body and brain can put up with! It certainly was a crazy shift.

One day we did three CT scans, whereas more usually we did about one a week. One poor couple drove three hours with their old dog that was circling and had mentation changes and we booked it in for a CT in the morning. After driving three hours home they found their other dog had collapsed in the back end and so loaded it up in the car for the three hour drive back to the university. It was also booked in for a CT scan.

Really, all of the challenges I had of being a vet were the same as all my friends.

I still had owners that could afford a consultation but couldn't afford any diagnostics or treatment.

I still had patients that died when they shouldn't and lived when they shouldn't.

And I still managed to make friends and have fun, whether at work or in the sliver of free time awarded to veterinary interns.

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