Tag Archives: Humour

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.

Smil

Beike came in last week to have his teeth cleaned. For those who aren’t aware, Beike is my friend Marian’s dog, a handsome Border Collie with a passionate love of balls and Frisbees. That’s him at the top of the page. Beike, Marian and I often go walking together and so I know him well. I think most vets would agree it’s more difficult treating an animal that has become a friend, whether it is an acquaintance from outside work or a long-standing patient that you have got to know over time. Anyway, I was nervous before he arrived and there was no escape because Marian had specifically requested that I treat him.

He went to sleep very quickly and we soon had him through in the dental room. The dental room is one of my favourite parts of the clinic. I’ve never worked in a practice with a dedicated dentistry area, but it undoubtedly makes for better treatment, both for the vets and for the animals. There is suction ventilation to remove the spray from the ultrasound descaler, excellent lighting that can be manoeuvred into position so you can see right into the mouth, polisher and drill, as well as more dental instruments for removing teeth than I have seen anywhere else. There’s even a specialised x-ray machine.

Anyway, back to Beike. The only complication was that he had a broken tooth right at the front of his mouth. In fact, if you look at the picture at the top of the page, you can see it. Happily for me Wivek was available to help. As well as wonderful facilities, Tu clinic has the best veterinary dentist I’ve ever come across. The more I get to know Wivek, the more impressed I am. She seemed very quiet to begin with, she never shows off, and yet she knows an incredible amount. If I read up about anything I can talk to her, and she is still ahead of me. Anyway when it comes to removing teeth she is second to none. I began to loosen Beike’s tooth, but as usual I came to a (literally) crunching halt. Wivek came to the rescue and very patiently worked away until, as if by magic, she produced the intact root. I, of course, was watching carefully. It’s great to learn new things!

After Beike’s teeth, it was nearly time for lunch. Every Thursday lunch is laid on and we have a practice meeting so that SBL can tell us all that we’ve been doing right and wrong. This week it was car parking. Apparently we are supposed to park down the side of the building, leaving the spaces in front for the clients. I kept my head well down at this point of the meeting because since arriving I have invariably parked my car in one of the prime sites. I have always stayed away from the doorways. I had worked out that when people had to take their sleepy animals to the car, it was better they could park there. But other than that, I have shamelessly avoided that difficult, overcrowded corner where all the staff seemed to leave their vehicles. Not any more it seems.

The meeting always ends with the Ukens Smil (The Week’s Smile). This is when the staff get to thank each other for favours done and congratulate one another for their achievements. There’s a little box in the staff-room with a hole in the top, and when someone does something nice, you write your thanks on a piece of paper and slip it into the box. Every Thursday the compliments are read out for everyone to hear. The person who gets the most smiles gets a packet of chocolates, conveniently named “Smil”. Incidentally, Marvellous Magne, whose English is good, but not as good as the vets who studied in English has never read my blog and therefore was wholly unaware of the extent of my evilness. He finally discovered last week that I had given Dagny the nickname, Scary Boss Lady. Since then he seems to have been Smil-ing rather a lot!

And finally, as promised two weeks ago, I attach below photographic evidence of the chicken-head ritual. There has been speculation that these events are part of contemporary Norwegian culture, similar to their habit of filling highly flammable wooden houses with candles each Christmas, or the more localised Jaeren farming custom of blasting liquefied animal dung into the air whenever washing is hung out to dry. However my personal theory is that this particular activity is related to Norse mythology, more specifically to Thaw, Goddess of Deep-Chilled Poultry. Irene has now gone on holiday and is sunning herself in Thailand amongst the mosquitos. If only it had been Turkey….

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Laden Bin and the Exploding Tomato

It’s holiday time here in Norway. Irene has been away two weeks, Boss Lady was off last week and next week Magne will go as well. It seems almost unthinkable, for me with my British mindset, for the two practice partners to be away at the same time. In the practices I worked for in the UK it would have been inconceivable for even two of the vets to vacation simultaneously, nor was anyone ever allowed to take more than two weeks in a row. The attitude here is quite different in all areas, health work seemingly included. The local car-workshop shuts for a month. Even the Thai take-away van in our village, which potentially might have had a roaring trade with all the campsites locally, has disappeared. Family and holidays come before trade and profit. Four or five weeks off in a row is normal and none of the businesses seem to have broken.

In the meantime, things are going on in the practice more or less as usual. The practice is busy, but not (to me) unbearably so. I spent most of yesterday sedating dogs and cleaning their teeth. I am gently sliding into doing consultations without ever setting out to do so, though the computer system remains a mystery and all my cases so far have been chalked up to other people. There are happy cases and sad ones. Euthanasia is always difficult. Jan-Arne asked yesterday whether it ever got any less emotional, and I had to reply that for me it hadn’t. I still routinely find tears in my eyes, even after twenty years. There are funny cases too. Yesterday a dog came in because its owner was worried about some lumps on his abdomen. Turned out they were nipples. Cue mixed relief and embarrassment on the part of the owner and laughter all round. As Jan-Arne said, it’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last.

