Category Archives: Blog

All Change

Things have changed since I last posted. So much so that this is the first time I have been able to sit down and record it. On the calendar downstairs, back on the 24th March, written in pink felt-tip pen, is the name of my nearest veterinary clinic. To distract my mind from my echoing e-mail box, I had wandered in off the street and asked (in my best Norwegian) whether I could come in and “see practice”, just for a week or two. The smiling receptionist, looking bemused promised to get the boss to call me, and I left, feeling, to be honest, like a bit of a tit. After all, I could have made that contact over the phone couldn’t I? Still, later that day, I received the call, and at 9a.m. on Monday morning, I presented myself.

I confess that the first question confused me somewhat. Peering into a cupboard filled with uniforms, the nurse asked me whether I was a small or a medium. How to reply? I was obviously neither. Promising me that the medium was VERY stretchy round the waist (yes but what about the arse?) she handed over the medium overalls and commanded me to change. Shovelling me into a pair of green clogs (more on those later) she started to show me things on the computer. Obviously it was all written in Greek… or maybe Latin. Actually I might have understood those bits, but the rest was a mystery. Being me, I set out to solve it, and armed with a trusty pen and a post-it note, I gradually began over the course of a fortnight to decipher the runes.

I also made some new friends. So much for the much-fabled Norwegian stand-offishness; we spent the next two weeks laughing. And on the Thursday of the second week, I was offered a job. Dagny, the scary boss lady said I should talk to my husband… who of course said “What are you waiting for. Get signed up immediately!” So I did, setting out to work two days a week. The past fortnight has been a whirlwind of bank accounts and tax office visits ( yup, I didn’t have the former and have never paid the latter here) and getting the paperwork together to try to get myself authorised to carry out veterinary work in Norway. Currently I’m working as an assistant, which suits me down to the ground as I am helping out without having to consult, and in the meantime, I am gradually picking up more Norwegian, though there is the terrible temptation to revert to English, especially as some of the clients immediately start to chat to me when they find out where I am from.

It’s a wonderful feeling, picking up the reins of something I used to be good at. Some things come back so quickly. Others are filled with fog. I suspect that when it comes to real knowledge, I have always been very reliant on books, and for the moment, I don’t have the right ones to hand. The BSAVA Manual of Emergency and Critical Care was my constant companion for all the years working in the emergency clinics. It’s at the top of my shopping list as even though there aren’t so many emergency cases during the day, I seem to recall it had a lot of fantastic tips on how to work cases up in the first instance. I’m slowly regaining knowledge, refilling the blanks, remembering the things I was never good at (I can take a mean x-ray, but am rubbish at reading anything more complex than a broken leg or a twisted stomach). I am learning new things as well. Who knew that it was illegal to castrate a dog or spay a bitch in Norway without good clinical reason? Apparently they have to be allowed freedom to explore their wild-side, though how that works when using drugs to prevent ovulation I have no idea. Bang goes the idea of opening a spay clinic in my nearest city!

This week started badly. I tried to anaesthetise a dog without having the machine fully switched on. Never a good idea. Worse still, it transpired that the green clogs actually belonged to the boss lady. Well I always did like to walk in shoes that were hard to fill. I’ve bought my own now. And Dagny has not yet used the whip on me that I took in for Irene to use on Jan-Arne.

Been out walking (the picture at the top is taken from south of our village, looking up the coast) and skiing, both downhill and cross-country. I would like to say that I didn’t fall over once, but sadly I can’t. Still things are looking up on all fronts. There might even be some movement on the book, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself so I’ll leave that for next time.

003

Wussy Malone and the Mystery of the Missing Courage

It’s a strange thing, but one of my weirdest adult terrors has always been with taking my car to the garage to have work done. Obviously it’s ridiculous, a mature, well educated woman who turns into a cowering wreck when faced with a man whose job is changing oil and windscreen wipers for a living. Please don’t get me wrong, being a mechanic is a job requiring skill and dexterity and some mechanics really are wonderful, it’s just very sad that a few of these men seem to take great delight in their ability to patronise any woman who dares to set foot inside their realm. For five years now, we’ve used the same garage for all the work on our car, and they have mostly proved to be reliable and honest. There was the time when I arrived at eleven in the morning to book the car in, only to be told to come back in an hour when they had finished their sandwiches, and the patronising way the owner treated me when I first went in and he assumed that because I didn’t know the Norwegian for head-light, that I was generally an idiot, but on the whole they good has outweighed the bad, hence the reason we have continued to return.

