Tag Archives: Marita

The Eyes Have It

It’s been an interesting and busy week in the clinic. Dagny and Magne were both away on holiday, and what with working an extra day and with not being so intensively taken up in theatre, I felt a wonderful growth of teamwork with Wivek, Jan-Arne, and particularly Marita, with whom I spent more time this week than ever before. Given that we were two vets down, and the clinic was still busy, I was pressed into more directly clinical work than usual, and although it can be stressful at times, when things go well there is a huge satisfaction in meeting the challenges and knowing that you are making things better for the animals.

Of course, as soon as Scary Boss Lady and Magnanimous Magne, the ocular specialists were out of the picture, two of the cases that came in were eye problems. The first, a handsome spaniel who had been out for a long moorland trek the day before, arrived with a very sore looking eye. He was in so much discomfort that he wouldn’t even let me look at it and the first thing I had to do was sedate him. It was then quite hard to examine the cornea, because his eye rolled down as he got sleepier and so I asked Marita to come in and give me a hand. The cornea looked to be all clear, and it was at that moment, that Connie, a student who has been helping out for the past couple of weeks pointed out that there was actually a tiny splinter of wood stuck on the white part of the eye. I was tremendously glad of Magne’s special tiny eye instruments as we clipped a tiny hole in the conjunctiva and removed it. It was wonderful to see him yesterday for his check-up looking much more comfortable.

The second case, the gorgeous seven-week-old pup at the top of the page came in on Tuesday morning. He’d had some kind of accident with his mother, and his eye had completely prolapsed from its socket. He too was in a lot of pain, and needed a full anaesthetic before we could start to try to put his eye back into the right place. Again Marita and I worked as a team to place some stitches into his eyelids before carefully sliding everything back into position. The stitches in his eye have to stay in for two or three weeks and although everything went well, we will only know for sure how much damage has been done to his eye when the sutures are removed. Happily Dagny and Magne will be back by then.

Jan-Arne has been his usual crazy, endearing self. I love the way he takes his time and gets to know the patients really well and goes out of his way to make them feel at home. I went in at the end of one of his consultations on Tuesday to find him sitting cross-legged on the floor. When I worked in the emergency clinic in Scotland, I gradually got more and more idiosyncratic and often consulted sitting down on the floor at dog level and I think he is the first other vet I have seen doing the same. I also overheard him yesterday singing back at a German Shepherd who had been singing at him. It was a beautiful duet.

And somehow, though the quiet week I had anticipated with only two or three vets consulting didn’t emerge, I still found a few minutes on Tuesday to complete the first part of a project I am undertaking with Wivek to set up a consistent anaesthetic protocol for the practice to ensure that we are completely up to date with providing anaesthesia that is both safe and provides a high level of pain-relief for all our surgical patients. Of course, as I am in Norway, I thought that it would be a good idea to provide the poster I was creating about Gas Flow Rates in Norwegian. Having showed it to Irene, who assured me it was fine, I proudly printed it out and laminated it… and then went to show Wivek. How was I to know that the word that means flow when it is water and electricity doesn’t apply to gas? And of course my assumption that if you exchanged the “c” in “maintenance” to an “s” would turn it into a Norwegian word seemed logical enough at the time. And litre… apparently the Noregians prefer the American spelling. Ah well, after six years in Norway, I am probably one of the most proficient writers of Norglish that the world has ever seen, and that is something to be very proud of.

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.

Wivipedia

Nicknames are strange things. Sometimes when you meet people, something just clicks. Scary Boss Lady and Magnificent Magne have had their names almost from the time I started working at Tu. At some point, even though I have never mentioned it in this blog, Jan-Arne has become The Whipping Boy in my head. Obviously this has all to do with the fact that I took my whip into work for Irene to use when he wasn’t calling his prescriptions through to the pharmacists and nothing at all kinky. After all, that would be a little bit crudie, and we have already established that I am rarely that. However, Wivek has very kindly outed herself this week with a new name. Marita came into the dental room to ask Wivek a technical question, and I was already there asking Wivek a technical question. Following a short and hilarious discussion about how everyone was always asking Wivek technical questions, she announced that from now on, she would be known as Wivipedia. If Scary Boss Lady is the tag we are using at the Christmas Party, then Wivek has surely earned herself a new tag as well.

I also finally caved in to the pressure bit the bullet this week and told Dagny that I would begin to work on Fridays after the New Year. As a veterinary surgeon rather than as an assistant. Oddly enough, after being so keen, she suddenly seems to be panicking about whether I will manage or not. I don’t really have any qualms on that front. After all, I’ve done it before  for years and years and at some point it did stop scaring me, and that confidence seems to have returned. The language barrier might cause a few problems, but so far when I’ve been left to it, it’s not as difficult as it seems when I’m thinking about it.

