Tag Archives: Jan-Arne

Shameless

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

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

AAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaargh!

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

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

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

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

Here he is:

Jan Arne and pig

That’s him on the right….

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

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

Blissful Ignorance

Sunday this week: a lovely day, and the day I had arranged to go out and “see practice” with Jan-Arne. I had been hoping to do this for a while, but it had proved difficult to arrange. In the event I ended up seeing only one patient, though Jan-Arne did all that he could to drum up some additional business, first by telephoning the previous days clients to see if they needed a follow-up call, and secondly by driving me around the entire district in a vain attempt to run over an animal (or cyclist).

The single call was to a cow with mastitis. I walked into the barn and as with the small animal clinic, had an immediate feeling of coming home. I miss farm work so much. I love the sense of peace that I experience when I am in the presence of dairy cows. These large animals are so docile; they allow us to stand so close and rarely object to being handled, except now and then when they need to protect their calves and even that is mostly done with a doe-eyed gentleness. But there is also a sense of community in farming that is so very different from city life. Years ago in Scotland, working in a dairy practice, I felt almost (only almost) as if I belonged. I wasn’t born to it, and yet as a vet there was a sense of integration. I was wanted and needed within their society, and it is that feeling of belonging that appealed to me, almost as much as the animals themselves.

There were some interesting differences. Norwegian farms are strict on biosecurity. I was fascinated to see the gigantic pair of wellington boots that the farmer’s wife brought out from a cupboard. They fitted right over Jan-Arne’s trainers and he clomped around with feet like those of a yellow elephant. I had to make do with special plastic wellington boot covers. I had the tremendous feeling that I could just walk back into that lifestyle. It all felt so similar to the old days that I could almost see myself there.

Any delusions about that were shattered later when we visited a farm where Jan-Arne was friendly with the family. We looked at a couple of their bottle-fed lambs and all the time the conversation was rattling on around me. I couldn’t follow a word and the farmer couldn’t speak any English. They had a lovely young daughter though, who kept grinning at me conspiratorially. She wanted to show us her pet lambs and tried various methods to capture them, including an attempt to entice them with some food. Afterwards, she raced around the field chasing them, a streak of pink in a pair of purple wellingtons, childish hair flying everywhere. Finally she managed to catch one, a sturdy black lamb of a traditional Norwegian breed. My biggest regret of the day was that in my haste to leave the house I managed to forget my camera. Jan-Arne very kindly offered to take some shots of the field and the child and the sheep and here they are…

Jan-Arne's Sheep 1

Jan-Arne's Sheep 2

Jan-Arne's Sheep 3

Always difficult to get a good action shot, but it was a beautiful setting on a wonderful day.

The biggest revelation occurred when we got back to the practice where I had left my car. Jan-Arne pointed to the house next door.

‘I wonder if Magne and Gerd are in there, enjoying their day off,’ he said. ‘Did you know they lived there?’

Did I know they lived there? My mind was screaming.’Magne and Gerd are married?’ I managed to croak it out at last.

‘Didn’t you know?’ He was laughing at me.

Amazing the things I fail to register. Everyone else knows presumably and maybe they just forgot to tell me, but more likely I missed it. Perhaps they stand and chat at the desk about what they are going to have for dinner. I have no idea because after so long in Norway, my brain just switches off when other people are chatting to one another. They could be talking about me, and I would remain in a happy state of oblivion.

I realised recently that this was, in many ways, a blessing. When I return to Scotland, it always comes as a shock to overhear conversations which my mind automatically processes. There are so many preconceptions based around accent and word use, instant frustration at the banalities of life. Here I escape all of that. I wouldn’t change it, even if it means that occasionally things pass me by. I wondered recently whether this must be like for a young child, having a mind that passes over incomprehensible things that don’t really matter.

