Some days, it feels like nothing goes as planned. Friday the 13th was one of those days.
My schedule included two prophys, a dog and a cat. I also agreed to radiograph two raptors for Operation Wildlife. I thought I might actually have some time to catch up on some projects.
The phone call from one of our technicians informing us that she was too sick to come in was our first clue that today would present some challenges. Then I was told our in-house blood analyzer was out of diluent and we couldn’t run the CBC on one of my prophys (we require preanesthetic bloodwork). The chemistries weren’t working right either, but someone was “working on it”.
The next surprise was the devastating news that a cat belonging to one of our former employees died suddenly and unexpectedly—he was found that morning under the bed, deceased. A complete mystery, upon which a necropsy shed only a glimmer of light, and hopefully histopathology will be more revealing.
By 9:30am, it was clear that an emergency surgery (gastric foreign body) needed to be worked in. My associate planned to do the surgery. My technician was finishing up taking full-mouth radiographs on my first patient, a 4-year old sheltie undergoing her first prophy. She was missing at least seven teeth, and radiographs proved that they were truly missing. But a surprise finding came up—as they tend to do with full-mouth radiographs—and I found myself looking at an unerupted supernumerary tooth. Removing it was no big deal, but between the extra time on the phone with the client and the extra time performing the extraction, my technician was delayed in getting started on the emergency surgery. We postponed the second prophy for the afternoon.
While my associate, technician and an assistant were in the surgery suite, I decided I could radiograph one of the raptors waiting for me. I weighed my options between the two—a barn owl used as an education bird that recently seemed to be holding his wing funny, and a Mississippi Kite with a fractured wing. I chose the barn owl, hoping to find something simple that didn’t need surgery. He was never going to be released to the wild, afterall—what kind of injury could he have that would need surgery? A transverse, displaced proximal ulnar fracture, that’s what. Reluctantly, I rebandaged the wing and made arrangements for the bird to come back next week to surgically stabilize the injury.
Just when I thought I should go to lunch, we had an urgent care exam walk in: a 10 lb Pomeranian that had been picked up (literally) by a much larger dog. I was delighted to see the dog wagging happily and breathing normally. But that wound on her back worried me—how far did the gap between the skin and underlying muscle reach? We agreed to keep her for further evaluation under anesthesia.
A hurried lunch later, we surveyed the path of destruction that appeared to have swept through our treatment area. The blood work for the cat (my second prophy) was done, so my technician predmedicated and began working on her. My associate, eager to help after utilizing the majority of our staff for the last several hours, helped me anesthetize and treat the wounds of my injured Pomeranian. The wounds turned out to be far worse than I expected. Her entire dorsum was separated from the underlying muscle. I placed two drains, gave her a Convenia injection, a Baytril injection, and a Metacam injection. She woke up smoothly (still wagging her tail, bless her heart). I sent her home with oral Baytril, Metacam, and tramadol, and I’ll see her back early next week.
The cat prophy was uneventful, and full mouth radiographs revealed no surprises. I wished desperately that I could help my staff clean up, but I would more likely create greater chaos and confusion by putting things in the wrong place. So I headed back to radiology to x-ray the Mississippi Kite, fully prepared to see another injury in need of surgery or worse.
Then I experienced my first good surprise of the day: the figure-8 bandage was doing an excellent job of stabilizing the fractured ulna! Not only did the bird not need surgery, but he stood an excellent chance of making a full recovery and returning to the wild! I shouted the good news to my technician. She shared in my rejoicing, then made a poignant observation as I carefully held the bird waking up from its anesthesia.
“Grace’s surgery went well and she feels a whole lot better now, too. And two pets have better mouths now, thanks to us.”
“And Rosie won’t slough off her entire back now—hopefully,” I added.
We thought the day was chaotic and would never end. But at the end of the day, we realized everything we’d done, including all the mess we’d made, was for a good cause. We were doing our jobs, and doing them well.
We survived Friday the 13th.