Tag Archives: Dagny

Ye Crowlin Ferlie

This week’s picture is of Daisy, a West Highland White terrier who came in yesterday morning to be inseminated. I have seen cows inseminated before, but never a bitch, so I was interested to watch Magnificent Magne as he took a swab to check if Daisy was ready, and looked at the sperm under the microscope to see whether the sample was healthy. Apparently both were good enough. Daisy’s mum used to come in for Magne to inseminate her as well, so her owner told me, so obviously it’s a successful technique. Hopefully in 63 days or so, there will be some more puppies as beautiful as she is.

The microscope in the practice does get very well used. Far more so than any practice I worked at in Scotland. I was very interested when Jan-Arne called me over to look through the lens a little later to show me a blood-sucking louse. For some bizarre reason, when he showed Irene, she said ‘Awwwwwww’. Obviously her idea of cute differs slightly from mine.  I wonder whether this extends to her taste in men.

On Thursday, Jan-Arne came in in his pyjamas again. He actually admitted this time that they were his pyjamas. Obviously an eleven a.m. start is too early for him. I went into the changing room a few minutes after he had left and found his trousers decorating the floor and his boots haphazardly strewn . This amused me, so I took Irene to see, then asked him if he thought we were his servants. I threatened to take a photo, and he rushed to tidy them away. ‘Otherwise my mother will say I’m just the same at home, and Steinar (his partner) will as well,’ he groaned.

Still, he made up for it easily by bringing in the biggest Suksess Cake I’ve ever seen. For those of you not in Norway, this is a delicious cake with an almondy base and a sweet creamy yellow topping. It’s definitely my favourite Norsk cake. When I asked Jan-Arne what the success was that we were celebrating, he replied that the success was getting the calories out of his house. A few of them are undoubtedly now in mine. Still it was worth it. And just in case that wasn’t enough, at the meeting yesterday, everyone was handed an advent calendar. It seems that Scary Boss Lady really is into Christmas.  It all looks veldig gøy. I wonder how many dogs will enjoy the tree.

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Julebord

Saturday night was the Julebord (Christmas Party). It was held at GamleVærket in Sandnes, and happily Charlie and I were able to book a room to stay overnight, which made for a very relaxing evening.

Per Egil serves Karl with a second glass of sparkling wine. From left to right - Wivek, Jacqueline, Magne, Jenny and Karl.
Per Egil serves Karl with a second glass of sparkling wine. From left to right – Wivek, Jacqueline, Magne, Jenny and Karl.

For me this was a very special event as it was my first Norwegian Julebord and though there were some similarities to those I have been to in Scotland there were also some major differences. I have a suspicion that  J.R.R. Tolkien must have been to a Norwegian Julebord just before writing the dwarf party scene in the Hobbit. Very early on, it became apparent that throughout proceedings, people would randomly burst into song for no obvious reason, prompting everyone else to join in. Each of these rousing choruses culminated in a toast, which certainly got the event going.

Unlike the often uninspiring turkey dinner that is generally served in the UK, there was a huge buffet of traditional Norwegian Christmas delicacies, including ribbe, pinnekjøtt and lutefisk. I have  mentioned ribbe before because we usually have it on Christmas day and it is a roasted pork joint with delicious crackling. Pinnejøtt is a kind of dried, salted lamb. But for me, the lutefisk the most interesting offering. For the uninitiated, lutefisk is white fish which has been slowly dissolved in caustic sodium hydroxide until it becomes gelatinous. Yum! Actually, this was my first experience of lutefisk, and when combined with chunks of bacon, mushy peas, and a delicious cream and mustard flavoured sauce, it was quite delicious. I would definitely have it again.

Jan-Arne goes in for a romantic nibble on Steinar's ear.
Jan-Arne goes in for a romantic nibble on Steinar’s ear.

Dagny’s husband Sondre had brought his guitar, and he was mostly in charge of the entertainment. Per Egil (Irene’s husband) was first up. He shared a very baaaaad sheep joke with us. Charlie also had to talk. Happily, he is almost always prepared for public speaking and was quickly ready with a joke.

Sondre really enjoyed Per Egil's humour.
Sondre really enjoyed Per Egil’s humour.

Jan-Arne got up at this point to take Steinar to work as he was due to work the night-shift. For some reason, their departure was marked with a song, to the tune of God Save the Queen, which roughly translated as “The old people are going home now”. I’m not sure her majesty would approve.

After a rousing rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas, some musicians very kindly came in and gave us their Jærsk version of King of the Road. Quite appropriately, this was all about a farmer and his enormous tractor. I couldn’t follow all of it, but if it was completely accurate, I am sure there must have been a mention of slurry in there somewhere.

For some reason, at this point all the women whose dresses had been bought by their husbands had to stand up and give a fashion parade. Irene, Dagny, Marita and me all had to give our version of the catwalk strut. Irene was definitely the most assured.