On the assistant/nursing front, I continue to be busy. I haven’t mentioned it before, but Kari Anna is in the latter stages of pregnancy, and I am trying to learn as much as I can before she disappears. I can now carry out the early-morning room-checks before most of the vets arrive, and cleaning and sterilising the instruments has become routine. Some things continue to take me by surprise though. Periodically there is a problem with the bins. With all the waste, and especially with all the cardboard delivery boxes, there never seems to be quite enough space for all the rubbish. By the end of the cycle everything is starting to burst out of the top. A while back, Gerd had said something to me about hopping up on top of the paper-bin to squash down the contents. I dismissed this suggestion. I presumed that I had misheard, or misunderstood, or even perhaps this was a joke where she hoped I would climb up there and she could laugh at the naïve Scot who believed that anyone would really climb into a bin. So when Kari Anna suggested it again this week, I presumed the joke was continuing. To my horror, when I just laughed, she pulled up a wooden pallet and shinned up it. Before I knew what was happening, she was stomping around on top of the cardboard. I was petrified that she might fall and something awful might happen to the baby, but fortunately she made it down safely. Next time she suggests it, I’ll be up there like a shot.

Thursday’s communal meal is a highlight for me. There’s something very positive about getting everyone together in a room in a relaxed atmosphere and discussing how things are going. I’ve joked before about Norwegian attitudes to health and safety, but there is an injustice there; though safety may not be at the top of the agenda, health often is. The foods widely served in workplaces and schools seems to consist of brown bread, salad and fruit and a selection of toppings for the bread: cold meats, smoked salmon, eggs and cheese. There is some risk however, in even these innocent-sounding foods. Last week I popped a whole cherry tomato between my teeth and when I bit into it all the seeds exploded from my closed mouth all over the table. Luckily only Wivek and Dagny witnessed the ugly mess. Scarily, Dagny asked “What are you doing Sarah?”, but Wivek just giggled.

Yesterday there was a fly in the staff room. Most of us had eaten already. It was filled rolls this week for a change, and only one and a half remained on the unfolded cardboard box. After watching it for a moment as it took off and re-landed on Magne’s lunch, Kari Anna got to her feet, fetched a decorative orange and black fly swat from the kitchen and returned to the room with narrowed eyes. The evil-one was sitting at this point on the flattened cardboard a few inches from the food. A devastating flick of Kari Anna’s arm and there remained only a black full-stop adhering messily to the box. For a few long seconds, we sat there looking at it, and for a brief moment I thought it was just going to stay there, but Kari Anna retreated and came back with some paper towel and, efficient as ever, wiped it away. Just remind me never to get in her way if she’s carrying a whip.

Always Wet in Norway

And so we have returned from our wanderings in Denmark and the UK. I will upload some holiday photos shortly. We arrived home in a rain-storm very late on the 6th of August. Allegedly there had been warm weather the whole time we were away, but despite exhaustion from our journey, undisturbed sleep was impossible due to the most incredible thunderstorm I have ever (mostly) slept through. Periodically I was awoken by an explosion of thunder (it only rumbles when it’s a long way off; when the lightning is almost upon you the sound is like the crack of a shotgun) so loud and so brief that it felt the house was under siege. I was vaguely aware that it seemed to be going on for hours. The full extent of the attack only became visible in the morning when dawn dragged the world into some kind of daylight. The field behind our house was under water, and there was a river flowing through the farm that hadn’t been there before.

A new river.
A new river.

Remarkably the cellar was still dry, but as the water rose it started to fill. Unlike Noah we were unprepared, so instead of relaxing and gradually unpacking the car, we spent the day removing everything from the cellar that we could shift in time. The washing machine, freezer and fridge all had to go. Most of the food, the bottles of wine on the lower shelves, all the tools and batteries and drawers full of debris, and still the water was rising. The neighbouring village had been evacuated. We were told this when we went to ask the neighbour if we could move our car onto higher ground. We didn’t know if we should try to get out but most of the roads were blocked anyway. Eventually, some time in the afternoon (five o’clock came round while I thought it was about lunchtime) the fire-brigade arrived and started to pump the water out of the village, over the main road and down into the lagoon beside the beach. Later still, a small fire-service van made its way through the water at the side of the house and knocked on our front door. An unnamed neighbour had informed them our cellar was flooded. Could they pump it out for us? We were immensely grateful, both to them, and to the unknown neighbour who had bothered to let them know our plight.

The view from the front door.
The view from the front door.
The wonderful fire and emergency services.
The wonderful fire and emergency services.

Various things happened while I was away. Kari Anna has had a beautiful baby boy. That much I was expecting. After my return, on Facebook on Sunday there suddenly appeared photographs of Irene dressed mysteriously as a bride. Strange, I thought, because when I went away she had no holidays booked. Monday morning there were pictures of a champagne breakfast. I confess I was a little saddened that in the photographs of these events there was no sign of the chicken-head mask but obviously her plans must have changed while I was away and I concluded it could be a little busy at work as she would undoubtedly be on honeymoon.

