Barefoot Vet - The Book

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Laying Down on the Job


I knew I wanted to be a vet when I was five years old. I donít really know what led to that decision. I donít even remember making it, but my folks enjoyed telling of how one evening at dinner when asked what I learned at kindergarten that day, I replied, ďIím going to be a veterinarian.Ē At the time they were so impressed that I knew and could pronounce the word ďveterinarian,Ē they paid little attention to the statement itself or that it wasnít really an answer to their question. Perhaps I had gotten in trouble at school and was trying to change the subject - I was rather precocious - or maybe I had an epiphany. While other careers, nurse and horse trainer among them, were at one time or another appealing, my choice never truly wavered. I donít have any regrets, but if I had known some of the issues that would come up, I might have reconsidered. You see, I am and always have been deathly afraid of needles; I have a freakishly low tolerance for pain; and I faint at the sight of human blood. You might begin to question why I was attracted to medicine, but I had no worries. After all the needles werenít meant for me, pain shouldnít be involved, and I didnít intend to perform surgery on humans. Youíre probably familiar with the saying that starts ďThe best laid plans ...Ē Well, mine went awry very quickly.


My first semester of vet school, I took a physiology class that included a laboratory section where we got to work on live animals. I was psyched! This was what I had been waiting for since that day in kindergarten. After several weeks of lectures, our first day actually working with live animals finally arrived. You could feel the nervous energy vibrating through the entire laboratory, and I was certainly contributing more than my fair share. My first patient was Heinz, a ten-year-old Dachshund. I donít, however,?remember what procedure we were learning that day. This might seem strange considering Heinz was my very first patient - ever. But perhaps itís because I have such a vivid memory of the events that transpired before any actual surgical procedures were begun.


In the lab, we worked in teams of three. Team members rotated between the positions of surgeon, assistant and anesthesiologist. My role that day was anesthesiologist. Carefully following the steps described by Professor Higgins in lecture and then demonstrated by Dr. Clement in the lab, I loaded a syringe with the anesthetic. I surprised myself by getting the needle in Heinzís vein on the first try and aspirated a small amount of blood into the syringe to verify that I was indeed in the vein. So far, so good. Then, as the blood filtered back into the syringe, I passed out and collapsed on the floor. I was out cold. And although I wasnít out long, it was?long enough?to earn?a visit to?the Student Health Center to be checked out. One of the teaching assistants escorted me to the Health Center while the remainder of my team tended to Heinz. I remember being told he recovered wonderfully from his anesthesia, but I still donít recall what procedures I was to have learned that day. Either I learned them later or Iíve never needed them in the many years since. Physically, I, too, recovered quickly, but you can only imagine the teasing I took from my fellow classmates!


Sadly, as youíll read throughout the book, this would not be the last time I passed out on the job.

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