Irene, effortlessly glamorous.
Irene, effortlessly beautiful.

Then it was the turn of the husbands who bought the dresses to talk about the occasion. When asked the theme he had considered when buying Irene’s outfit, Per Egil stated he had been going for the ‘F****** Sexy Look. I was a bit worried about Charlie at this point, because I had a suspicion that he very likely had no memory of buying my dress. It was a couple of years ago, and just after Christmas in the sales. Still, he managed to hide his amnesia well by saying he just felt it was important that I did not outdo him for glamour. He then stated that unfortunately, as it was me he had to contend with, he had failed in his objective. In Glasgow, I fear this might have raised a chorus of gagging noises, but happily for me, Norwegians are far more romantically inclined and instead everyone said ‘Awwww……’

 

Charlie McGurk, King of Glamour
Charlie McGurk, King of Glamour

Christmas is a time for the giving of gifts, and so now it was time for us all to play the klinikk version of pass the parcel. Instead of music, the package started with Magne, who had to pass it to “a lady beside him,” who then had to pass it to “the person who was sitting furthest away.” The first few directions were innocuous, but gradually the theme descended towards more personal things. The final few were decidedly risqué. I really want to know how Kari Anna knew that Dagny’s husband was “owner of the biggest dick,” though not perhaps so much as Dagny wondered…

Suspicious Boss Lady.
Suspicious Boss Lady.

Of course, no Christmas party would be complete without some dancing, and so at this point everyone had to dance around the mulberry bush, or as they would have it here, the enebærbusk. I suppose that given the fact that one of Norway’s most popular Christmas songs states that the celebrations can’t begin until the floor has been washed, that a dance involving ironing the clothes and cleaning the windows would also be still all the rage.

Per Egil showing off his moves.
Per Egil showing off his moves.

Happily Jan-Arne returned in time for dessert. I particularly enjoyed the multer (cloud berries) with cream. Jan-Arne managed to pull one of the tiny Christmas crackers that was attached to the kransekake, and to my surprise, there was actually a hat and a joke inside. Jan-Arne seemed to enjoy the rice porridge with raspberry sauce best. Fortunately he didn’t get called out to any calvings with his crown on.

Jan-Arne on call.
Jan-Arne on call.

The evening was drawing to a close now, and people started to depart, but a few stout-hearted and dedicated partygoers continued down into the main bar area downstairs where a band were playing.  Charlie, still swirling around in his kilt experienced some most enjoyable Norwegian sexism in action. Apparently not only was he accosted many times to be asked what he was wearing underneath, but he also had his bum felt a couple of times. I think it rounded off the evening well.

Anyway, for those who have reached this point, thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. And for anyone who is interested, I will attach a few more photos below. Maybe some of them will be a little more flattering…

Per Egil and Charlie.
Per Egil and Charlie.
Me and Charlie
Me and Charlie
Kari Anna
Kari Anna
Jenny and Karl
Jenny and Karl
Jan-Arne
Jan-Arne
Steinar
Steinar
Wivek
Wivek
Jacqueline
Jacqueline
Kari Anna, Jacqueline and Per Egil singing.
Kari Anna, Jacqueline and Per Egil singing.
Marita and Renso
Marita and Renso
Gerd and Magne
Gerd and Magne
Jan-Arne goes crackers.
Jan-Arne goes crackers.
Dagny handing out a final gift of chocolate before leaving.
Dagny handing out a final gift of chocolate before leaving.
Who knows what's under there?
Who knows what’s under there?

Co-Operation

Tuesday morning began well with Dagny and Magne operating to remove the most enormous piece of detached cartilage I have ever seen from a dogs shoulder joint. It went so smoothly that I had a good feeling about the remainder of the day. Reality reasserted itself when I went through and carefully laid the dog in the kennel… and stood up, bashing my head off the door of the left upper kennel. Instinctively recoiling, I ricocheted and thumped the other side of my head on the door of the other kennel. It was that kind of day.

Next came a mammary tumour, which I had seen on the computer. I confess I had expected a dog (I saw the operation, and didn’t check the species because mammary tumours in dogs are incredibly common, and in cats incredibly rare). Again the same pattern, the operation itself went very well. I was doing this one on Magne’s behalf because he was running slightly behind schedule. As I inserted the last stitch, stripped my gloves off and walked out of theatre to wash my hands, Mobility Magne rushed into the room, brandishing a cat cage at arms length.

‘Can you do something with this,’ he gasped, before disappearing. I confess, I was somewhat surprised, but as the most disgusting stink assailed me, I realised that the cat in question had deposited something utterly rank in the cage. Luckily I have a strong stomach, so without further ado, I cleaned up the mess. Being a vet really is a very glamorous job. I am reminded at such moments, of James Herriot, comparing his vocation with that of a small animal surgeon and humorously self-deprecating as usual. He mentions that after his operations, “the final scene would have been of Herriot the great surgeon swilling the floor with mop and bucket”. Well even though I now work in small-animal practice, it’s not so very different. ReMorseful Magne (see what I did there) did proffer a partial explanation later when he told me that the awful smell was literally making him gag.