The first inkling I had that I might have to go back in this time after the service was when one of the small light-bulb-covers over the number plate fell off when I closed the boot, just the day after the car had been returned. When I looked at it, it had obviously been broken at one end, and rather than order another, they presumably stuck it back in place and hoped that we would just never notice. I wondered whether I should go in and say something, but it seemed such a little thing that I shoved it back in place, and hoped that it would stay on.

The next setback came when we received the bill. Checking through it, I noticed sadly that they had charged me for new windscreen wiper blades. All very well, but the blades had been changed literally the day before I took the car in for service. Obviously that sounds stupid, but I was due to drive to the airport at night, and stormy weather was forecast, and they were really awful. So bad that driving with them was a nightmare. Again, I wondered about going in, but was put off by thinking that really it was my own fault for not telling them when I took the car in that the blades had been changed. I went to see my friend Lynne on Monday, and she said she would go in and at least ask… and again I toyed with the idea and procrastinated because of my fear, and the additional mental block I have because I know that if I go in, I would have to try to ask in Norwegian. There is definitely something about speaking a language not my own that makes me feel insecure when going in to discuss anything. I even use English when I go to see my GP because he patronises me a whole lot less when it’s him that’s struggling to find the words.

Anyway, several days later, and yesterday another midnight trip to the airport, and another dreadful drive because one of the dipped headlights wasn’t working, and that was the last straw. This morning I finally took a deep breath and marched into the garage with my list of woes. I managed it all in Norwegian, and I don’t know if that was what tipped the balance, but the garage owner couldn’t have been more helpful. He has ordered a new cover for the light, he changed the bulb in the headlight without charging me (he’s charged me twelve pounds before once for doing it) and best of all, he told me that as Charlie has already paid the bill, I should remind him next time I’m in, and he won’t charge me for the wiper blades. Given that they cost about fifty pounds, that’s a significant saving. I left the place with my heart singing. I’d like to think that the next time I have a problem, that I will sail through, but I suspect that my innate cowardice might reassert itself.

When I popped into the Co-Op afterwards I was delighted to find that they had both lobster and sashimi salmon going cheap, so there’ll be a good (and easy) dinner tonight.

In other news, Marion is too unwell today to go for our Vernal Equinox celebratory walk. I’d very much like to return to a place we went on one of the evening walks from Charlie’s work. It would be lovely to see it in daylight.
IMG_1984¨
Marion and I have done a few good walks lately, so here are some pictures.
IMG_1944
IMG_1957
IMG_2005
Hope you feel better next week Marion.

And now I have to go and bake. Due to my poor housewifery skills, I have somehow managed to let some milk go sour. I can feel some scones coming on. Anyone for afternoon tea?

IMG_0281

Shameless

So life is going on and work is getting better and better. Tuesday was a bit mad because Kari Anna is on holiday this week. She’s the clinic’s resident veterinary nurse, and like most veterinary nurses, when she is there, she flits calmly around the practice and suddenly all the mess has disappeared and everything is under control. On Tuesday morning there was just Gerd (a veterinær assistent like me … well actually not much like me because she is sensible and mature and… well you get the picture) and me there, and Gerd was busy on reception where the phone was ringing madly and about a thousand people were waiting to be helped. So I found myself rushing around, trying to make sure everything was reasonably tidy. Unlike Kari Anna, I was unable to do this invisibly and just in case I thought I was doing rather well, mid-morning Jan-Arne came up to me with a look of confusion and asked why I was doing so much cleaning up today.