By the time I returned to work on Tuesday I was, at least, fully rested, though as sometimes happens, the practice was going crazy. It’s always that way with veterinary work. Some days there are no emergencies and other days there are so many that it is impossible to fit everything in. As soon as I was in the door, Marvellous Magne, smiling (mostly I think with relief, possibly there was some pleasure there at my return but there was no time for chat) grabbed me and asked me to help him put a dog on a drip. For the next few hours I was in constant motion. All the bottles of Virkon for cleaning the tables needed to be refilled. I did them one at a time. Setting up the operating theatre, I noticed we were down to the last sterile surgical kit. As I held up the testicle that Magne was removing, my mind was working through my plan of campaign. From there I moved smoothly through to get the steriliser in action, set up the machine to distil some water, and then back to help with yet another case. It was an unusual case, a dog which probably has an insulinoma, and so it has chronically low blood sugar. It also seemed to be anaemic, and so we got permission to give the dog a small blood transfusion from a generous donor dog. Having added some blood into one vein, we set to and removed some from another to send into the laboratory to assess the dog’s insulin levels. In the meantime, Magne set up a programme of medical treatment to try to alleviate some of the dog’s clinical signs.

More cases followed, and for the first time since I have met him, Magne seemed weary. I offered to finish up his operations for him. Falling to his knees in gratitude (no not really, he’d only shatter his kneecaps which would be quite incapacitating) he thanked me and disappeared. A happy moment for me as I love surgery. To my amazement as I escaped from theatre at about one, Irene appeared, hair still tousled and highlighted as in her wedding photographs. She had got married, but for practical reasons she wasn’t going on honeymoon until next week. I was immensely glad to see her.

Thursday was much calmer and there was more time to ensure everything was up-to-date. Most of the afternoon was spent clearing some of the shelves in the Prep-Room as part of it is to be walled off to create my new consulting room (scary boss lady has declared that it is hers, but obviously it’s really for me). Every little corner that isn’t in constant use is now taken up with towels, uniforms, dog and cat food, reams of toilet paper, bottles of washing up-liquid, and some very strange unidentified instruments of torture including padded rings encased in (generally rather filthy) bandage with metal bars protruding out at strange angles and a special visor apparently for dogs. Maybe they need to be protected from the riots that regularly occur in the clinic on a Friday night. There was just one classic Irene moment. We had retrieved some boxes from the paper bin (this really is the most glamorous job anyone could devise), and stuck them back together, I was packing one box with huge soap and detergent bottles, and Irene was packing a smaller one with washing up-liquid. To fill up the remaining space, we piled in packets of toilet rolls and as she handed me a pack, she remarked, “You’ll have to stick it in yours, my hole isn’t big enough.” Luckily I didn’t quite wet myself laughing, so the rolls remained wrapped up.

At the end of the afternoon, Jan-Arne showed me his new baby: a Toyota Auris Hybrid Stasjonsvogn. It’s not quite as beautiful as Kari Anna’s new son, but I think Jan-Arne is almost as proud.Jan-Arne's car

Scary

This week I spayed Dagny’s cat. She has asked several times before whether I would commit this terrifying act, but until now each query has been a false alarm. Not so this week when this cute, fluffy being arrived in the practice looking a little afraid… with her cat in a basket. But that was Friday, and as I like things neat and tidy we should return to the beginning.

I’ve worked four days this week, Tuesday through to Friday, and I confess that I have found it exhausting. Tuesday was particularly traumatic. I can only assume that on Monday they were short-staffed in terms of assistants because though for the clients everything was still running smoothly, from my point of view I arrived to chaos. There were four kits (I counted them!) in the sink waiting to be washed, dried and sterilised. There were no sterile kits in the cupboard. There was wet washing in the machine and dry washing in the tumble drier. Crazy. And of course my job as an assistant is to clear the backlog and ensure everything is in place so that the vets can perform their duties. Obviously I have to achieve this Herculean task invisibly, and sadly unlike Harry Potter, my cloak is faulty. And so it was that Dagny came upon me dithering in the autoclave room, trying urgently to get a sterile kit ready for the operation that had arrived at nine o’clock.

I was away on holiday for five weeks. Rather too long, I suspect, as my head still wasn’t quite back in its Norwegian groove. So much so that when Gerd told me it was a dog to be sterilised, I hadn’t picked up on the fact that in Norway, “sterilised” is only used for females. This then was a bitch spay. Not the much smaller castration I had been fondly imagining. So there she was. Dagny in full serious operation mode.

“What are you doing here Sarah? We need you in theatre. We need to get the dog onto Isofluorane.”

“I’m getting you a kit. You’ll need one.”

“There’s one in Magne’s room.”

There you go you see. Still so much I don’t know. My faulty cloak is slipping as Dagny disappears and I follow. Set up the anaesthetic machine. Turn on the oxygen generator. Connect the hoses and set the correct bag in place. Switch on the blood-gas and pulse monitor. Attach the mechanism that registers the breathing and measures the carbon dioxide levels. Then test the machine to make sure there are no leaks. Fine to do so with the oxygen on 0.2. I know this because Kari Anna told me. All the same as usual and now Magne has entered with the patient. We connect her up.

“Shouldn’t the oxygen be on 2?” I’m slightly surprised. It’s not like him to ask questions. The patient is on the border: close to needing 1.2 litres per second, just below the limit. I have her on 1. She definitely doesn’t need 2. To keep him happy I turn the knob slightly and now she’s on 1.2.

