Barefoot Vet - The Book

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Essential First Aid for Dog Owners

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I Got the Point


Veterinary medicine is not only about caring for animals while they are alive. It is important and sometimes critical to learn what we can from an animal that has died. Thus, our last year of vet school included a pathology lab. Only one month before graduation, my assignment for the day was to necropsy a two-month-old foal that had died from a very unusual joint infection. I was properly if not fashionably dressed in my coveralls, rubber boots and thick rubber necropsy gloves. I made my first incision into the foal starting in the middle of his abdomen and extended it up toward his head. I held the head extended with my left hand, and as I carried the incision forward I drove the point of the knife directly into the palm of my hand.


It took me a minute to realize what had happened. It didn’t hurt right away, but I did feel something warm and sticky on my hand. As soon as I realized what I done and that it was my own blood rapidly filling my glove, I promptly fainted. While again entertained by my fainting, my classmates were good enough to rush me to the doctor.


In what was by then a semi-conscious state, my colleagues carried me into the waiting room at the Student Health Center. I remember hearing, “Hey, it’s that vet student who faints. She’s back again.” The jovial kidding tones quickly gave way to more serious attention once the doctors and nurses realized that all the blood in the glove was actually mine. They quickly got the bleeding under control but remained quite concerned that I might contract whatever infection the foal I was working on had died from. As the only blood sample I had collected was my own and not from the foal, one of my classmates finished the necropsy I had barely started. It was a slightly nerve-wracking several days while we waited for the results of the cultures on the foal. It turned out that the foal had a viral infection that fortunately was not transmissible to humans. My stab wound healed without incident – except for the fact that it became yet another chapter in the legendary tales of the fainting vet!

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