Tag Archives: Marita

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)

 

Jan-Arne and the Well Preserved Eye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘A Cucumboll?’ suggested Marita.

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

‘Bun,’ came the reply.

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

 

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

Miss Direction

It seems that last week in the clinic, I missed out on the exciting moment when one of our feline patients did the wall of death around consulting room A. Most of the cats here seem very reasonable, but apparently this one was half wild. It’s amazing how  much damage can be done by one cat on a dedicated shelf bombing mission. Fortunately Dagny’s arm was long enough to reach in to its hiding place behind the fridge and inject it with enough anaesthetic to calm it down.

Hair raising anaesthesia was also the order of the day earlier this week when one of the patients I was monitoring stopped breathing near the beginning of its operation. Of course with gas anaesthesia, it is straightforward enough to carry out assisted breathing, indeed on our anaesthesia course, the lecturer quite casually mentioned that it didn’t really matter whether the animal breathed itself or not as it was easy to respirate. I guess it happens often enough that it must eventually become almost routine. It has happened a few times and every single time it has been fine, but I still find myself checking and rechecking the equipment and assessing the animal in every way possible, whilst trying to look perfectly calm. Having been the surgeon in that situation, I know how disconcerting it is trying to operate and wondering all the time whether the animal is okay, and whether you should be doing something  to help. Trust is very important in those circumstances. Jacqueline has been incredibly calm before in that situation. Indeed when I asked her if everything was okay, she looked at me as if there was nothing untoward going on at all. My nerves are not as steely as hers though and I was profoundly happy when the dog woke up perfectly normally at the end of the operation.

On Wednesday I went in for my own hospital appointment. It seems that with tonsillectomy, there is a risk of post-operative bleeding and as I am attending a wedding in Scotland on the 24th May, I won’t be able to have my operation next week. They have rebooked it for Wednesday 27th May, just two days after I return. As I live an hour away from the hospital, they will be keeping me in overnight. Just as well as Charlie will be in Spain at the time. I’m glad now that I don’t have to wait any longer.

I was reminded the other night by a conversation with Wivek just how difficult it can be to get an accurate picture over the telephone and how confusing it can be when the owner has already made a diagnosis. It was Marita who was on call and Wivek was helping when they had a call from a client who told them that her bitch had a prolapsed uterus. In twenty or so years of veterinary practice, I have never seen such a thing in a dog. Plenty of cows, a couple of sheep and a very occasional pig, but never in a dog. Of course, such a conversation usually causes that lightning strike in your brain. How on earth will I deal with that? In that frozen state, it can be difficult to rationalise. So busy working out what you are going to have to do that alternative thought is banished. The reality is often that the owner hasn’t got things quite right, (in this case it turned out that the bitch had a polyp in her vagina) but I am sure I have a few extra grey hairs from this phenomenon.

Very occasionally the owner turns out to be correct. The one day old puppy I once saw with its liver hanging out really was just that. A proud moment for me when that dog reached six months of age. But more often, with hindsight, it is possible to look back and laugh, though obviously not in front of the client. Great tact was called for on the day when the owner rushed her dog into the clinic on an autumn day in Glasgow with a wound on the back leg which the lady thought had become infected.

‘It’s the wound on her leg. It’s gone all yellow.’ Dramatic hand to forehead. ‘Oh I can’t bear to look.’ Bending over the dog to inspect its leg, I was initially surprised by just how yellow it was until I realised that actually the dog must have sat down on a fallen leaf which had stuck to the slightly sticky wound. Another occasion, another panicky phone call.

‘My dog’s broken its leg. There’s a piece of bone hanging out,’ and then once again those portentous words, ‘Oh I can’t bear to look.’ On that occasion it was part of a stick of rock that was stuck to the leg. Quite how the owner had missed the fact that her dog was using its broken limb without even limping still passes me by.

My favourite story however is the apocryphal tale of the PDSA client who came into the clinic very angry. They had bought an expensive Rottweiler puppy and it wasn’t growing. It was left to the rather bemused vet to explain that the reason that the puppy was not making much progress was because it was actually a guinea pig. Somehow I have never been able to convince myself that story was true, even though I have been assured that it did really happen. Still it’s a great story, and there is just enough possibility in there to make it wonderfully tantalising. You really do need a great deal of tact to be a vet.

Today’s picture is Tiger who is in for a vaccination and is looking very fine at the great age of 16 years and 9 months.

