It’s been a week for exploratory laparotomies. For those who don’t know, a laparotomy is a surgical cut into the abdomen, so an exploratory laparotomy is where that surgical cut is carried out to investigate what is going on. Despite the fact that we have many ways to explore inside animals without surgery such as x-rays, ultrasound, or even simple palpation (still a valuable tool) sometimes there is no way to be certain whether there is a serious problem without opening up the abdomen and having a look.
My photograph is of Anette, a seven year old Cavalier King Charles who was thought to have eaten part of a towel. Happily for Anette, the towel had already passed quite a long way through and Magne was able to manoeuvre what remained down towards her rectum. I was the happy person who went in to retrieve it.
It is much more complicated however when it is necessary to cut into the intestine to remove the foreign body. There is a risk of contamination of the abdomen (any leakage from the incision either during or after surgery leads to peritonitis). Hardest for me is when there has been damage to the intestine. It can be a difficult decision whether to open and remove the object or to remove the entire section of gut which has been damaged.
Removing a section is technically more difficult and there is more risk of contamination afterwards, but if the damage to the intestine is severe, it may never recover. For me, those kinds of decisions can be the hardest part of veterinary practice. There is always a tense period after such an operation before you can be sure that the animal is going to recover. I don’t know whether other vets spend so much time agonising over such decisions post-surgically. I suppose though, it is that which drives me to want to be as good as I possibly can.
Jan-Arne assisted me with two of the operations. The final one was on Wednesday and he had asked me on Tuesday whether I could come in specially for an hour or two to help him. I was delighted to do so. He is always so keen to learn new things. I was also happy because for the first time since I have been working at Tu, Charlie had taken a day off work and was able to come and see round the practice and join me in theatre.
He watched with interest and also chatted quite a lot to Jan-Arne during the process. Jan-Arne, as I have said before, works as a large animal vet sometimes, generally covering out-of-hours work such as nights and weekends. Charlie was impressed, as am I, by his unending enthusiasm. Having spent a number of years in large animal practice ourselves, it is hard to imagine relishing taking on additional out-of-hours work on top of working more full time already, but Jan-Arne genuinely loves these opportunities to work with farm animals.
I haven’t talked too much about his history, but I am genuinely in awe of the way he lives his life, making the most of everything that comes his way. He told me that in school, he always wanted to be a vet, but the careers advisor threw cold water over the idea, and his young self lacked the confidence to tackle the heavy requirements that are necessary for entry into the veterinary world.
He spent, therefore many years working in hotels, administration and marketing of telephones. In his thirties however, he was struck down by horrendous pain from a neck injury following a car-crash he had in his mid-twenties. Faced with life-threatening surgery, he made the decision that if he came through, he wanted to follow his childhood dream to become a healer of animals.
He became the first Norwegian man to qualify as a veterinary surgeon from the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Studies in Brno in the Czech Republic. Continually inspired by his dedication and love for animals, I am very proud to work alongside him and the other vets, nurses and assistants who make such a wonderful team.