In the afternoon, I had a cat spay booked in, but somewhat to my surprise, two turned up. The owners, after being told by Magne that I sutured very beautifully, had asked that I be allowed to spay their cat, but they seemed confused when they arrived and saw only me. They had been expecting Magne to supervise. Fortunately at this moment, the man himself turned up and smoothed everything over. The highlight of my afternoon however, was when Irene was attempting to shave up the second spay for me. Because most cats here are spayed midline, she needed to be reminded of the landmarks I use when deciding where to incise. She had the cat laid out on a chair and seemed to be paying close attention as she felt around for the bony protuberances of the hip and thighbone. Finally, she found what she thought felt right.

‘Am I in the right place?’ she asked. Rounding the corner of the table to take a look, I was somewhat surprised to see her eyes were close to shut as she concentrated fiercely on what she was feeling, and that one of her fingers was on the shoulder and the other somewhere on the neck.

‘Um… well it would be if the cat was the right way round.’ I commented with a giggle. Fully expecting her to join in with my hilarity at this very funny joke, I was amazed when she opened her eyes wide and looked mortified. She really hadn’t noticed.

‘This stays strictly between us.’ Red-faced, she tried to silence me, but unfortunately nothing so amusing ever stays private here and she did continue giggling at herself for at least half-an-hour, so I guess she must have seen the funny side. I fear she may try to get her revenge by commenting to mention the very loud fart I let out when I was bending over to clean the floor in room B last week, but of course everyone will know that couldn’t possibly be true. I could never be so crudie.

Thursday morning began with a Caesarean. Dagny and Magne again, working as a team. Magne did the first part of the operation while Dagny revived the puppies, and then Dagny took over to stitch up. There were four healthy puppies, which is always a lovely event. Dagny had only had two hours sleep, but was still working as efficiently as ever. I have a feeling that her amazing cheekbones can get her through almost anything because she looked as good as ever too. Fortunately after the operation, she was able to go home and get a couple of hours sleep before the lunchtime meeting.

This weeks picture shows Wivek operating. It doesn’t get much more glamorous than this.

Fest!

There’s only a week left until Christmas, but there is still lots going on in Tu. Tuesday started with a bitch spay. The patient was a lovely little dog, and naturally her owner was worried. Happily, with Dagny and Magne’s nimble fingers, the operation was very swift and her owner was hugely relieved to see her friend back safely. Even with surgery that seems routine to us,  for every owner it’s a unique and frightening experience.

For some reason, every time I walked into the laboratory, Marita was there using the hairdryer. We have quite a lot of technical equipment in Tu, but there are also some much more down-to-earth items that we use, and the hairdryer is one of them. It’s used on microscope slides to dry the material before staining and to me this is usually a very prosaic action, but as Marita stood there with her left foot at a rakish angle, right hand merrily oscillating, she looked very glamorous. Maybe in a previous life she was a stylist to a famous film star.

Although the day was busy, somehow in the afternoon, Magne and I managed to sit down for a cup of coffee. I think it must be a first for us to have time to do that. As well as coffee, Magne took a chocolate from his advent calendar and immediately afterwards he began to cough. I wondered whether he was so over-excited that he was choking, but when I asked he assured me it was only kennel cough and he acquired it because he hadn’t been vaccinated with sufficient aquavit.

Thursday was the day of our Christmas lunch in the klinikk, but before that, I had to help Magne clean out a dog’s ears. Pio, who weighed in at about seventy kilos was probably the biggest dog I have ever seen. Happily, he was also very good-natured. He and I had a lovely cuddle.

Pio
Pio

As for the fest (party) of the title, everyone in the clinic was invited, including the large animal vets whose office is in the same building. In the UK, an office Christmas party might consist of crisps and mince pies, or on a good day, sausage rolls and turkey sandwiches. Here they serve risgrøt, or rice porridge,  which is liberally sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, and garnished with butter. I still always find it slightly disconcerting to be presented with a plate of rice-pudding for lunch, but it’s definitely not objectionable. Somewhere in the risgrøt, there is usually an almond or two, and whoever finds one wins a prize. In this case, the winnings were three large bars of chocolate, and they were won by Gerd, Jaqueline and Jan-Arne.

Of course, no Christmas party would be complete without the Christmas Banter. This year it was provided by Scary Boss Lady and her Whipping Boy. It began with Dagny laughing at Jan-Arne for the fact that he had been caught for a second time leaving his trousers on the  floor of the changing room. Then she asked,

‘Is it true as well that you came to work in your pyjamas?’ Jan-Arne flushed slightly, but valiantly defended himself.