When I discovered Magne and Gerd were married, it leaped into my head that I should be worried about whether I had ever said anything reprehensible about one to the other, but of course I was able to dismiss that in an instant. I just don’t have those kinds of conversations. I would love to say I have never said anything offensive about anyone, but of course, there is Scary Boss Lady. Apparently the other staff found “All Change” so amusing that they had to tell her and she read it. Since then, she has tried to convince me she isn’t scary. She even appeared one day in a poncho with the words “Love Me” woven into it. I left no doubt, she told me over a mammary tumour, that it was her I referred to. In case there was any confusion, I had clearly stated “Dagny, the scary boss lady”. She tells me that it will follow her now. Even at the Christmas party, she is in no doubt that her name-tag will read “Scary Boss Lady”. Still, she can’t have been too offended. Apparently she told her friends in the cycling club about me on a train journey. I can imagine their wide-eyed shock as they asked her, “Did she know you would read it?” Of course, I didn’t know. But I was aware it was possible, because I had already friended some of the others on Facebook. Ah well, it’s always a good idea when starting in a new job to begin on good terms with your boss!

The Girl with the Chicken Head

I didn’t have time in my last entry, but in the car on Sunday Jan-Arne told me a bit more about Mystical Magne. As well as being married to Gerd, Magne is seventy-seven years old. I would never have guessed. According to Jan-Arne, Magne has said he will only retire when he doesn’t get up and look forward to coming to work every day.

Jan-Arne himself was off work on Tuesday… which just goes to show that large animal work can be bad for you. He told me on Sunday that he was hoping for a “small colic” in a horse. You should be careful what you wish for. Instead of the minor ailment he desired, he ended up dealing with a major incident. He carried out all kinds of treatment to try to alleviate the problem, including introducing a large-bore needle into the caecum to allow the gas to escape. At one point he was trying to get some liquid paraffin into the poor animal without much success. Rather than using a pump (which he felt would be unsafe for his patient) he tried to blow the solution down the tube… and landed up in a battle of rills where he couldn’t determine whether he or the horse ended up swallowing more. In addition he inhaled the stuff, and attributed the hideous cough he came down with the next day to this, as well as to a cold triggered by staying up half the night in his shirt-sleeves battling to save the horse. He is (as yet) not very experienced, but he is determined and innovative and shows a degree of dedication that I admire very much. Sadly this wasn’t a story with a happy ending. The poor horse was eventually put to sleep, but Jan-Arne tried all he could to resolve the problem and had done all that was possible to alleviate the animal’s distress. Sometimes that is all you can do.

On Thursday, still sounding like a rendition of the frog chorus, he turned up at work in a T-shirt and a pair of pyjama trousers. It is possible that he felt so ill that he didn’t have time to change, but more likely he thinks it is time to start a new trend. This is Norway after all, the land of cosmopolitan chic, and whatever you feel about maroon pyjama trousers, nothing could be worse than the hip-hugging, bum-crack showing jeans and white-socks-with-sandals look that has permeated the summer fashion parade here in recent years.

In the meantime Irrepressible Irene, short of veterinary work, had decided it was time to clean the windows. It would be more fun with two she told me, and so convincing was she with her foxy grin, that I found myself outside a few minutes later with a blade in one hand and a drying cloth in the other. Round the front of the building was easy enough, though there were a few girly screams as some spider’s webs came into contact with Irene’s hands. It must be said that she is a very attractive young woman, an opinion which must have been shared by two friendly spiders (both of them named Scott [after Sir Walter]) which felt so drawn to her that they began nesting in her hair and had to be removed.

Round the back of the building was a different matter. Not only were the windows higher off the ground, but there was a foot-deep runnel running along the side of the building that meant that the step-ladder Irene had fetched could not stand flat on the gravel. So with no discernible respect for Health and Safety* (yay for living in Norway) we mounted the precariously wobbling stairs and continued our perilous trip around the outside of the building. As we burnished the final window into glinting brightness, I thought we were finished, but with her usual thoroughness she insisted we should clean the inside as well. Unfortunately for her, there was some evil condensation in between the double glazing that even she was unable to banish. There was, however an interesting ritual that I observed. I can only assume that it is a Norwegian idiosyncrasy. At one point in the proceedings, Irene donned a rather natty chicken mask and continued to climb on swivelling chairs (*see earlier note on Health and Safety) to polish the glasswork. During this mysterious ritual, Gerd even came through to take a photograph. And so, dear reader, if you are really lucky and come back next week, I may be able to share some solid evidence of this fascinating local custom. Who could possibly resist that?

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.

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.