And then Dagny is there and the operation is underway and I realise that although everything is working fine, I haven’t printed off the form to record the gas levels. I’m swithering again. Do I leave the room to try to get one printed and leave the anaesthetic unattended or do I stay and monitor but not record? Happily Gerd passes the door at that moment and I rush out and ask her to print one. She’s busy though. it might take a few minutes. Dagny is speaking again. I brace myself. My performance this morning has not been faultless. She’s not unkind, but it can be difficult when everything is falling about your head and searching questions are asked.

“Did you check the anaesthetic machine this morning? Was the pressure stable?”

“Yes.” I’m on sure ground here at least. Perhaps she doesn’t understand that my fluster this morning has been caused by the fact that I am utterly aware of the consequences of not being thorough. I would not allow an operation using a faulty anaesthetic machine any more than I would allow them to go ahead with instruments which were not sterile.

“Are you sure? There wasn’t a leak. Did you have the oxygen switched off?” Still on relatively firm ground, though the 0.2 oxygen is a pulse in my head. Kari Anna said so but she isn’t here to defend me. I’m on my own.

“Well there was a small amount of leakage. I had the oxygen on 0.2. Kari Anna said that was okay.”

“Well we checked it yesterday and it was definitely leaking then. We can check it again at the end. If it’s leaking, the oxygen should be up at two.” She isn’t being mean, just practical, and yet I feel like a teenager caught in some act of defiance, faced with irrefutable proof of my guilt, even though I know I have done nothing wrong. Pah to my highly-disciplined, polite, British upbringing where nothing was direct and everything was couched in euphemism.

But I had checked that machine. I had. Everything had been normal: the same as all the other times I had used it and all those times it had functioned perfectly. Not only that but the bag is full now. I can see there is no leak. Despite my personal feelings of disquiet I stand my ground and the oxygen stays as it is. It’s not as if I’m not watching the monitors after all. And then the ultimate jab of the knife as my final weakness is uncovered.

“Do you have an anaesthetic form?” I quit my dithering and run.

The mood improves. Dagny is talking now about families, food, normal things. When the operation is over I check the anaesthetic machine instructions. The pressure check can be carried out with the oxygen up to 0.3. Feeling vindicated I rush out to find Dagny and tell her.

“Oh yes,” she says. “That was all explained. Magne told me that it was a different bag we checked yesterday. He saw you reaching far back on the shelf to get that one.” Magnific Magne riding to my aid again, even though I hadn’t exactly needed rescuing. The day progresses and chaos no longer reigns. Guro has told me she thinks I am efficient.

“I didn’t know you were in charge of the washing as well as everything else,” she says. So much work. All of it invisible. Until it is left undone and then everything falls apart. The life of a veterinary nurse or lay assistant. I had always helped them out when I saw they were busy, but never really understood what they might be going through.

Wednesday was a good day. It started with helping Jan-Arne to anaesthetise a parrot. Happily I had arrived to the relative tidiness I had left behind me by the end of Tuesday and therefore I had time to read up on bird anaesthesia. Just as well because I was undoubtedly rusty. The book was reassuring; Isofluorane was the drug of choice and that was the regime that had been proposed. In place of Gerd, Leah was there behind the front desk and generously she helped me set up the machine. The parrot didn’t like men apparently. I’m not sure it really approved of me either as I wrapped it in a towel and inserted its beak into the mask but there was not much it could do. It couldn’t have gone much better. Jan-Arne was able to drain the lump on the parrot’s face and clean it out and the bird was happily back in his cage, clicking and muttering to himself as we handed him back to his owner.

By Thursday everything was so much under control that I had time to clean down the cupboards and the walls in the consulting rooms. Goodness knows what Jan-Arne (or maybe it was Dagny) had been aiming at the bin in room A. I wiped it away, wondering whether anyone would ever notice and yet feeling good about doing it. Surely it must be reassuring for the clients when everything looks clean. To my delight, I won the “Weeks smile”. Two votes, only one of them written down. “To Sarah for her skills in clipping claws”. Oh yes, I’m a talented woman! And then Dagny told the room I would be spaying her cat tomorrow. “I’m going to be talking about this for days,” she said. “Everyone must know.” She should steady on, I thought. Otherwise I might have to start calling her Lovely Boss Lady, and that just wouldn’t have the same ring about it.

Friday morning arrived and I thought for a couple of hours that it just wasn’t going to happen. Then Dagny arrives looking glamorous as she does in her non-working clothes. The cat is glamorous too, with its basket all covered in bows. Actually it looks a little like Sophie, my cat from the UK, now residing with my mother whose cute photograph I included at the beginning of last week’s blog. Dagny’s cat is fluffier though, and much younger. “I’ll leave it up to you,” Dagny says. “I don’t want to hang over you.” And she disappears for a moment. I rush through and check with Marita for the dosage of the sedative in cats. I have it in my head for dogs now, but I haven’t anaesthetised so many cats. She and Jan-Arne help me. Thank goodness everyone is so patient with me this week. For some reason I have been asking for help all week and everyone has been fantastic. Seamlessly I return. As does Dagny. So much for leaving me to it.

