It’s never a good time for an emergency…

At vets

Photo credit tamurray5 (flickr)

…but you can make time to prepare for one!

I’m a firm believer that planning for emergencies is one of the most important things anyone can do, for any type of situation! Perhaps I say this because I’m the founder and president of the Johnson County Animal Response Team (JoCART), and have climbed a steep learning curve to understand the ins and outs of disaster preparedness. Or maybe there’s an element of Murphy’s Law at work–if you’re prepared for a worst-case scenario, then it won’t happen!

Regardless, I felt a voice calling me to action this morning after reading a Clinician’s Brief article, Lessons Learned: Breathing Difficulty in a “Well” Cat (April 2012).  (A side note–I really love these Lessons Learned articles that spotlight a case gone wrong and what could have been done differently for a possibly better outcome. What a way to turn a negative into a positive and help others learn!) The article describes how a cat who presented for a wellness visit developed severe dyspnea, became cyanotic, and was euthanized due to a rapidly deteriorating condition. It was truly frightening to read and, like most veterinarians, I found myself wondering, “What would I have done in that situation?”

And with that, I announced to the staff that we would take advantage of this particularly slow morning we were having by running through an emergency scenario.

A short time later, one of the receptionists charged into treatment carrying a cardboard box with a lifeless toy dog inside.

“He’s not breathing!” she said.

“Here,” I said, taking the box from her and setting it on a treatment table. From there, three technicians swooped in and began assisting–one held the lifeless patient in her hands, another wheeled the anesthesia cart over and began administering pure oxygen via face mask, and another started retrieving and recording the items I was requesting. I told the receptionist to escort the imaginary distraught client to our comfort room so we could get to work.

It was hard not to feel at least a little silly “intubating” a stuffed animal, but everyone agreed that going through the motions and thinking through the different possibilities was very valuable. I loved seeing the great team work of our staff in action.

We know that emergencies come in all kinds of varieties, and they never show up at a convenient time, but I am truly grateful that this “Lessons Learned” article spurred us into action on an otherwise sleepy Tuesday morning. The cat featured in the article I read may not have survived, but thanks to the impromptu emergency response training it inspired today, perhaps we will be more ready to save a life tomorrow.

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