‘Well at least I don’t scuff my feet along the ground when I come in in the morning.’

Dagny frowned and shook her head. ‘I don’t scuff my feet.’

‘You do. Everyone can hear when you arrive.’

Dagny opened her eyes wide. ‘It isn’t true,’ she said and looked challengingly around the room. ‘A show of hands please, who can tell when I come in?’

I fear that the vote would have been unanimous, if only I had been keeping up properly with the conversation, but as usual, I was five steps behind.

I suspect that Dagny is one of those people who believe that attack is the best form of defence, and so she returned to a subject that had been going on since before the meal had started.

‘Well at least I didn’t open the chocolates that were meant to be eaten with this lunch. I think you should give your bar of chocolate back so we can all share it. Without another word, Jan-Arne carefully lifted up his prize and slid it into his pocket.

But all in all, it just goes to show, that however much effort you make, and however far you travel at Christmas, there will still always be someone who has to argue over who it was that ate all the chocolates.

Holiday

Even after many years, I still greet Christmas and the New Year with a heightened sense of joy that I don’t have to work on either day. All round the world, many wonderful people in the emergency services give up those days to help others, and I send my good wishes to all my friends and colleagues who have been, and will be working over the holiday period this year. I expect when I return tomorrow, there may be a few Christmas related cases. It only takes a moment or two for a dog to eat something that he or she shouldn’t, and chocolate and raisins can be toxic for dogs, as well as the simple problem of too much turkey.

Last Tuesday, the day began as I walked through the prep-room on the way to change into my uniform.  Linus, (whose picture you can see at the top of the page) had been very ill and vomiting for a few days, and he was in a lot of pain and seemed utterly exhausted. His abdomen was so painful that Dagny had to sedate him to examine him properly, and when she did, she could feel something. Whatever it was, it wasn’t visible on the x-ray (some items show up clearly, but not all do) so the only way to help Linus was an exploratory operation. His owners were naturally very fearful. Linus is eleven years old and as the lump wasn’t visible on the x-rays, it could be anything from a peach-stone to a tumour.

As Dagny readied herself for surgery, I prepared Linus for the operation. The monitors attached, I was concerned to find that the oxygen levels in Linus’ blood were very low: not very surprising as I could see that his gums were pale, nothing like the fresh pink colour they are in a healthy dog. I turned the intravenous drip as fast as it would go, and kept the anaesthetic levels to a minimum as Dagny began to cut.

It didn’t take long for her to locate the lump, and it was immediately obvious that it was a foreign body and not a tumour. The gut was inflamed where whatever-it-was had already passed through. I opened up the set of special clamps and the  multiple packs of gauze I had ready and Dangy placed them around the gut to keep everything clean.

Pausing for a moment, she looked up and smiled. ‘What do you think?’ she asked. ‘I’m betting on a kongle!’ Kongle is Norwegian for pine cone. Her attention firmly back on her work , she cut carefully into the segment of intestine and drew out what proved indeed to be a section of pine cone. Poor Linus. No wonder it had been so painful.

From that point in the operation, it was obvious that things were improving. As Linus’ guts began to function again and the fluids from the drip got to work, his oxygen levels climbed from sixty-two right up into the high nineties, which is where they should be when everything is functioning well.

‘Would you mind just quickly going and telling his owners that it wasn’t a tumour?’ Dagny asked, as with the hole in the gut closed, she began to stitch the abdominal muscles. ‘They were so worried.’  As everything was stable, I was delighted to run through and tell them. What better Christmas present could there possibly be for me and them?

There are one or two things I find difficult about being an assistant. It’s not so easy for me to telephone owners and ask for an update, as I might do with one of my own patients. But I hope that the signs that I saw during that operation boded well for Linus and that he and his owners have had a wonderful Christmas together.

Merry Christmas everybody.

 

Salmagundi

I can recall, as a teenager, being rather sceptical when an adult friend claimed that they could not remember what o-levels they had taken. During my schooldays, those exams represented something so huge that I couldn’t begin to imagine a time when they would be unimportant enough that forgetting was even possible. It was the same with adults and age. How could anyone forget how old they were? Well now I am that person. It was my birthday on Monday, and on Tuesday morning, after wishing me well, Dagny asked that fatal question.

‘So how old are you now?’

I glanced up from the dog’s leg over which I was hovering, trying to find the vein. ‘Forty five,’ I said without hesitation.

She stared at me for a moment with her head on one side. ‘That can’t be right,’ she said with a frown. ‘I was born in 1970 and I’ll be forty-five this year.’

I confess I was quite disembarrassed. I really don’t care that much (though I note I have frozen time when I was younger, rather than making myself more mature).  I was amused though that she had asked me, when she must have known the answer on some level already. Fortunately, I managed at this point to puncture the dog’s vein and slid the catheter into place. After years of working for Vets Now, with their ECC nurses, who would raise the vein for me in my (usually conscious) patient, and then stem the bleeding until the bung was in place, I fear that with a sedated animal and a tourniquet I very often find some blood escapes onto the table, or more often, onto the animal’s leg. This was the second dog I had catheterised for Dagny that day, and the second time I had fumbled it.