As it’s been a bit quiet this week, I have spent some time in other people’s consulting rooms (thanks Wivek and Jan-Arne for putting up with me) mangling their computer systems and generally muddling things up. It is interesting (though I can’t say it surprises me) that Wivek plays the computer system as if it is a Stradivarius violin, whilst I’m still plucking away on an ancient school instrument with a chipped veneer. The system is not at all instinctual. There are random buttons for all sorts of things scattered all over the screen, so to perform any particular function, you have to know where the correct button is. Even if you manage that, there is normally a pop-up box which asks if you want some modification. They are all in Norwegian, which would be fine if they said “Save” or “Are you sure?” Unfortunately they say things like “Are you treating this in reception with a new appointment and ten prescriptions?” or “Will you add some fishcakes to the filing system?” ( I suspect I may have got that slightly wrong, but that’s about how much sense they make for me) and so even when I triumphantly click on the correct function button, I end up confused again. Still, there are a few weeks to go before I have to go it alone, and even Jan-Arne tells me that Irene had to keep correcting things for him in the first few weeks, so maybe she can do the same for me.

This weeks picture features Marita as she is cleaning Luke’s teeth. Luke is a gorgeous little Pomeranian… with lovely clean teeth. Smile for the camera Luke!

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Julebord

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irene, effortlessly glamorous.
Irene, effortlessly beautiful.

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

 

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

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

Suspicious Boss Lady.
Suspicious Boss Lady.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fest!

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

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

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

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

Pio
Pio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salmagundi

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

‘So how old are you now?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘What are you talking about?’ he said.

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

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

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

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

‘So I could.’ he said

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

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

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

‘Say it in English,’ I urged her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_4579

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

 

 

 

 

 

Luna and Lusi

Dagny and Magne both seemed on good form on Tuesday morning. Our first patient was a still-youngish cat with an eye that was massively enlarged by a tumour. From an anaesthetic point of view, eye evisceration can be slightly complicated. As the eye is removed, the nerve at the back of the eye can cause changes in the heart-rate and breathing, so I was keen to ensure everything was stable and the monitors were all functioning well. The eye was so enlarged, that I wondered how easy it would be to complete the operation, but happily it all went very smoothly and the wound came together well.

Much later in the day, and another lump removal, this time from a dog’s leg. As happens sometime, Magne asked me whether I would like to suture the wound after he had removed the tumour. I know he doesn’t much like the stitching part of operations, and I rather enjoy it. There’s something very satisfying about bringing everything together and ensuring the end result is as aesthetically pleasing as possible. So as Jaqueline was available to monitor the anaesthetic, I told him he could go and get a cup of coffee and I would close up for him. As I was finishing, Magne came back into the room.

‘She’s very good,’ he said to Jaqueline, ‘No-one can stitch as elegantly as her.’ I was caught between delight and humour. As pleased as I was with the compliment, I had to laugh at the word elegant because I don’t think even my nearest and dearest would ever use that term. In fact, my mum once told me that I walk like a gorilla. Still, gorilla-steps or not, I did walk out of theatre feeling pretty good.

The weather in Jaeren recently has been wild: storm following storm. My drive to work takes me along the coast and there is little shelter, so on Thursday, as another gale flung hailstones horizontally at the window, I decided I would head to work early. In the event, the road was clear, and the wind, though gusty, didn’t affect my speed much and so I drew up in the car-park some twenty minutes before I was due to start. As I dashed through the rain, I was happily contemplating a cup of coffee with Magne before work began, but as I pushed the door open and stepped inside, I was greeted by an unpleasant odour. Working in a vet practice, you get to sample a number of different smells, most of them quite unsavoury. This one I identified as diarrhoea, though as I paced along the corridor, I was alarmed to see what appeared to be a trail of blood. Even more worryingly, on closer inspection, the bright red trail was in fact the faeces that I could smell.

Entering the prep-room, I found Lusi, a black Labrador retriever, panting on the floor. Her head was on her owner’s knee. Her eyes were frantic, her body stiff. I had seen Gerd as I came in, and rushed back along the corridor, to see whether she knew where Magne was. It only took a moment to ascertain that I was the only vet in the building. A few steps back and I was crouched on the floor with the little grouping. Wivek had made a tentative diagnosis yesterday of a prolapsed disc in the spine. Lusi was meant to go to Bergen this morning for an MRI, but had become very distressed, and the bloody diarrhoea was hers. I assessed her immediately for shock, but she seemed mostly to be distressed. She already had a catheter in her vein, and my first act was to grab some Vetergesic because she was so obviously in pain.

A drip next, and as she still seemed very unhappy, I decided to give some diazepam to try to relax her. I wasn’t one-hundred percent sure that yesterday’s venous catheter (now attached to the drip) was fully functional and anyway, I wanted to take a baseline blood sample, so I felt it would be better to place a second catheter.  As she was still lying on the ground, and I didn’t want to move (and thus hurt her) unnecessarily, I ended up lying full length on the prep-room floor as I angled my head to try to get the best possible view. Not necessarily the best idea in a cream-coloured sweater. Fortunately the floor was, thanks to Gerd, now spotless again.