And then the cat is on the table and I am gloved and capped. The scalpel blade is in place and suddenly everyone in the practice files into the room, fascinated by this incredible event. No pressure then! I start to cut. The hole is bigger than I intended but there’s no going back and happily as I cut through the peritoneum, the ovary pops into view, to audible amazement from the audience. It isn’t always so easy, but I try to look nonchalant, though I am given away slightly by my not-quite-steady hands.

“You don’t need to shake,” Dagny says with a laugh. She always knows just the right thing to say! Happily the operation goes smoothly and within a few minutes it’s all over. The room is empty again and after spraying the wound and applying some Mepore, slowly I begin to tidy the theatre and wash everything down. Well some things just never change.

And for those who can’t speak Norwegian, the banana featured at the top of the page says “Have a good day.” It was sitting on the table when I arrived on Friday and I couldn’t resist its smiling presence.

All the Wrong Words

Back to my normal two day week this week, and Tuesday was a good day. Irene’s working times had changed so that she was starting first thing in the morning with me. It was great to know, as I prepared theatre and assisted with the anaesthetics, that she was there for back-up, assisting the other vets and generally carrying out the other million little tasks that sometimes get pushed aside. Whenever I escaped from theatre I found her clearing and re-organising everything. I haven’t been able to find the scissors since, however this seems a small price to pay when everything looks so beautiful. Actually there is another downside to tidying things away. After Irene and I so carefully piled all the toilet rolls into boxes and put them in the cleaning cupboard a couple of weeks ago, someone else couldn’t find them. Assuming we had run out, a whole new enormous batch was ordered and now the clinic is swimming in them. Still, at least all our bottoms will be clean and shiny at all times and that is always important.

I’ve had two comments this week on my use of the Norwegian language and the first of them came on Tuesday. As I said, that day things were well under control. Free to pursue my aim of ensuring everything was perfect in the operating theatre, I felt I was entirely ready on Tuesday afternoon for the dog that was coming in for a major operation on its leg. The anaesthetic machine was on. I had investigated carefully and found the correct instruments, I had additional suture materials and extra swabs. I had pain-killers all worked out and drawn up, and I even had the gentamycin at the ready in case they wanted to use some antibiotics at the surgical site. Imagine my frustration then when Dagny looked through the window in the door and said, “Oh, there’s no cushion and pad.”

I confess I was annoyed at myself. All the complicated stuff complete and I had forgotten something utterly basic. I couldn’t help myself. ‘Unnskyld,’ I muttered as Dagny loaded herself up with the items and strode into theatre.

As she heard it, she turned round. ‘You shouldn’t say that,’ she said.

‘Um…. what?’

‘You don’t need to apologise. You’ve been busy all day.’ Ah! That old thing.

‘But I have to apologise all the time,’ I explained. ‘I’m British.’ She just laughed.

Thursday was an interesting day. For months there have been suggestions that I should start to consult, but frankly I’ve been putting it off. There’s something very freeing about not having ultimate responsibility for cases. I know when I became a vet, that was one of the hardest things to come to terms with. However Irene, in her new role as Scary Boss Lady Junior had decided that the appointments needed tidying up as well as the prep room, and so in order to allow for additional appointments, she made me my own list. Admittedly it had only two vaccinations on it but it’s a start.

And on Thursday afternoon, I had more feedback on my Norwegian usage, this time from Wivek. In my head, there is this enormous enthusiasm for helping people. And so when asked for assistance, instead of just saying ‘Yes,’ or ‘okay’, I often use the word ‘Sikker’. Now ‘Er du sikker?’ translates roughly as ‘Are you sure?’ and therefore, in my mind, when asked for help, I was enthusiastically agreeing. And so it was left to Wivek to very gently break it to me that when you say ‘Sikker’… it’s pretty much equivalent to rolling your eyes and saying ‘If I must.’ Obviously as I am beginning to see clients now, it is quite important that I don’t make such an error. But how excellent that for all this time I have been quite inadvertently rude to Dagny so often. And I wonder whether that is why Magne has so many little smiles when I agree to help him. I always thought it was just because he liked me. Still, from now on, at least I know the difference. And perhaps, so long as she doesn’t read this, I can go on saying it to Dagny for a while. And then I can have some little secret smiles of my own!

And finally, somehow or other, I managed to miss the fact that last week was Guro’s last before she went off on maternity leave. One of the sad things about not working on Fridays is that I don’t always realise when important things are happening. Anyway, I’ve missed you this week Guro, and I wish you all the best for the coming weeks and months.

Build

This week has been dominated by the construction of the new consulting room. The prep room has been unusable, partly due to dust, but more because of the noise. The crack of the nail gun causes immediate heart failure; I was only affected once or twice, but Jan-Arne died on several occasions. Marita also kicked the bucket in the dental room and I pointed out that in English this would be funny. For some reason, by the time I had explained that “kick the bucket” is an irreverent euphemism for dying, the hilarity was lost. Some things just don’t translate.

There has also been a rash of flank cat spays. Both Jan-Arne and Wivek had a go and the results looked very neat. As usual, the bubbling enthusiasm for trying new things is infectious. Scary Boss Lady’s cat, to my relief, was quite okay after last weeks operation, however Dagny, despite sharing the enthusiasm for new things, feels that except for nursing mothers, she will continue to use the traditional method as she can operate so quickly and cleanly already.

