Monday, September 30, 2013

New Directions

Wow, what a whirlwind this past week has been.  I maybe should have taken a little more time between ending one job and starting another, but on the other hand after 3 days of "unemployment" was literally about to bounce off the walls from lack of activity.  Anyway, after that I experienced more social activity in the past 3-4 days than I've had in the last 3-4 months.  Let me catch you all up:

Monday: finished my old job, then movers
Tuesday: cleaning service
Wednesday: carpet cleaners and landlord checkout
Thursday: met the staff at my new job
Friday: dinner with some South Carolina midshipmen, then out for drinks with their lieutenants
Saturday: regatta in the morning, football in the afternoon, out for dinner in the evening, night tour of the observatory and wine overlooking the best view in the city
Sunday: Julie and Sherrie take on D.C. (or at least one metro line, one museum, and one restaurant)

Then today was my very first day  as a small animal practitioner.  And it. Was. Great!  First of all, my commute takes me past the national monuments on the other side of the river, which is just cool.  I get to drive against traffic which makes the trip not that bad.  Everyone was so incredibly open and friendly and helpful.  They purposefully scheduled a light morning so they would have time to get me acclimated rather than just throwing me into a whirlwind.  The staff is scarey efficient and get this: doctors just do the doctor jobs, just like they talked about in vet school.

The funniest moment was finding a lab coat for me to wear since the ones they had ordered from my have not yet arrived.  The closest size they could find to fit me falls to below my knees, I had to roll up the sleeves, and you could have put another person inside the jacket.  I'm sure you can imagine the good-natured comments that were made.  At the end of the day, I feel good; I'm not tired and run-down or beaten up.  I feel excited to become more hands-on with patients as I re-learn the ins and outs of small animal medicine, and I feel hopeful about the future.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Freezer Balls

If I've learned anything in my career, it's to pay attention when the client uses the word "crazy."  Doesn't matter who or what they are talking about.  Doesn't matter if it doesn't turn out to be true or relevant.  When they say it, tune in and pay extra attention.

My first call today was a simple one.  Go neuter a 2 month old pygmy goat for a new client.  That is an awesomely easy start to any day.  Got the farm, introduced myself to the client and met George the Goat who was getting a bit too familiar with his sister.  Everything was completely fine and routine.  George was sleeping peacefully with no idea what was about to happen and I was about to begin the procedure when his owner said, "Now you're going to think I'm crazy but... I need you to save the testicles for me."

I haven't had a single person ask me to save testicles since I left southwest Virginia and I've been quite happy about that.  But, she said the magic word so I carefully replied, "Okay, that's not a problem... any particular reason?"

"Well, I know you're going to think I'm crazy but I save them until the animal dies, then bury them with the rest of the body.  I've always done that for my animals.  You can just wrap them in a glove for me and I'll take them to get cleaned up and put in their special bag."

I took a slight pause, which I felt was reasonable under the circumstances.  Then I replied, "Alright, that's an easy enough thing for me to do."  And she kept talking, and it just got better.

"When the power goes out there is always a bit of a frenzy... you know, save the balls!  It's a priority in this house."

Naturally, I had a LOT of questions, NONE of which were appropriate to ask a woman I had known for less than 15 minutes in a professional capacity.  In no particular order...
  • Are you shitting me?
  • How many sets do you have?
  • Do you realize that horses can live for over 30 years? Goats over 15?
  • Do your family and friends know you have testicles in your freezer?
  • How do you plan to explain this to your children?
  • What exactly is the special bag?
  • What if the power goes out when you are on vacation?  Do your farm/house sitters have instructions?
  • Is freezer burn a problem?
  • Where exactly in the freezer to you keep them? Hidden in the back? Tucked in the door? Front and center like a shrine? 
  • Do you thaw them out before burial?
  • Have you ever forgotten to throw them in the hole and have to dig again?
  • Do you have the pieces of your female animals too?
  • What have your other vets had to say about this?

In the end I stuck with just one, pertinent question. I began the procedure and after I cut off the bottom of the scrotum, I held it up for her to see and asked, "Do you need this part too?"

She replied, "No no, only the parts he would care about, but thanks for asking!"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Greener Pastures

I haven't written in a while because I've been very tired, very frustrated, and haven't had anything nice to say.  But things are changing so I figure I would let anyone who cares to know in on the changes.

As you all know, I have spent 3 years since graduating from veterinary school as a large animal vet.  It was what I always wanted to do and I was so excited to find a job that allowed me to actually do it, particularly in this economy. I have gotten to see and some some amazing things.  I have met wonderful people.  I will never regret taking this job, but I may regret staying this long because following the dream came with a price.

In a 2-doctor practice, in addition to seeing my share of the appointments, I have had to be on-call every other week.  For the mathematically challenged, that is 26 weeks a year.  I have spent literally (in the traditional sense of the word) half of my life on-call for the past 3 years.  I have averaged 60 hour work weeks and the vast majority of the time has been spent alone except for client interactions.  I've seen my friends and family only a fraction of the times I would have liked to, missing holidays and life events.  The most frustrating part is that... even when I'm off -call, I'm so tired that I don't do anything.  I haven't gotten involved in anything outside of work, which contributes to stress and feelings of isolation.  The few activities I have tried to be involved in haven't worked out because I never get home from work in time to go.  We won't even get into the injuries (both short term and ones that will haunt me forever) I have sustained on the job.

So decisions had to be made.  Did I continue to follow a career path that I had dreamed of since I was a child (but left a lot to be desired in the real world), or did I choose a different path.  My Uncle Rick once said, "If you don't like where you are, change it." And then I read an article called, "Success Is the Freedom to Say No".  I'm not turning down fame and fortune, but I AM saying that I have the right to enjoy my life.  To actually have a life.  That I am more than my job.  To be happy and healthy.

