Dagny and Magne both seemed on good form on Tuesday morning. Our first patient was a still-youngish cat with an eye that was massively enlarged by a tumour. From an anaesthetic point of view, eye evisceration can be slightly complicated. As the eye is removed, the nerve at the back of the eye can cause changes in the heart-rate and breathing, so I was keen to ensure everything was stable and the monitors were all functioning well. The eye was so enlarged, that I wondered how easy it would be to complete the operation, but happily it all went very smoothly and the wound came together well.
Much later in the day, and another lump removal, this time from a dog’s leg. As happens sometime, Magne asked me whether I would like to suture the wound after he had removed the tumour. I know he doesn’t much like the stitching part of operations, and I rather enjoy it. There’s something very satisfying about bringing everything together and ensuring the end result is as aesthetically pleasing as possible. So as Jaqueline was available to monitor the anaesthetic, I told him he could go and get a cup of coffee and I would close up for him. As I was finishing, Magne came back into the room.
‘She’s very good,’ he said to Jaqueline, ‘No-one can stitch as elegantly as her.’ I was caught between delight and humour. As pleased as I was with the compliment, I had to laugh at the word elegant because I don’t think even my nearest and dearest would ever use that term. In fact, my mum once told me that I walk like a gorilla. Still, gorilla-steps or not, I did walk out of theatre feeling pretty good.
The weather in Jaeren recently has been wild: storm following storm. My drive to work takes me along the coast and there is little shelter, so on Thursday, as another gale flung hailstones horizontally at the window, I decided I would head to work early. In the event, the road was clear, and the wind, though gusty, didn’t affect my speed much and so I drew up in the car-park some twenty minutes before I was due to start. As I dashed through the rain, I was happily contemplating a cup of coffee with Magne before work began, but as I pushed the door open and stepped inside, I was greeted by an unpleasant odour. Working in a vet practice, you get to sample a number of different smells, most of them quite unsavoury. This one I identified as diarrhoea, though as I paced along the corridor, I was alarmed to see what appeared to be a trail of blood. Even more worryingly, on closer inspection, the bright red trail was in fact the faeces that I could smell.
Entering the prep-room, I found Lusi, a black Labrador retriever, panting on the floor. Her head was on her owner’s knee. Her eyes were frantic, her body stiff. I had seen Gerd as I came in, and rushed back along the corridor, to see whether she knew where Magne was. It only took a moment to ascertain that I was the only vet in the building. A few steps back and I was crouched on the floor with the little grouping. Wivek had made a tentative diagnosis yesterday of a prolapsed disc in the spine. Lusi was meant to go to Bergen this morning for an MRI, but had become very distressed, and the bloody diarrhoea was hers. I assessed her immediately for shock, but she seemed mostly to be distressed. She already had a catheter in her vein, and my first act was to grab some Vetergesic because she was so obviously in pain.
A drip next, and as she still seemed very unhappy, I decided to give some diazepam to try to relax her. I wasn’t one-hundred percent sure that yesterday’s venous catheter (now attached to the drip) was fully functional and anyway, I wanted to take a baseline blood sample, so I felt it would be better to place a second catheter. As she was still lying on the ground, and I didn’t want to move (and thus hurt her) unnecessarily, I ended up lying full length on the prep-room floor as I angled my head to try to get the best possible view. Not necessarily the best idea in a cream-coloured sweater. Fortunately the floor was, thanks to Gerd, now spotless again.
Diazepam (better known to the UK public as Valium) works partly as a sedative, but with spinal pain that is causing muscle spasm, it can really make a difference. As I injected, I could see her visibly begin to relax, and though she was obviously a bit disoriented, the panicky panting stopped, and her rigid muscles became pliant. According to Gerd, Wivek was going to be in at nine, and any decisions regarding the next step would have to involve her. I waited with her for a few minutes, but as she now seemed much more stable, I was able to go and get changed.
What with the weather, and with all the distress, Lusi didn’t make it to Bergen yesterday, but spent the day at Tu with her owner. The plan was, that if she continued to be stable overnight, she would travel up today. I’ll try to provide an update when I know more.
Working with Lusi reminded me of one of the reasons I love being a vet. There are few things more satisfying than knowing that you have helped an animal that is in pain. It often seemed to me, when working in the emergency clinic, that giving intravenous pain-killers to dogs in distress gave such immediate relief that they were genuinely grateful afterwards. Often in general practice, our patients become frightened of us because they associate the vets with injections and pain, and to see the opposite effect in action, was always a happy event.
I still don’t think Lusi liked being at the vets all day, but I very much hope that she goes on to make a full recovery.
Last, but not least, today’s photograph is Luna, a Tibetan Spaniel that came in this week to see Marita. Isn’t she lovely! Have a good week.