Animal ER is roller coaster of emotions

Published 8:47 am Tuesday, June 4, 2024

As a veterinarian, my days are often a roller coaster of emotions, challenges and occasional triumphs. Working at the Animal ER on Memorial Day was a poignant reminder of the extremes this profession can reach, filled with both heart-wrenching lows and joyous highs.
The day began with a severe emergency: two dogs arrived, both seizuring and with alarmingly high temperatures.
One dog had a temperature of 107°F and the other 106.7°F. Tragically, their owner’s third dog had already succumbed. With only one of me to manage the crisis, the staff divided to care for both dogs.
I focused on the worse-off dog first before attending to the black lab.
In a rare display of aggression for a lab, it nearly bit my hand, but Taylor intervened just in time.
The situation was chaotic, with rapid administration of narcotics, muscle relaxers and atropine.
During a brief moment of respite, I texted a friend for advice. She mentioned that organophosphates are hard to obtain now, suggesting atropine might not have been necessary. This was a valuable learning point in the midst of the emergency.
Despite our best efforts, the prognosis for the dogs was poor.
Yet, amidst this turmoil, small moments of hope emerged.
The black lab, initially unresponsive, eventually woke up, stood and urinated on his blanket. I pointed it out and the team’s cheer at this sight was a much-needed morale boost, highlighting that one of the poisoned dogs might have a chance to go home.
The day’s challenges didn’t stop there.
Two kittens, each suffering from hookworm anemia, came in and sadly did not survive.
Communicating with one of the owners who was deaf involved writing on post-it notes, adding another layer of complexity to the emotional strain.
The sight of a Great Dane in a watermelon e-collar provided a brief respite.
Despite her recent surgery, the gentle giant allowed three small vet assistants to hold her while I stapled her stitches. Her laid-back demeanor, with her tongue hanging out in the watermelon shaped e-collar, was endearing enough for a quick photo.
Breaking bad news is never easy. I had to inform two elderly owners that their pets required more care than they could provide, leading to tearful goodbyes and signed euthanasia papers. Each time, it felt like a piece of my heart broke alongside theirs.
Then came a cat, unable to urinate and so toxic that it didn’t resist the urinary catheter insertion. The relief was palpable as his condition improved, and I shared the good news with his anxious owner.
Budgets often constrain our ability to provide care.
An exotic pet needing orthopedic surgery came in, but the owner could only afford $20 after the exam fee.
To put this in perspective, I pay more for my simple breakfast sandwich and donuts to share.
This highlighted the unrealistic expectations we sometimes face, adding stress to an already demanding job.
Yet, there were moments of success too. Three dogs, recovering from surgery, were able to go home, their wagging tails a testament to their resilience and the team’s hard work.
And the next morning, I received a text from the vet who relieved me—both toxicity dogs had been sent home. This news filled me with a sense of accomplishment and joy and relief, knowing that our efforts had made a difference.
The highs and lows of veterinary medicine are a stark reminder of the emotional intensity of this profession. We encounter life and death, joy and sorrow, often within the span of a single day. Each case brings its own set of challenges and rewards, requiring not just medical expertise but also compassion, patience, and resilience.
While the emotional toll can be heavy, the moments of success, no matter how small, make it worthwhile. Whether it’s a dog recovering from poisoning, a cat relieved from a painful obstruction or a Great Dane happily leaning off the exam table, these instances remind us why we chose this path.
They are the highs that keep us going, even when faced with the inevitable lows.
In the end, veterinary medicine is not just about treating animals; it’s about connecting with their owners, navigating complex emotions and finding hope in the midst of challenges. It’s a journey of highs and lows, but one that can be profoundly rewarding.

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

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