So I'm changing it.  I am moving to Alexandria, VA to work as a small animal veterinarian in a brand spanking-new stand-alone Banfield hospital. It was not an easy decision to leave because I feel a little like I'm letting down clients that have grown to depend on me, the people who supported me on the long journey, and to some degree I feel like I'm letting down myself by giving up on my dream just because I'm tired. But in spite of my worries, everyone has been amazingly supportive of my decision.  Family, friends, and clients alike have said they understand and many are surprised that it has taken this long for me to change careers.

I don't expect my new job to be perfect because none of them are (which is something you don't find out until you graduate.)  I know that there will still be crazy/needy clients that have to be handled with kid gloves.  I know that I won't like all the management decisions.  I know there are days where I will be tired and frustrated.  I know there will be battles I won't win.  But I also know that when I leave at night, my time will always be my own.  I know that my days off will truly be days off.  I know that I will spend my days working side by side with people as passionate about veterinary medicine as I am instead of alone. I know that I will have more opportunities to be with the people I care about, that I will not miss any more Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners.

So that's what's been going on with me.  I'm very nervous and anxious and excited.  I have a lot to remember from vet school and a lot more to learn.  I have to figure out how to dress for an inside job where I wear a white coat instead of coveralls.  I have to figure out what shoes I can wear for a full day on my feet running between exam rooms and not feel like my feet are exploding...

And I can't wait to tell you all about it  :-)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Things They Don't Teach You

Vet school is a 4-year information blitz at 100 mph from all directions.  A lot of it just sticks long enough to pass the test, some of it sticks forever (although that usually applies to useless knowledge), and the rest of it you remember it as you need to.  Unfortunately none of those things are as important as the things they don't teach you.  Such as:  
  • How to explain that all the money in the world can't fix a horse's broken leg if the horse can't walk to the trailer
  • How to explain there isn't going to be anything wrong with a 12 year old goat that can be easily fixed
  • How to convince someone that the horse that has been itching for 2 weeks can wait until morning
  • How to tell someone that you have absolutely no idea why their favorite steer kicks at their daughter
  • How to restrain yourself from cursing like an R-rated movie when an animal causes you bodily harm
  • How necessary an FM transmitter for your iPod is, because if you hear Carrie Underwood make that screeching sound at the end of a song one more time...
  • How important it is to keep your GPS maps up-to-date
  • How useful traffic reports can be
  • How to fill out federal forms that haven't changed in 50 years to the satisfaction of a veterinarian that wouldn't know a cow if it ran over them carrying a sign saying, "Hey, I'm a cow."
There are others, but now you have an idea of what I'm up against everyday.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Little Victories

Finding a gas station that doesn't have an "authorization limit" on credit card purchase.

Freddie 4-Her with the crazy steers obtaining a head chute.

Finding a granola bar hidden under some coveralls on the day you forgot your lunch.

Going to see a mare with a retained placenta and watching it release(intact) as you park the truck.

Truck trolls releasing all the pens they have stolen before you go buy a new pack.

Not having to trim alpaca nails because the shearer will be there next week.

Sick exotic that you couldn't even identify, much less successfully treat, dying before you get there.

Manicure holding up through at least one day of work.

DA surgery patients being pregnant at the next herd check.

Not having to work on my day off.

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Vision in Slime

No doubt about it: being a vet attracts attention.  For the newly initiated you might assume it has something to do with the truck.  Or the coveralls/scrubs.  Or people reliving their childhood dream of being a vet and being jealous that you actually are one.  And those reason are just adorable.  Feel free to keep thinking them, but stop reading now. 

Here are some examples of why people at the gas station are actually staring at you.
  • Shirt on inside out or backwards (Because you ran out the door at 5 a.m.)
  • Ripped clothing (Hey, at least you didn't get hurt!)
  • Stink bug crawling on your shoulder (Sneaky bastards...)
  • Large mystery bruise (That you probably don't even know is there yet.)
  • Jeans soaked with various dried bodily fluids (Don't worry, most of those stains wash out.)
  • Trying to locate the weird smell (It's you - own it!)
  • Placenta stuck to your boot (You'll figure that one out when it migrates down to the sole and makes you fall.)
  • Alpaca or llama spit on the back of your neck (Looks like dried grass... but with the smell.)
  • Blood spatter on your face (Probably from dehorning calves.)
  • Dingle-berry in part of your ponytail (Someone's been doing a herd check!)
  • Manure in your ear (Palpating... calvings... just being awake and on a farm...)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

In the Hands of Babes

A large portion of my practice is dealing with 4-H kids and their project animals.  The kids are great, the parents are always a bit of a.... challenge.  In a world of helicopter parents, it was nice to experience something different today. 

On my way to another emergency call, I got a call from a client about a sow in labor and not making any progress.  This particular client has a daughter somewhere in the middle of grade school age who has seen more than her fair share of on-farm deliveries.  The little girl has always said she wants to be  vet.

Client: "Well a it's been nearly an hour since she had the last piglet. She's pushing but nothing is happening."

Dr. D: "Have you put a hand in to figure out if there is a piglet, because..."

Client: "Well no, I wouldn't know what to do.  Oh my gosh, honey, don't do that!  What?  Ok... my daughter just stuck her hand in and says she feels feet.  And a tail."

Dr. D: "Ok, well does she think she can..."

Client: "Oh!  Doc, she just delivered the piglet!  All by herself.  She just pulled it right out of there!  If you could see this, you would be so proud of her!"

I am proud of her.  Even better, her mother is proud of her and just realized that her daughter is a very capable person. But what I really, really hope is that that little girl is proud of herself.