Diazepam (better known to the UK public as Valium) works partly as a sedative, but with spinal pain that is causing muscle spasm, it can really make a difference. As I injected, I could see her visibly begin to relax, and though she was obviously a bit disoriented, the panicky panting stopped, and her rigid muscles became pliant.  According to Gerd, Wivek was going to be in at nine, and any decisions regarding the next step would have to involve her. I waited with her for a few minutes, but as she now seemed much more stable, I was able to go and get changed.

What with the weather, and with all the distress, Lusi didn’t make it to Bergen yesterday, but spent the day at Tu with her owner. The plan was, that if she continued to be stable overnight, she would travel up today. I’ll try to provide an update when I know more.

Working with Lusi reminded me of one of the reasons I love being a vet. There are few things more satisfying than knowing that you have helped an animal that is in pain. It often seemed to me, when working in the emergency clinic, that giving intravenous pain-killers to dogs in distress gave such immediate relief that they were genuinely grateful afterwards. Often in general practice, our patients become frightened of us because they associate the vets with injections and pain, and to see the opposite effect in action, was always a happy event.

I still don’t think Lusi liked being at the vets all day, but I very much hope that she goes on to make a full recovery.

Last, but not least, today’s photograph is Luna, a Tibetan Spaniel that came in this week to see Marita. Isn’t she lovely! Have a good week.

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.

Fifty Shades of Tabby

I found myself turning into Jan-Arne this morning. At least… I didn’t suddenly find myself with a shaven head, sporting a beard and infectious giggle, but I did drop my trousers on the floor. They shocked me by leaping out of the corner when I went back to check whether the washing machine had finished, half an hour into my shift.

I confess I was distracted on my arrival at work, firstly by a broken mirror in the car-park, then by the sight of a small muculent mess by the door. Such slimy treasures are not such an unusual finding outside a veterinary practice, but obviously it needed to be cleaned up. As I was juggling the twin thoughts that I needed a brush and shovel and a bucket of water, I was further disturbed by the realisation that I had taken the last large pair of trousers from the pile. I pulled them on with a slight feeling of guilt that I might be depriving others of their comfort, but still couldn’t bring myself to shoehorn my thighs into a medium pair. It was this action that prompted the return to the changing room where the washing machine lives. As usual, the ever efficient Jacqueline had been there before me and a new load of washing was chugging round as the first lot pelted around the drier.

Returning into the fray, I came upon Marita and Jacqueline lurking suspiciously in the lab. I was able to diagnose an escaped patient, and from their relative positions, I was also able to deduce the escapee was currently underneath the sink cupboard. Happily within a moment they had retrieved the animal, which turned out to be a small, very sweet-looking cat, the first of the day’s tabbies. Having joined in with the hunt, I was happy to help Marita as she went on to spay the cat, followed by the spay of its sister, which was another tabby. Marita is getting very efficient with her cat spays. In no time at all, she had finished both, in spite of the fact that the second was a slightly more complicated operation than usual. In fact, she was perhaps a little too efficient with the first one. As I was cleaning up the second, she went and injected the first little cat with the antidote to the sedative.

It was only then that we realised that we had to put a buster-collar on her. Despite the fact that she was obviously rather flighty (as demonstrated by her excursion under the cupboards), I hadn’t seen any suggestion that she was vicious, and so I decided to make a solo attempt. It soon became obvious this wasn’t going to work. Just getting her out of her cage was difficult. Calling for Marita’s help, I struggled to get her to keep still. She wasn’t nasty. She wasn’t showing signs of anger, or trying to bite. She was just really wriggly. And she really didn’t want a buster collar on. I was most impressed with the way Marita slipped the thing into place. It always amazes me how efficient vets become at some rather unusual tasks. I was dismayed to see a pool of blood appear on the floor however, and as soon as the buster-collar was in place, I lifted her up to inspect her wound.

‘Oh, it’s okay.’ There was relief in Marita’s voice. ‘It’s your blood.’

Indeed it was. Crazy as it sounds, I too felt relief. Far simpler to wash a couple of scratches than to re-sedate a patient, maybe have to open her back up to satisfy ourselves she wasn’t losing blood internally.

My day of tabbies continued with Tommy and Britney. Tommy was feeling a bit under the weather, whereas Britney was feeling much better, having seen Jan-Arne yesterday. The flood of tabbies was only interspersed with one small pug, who didn’t quite fit the pattern, but was nonetheless adorable. And my final tabby of the day was Lille Pus, who is pictured at the top of the page. How beautiful she is with those piercing yellow eyes. She was actually Jan Arne’s case, in for a spay, but Britney had been so much better than expected, that I had some time to spare and so I was able to give him a hand.

And then my work was over, and as I went out to my car (for once actually on time) I realised that I had never managed to find the brush and shovel to remove the broken mirror from the car- park. Luckily Irene, fount of all knowledge about where everything is kept, located it tucked away in the large animal section of the practice. Of course, never one to shy way away from some fun cleaning, she accompanied me out and I ended the day dancing around, picking up bits of glass on the Tarmac with Irene as the rain drummed down. There’s never a dull moment in veterinary practice.

 

Tøffen demonstrating his buster collar for IcelandPenny
Tøffen demonstrating his buster collar for IcelandPenny

The Cat Charmer and the Messy Chef

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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