Somehow or other, I won the Smil again, partly because I had helped people with cat spays, but also for my anaesthetic skills on exotic pets and my apparent ability to hold onto cats that aren’t so very keen on being injected. I would love to feel I was an expert at cat-wrangling, however having seen British Veterinary nurses undertake this most dangerous of sports, I know that my skills are only a pale imitation of the real masters.

Irene spent Thursday defrosting the fridge in the kitchen. At some point, without me really noticing, an iceberg about the size of Mont Blanc had appeared in the left hand corner. So smooth and shiny was its surface that somehow I had believed it was an unusual curved part of the back wall, though what that says about my powers of fridge observation I’m not really sure. Still, armed only with a hairdryer and an enormous pile of incontinence pads, the intrepid Irene set forth to crush this enemy of refrigerator space. There was a moment of mystery half-way through when a small yellow Tupperware tub hove into view. After a few moments of frenzied hot-air, it was recovered but its content was sadly unidentifiable.

As I’ve said before, it’s never boring working at the clinic. Thursday afternoon was spent building some Ikea shelves. Dagny told me during lunch that she wanted my help. This sounded hilarious to me, because the Norwegian verb for assembling furniture is “skruer”. Again I tried some of my merry British wit by suggesting that after lunch I would be screwing with the boss, but nobody noticed. It actually fell to Leah and me to put the cabinet together and she is obviously very handy with a screwdriver. Sadly this is her last week for this summer, though she will be back at Christmas. Dagny commented during this process that I was always very quiet. I explained politely that while my brain was working, my mouth stood still, meaning that the translation process exacerbates my usual quietness, but someone else in the room (I think it was Jan-Arne, but I would be happy to be corrected) pointed out that the reason I was so quiet was because Dagny was always talking so much that I couldn’t get a word in. Of course the real reason, as I have probably said somewhere before, is that I like to live by the traditional maxim “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”. It’s definitely a good ploy when you are working in such a crazy environment.

Dagny preparing to spay a cat by the traditional Norwegian method.
Dagny preparing to spay a cat by the traditional Norwegian method.

A Little Bit Crudie?

This week saw my return to work after three weeks off following my operation. I was delighted to be back. There is so much more humour at work than on the Jeremy Kyle Show. Having checked all the other rooms were stocked, I found myself in Magne’s, where as happens every now and then, he asked me a question about an English word he had come across.

‘What does crude mean?’ he asked.

I found myself wracking my brains over that one. It definitely depends on context. Crude oil and crude humour are rather different. Both imply that the things they describe are unrefined, but that word carries almost as many difficulties. We discussed crude oil (because that one was easy to explain) and of course, being me, I had also to try to explain crude humour. ‘A bit rude’ doesn’t really cover it. Finally I think I got through when I told him that farting jokes would be a good example.

Of course, none of this got us any further with translating his medical text. I asked him if he could clarify, but when he said ‘it said that the cells were crude or something,’ I was more confused than ever. Finally he found the text and it described the cell collection technique he had used as ‘a crude method for detecting oestrus’ so finally we were able to get to the bottom of it.  As ever though, Magne, when presented with a new word, and especially one attached to humour, was unable to drop the subject. He spent the rest of the morning asking me. ‘Is that a bit crudie?’ ‘Is this a bit crudie?’ Of course Scary Boss Lady then wanted to know what we were talking about. She asked me whether my humour in this blog was a bit crude, so I pointed out that mostly I wasn’t crude. I was just rude and mostly to her. She seemed happy with that.

Thursday morning’s computer check revealed that I had a patient coming in to see me at 9a.m. Lucy was to have her claws clipped under sedation. Her owner had asked to see me… the first time that has happened here. I was delighted, especially as Lucy is such a lovely dog.  It all went very well. My only failing was to forget to ask to photograph her before she went to sleep. She was just waking up when I took the photo at the top, but I think she’s gorgeous.

Despite being very happy to be back at work, there were some complications. I’m not supposed to lift anything for six weeks so I had to ask other people to do all my heavier tasks. Gerd carried the water distillation container, Marita carried the reagent box from the blood biochemistry analyser, Irene carried the big soap bottle and put away all the dog food. We have a new nurse as well who started on Monday, Jacqueline, and she helped too. She’s been in the practice before, and so she knows her way around. Really I was very well looked after. Despite all this, I found myself quite sore by lunchtime on Thursday. Realising this, Dagny sent me home. She keeps trying to pretend that she is only worried that I will take more time off, but really I can see through the disguise.  I was hugged by Marita and Jan-Arne too and Irene wished me ‘God bedring’ (Get well soon) before I left. Really it’s lovely to be back.

Tornado Tawse

It was Jacqueline’s turn to earn herself a new nickname this week. Irene and I were standing discussing something (something very important you understand, we would never stand around gossiping) when something whizzed past us so quickly that it was almost invisible. My eyes tried to follow, but the thing moved so rapidly that I wasn’t able to focus. Fortunately Irene’s younger eyes were more efficient.

‘It was Jacqueline,’ she said with a smile. ‘She’s just so fast all the time.’

I couldn’t help but grin. ‘That’s true,’ I said. ‘The only way you can tell if she’s been there, is because everything  is suddenly tidy.’

