The Reality of Veterinary Medicine
A must read for any veterinarian, pet owner, animal lover or thinking person…
by LINDSEY LANE VERLANDER, DVM
As most of you know, I recently switched jobs from a day practice and now work in a 24 hour hospital as an Emergency Veterinarian. I absolutely LOVE this aspect/side of vet med, and I wouldn’t (and don’t) want to do anything else… ever (like every other vet, I am a type-A overachieving work-a-colic). However, there are moments when I am hit with the reality of what my job REALLY is, and I wanted to take a moment and share with everyone my experience, especially in light of the recent media regarding vet med.
I walked into work this evening at 5:45pm ready for my overnight shift, and felt like I was walking into a room of chaos. I took a moment just to evaluate my surroundings and see where I could jump in and help. What I realized was: 1) there was nothing for me to do, and 2) the hospital at that moment was the reality of vet med.
*I would like everyone now to really try and picture what I am about to describe. For my vet friends, this won’t seem out of the ordinary… in fact, this is probably every day. For those that are not vets, it will give you insight into what YOUR vet REALLY does… it is not all happy healthy puppies and kittens… actually… it is UNCOMMONLY puppies and kittens…*
Sitting in the back on one of the treatment tables was a cardboard coffin with a 5 month old puppy in it, waiting to be picked up by it’s owner. This puppy had passed away during a neuter. Come to find out during surgery, that the puppy had several congenital abnormalities that were hidden from pre-op bloodwork and physical exam (every precaution to make sure anesthesia and surgery is as safe as possible), and only discovered during surgery, causing the puppy not to wake up after anesthesia. Any veterinarian will tell you that a neuter is one of the simplest surgeries that we do. We could do it in our sleep. However, unseen complications happen, and there is nothing that anyone could have done to prevent this from happening. This was an unhealthy puppy that was not going to live a long and happy life, it would have gotten very sick and died at a very young age. However, the veterinarian that performed the surgery was devastated. This was the first time this had ever happened to this veterinarian in 5 years of practice… 5 years and countless surgeries. Put yourself in this vet’s shoes for a moment: You just lost someone’s baby under anesthesia for a surgery that YOU recommended. Colleagues and even your own head tell you – This was not my fault. There was nothing that I, or anyone could have done. This happens to everyone. But your heart only feels pain and guilt and anguish for a life lost and your failure, and an inability to serve the purpose that you were put on this Earth to do: HEAL. Now comes the hard part (I know, like everything else isn’t hard enough!). You now have to get on the phone and call the owner of that puppy and tell them what happened. You get to break the news to mom, dad, and their son (the person the puppy was bought for) that their best friend is gone. You get to tell someone who is excited about playing fetch and running around in the yard, you get to tell them, I am so sorry, but your dog is dead. It puts a knot in your stomach and chest that nothing else can. It makes you sick and hurt to the deepest part of your soul. You hurt for the owners, for the puppy. You hurt because you caused PAIN.
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