‘I think I’m going to call you Messy Lady from now on,’ she said.

Eleven o’clock arrived, and with it Jan-Arne. From him I received not only good wishes, but a birthday hug as well, but there was no time for chat as it was time to go back into theatre. Emerging a while later with a recovering patient to monitor, I was rather surprised to see Jan-Arne wandering around the practice with a fluffy white dog on a cushion. He walked out of the prep-room with it, and then reappeared and went and sat down in the computer chair, leaning back with the tiny animal rested on his stomach.

‘Vondt i magen,’ (pain in the stomach) he murmured, or at least I thought that was what he said.

‘Do you mean you have a pain, or is it your next patient you’re talking about?’ I asked idly and he looked up at me with a frown.

‘What are you talking about?’ he said.

‘Is it you that has a pain in the stomach, or your next patient?’ I asked again, indicating the computer-screen that he was examining.

He shook his head. ‘No, I just said my next patient was called Tommy,’ he said. Sometimes I wonder whether other people functioning in a second language experience quite so many mind-bending moments, but I suspect it’s just me.  Getting up, he walked back across the prep-room and out into the corridor that leads to the kennel-room and I assumed he was going to take the little dog there, but instead, he poked his head into the dental room, spoke for a moment and then reappeared, still clutching the small bundle of white fluff like Paris Hilton on anabolic steroids.

‘Now what should I do with this little chap,’ he said looking down.

‘You could always put it in a kennel,’ I said. His face brightened visibly.

‘So I could.’ he said

Thursday was a crazy day. First thing in the morning, when Marita checked the two cats that had been left for operations, she discovered that instead of being one male and one female, both were girls. Spaying a cat isn’t a big operation, but it takes a lot more time than castration. Happily, she managed both quite quickly, but even as I was preparing the second cat for its op, Wivek asked me if I could possibly take some stitches out of a dog, as three of her patients had arrived at once. I had to decline as I was in the midst of sedating and prepping Marita’s cat. Once that operation was safely underway, I found that the stitch-dog was still in the waiting room, so I took it in. Of course, some days nothing goes smoothly, so typically having taken most of the sutures out, I couldn’t manage the last one and had to fetch Wivek anyway as I was worried the owner might not be happy with this stranger prodding away at her dog with a pair of scissors. I finally managed to get back to Marita, who by now was finishing up her second spay, though her next patient had arrived half-an-hour early. It was one of those days. At eleven, Jan-Arne arrived again.

‘Good day, little British girl,’ was his greeting this time. I was just happily contemplating the word girl, when he enveloped me in another wonderful bear-hug.

‘Good day to you, big Norwegian man.’ I couldn’t help but smile as he disentangled himself and went to get changed. I was standing with Wivek and she looked after him with a smile and said something in Norwegian. I had been running around at this point, trying to catch up with the cleaning and I was wearing latex gloves and clutching a bucket of water and a cloth. I didn’t quite catch what she said and I asked her to repeat it. I still didn’t catch what she had said, partly because it didn’t seem to make any sense. She had definitely said something about Jan-Arne being smelly. Somehow in my demented brain there appeared a picture of me running along and swilling him down with the detergent and cleaning cloth. That couldn’t possibly be what she had said. I hadn’t noticed any bad smell.

‘Say it in English,’ I urged her.

‘If you want to know where Jan-Arne is, follow the smell,’ she said patiently and then corrected herself, ‘scent, might be better. If you want to know where Jan-Arne is, follow the scent.’ She had been commenting on his aftershave. I must confess I felt very relieved.

Despite the few spare catch-up moments, most of my day was spent tending to animals. Just before one, I noticed a lovely little dog, which Jan-Arne was preparing to x-ray. A few moments later, we were looking at an image of something that appeared to be in the dog’s stomach.

‘What on earth is that?’ Jan-Arne asked.

I however, knew only too well.  ‘It’s a dummy teat,’ I said.

‘What?’ He was looking up at me in some confusion.

‘You know, one of those things that babies suck. It’s quite a common foreign body.’ Poor little dog. There was nothing for it but to open him up. We put him on a drip first as he seemed a bit depressed and had been vomiting for a day or two. In the meantime, there was Jack, a gorgeously friendly Rottweiler with a cut on his foot. As I was working with Jan-Arne anyway, I began to help him with Jack, and was delighted to find that the owners were British. As I sutured the foot, Jan-Arne went to start preparing the little foreign-body dog for his operation. He came back, and we swapped over again, so that he could sort out a prescription and as I was in a hurry, I asked if he could please take a photo for my blog. Sadly, the photos don’t do him justice because he was a very handsome dog. Still, he has a lovely brightly coloured bandage which I hope my fellow-blogger icelandpenny can appreciate.

