Archive for Thursday, January 17, 2008

Vet’s day always uncertain

New Year’s Eve confirms old observation

January 17, 2008

In my profession of animal care, I am continually amazed at what unexpected animal disease or injury I may be called on to attend. Even on the last day of the year.

On New Year's Eve after closing down the shop for 2007 and having wished my assistant a happy New Year, I called my wife to let her know I would be home shortly. We, like many, had an evening of dinner with some close friends, and I was happy thinking of the prospects for seeing the ball fall.

But as I topped the Kansas River bridge, heading north into Leavenworth County, my cell phone jarred me back into my professional awareness. The caller on the other end related a dire situation in which his prize roping gelding had been gored by his own 1,400-pound bull. The damage was done and he plead with me to come quickly, as a large laceration had formed on the side of the horse's chest. Anticipating the worst, I did a U-turn on 166th street and returned to my office to retrieve the essential tools for a surgical repair. "Oh doc, by the way, this ol' boy's in a lot of pain, too. Bring something for that, he's my best friend..." I swallowed hard, as the depth of the upcoming job mounted into an uncertain future.

Upon arrival, I was happy to see my patient was in a well-lighted, dry barn. Upon preliminary examination, I could see I had some stitching to do. But beforehand, we had to make sure this 1,100 pound fellow could not feel anymore pain than he already had. I grimaced when I saw the depth of the horn penetration. It had sliced not only through the skin, with surgical precision, but the underlying muscle had been cut also to a 3/4 inch depth, as if done with a sharp blade. After liberal scrubbing and cleansing, a sedative and ample local anesthetic, I began apposing the muscle back together. Then, the overlying skin was trimmed and closed with a few more layers of synthetic nylon thread. When I drew the last stitch, we actually had the patient patched back together. After injections of antibiotic and analgesic, we placed the gelding in a nearby stall where he would likely spend the next three weeks recovering from this near life-ending trama. By the way, did I mention this all occurred over the horse's heart, so close

When I asked my client how he knew the bull had gored the horse, he looked jokingly at me. "You know, that old bull may not be here by tomorrow. I came to a conclusion, after seeing blood and horse hair on the tip of his horn."

I shook my head and whistled lowly.

After cleaning up and putting all my supplies back in my car, I returned to say goodbye to my client and his wife. "Doc, I sure thank you for coming out here tonight. You know, this horse just happens to rank only second in friendship next to this little lass next to me." he chimed in, as he winked at his wife. A warm feeling flowed over me that made me dismiss thoughts about inconvenience this call had made on my evening festivities. We arrived for dinner with our friend an hour late, just in time for ordering our meals.

In reflection of the year gone by, I smiled inside. As it all worked out fairly well, even with a little time left to have a few laughs and enjoy a great meal with those you're fond of. As the last moments of 2007 rolled down to their end, I could only look to the dawn of the new year with great anticipation. Like paddling on a good river, in my work you never know what lies around the next bend.

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