 

 

 

Party Animals

“It’s a tough job being a vet, but you can never ruin our appetites.”

Wivek came up with this statement last week. I went in to join my colleagues for lunch on one of my days off and as I had arrived a bit early, Wivek collared me and dragged me off to her consulting room to show me a particularly unappealing case. We do get all sorts of unpleasant things in to deal with, from stinking abscesses to rabbits that are infested with maggots. Yet as soon as someone says “It’s time for lunch,” we can be immediately ready to eat. Of course, we would never leave an ongoing case that needed treatment. Sometimes, if it’s just too busy, we miss out on lunch completely. But there is almost nothing that occurs with animals that would put me off washing my hands and going off to devour whatever delight I have with me.

I do seem to have done more socialising this week than actual work. Tuesday was very quiet and Thursday was a day off for ascension day and on Wednesday night, Irene had a party. Not just any party, I might add. This was a Singstar party. If (like me about two weeks ago) you have no idea what Singstar is, it’s a PlayStation video game where two (or more) people compete by singing along to a music track. I confess that I found this concept almost as appealing as being poo’d on by an elephant with diarrhoea, but with promises of Jan-Arne’s sweet potato fries and Marita’s wonderful focaccia, I was finally convinced that there might be enough positives to make up for the potential trauma of making an absolute ass of myself.

I needn’t have worried. Having arrived unfashionably early (like about an hour before anyone else) to Jan-Arne’s party a few months back, I checked carefully with Irene what time things would be getting under way. Having been told I could get there from about seven (and help set things up) I finally managed to get out of my own front door at about eight-fifteen. Obviously I have a talent for arriving at the wrong time, whenever that might be. Still, there was much food preparation still taking place. Jan-Arne was rushing around dressed in shorts (and at one point a pair of blue light-up cats ears) trying to get three enormous trayfuls of sweet-potatoes to turn crispy. Wivek arrived with her dog Ida (pictured at the top of the page) clutching an enormous meringue base and a punnet of strawberries. Meanwhile Marita and Per Egil were bashing into the wine, presumably in a (very sensible) attempt to ensure their vocal cords were suitably lubricated to allow them to sing beautifully.

In the event, the food was wonderful. And I only managed to stay for three songs (none of them sung by me) as I had to dash off and collect Charlie from the airport. Despite my best efforts to convince him to return to the party with me, he politely declined. Obviously when it comes to being a party-animal, he’s more of a Scottish wildcat than a friendly lion.

Anyway, enough of the words. Time for some photos.

Not sure the screen was quite big enough.
Not sure the screen was quite big enough.
Mesmerising Marita. Focaccia queen.
Mesmerising Marita. Focaccia queen.
The nursing team: Kari-Anna and Jacqueline
The nursing team: Kari-Anna and Jacqueline
The Pussy Cat Doll (and Wivek)
The Pussy Cat Doll (and Wivek)
Ooooohhh... Young Maaaaan!
Ooooohhh… Young Maaaaan!
Turtally gorgeous
Turtally gorgeous
Jenny and her Australian friend (sorry, I can't remember your name)
Jenny and her Australian friend (sorry, I can’t remember your name)
Per Egil: Singing Legend
Per Egil: Singing Legend
Beautiful Ena wants to dance with somebody
Beautiful Ena wants to dance with somebody

 

The real stars of the show
The real stars of the show

 

 

 

Waltzing along

This week’s blog is going to be brief. Not only are we off to Scotland tomorrow for a wedding (Charlie has spent the last three hours on the computer writing his best-man speech) but also due to the impendingness of next week’s surgery, my brain has become as flaky as a West Highland White terrier with atopy.

Dagny’s neighbour Matilde has been in doing work experience this week. She has amazed me with the way she mucks in and helps with clearing up and holding things. I confess that when I was 14 or 15, I would probably have been too scared to touch anything without being specifically asked. She has also been with Dagny and me in the operating theatre watching some quite gory stuff. Again she impressed me by looking on with interest as Magne wielded his bone drill, rather than horror or faintness.