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My day ended with the successful removal of the rubber teat from the dog’s intestine. It’s a very fiddly job making sure that the gut is stitched back together securely enough to ensure there is no leakage, without narrowing the tube so much that nothing will get through. Finally I could massage fluids past the incision without anything bubbling out, and so after an inspection of the rest of the intestine, I gladly sewed up the muscle and skin. It’s always a bit nerve wracking after any such operation, as there is always a slight risk of complication. I can only hope that, like Linus, he goes on to make a full recovery.

 

 

 

 

 

Luna and Lusi

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.

In Which I have to Speak Norwegian.

So it’s been an exciting week for me on two fronts. Firstly on Monday, I was lucky enough to spend a day out with Åsulf from the large animal practice, and second, I am now officially employed by Tu Dyreklinikk as a Veterinary Surgeon and not as an assistant. Of course, the terminology might be confusing to those who work in veterinary practice in the UK, because there my official title was always “Veterinary Assistant” because that is the normal term for vets who are not partners. Anyway, I feel very proud of my new role.

Mostly the transition has gone smoothly. I have handled consultations before at times when things have been especially busy, or clients have arrived unexpectedly, so it wasn’t wholly new. But like most people I find any kind of change comes with a degree of uncertainty. My mind was distracted doing my assistant work in the morning (I start consulting at twelve) as I contemplated the cases I was to see later. Indeed I had a particularly embarrassing moment when I started to shave a dog’s leg for a cruciate operation. Unfortunately, with my head wrapping itself around the potential complications of a male dog who had blood in his urine, I started to shave the dog’s hip instead of the knee. It suddenly came to me, about two clipper strokes in, when the damage to the coat was so great that there was no way to hide it. I contemplated just shaving a massive area off to try to cover the error, but it would have been obvious, and so I had to crawl red-faced to Dagny and tell her. Happily she just laughed, although she did toy with me evilly when she came through by suggesting that I had shaved up the wrong leg. I was very restrained though. Even after she carefully aimed a spurting artery at me in a later operation, I refrained from trying to drop sharp scissors into her toes.

One of the conditions of my change of employment is that I am strictly to speak Norwegian at work from now on. Although I had started out well, I had fallen into the easy habit of speaking English most of the time with my colleagues, although to clients I have always tried to stick with Norwegian unless they have indicated that they want me to do otherwise. Naturally though, Dagny’s is very concerned that the practice’s clients are satisfied with my performance, and therefore she did spend some time with a very serious look on her face urging me to always speak Norwegian to the clients.

On Tuesday then, my appointment list was full. Happily my first client was Kari-Anna, the nurse who is on maternity leave, and her dog was in for a blood test, so that was pretty much stress-free, as was my next case which was a cat with a cut on its neck whose owner had left it for examination, so there was no owner, no history to take, and until the owner returned, no discussion at all. It fell therefore, that my first genuine official client was the owner of a dog that had been in a fight and had a wound over its eye.

Gerd brought the owner and patient through, and as I led the them into the consulting room, the owner said to me

“It’s okay if you would rather speak English.’

With Dagny’s dire warnings about language still ringing in my head, I replied in Norwegian that it was quite alright, and if it was easier for her, that would be fine. She started to laugh,

*I’m actually from Scotland,’ she announced, and after that we got on like a house on fire. I really hope that she will ask to see me if she comes back in.

Thursday was a little less busy than Tuesday. Today’s photo is of Trøffen, who came in to have a cyst removed from his head. Wivek was operating, and she called me through to the consulting room before she started to check with me whether I felt that she would be able to bring the skin together on his head if we removed the rather large lump. Trøffen is only eleven and a half though, and the cyst had already been emptied and had refilled, so there was a risk in leaving it as it might have become bigger. She decided to go ahead, and as you can see, she has done a beautiful neat job. Trøffen is a really lovely cat. Indeed I’m finding great pleasure in working with so many cats. Both Jan-Arne and Magne prefer dogs, and so I like to help out wherever possible. Magne was really impressed with me yesterday, when having easily taken a blood sample from a patient that has not always been wholly compliant, I also managed to give it a worming tablet. I guess I’ve always been fortunate, as most cats seem to like me as much as I like them.

The day out with Åsulf though was a revelation. It was utterly delightful from start to finish, even though the first visit was to a pig farm, and because of the way pigs smell and squeal, they have never been my favourite patients. I was very impressed though with Åsulf’s injection technique. He made it look easy, when experience has taught me that really it isn’t. As we went around, checking calves, examining cows (and yes, I did have my hand up a few cow’s bottoms) I felt completely at home. It just seemed so natural, and I really felt I could just slide right back into that way of life. It’s very different from small animal practice. And for the first time, I found I had very little difficulty with the language. For the first time, I felt that at some point in the future, it might not be impossible for me to work with production animals again. Anyway, for the moment I will continue with improving my Norwegian, and maybe I will ask Jan-Arne if I can go out with him again one Monday, as he now works there one day a week. Who knows. I might even be able to teach him something.

