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Vet Stories: Sometimes things happen
03/07

I had been working for a good 6 months or so in my first job…

With the careless arrogance of youth, I thought I was a pretty damn fine vet. I had heard horror stories from other vets, young and old, but never thought that I might be caught up in any such thing. Sure, a few pets had died on my watch, but there was nothing I could have done to save them – they had been really severely injured, or poisoned, and there was next to no chance – no matter what anyone did. I was sailing through the days, working hard, stressed by the pressure of so much work, but doing pretty well with it all, or so I thought.

We had a lovely old vet nurse – she had been a human nurse for years, and was very skilled. She bred Shitzu dogs, and they were her life. She lived alone, the dogs were her family. We had become good friends over the time I had worked with her. She called in on her day off.

“My little dog has been labouring all morning – and she might have been last night, too, Though she was fine when I went to bed at around 10:00. She looks tired, and I’m worried about her. What do you think I should do?”

“Bring her straight in so I can have a look at her.” I said. (It’s never a good idea to sit on these things, especially if the dog is not looking well.) About 5 minutes later she pulled up at the door, and I checked her dog over. She was in distress, and had a huge puppy stuck, so the only option was to do a caesarian. I was the lead vet, and the other young vet who worked there was assisting. I got her premedicated, and then slipped the anesthetic into her vein, got her intubated, and stabilised on gaseous anesthetic on the operating table. I asked my offsider to get a catheter into her vein and to start fluids running in straight away. In the mean time, we were clipping up and prepping as quickly as we could. Time is the essence in a caeser!

Only 10 minutes or so later, I had gloved up, draped up, made a generous incision, had the uterus out and was extracting puppies as quickly as I could. The stuck one was dead, but we had 4 live ones, all nice and strong. Then, as I was starting to stitch up, the little dog went still. Her heart stopped. We tried everything- adrenalin, resuscitating her, you name it, but we couldn’t bring her back. The other vet had never gotten around to getting the IV fluids up and running (I was angry about that, but couldn’t really say much).

Our lovely old nurse was heartbroken, and at the same time she could see that we had done our best. I was shattered for weeks, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I should have, or could have done. It was one of the hardest things ever to happen to me in practice.

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