‘Yes,’ Irene agreed. ‘Everything sparkles after she’s whisked through.’ And so Tornado Tawse was born.

But by now there was a sad look on Irene’s face. ‘When do I get a nickname?’ she asked. ‘Nearly everyone else has one.’

‘What about Scary Boss Lady Junior?’ I said, but she shook her head.

‘It has to be something like Magne’s, you know, starting with the same letter.’

‘You mean something like Impetuous Irene?’ I said. She looked at me suspiciously.

‘What does Impetuous mean?’

I thought about that for a moment. I didn’t know the Norwegian. ‘Well, jumping into things without thinking about them. Kind of crazy and wild.’

At this point there was a disturbance of the air, and we realised that Jacqueline was hurtling past. ‘Hey Jacqueline,’ I called out. ‘What’s impetuous in Norwegian?’ (Jacqueline is Norwegian, born of British parents, so she is bilingual).

Jacqueline stopped, but after a moment’s thought, she admitted that she didn’t know either.

‘Why?’ she asked.

‘We’re trying to think of a nickname for Irene. Something starting with ‘i’,’ I said.

An evil grin spread over Jacqueline’s face. ‘Irritating?’ she offered. ‘Irrational?’

Irene’s eyes widened as she glared at Tornado Tawse. ‘How about Irresistible?’ she said. ‘Incredible? Inspiring?’ I was glad to see she was smiling again.

‘Actually,’ I said. ‘I think that Impestuous Irene, is my favourite.’

‘What does that mean?’ she asked.

‘Absolutely nothing,’ I replied. Personally I like it. It may be a made up word, but it definitely suits her.

Thursday was a whirlwind day. It started quietly, and I had time to clean both the dental room, and the lab before the first operation, which was a cat spay of Marita’s. It turned out to be rather a difficult one, as the chest was quite deep and the ovarian pedicles were tight and so I scrubbed up to hold everything out of the way so that she could tie them off safely. It all went very well.

After we had finished, I saw a beautiful English Setter going into Magne’s room, and something made me follow. There then followed an interesting history taking session between Magne and the owner, which I managed to follow almost in its entirety, despite the fact that both were speaking quite quickly. I also, to my pleasure, came up with the correct diagnosis. The pleasure was only related to my diagnostic prowess, however. From the owner and animal point of view, it wasn’t great news because the lovely dog was suffering from pyometra. For those who don’t know, pyometra is an infection within the uterus. In some cases this is obvious because pus is discharged, but in some cases the cervix is closed and there is an internal build-up, and that is particularly risky as there is a chance of rupture. Magne and I took the bitch through to the ultrasound machine, and Wivek came and confirmed the diagnosis and measured the size of the uterus, which was quite distended.

I was unsure whether Magne would have time to go ahead with the operation immediately. Dagny wasn’t there, and she normally assists, but as the dog was already sedated, it was better to go ahead. I considered offering to operate alone (with Jacqueline to monitor the anaesthetic) but as it is normal here for two vets to work together on such operations, I didn’t want to risk anything going wrong. I’ve done many such operations alone in Scotland, but they were quite a long time ago now.

Anyway, after only a short consultation with the owner, and with Gerd, Mellifluous Magne announced that he would go ahead with the operation. He asked me to get the patient prepared while he saw his last patient of the morning, so with Jacqueline’s help I put in a catheter, set up a drip and intubated her. Jaqueline had set up the anaesthetic machine, and very smoothly everything was set in place.

The operation went amazingly well. I repeated my actions of the cat spay, holding everything out of the way for Magne to tie off the ovarian pedicles, and the enormous uterus was removed safely. All that remained was for me to stitch up, and Magne seemed delighted with that too.

After lunch, I helped Marita with another cat spay. It’s an odd thing. Normally a bitch pyo would be a complicated operation, and a cat spay straightforward, but not on this day. Cat spay number two was very unusual. Again I scrubbed in as Marita was having difficulty locating the uterus, and between us, we eventually managed to find what seemed to be the left ovary, which looked cystic. Odder still though, there was no uterus attached. We called Dagny through, just to make sure, and for a moment, my heart was in my mouth. If she immediately pulled out a normal uterus, I was going to look rather stupid, however she only found the same thing as we had, so after a brief discussion, she told us to go ahead and remove the one ovary that we had found. It was very unusual. There had been no sign of a scar on the midline when we went in, and after the operation, we carefully felt the cat’s flank, but there didn’t seem to be a scar there either. Anyway, after I had sutured the second cat-spay, it was time to go home, and I collapsed into my car tired but happy after a very busy day.

It only remains to say that the Julebord (Christmas party) is tomorrow. Irene, Jacqueline and I are all getting together for a beauty session. Irene always looks stunning, so I’m relying on her to do me proud. Hopefully there will be some photos to share.

Belated Bacon Powder

As some of you might have noticed, I didn’t blog last week. Sadly, last Friday I was on my way to Scotland for the funeral of my much-loved father-in-law. Among the sadness however there were some bright moments. On Sunday morning with the official ceremonies behind us, we paid a visit to the Barras Market which was fascinating. I loved it, but felt utterly out of place: a real tourist in a land I couldn’t fit into, and I couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like to be a part of that culture. Still Monday brought us back to Norway and to normality, and although for a moment I felt a little homesick, the return to work steadied me, as it always does.