 

 

The Cat Charmer and the Messy Chef

There’s a game I remember from childhood parties at my grandmother’s house. A tempting bar of chocolate was set on an table in the middle of a ring of children. Each child had to throw a pair of dice and if you got two sixes, you had a chance to go to the table and eat the chocolate. Before you could do so, however, you first had to put on a large pair of mittens followed by a woolly hat and scarf. Then, and only then, could you go and attack the chocolate, which you had to eat with a knife and fork, but woe betide you if another child threw two sixes before the process was complete. I was reminded of that game this week in the dental room. Whenever we are using the ultrasonic descaler, we put on protective gloves and a face mask and normally this takes seconds.

However, for some reason, the latest batch of masks are different from normal. Rather than elastic which slides easily behind your ears, these have individual ties, one set at the top and one at the bottom. Twice this week, one of my colleagues has come to me and asked, ‘Could you just begin this dental for me?’ and both times I have found myself putting on the latex gloves first (as I have always done in the past) and then went to put on the mask and found myself fiddling around for ages, trying to tie the bows at top and bottom. It sounds easy, but what with trying to get both tight enough so that the thing doesn’t slide off, and with my hair getting woven in, all hindered somewhat by the tight gloves which seemed specially designed for hair tanglage, I was inexorably reminded of the chocolate game as I wondered frustratedly whether the colleague in question would return before I had even managed to don the protective clothing.

I seem to have spent a lot of time in the dental room this week (not all of it getting myself tied in knots). Dagny called me in yesterday as she had decided the dog she was working on needed to go on a drip. Irene came to help me to put in the i/v catheter and both of them watched with some sympathy as I doused the leg in alcohol and then started doing the traditional ‘my fingers are nipping’ dance where you jig around the room shaking your hand where the alcohol has entered a wound.

‘Is it sore?’ Dagny asked (in Norwegian you understand).

‘Yes,’ I gazed down at both thumbs which were stinging horribly. ‘I must have a hole.’ It took me a minute or two to register that both Irene and Dagny were laughing at me, and a moment longer to realise what I had said. Of course we have been in this position before, only in English and with the roles reversed. Existing in a language that isn’t your mother tongue really does lead to a lot of faux pas.

With their laughter still ringing in my ears, I set up the drip and hung it up on a hook on the wall and Dagny said something to me. Thinking it was something about getting the drip into place, I failed to turn round to look at her… only to hear a few seconds later,

‘Ahem. Sarah.’ It was that tone. The one that lets me know I have missed something. I turned round… and realised that as I had hung up the drip bag, I had inadvertently turned the spotlight out. Dagny was trying to work in the dark. Fortunately she just laughed at my expression and carried on. At least she was using the light as it was meant to be used. Later in the day, in a moment of confusion, Wivek pulled the light fitting into position against a cats jaw. This would have all been very well if she was needing more light, but as she was trying to take an x-ray at the time, it was somewhat ineffective.

The cat in question was a beautiful cat called Laila. Earlier I had gone into Wivek’s consulting room to help with her sedation. It can be difficult to get cats out of their baskets when you want to examine them, but I was amused to see that Wivek, in a continuation of last week’s singing, decided that the way to charm Laila from her cage was by chanting her name very tunefully over and over. It was at least partially successful. Laila’s head appeared as she looked outside to see who it was who was singing so beautifully. Poor Laila. It must have felt a bit like the Siren’s song: irresistibly sweet, but concluding with an injection that sent her to sleep. Though whether those who were seduced by the real Sirens woke up with beautifully clean teeth, no-one will ever know.

Marita too was thinking of a change in direction this week as she stood in theatre, removing some tumours from a dog. She had discovered the pleasure of removing lipomas (fatty lumps) from under the skin by ‘dissecting’ bluntly using her fingers. It’s amazing how efficiently a lipoma can be removed as they are usually well defined and ‘shell-out’ quite easily.

‘I feel like a messy chef,’ she commented idly as she ran her fingers around the mass. She didn’t seem particularly amused when I suggested that after she was finished, she could use the lumps to make meatballs.

This week’s picture is of Dagny suturing a puppy’s eye. The unlucky pup had been scratched by an angry cat and as you can see in the picture, Dagny used the microscope to carry out the repair to the cornea using tiny suture material that was about the same thickness as a human hair. After stitching up the breach, Dagny clipped a section of the conjunctiva and sutured a flap over the damaged area both to protect it, and to carry blood to the area, which has no natural blood supply. The flap will be left in place for at least six weeks. Dagny’s final act was to inject some fluid into the front of the eye to make up for that which had leaked out. The whole process was utterly fascinating. Best of all though, without such care, the pup would have definitely lost one of her eyes. Hopefully this operation will give her a chance to grow up with both.