Of course, even my initial interaction with her showed signs of my erratic brain. I asked her on Tuesday morning what her name was, and completely forgot to tell her mine. Fortunately Dagny was there to remind me. I was trying to remember though, how introductions tended to occur back in Scotland. Here in Norway, it is a very set thing that when you meet someone new, you shake their hand and introduce yourself. Whilst this is probably very practical for most people, my available memory is now smaller than that of a fifteen year old laptop so within three seconds I have forgotten. Still, I suspect in Scotland that there might have been occasions when I could get through a whole week of work-experience student visits without them ever knowing what I was called. If they were lucky, the receptionist probably told them. Despite the readiness of the words “Sorry,” and “Thank you” on my lips, I fear that the reality is that I am just terribly rude sometimes.

Still I have been pleased to go into work this week. The (probably unwarranted) adrenaline flow over next week’s tonsillectomy has made me jumpy and there’s something reassuring about arriving in the morning and going through the consulting rooms to check the drawers whilst automatically assessing how many surgical kits are awaiting assembly and whether there is enough distilled water. Routine is my friend. As are Irene, who noticed I was quiet and gave me a hug, Wivek who is driving me to hospital next week, Marita who helped me with a dental this afternoon, Dagny, who told me to take the rest of Tuesday off after I have been for pre-op blood test and check-up, Jaqueline, who volunteered to speak to the owner of the dental so I could go home and Jan-Arne who made me laugh when I walked into the changing room and found a cuddly man there dressed only in a pair of stars-and-stripes boxer shorts. How lucky I am.

So I’m not sure whether there will be a blog next week. I will be in hospital overnight from Wednesday, hopefully home Thursday. Who knows, maybe something will happen on my ward that is so ridiculous that I can’t wait to share it with you. Au revoir mes amis. See you all soon.

 

This week’s photo is of Mika, who had been managing to lick his stitches. Hopefully his new, larger buster collar will discourage him. He is just as cute as he looks!

Touched (in the Head)

It seems like an age since I have written here. In my last post I was about to head off to Scotland. That weekend already feels like a distant memory. It was a wonderful wedding. I won’t share all the details, but just as a random sample of how great it was, here are some photos of the venue and the  wedding cake.

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The day after I returned was a whirlwind of hospital appointments and seeing Charlie off to the airport and then suddenly it was Wednesday and time for my operation. Wivek very kindly drove me to the hospital, and to my surprise (and relief) rather than dropping me in the car park, she accompanied me up to the ward, helped me find where I had to go and then waited with me until the nurse arrived. I was bundled into a bed and given some pain relief. I don’t know what it was, but somehow I managed to fall asleep and they had to wake me up to take me into theatre.

I came round a while later to be presented with some ice-cubes to suck. These were oddly soothing, but there was a horrible taste in my mouth and I remember a strange moment of overwhelming gratitude when the nurse came over to me proffering a lurid pink and yellow ice lolly.

At some point I was reunited with my mobile phone and it struck me that it might be a good idea to let my nearest and dearest know that I had survived. Having sent a boringly factual message to Charlie, I then concluded that I should also let Wivek know. I’m not sure what kind of madness seized my brain at this point. Rather than repeating the factual tone, my fingers sketched in the abstract statement ‘Ice-cubes are my friends.’ At least I think it was something like that. Having typed this gibberish, my clouded brain then decided it would be a good plan to include Dagny and Jan-Arne. To their credit, Dagny and Wivek just wrote back saying they were glad.

Jan-Arne however was obviously confused. Unlike the other two, I suspect that he didn’t have my number programmed into his phone, and faced with some random babble about ice-cubery, he rapidly texted back ‘Que?’ Followed by another message saying ‘Who is this?’ When I let him know it was me, he decided to call me. Goodness knows what I sounded like with a swollen throat and a brain filled with opiates, but it was lovely to hear his friendly voice.

At some point, the surgeon also very kindly visited to let me know that although they wouldn’t have the definitive pathology back for a week or so, there had been no sign of anything severely wrong with my tonsils. As the reason I skipped the waiting-list was that there was some concern over my history of melanoma, this was an enormous relief.

Anyway, my two weeks off raced past in a blur of writing (trying to get Ready. Vet, Go edited in time for a summer onslaught of literary agents) and Come Dine With Me on the TV. In defence of my (appalling) taste in TV programmes, I must say that I only watch such drivel when my brain and body are drained.