Anyway into the midst of all this came scary-boss lady herself [hei Dagny!!!!] and demanded asked very kindly that I should get theatre ready for two cat sterilisation operations. Despite the fact that I had done it before under the steady eye of Kari Anna, immediate panic set in. I knew which surgical kit it was, but which size of drape had I been told again? And which suture materials? What size was the pack of gauze swabs, two or five? So many things to go wrong. Worse still, as I commandeered the last two surgical kits from the shelf, I realised that very probably I should have put the other kits that I had so carefully sorted out into the steriliser, because if any other operations were coming in immediately afterwards…

AAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaargh!

So with my head spinning round on its axis like the child from the Exorcist, I started to hunt around for everything I needed. At that moment, Magnanimous Magne (the other boss) stuck his head round the door and asked whether I could help him with a blood sample. I’m sure I snapped “No” rather rudely, but he didn’t seem to notice anything untoward, and a few minutes later, fortunately I found a spare minute to set up the haematology analyser and run his test for him. The operations went smoothly and there were no screams from outside theatre, so presumably nobody needed another kit during the time we were busy. It was with relief that I finished with the surgery and was left to sort out the two patients and clean up the theatre while Dagny went to get on with other vetty things.

As soon as that was all clear, I rushed to the autoclave. Now what was it I had to do again? I had to drain some water out of one of those little tubes but was it the water from the tube on the left or the right? I thought it was probably the left, but when I tried to open the tube up for emptying, I couldn’t get the rubber bung off the end. Was it meant to come off, or was it attached and needing to be twisted or opened somehow? I didn’t want to rip it off and then find I’d broken it. And was it the left tube? There didn’t seem to be anything in that one. So it was probably the right. Gerd was still stuck with her three million clients, and there was nobody else around, so taking my life in my hands, I approached my scary lovely boss and asked her if she knew. Very helpfully she came through. She hadn’t used the machine for three years, but she would try to remember. Within moments she had successfully removed the bung from the right tube as I had asked. With a triumphant nod she left me to it.

It was only when I was still standing there, with about a gallon of water in the bucket at my feet that I began to have some disquiet over whether it really was the right tube. When Kari Anna showed me, surely there had only been a little drainage? Now there was something approaching a flood threatening to overwhelm the bucket. Shoving the bung back into the tube, I rushed through, and happily Gerd was able to spare me a moment. I had, she confirmed, as I had suspected, made a brave attempt at emptying the entre autoclave, but fortunately all was not lost. There was enough distilled water to refill it and no harm done. Better still, she even showed me how to make more distilled water. Lets face it, by the time I have to do it, I’ll probably have forgotten, but I’ll deal with that when it happens!

Thursday and Friday weren’t so fraught thank goodness. This afternoon I even had a brief period when I wasn’t sure what to do. Irene was being terribly efficient, and there is another girl doing work experience who was rushing round after everyone tidying up, and as I don’t like to sit around doing nothing, I went in to see if Jan-Arne needed a hand. He was examining a cat with mastitis so I helped him to sedate her. As he was cleaning out her wound, Irene put her head around the door. Was I available, she wanted to know, to help with a dental? It was Jan-Arne she asked. Did he really need me, she wanted to know. Jan-Arne looked up with a grin. “No,” he said, “I don’t really need her, it’s just more fun when she’s here.” ** And really, when all is said and done, that’s good enough for me.

Here he is:

Jan Arne and pig

That’s him on the right….

And what is it that is shameless? Well I shamelessly stole Jan-Arne’s beautiful photograph of a foal for the top of my page. Who could possibly resist?

**Technically he said it in Norwegian, but it’s a near enough translation.

Humour and Humanity

I have seen a lot of SBL and Magmatic Magne this week: a lot of time in theatre, though I also endured some sessions with Mr Ikea, trying to follow the instructions for putting together a small and inoffensive chest of drawers. The thing had been undergoing assembly over several weeks now and the already-completed drawers had been huddling on a table in the corner, minding their own business except for the odd occasion when it was necessary to squeeze past them to get to the dog food. As is the tradition with Ikea furniture, a small error had been made at a crucial point about half-way through, thereafter it followed that everything else was just far enough out of place that the finished product wouldn’t go together. Dagny, active in this, as in all things was the perpetrator of this tiny error, and Magne had seized upon the opportunity to remind her of this fact, every time anyone went near. Still finally the thing was done, and all the drawers were in place. My first achievement of the week.