Specialist eye instruments (tiny scissors and forceps)
Specialist eye instruments (tiny scissors and forceps)

 

Jan-Arne and the Well Preserved Eye

Intravenous catheters can be frustrating things. When I was working in the emergency clinic, almost every patient we admitted had to be put on a drip, so back then I got quite good at inserting them. Nowadays it seems a bit more hit and miss. There’s a definite pattern though. If I’m on my own, generally I can get them in without too much problem. Under the benevolent gaze of Magnificent Magne or Jan-Arne, it’s usually not too difficult. But both Dagny and Wivek make the thing look so simple that I seem to go to pieces whenever they are watching. Dagny doesn’t even have to be watching. She only has to be in the room for the difficulties to take effect.

Early on Tuesday morning, Dagny had all her kit laid out for an operation and (tactfully) wasn’t watching me in my attempts, but stood chatting to one of the other staff. The dog was a dachshund, and its legs were so short, that even after I had shaved quite an extensive area of its foreleg, its body hair was so long that it obscured almost everything. With shoulders that were becoming decidedly tense already, I selected the smallest possible catheter and took aim. Slipping the stylet through the skin, I was encouraged by seeing a tiny droplet of blood moving up into the breach. Quickly, I slid the needle a nanometer further in… and the bleeding stopped. I had gone right through. Trying to keep my breathing steady, I withdrew a little, but it wasn’t to be.

I decided at that point upon a tactical withdrawal. Often it is better to start again with a fresh catheter, which can’t be blocked and hasn’t been blunted by its first traverse through the skin. Selecting a slightly bigger catheter (sometimes this works better as they are less flexible) I set the tourniquet back in place to raise the vein and once again tried heroically to keep the hair out of the way with the final two fingers of my left hand whilst still stabilising the vein between my finger and thumb. This time, the catheter went into the vein, but when I tried to slide the sheath down off the stylet, it just bent. Through all of this, Dagny had been carefully not watching, but I could tell she wanted to get on. I confess I was relieved as she finally elbowed me out of the way and did it herself. A few moments later, with the catheter triumphantly in place, she looked around for the laryngoscope so that she could put the tube into the trachea for the gaseous anaesthetic but it wasn’t there. Ever efficient with her cleaning, Irene had already tidied it away.

A little later, and another dog, this time a little pug dog (or mops, as they are called here). This one was having its corneas treated with the cryoscope. Marita came into the room and began to ask Dagny about the freezing effect, and how strong it was. Ever the scientist, Dagny thought it would be a good idea to try it on herself. She held it against the back of her hand for a moment.

‘It’s not sore,’ she announced airily, and moved the tip to a different place with a smile.

‘Ouch!’ A moment later, she was staring at a white mark on her skin- ‘Okay,’ she admitted ruefully, ‘Maybe it does hurt.’

Jan-Arne managed to injure himself this week as well.  On Wednesday, he had taken a biopsy and opened up the small container filled with formaldehyde that would preserve the sample while it was sent to the laboratory. With an aim that he presumably couldn’t recreate, even if he tried, he managed to drop the sample into the pot in such a way that some of the formalin splashed up into his eye. After much salt water washing, he was packed off to the doctor’s to get it checked over. Fortunately there was no permanent damage.

He has though, been evilly trying to tempt me with birthday cake all this week. He brought in the leftovers on Tuesday. Heroically I managed to resist. I’m not really sure how many birthday cakes one person needs, but he seems to have been very well supplied. Then again, he’s so generous to everyone that he deserves good things in return.

IMG_4813

The remnants of the cake were still there on Thursday, but I confess I found it much easier to abstain. Also, someone had brought in a pack of freshly baked boller. Boller are widely available in Norway. They are a kind of sweet bread roll or bun, often with raisins or chocolate chips inside. These ones had bits of Smash: chocolate with caramel and salt. After taking one and eating it, Irene announced that she had discovered a new taste sensation. Jan-Arne and I, both foodies, were looking at her very intently.

‘I had a piece of the boller with a bit of cucumber,’ she said, with wonder in her voice. ‘It was lovely.’

There was wonder in my head. Specifically I was wondering whether such a combination could possibly be delicious or whether Irene had finally lost the plot. I hadn’t come this far with my resistance to eating extraneous sweet things lightly however, and somehow I managed to curb my enthusiasm towards this idea.

‘You could design a new boller,’ Gerd offered. ‘An Agurk Boller.’ (Agurk being Norwegian for cucumber).

‘A Cucumboll?’ suggested Marita.

‘What’s English for boller?’ Irene asked.

‘Bun,’ came the reply.

And so the CucumBun was born. At least it will be, when someone takes the time to make it.

 

Todays picture is Chika who was in for her first vaccination.