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MJ Wixom: Growing stronger during interesting, challenging time

In 1966, U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy delivered a speech that included “There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May he live in interesting times.’”

Like many things that we know to be true, when you look, this one isn’t quite true.

There is no evidence that this saying came from a wise, or otherwise, philosopher in China or even the Orient.

The expression was traced to 1936. Austen Chamberlain is the earliest known person to label the saying a Chinese curse.

He was the main reason the phrase is used, but he said it came from another member of the British Foreign Service who had served in China.

Likewise, the origins of COVID-19 are not as clear at this time.

From the CDC, “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).”

The COVID-19 virus probably started in bats and was spread to another animal after it mutated slightly. This may have been an endangered pangolin, which are prized for meat and the pseudo-medical quality of their scales. It may have been some other animal. From that animal, it mutated to prefer to grow in humans and we spread it.

Although there are probably other reasons not to eat undercooked bat soup, COVID-19 is likely not to be one of those reasons.

Everyone thinks that they want to be interesting.

Many times, when people learn about where I have been (Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Caribbean, Africa…) or what I have done (Coast Guard Academy, Coast Guard officer, arresting/boarding/seizing officer, sled dog vet, spayed dogs under a tarp in the African sun, KVMA executive board member, wildlife rehab, falconer, whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, bee keeper, master gardener…), they say how interesting I am or my life has been.

Indeed, even in my boring day job, I often am surrounded by interesting cases like Roxy, with viral pneumonia. Viral pneumonias in dogs are quite rare due to the widespread use of effective vaccines.

So, Roxy adds extra interest to my already interesting life.

While it is true anyone could have had an interesting life, most chose not to.

Interesting things are hard when you live them and most people choose not to endure the hardship.

If you want to be a veterinarian, take out the loans and go to school for the 10 years after high school to do it.

Want a decorated military career? Work hard to pass that entrance physical exam and then work harder to stay in. Dodge death all the times that it takes.

Fly in a bush plane to volunteer in the Iditarod sled dog race and sleep in a snow bank or work round the clock for a few days.

Whatever it takes, just do it.

Of course, not everyone has the ability to pass a military physical or be admitted to some of the programs that I have, but more often people don’t want to try. And that is fine.

Many are content to stay at home after high school, get a local job and be content.

That was not me, but sometimes I envy the ones for whom it was enough.

Today, I step up for the interesting cases that I have chosen for my life.

Roxy is critical. Bacterial pneumonia can be monitored with serial blood work and treated with antibiotics.

Roxy’s blood work is virtually normal and she must be monitored with radiographs. I must keep her alive long enough for her to fight off the disease.

Kennedy went on to say, “Like it or not, we live in interesting times.” And that is the case right now.

Almost everyone has some sort of co-morbidity or preexisting condition that makes COVID-19 worse.

I have respiratory issues. Many have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or immune systems that are compromised. Many in Kentucky smoke or vape, which adds to the risk factors.

Roxy, nor her parents, smoke, but she has heart disease.

One parent works in the hospital and is fighting to help save human COVID-19 patients, which makes me want to save Roxy even more.

I think most of us do not mind or are prepared for death.

The dying process is what bothers us.

Roxy rests comfortably on oxygen, but her parents cannot visit or see her.

Meanwhile, human plans have to be discussed. I have decided that I wish to be cremated and buried at Arlington with Matt.

A year after my death on my birthday, I would like stories in the parking lot of GAMC. My labs will need good homes.

Kennedy followed with, “They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind.”

This is where I want GAMC to be right now.

COVID-19 has shaken up our world. While that has any number of negative effects, I am working hard to make us better for it.

To say that our world has been turned upside down is an understatement. We actively have to turn clients away to protect human lives.

Things that I have spent years teaching clients that are essential for their pet’s lives, we now have to say, “yes, but maybe next month.” We do that so people can live.

We cannot invite people into our comfortable and educational space. We, like everyone else, are having to adapt.

We are here for emergencies and urgencies.

Roxy qualifies for treatment. That is also why I carry sleeping clothes and a toothbrush in my backpack. I will shelter in place at GAMC with Katie, if need be.

Roxy has been on oxygen for several days. Humans that go on a ventilator may stay on one for two weeks. Half of the ventilator patients go home. We hope that Roxy will continue to improve to go home.

In many ways, we were ahead of the curve. We had emergency planning in effect.

I don’t know that anyone ever has enough emergency funds, but we had reserves with a line of credit. We had reasonable cross training, but it has gotten a lot better.

We had just purchased an amazing monitor that allows us to monitor animals from home.

I can see heart rate, breathing and video feed of an animal in the hospital. (Last night, I tuned in to Roxy last night after a Star Trek that I had not had time to see before. I was able to see her as nightly checks were being done. Rusty checked in on her when he was up in the middle of the night.)

We had started telemed consults two days before the virus shutdowns started. We were in the process of switching our online pharmacy to a more client-friendly one.

We have done our first direct home delivery and continue our vet boxes. We are working to get emails to email receipts, education forms and reminders. We are working as a team to harness stress and use teamwork to be even better.

I didn’t ask for this and would have preferred to have bypassed it, but I don’t want us to go back to the way things were.

There are some good things that are happening from this virus.

I want to pick the best of those and incorporate them in our future care. I want to adapt in ways that make us better.

I want Roxy and all the other critical and not critical patients to live. Roxy ate yesterday, and I hope that is a good sign, but she is nowhere near ready to come off oxygen or go home.

We continue to care and worry with her parents.

German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche was right. “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” We are strong.

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566