About an hour later, I found myself managing the anaesthetic for a mammary tumour operation. Dagny asked me to get theatre ready, and when she asked “Are we all set,” I replied (with the honesty and diligent self-confidence I try to maintain at all times) “I hope so.” In fact I wasn’t. I had failed to check if she wanted to use gaseous anaesthesia (a lot of the operations are carried out with a combination of deep sedation, local anaesthesia and propofol infusion) so she went and switched the machine on herself. A few minutes later, with the dog prepped and installed, I noticed the ominous stillness of the patient’s chest. She wasn’t breathing. The usual sense of consternation kicked in. Just work through it logically, I told myself, trying to remain calm. I checked the dog’s colour. It was pale, but it had been pale before we began. That meant that it was even more urgent though to discover what was wrong. I checked the level of anaesthesia. The eye was rotated down. Fine. I grabbed a stethoscope and listened for the heart because the heart-rate monitor wasn’t detecting anything. The heart was racing, as at this point was my own. It was at that point that Dagny quite casually pointed out that the rebreathing bag had filled up completely because the pressure valve hadn’t been reopened after testing. She hadn’t been aware that the dog was not breathing, and in her calm assessment, had just noticed what I was failing to pick up. Panic is a terrible thing. I can recall a time in the emergency clinic when whatever life threw at me, I knew I could handle it but five years off has sent me tumbling back into “starting out” mode.

Dagny talked a bit about her life during the operation. She told me that she was only six years old when she decided that she wanted to be a vet. Despite discouragement from those around her, who thought that as a woman she should do something less ambitious, more feminine, she planned out her life with ruthless efficiency and finally achieved her aim. No wonder then that with such determination to succeed, she ultimately went on to become a partner in the very first dedicated small-animal clinic in Norway.

By Thursday, I started to feel everything was more under control. I assisted Magne with a cherry-eye operation. It’s amazing to see him putting in the tiny sutures, ensuring that nothing is left to irritate the eye. Just before lunch a dog came in which was in respiratory distress. To my amazement my self-confidence suddenly kicked in and I was easily able to help out and even offer guidance. At one point, I suggested the possibility of draining the chest and Magne and Irene looked at me as if I had suddenly sprouted green bushy eyebrows. How odd it seemed, and yet it brought it home to me that despite the irony of the situation, I am much better with a frank emergency than with anything routine, and perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising given my history of working in an emergency and critical care setting for the last few years of my career in Scotland.

Later I found myself back in theatre once more, as Dagny and Magne, without even the benefit of Ikea instructions, set out to fix a fractured humerus in a young dog. After the lunchtime emergency, I managed to impress Magne once more with my astonishing ability to intubate a dog without a laparoscope. This has never seemed like any great achievement for me. I started out, all those years ago, in a small animal practice where everything was on gas, and everything was intubated and I don’t think I ever even saw a laparoscope. As with everything else, a good nurse and the correct positioning is essential, so thanks to Irene for that. When Magne returned from the hunt for the missing laporoscope, he found to his amazement that the dog was already in theatre, fully hooked up to the machine and almost ready to go.

“You know,” he said to me as he walked to the table, “you’re really quite useful to have around. I think you should work more hours!”
I felt rather diffident about this. I actually like just working two days a week and keeping my options open for overtime. “Well maybe I could come in and work Fridays as well,” I offered.
He just shook his head. “That would be no good at all,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “I don’t work Fridays,” and with that, he turned away and started to cut.

Bjørndalsfjellet and Dalsnuten – Photos

Today Charlie and I tackled our first two peaks in the “10 på Topp” challenge. Ten peaks to climb in Sandnes Kommune before November. Bjørndalsfjellet is 362m and Dalsnuten is 323m.