And so yesterday, I returned to work. I had been there less than an hour when I began to feel shaky and exhausted. Somehow, everyone but me was swamped with work and this was doubly frustrating as a vomiting cat had been booked in for me and left by the client, and despite having time to spare, without another pair of hands, I was unable to examine it. In between flurries of washing, topping up and resetting the haematology machine, I spent quite a while sitting in the lunch room feeling utterly drained, mentally and physically. I struggled most of the day, both with my veterinary work (thanks are due to Wivek and Marita, who very patiently helped me with each and every case) and with my Norwegian. At one point, I saw a very stressed owner whose dog had been hit by a car. Whilst my emergency-clinic primed brain was still ticking over well enough to asses the dog,  I struggled so much with explaining the concept of keeping an eye on the dog’s breathing that I was worried that I wasn’t managing to reassure the owner well enough that she could cope with monitoring the dog for the rest of the day.

I was also still horribly aware of the poor cat which was awaiting a full assessment. I had checked him out and put him in a comfortable kennel with some water so I knew his condition wasn’t critical, but as soon as Jacqueline had arrived, Magne had rushed her in to help him in theatre and I was beginning to wonder whether I was ever going to get a chance to examine and blood test him. I think the emotional roller coaster of the past few weeks was taking its toll, because there were moments when without logical reason, I found my eyes were suddenly threatening to overflow. It’s a long time since I have felt so oddly helpless.

Still there were a few lighter moments which kept me from being overwhelmed. Marita had two cats booked in for clipping and grooming under sedation. She appeared in the prep room clutching the wrong end of one of those evil plastic aprons that come in a roll and from the quizzical way she was examining one of the side tapes, I could tell that she had no idea which part of the thing she was gripping. It became apparent to me at this moment, that despite the fact that most of the logical and language sections of my brain were running on empty, spatial awareness was still fizzing away in a miasma of over-efficiency. I took it from her, tore away the throwaway sections and handed it back to her the correct way up.

‘What kind of IQ do you need to sort out one of those things?’ she asked, rolling her eyes.

‘Not very high,’ I responded. ‘After all I managed it.’

I think this probably demonstrates just how disconnected my brain was. Fortunately, instead of thumping me as I deserved, she just laughed and fixed me with a fake glare.

‘So are you saying my IQ is really low then?’ she demanded. In response, I just grinned rather weakly.

After the road-traffic-accident dog, I managed to snaffle Jacqueline to help me with the vomiting cat. Having tried unsuccessfully earlier to take his temperature on my own, I finally managed it with her there to help. Logic however, had deserted. Somehow I had forgotten  it might be better to blood test him first before winding him up by inserting an object up his bottom, however fortunately for me, despite turning into a wildcat with the thermometer, he reverted to sweet pussy cat while I wielded the syringe to take blood from his jugular.

Time was going on, and we were broaching the Thursday communal lunch hour. There was no meeting as Dagny was absent, but people kept urging me to come and get my lunch. Thinking that this was mainly out of concern for my health, I stubbornly sat and waited for the cat’s blood test results, and when they came through, I burrowed my head in a laboratory book to check the significance. I think I had been once or twice into the lunch room. I had started to prepare my lunch and was frankly oblivious to what was going on around me. Suddenly someone started to sing ‘Happy birthday’ and I finally looked up from my book.

‘Whose birthday is it?’ I asked.

‘We’re singing it for you,’ they replied.

I confess that, at this point, I was a million miles away, utterly disconnected from the clinic and wishing I could go home.

‘It’s not my birthday.’ I said in grumpy confusion. There was a rather long silence, filled with suppressed giggles and when I finally managed to reconnect my brain, I realised they were all  glancing between me and some stunning flowers rather obviously placed right in the middle of the table.

‘They’re for you,’ they said. The message on the card welcomed me back and said they had missed me and it was signed by Irene, Wivek, Jan-Arne, Jacqueline and Marita. Suddenly my eyes were filled with tears again, but happy ones this time. This was a gift from my friends, not an official token from the clinic and that meant a lot.

Finally, as I was leaving, Jan-Arne came up and gave me a huge hug.

‘I really missed you,’ he said. ‘It just isn’t the same when you’re not here.’

Magne appeared in the passage behind him and said something, at which point Jan-Arne went over and offered to give him a hug as well, but he was humorously rebuffed. For a moment, I considered giving Magne a hug as well as I suspected that might have been more to his taste, but somehow at the last minute, we both lost our nerve. Instead he patted me rather awkwardly on the shoulder and told me how glad he was to see me back. Despite the fact that yesterday was my worst day at work for a very long time, I am  very grateful to all my colleagues for their obstinate insistence (despite all the evidence) that I am lovely.