Now and then at work, someone will bring in home-baking, and last week I decided to take in some scones (recipe here). I took in strawberry jam, and squirty cream to eat with them, and they went down very well. Jan-Arne, of course, who is as fascinated with food as I am, said that he had heard about scones, and that he had expected them to be much drier. I suspect that whoever told him about them probably had eaten one when it was a bit stale, because of course, they don’t last long.

‘So how do you make them?’ was his next question.

I explained that you used flour and baking powder, and then rubbed in some butter and brought it all together with milk, but I could see his face cloud over, and his next question really confused me.

‘But what makes it rise?’ he said. Before I go on, I should explain that in Norway, the self-raising flour that I took completely for granted when I was in the UK just doesn’t exist here. For almost all baked goods thicker than biscuits*, you use baking power, so it seemed almost impossible that he hadn’t understood.

‘Well, the baking powder makes it rise,’ I said, and his face suddenly cleared.

‘Oh!’ A long drawn out sound. ‘That explains, it. I thought you said bacon powder,’ and he went off into his trademark giggle.

At this point Wivek arrived and asked what we were laughing about, and so we explained. ‘We’d probably all get a rise if she had used bacon powder.’ was her rather dry comment.

I don’t remember so many outstanding cases from the past two weeks. I know that last Thursday, Perle, the dog in the picture at the top of the page was booked in for a possible operation to relieve a build up of fluid following cruciate surgery, but that when she came, the situation was beginning to resolve and so the op was cancelled. That meant that my normal morning anaesthetic duties were out of the window, and as there were a few rooms that needed cleaning, I decided to get on with them. After sorting out the kennel room, the lab, and the x-ray room, I was walking towards consulting room A with my bucket, when Jacqueline, who had been clipping the claws of a dog for Marita came out of the dental room and yawned widely. It really was that kind of morning.

Of course, nothing is reliable in vet practice, and despite having hours of time in the morning to clean, I shouldn’t have been surprised when mid-afternoon, at the time when if I was working in an office I might be winding down for the last half-hour of the day, an emergency operation arrived and as everyone else was busy, I rolled up my sleeves (well metaphorically. In reality, I donned a surgical gown and gloves) and got on with it.

Thursday this week was quite quiet as well. Lucky for me, as I am trying to get up to speed on everything before I start officially consulting next week. Years ago, I was so used to my job that almost everything could be done on automatic pilot. I would say the same things over and over when I admitted an animal for an operation, and I knew exactly which drugs I would choose for a typical skin infection or diarrhoea case. Although I have re-learned a lot of things since starting work, I also (because I have done it all before) am aware of how many things I don’t remember. In the UK, it is common to have all the tablets and medicines in the practice, so if you are a bit stumped about dosages or applications, you can just pop through to the pharmacy and read the box. Here, almost all the drugs are provided via a prescription, so you have to know where to look everything up, and even when you do, it’s all in Norwegian, so it doesn’t only take a second to read, as it would have done before. No doubt once I start, it will all begin to come together, but just looking at it from the outside, it is a tiny bit daunting. I don’t really have any real uncertainty that it is the right thing to do though. It’s time I was properly back in harness.

As part of the learning process, I did get to spend some time in consulting rooms with my colleagues, and late on Thursday I found myself practising writing up the computer in Jan-Arne’s room. He had just micro-chipped a cat, and idly he started to run the scanner over his own neck.

‘Wouldn’t it be weird and alarming, if I were actually to find something,’ he said idly. Picking up one of the unused chips, still in its covering, he held it up to my back and scanned it so that the machine beeped. Of course, having seen him picking up the packet, I knew he was just messing around, but even as I watched him, I saw a mischievous look come over his face.

‘Where’s Marita?’ he said. ‘I want to see how she reacts.’ Of course, Jan-Arne in this mood is irresistible, and barely able to supress a giggle, I followed him. We couldn’t immediately find her, but sticking our heads into the prep-room, we saw Jaqueline sitting at the computer.

‘Why don’t you try it on her,’ I whispered to him, but he shook his head.

‘She’ll never fall for it,’ he said. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would really, but still always ready for some fun, I continued to follow him until he tracked Marita down, sitting in the office beside reception, looking at the computer. Sidling up behind her, he waved the microchip reader at her and ostentatiously started to scan himself.

‘Wouldn’t it be weird if I found something,’ he said, his face completely deadpan. Then without asking, he started to run the scanner over Marita’s  neck and back, and I watched as he slid the chip up into place and ran the machine over it. Marita’s face was a picture as she heard the beep, and for a moment it was obvious she really thought he had found something, but as she turned, she caught site of the package in his hand.

‘Uh!’ she rolled her eyes at him and laughed ruefully and I must confess that what impressed me most about this whole scenario, was Jan-Arnes unerring instinct for playing pranks to maximum effect. He really is a fun guy to be around.

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*I have been told by a friend from Texas, that what I call a scone is called a biscuit where she lives, and that the thing I call a biscuit, she calls a cookie, so if the whole of the recipe discussion is incomprehensible in your part of the world, I can only apologise.