The path to Bjørndalsnuten
The path to Bjørndalsnuten
Mountain flower
Mountain flower
Looking south from close to the top of Bjørndalfjellet
Looking south from close to the top of Bjørndalfjellet
Bjørndalsfjellet summit
Bjørndalsfjellet summit
Charlie
Charlie
On the way down
On the way down
Beside the path to Dalsnuten
Beside the path to Dalsnuten
Looking back at Bjørndalsfjellet
Looking back at Bjørndalsfjellet
Towards Dalsnuten
Towards Dalsnuten
Charlie at the summit of Dalsnuten
Charlie at the summit of Dalsnuten
Along the fjord
Across the fjord
Stavanger
Stavanger
Heading down
Heading down
Temptation.....
Giving in to temptation…

Not German(e)

A short week this week because Thursday was Ascension Day or as it is amusingly known in Norway, (assuming you have a mental age of six, as I do) Himmelfartsdag. I started out the morning anaesthetising a dog for a cruciate operation. For those who don’t know, the cruciate ligament is within the knee joint and it can rupture on occasion causing instability of the joint. The operation replaces the ligament, thus re-establishing normal movement. Kari Anna thought she would test me out by asking whether I had remembered to take the Gentamycin injection into theatre, and with a triumphant smile I was able to wave the box at her. Not quite so jubilantly, an hour and a half later I slunk towards the fridge with the drug opened and drawn up into a syringe, presumably to be wasted. When I had offered it to Dagny, she had said “No thanks!” with a radiant smile. I felt a little vindicated when I told Kari Anna I was placing the labelled syringe into the fridge. Like me, she had believed the official Spraying of the Gentamycin was a routine part of the operation.

Dagny has been talking on-and-off about the possibility that I might begin to consult on an official basis. The only spanner in the works (and admittedly it’s quite a hefty spanner) is that on the days I am working, there is no spare consulting room. Often they already have a vet in all three rooms as well as one taking up space in the prep-room. This time, for the first time, she mentioned something about the idea of building another room. Personally I think they should build it of brick and designate it the British Wing. Given the Norwegian love of DIY and my current observations of practice protocol, I expect Dagny will begin construction herself as Magne skulks around, unobtrusive but observing carefully, and he will smile to himself as she fails to line up the bricks correctly before stepping in and… getting me to fix it.

As well as the cruciate operation, I assisted with another two cherry-eyes. For some reason Magne has started to ask me for his surgical gloves in German, as if it wasn’t complicated enough working in Norwegian. “Do you speak German?” he asked me. “Just enough to know that you are asking for gloves,” I might have replied. Actually that wouldn’t be entirely true. I know three other very useful things in German (I won’t count the phrase, “That is a lamp” which was the very first thing I learned when I bought a German picture dictionary as a teenager). I know how to ask for beer of various kinds. And when I’ve had the beer, I know how to ask where the toilet is. But most importantly, I know the very useful word “scheiße” I always thing it is a very expressive word, and as my best friend when I was learning Norwegian was German, for me scheiße is a word that is screaming to be incorporated into the Norsk language. Anyway, back with the cherry-eyes, this time Magne encouraged me to sit at the end of the table instead of on the other side so that I could see better what he was doing. Perhaps having me sitting in the wrong place was a distraction however. He paused as he started to cut into the tissue and frowned. “What is it I have forgotten?” he asked, looking puzzled, but I couldn’t help. Then with a smile, he grabbed the head-piece with the magnifying lenses and placed them in front of his eyes. “I thought everything had suddenly got very small,” he said.

In all of this theatre work though, I feel I am seeing very little of Vivek, Guro and Jan-Arne which is sad. Perhaps if I begin to work sometimes on a Friday (the only day when there might be a room free) I will get to see them a bit more. In the meantime, I hope to spend some time with Jan-Arne at the weekend as he does some large animal work. Maybe if I’m really lucky, I may even get to bury my arm inside a cow. How about that for wallowing in nostalgia? Of course, at this time of year, with the cows just out on all that luscious new grass, nostalgia may not be the only thing I end up wallowing in. Only time will tell.