They say you are never a real vet before you incidentally prick yourself with needles, are kicked by a cow or a horse, bitten by a dog or chased by pigs.
I would say, I was never a real vet until I dislocated my shoulder on duty.
I was about to lock up the clinic after hours on a Friday evening - looking forward to a nice and peaceful weekend, curled up in my couch reading my James Herriot veterinary series book - when a truck came through the gate carrying a cow. And I was like, “Here we go again!”
Haven’t I told you guys that the bad cases are usually after hours or during the weekends
I managed to summon back two of our animal handlers to assist me with this case. I thought that we could just handle things fast and get the calf out.
But man, that case was difficult! We struggled for over an hour trying to get the calf out of the cow’s womb, doing all kinds of tricks in the book.
All its legs were tangled up and nothing was coming out. Eventually, I decided to do a caesarian section (SC).
To my surprise, that didn’t help either.
The normal SC is to cut through the skin; several muscle layers and the peritoneum that cover the abdominal organs before you can push the rumen (stomach) to reach the uterus.
But when I opened up all those layers and shifted the rumen, the uterus was so big and stuck far on the right side of the womb and I absolutely couldn’t reach to open it up.
I tell you, some cases are never the same as illustrated in the veterinary books. The pictures and diagrams look so simple and straightforward but it is never the same when you are faced with the real thing.
Before you cut a breathing animal and have blood oozing beneath the scalpel, you still won’t have experienced it.
If I tried to open up the uterus while inside, it would have just been useless and posed a higher risk of infection to the cow, because the uterus fluid would have spilled into the abdominal areas.
So, eventually, I had to close and stitch all those muscle layers and skin and it was back to square one with the calf still not delivered.
We had to go back to the first option of trying to get the calf out the manual way by pulling it through the vagina.
This time, I was even more determined to face this desperate situation. After a while, we started winning by cutting off the dead calf piece by piece.
To our shock, instead of finding one calf, the dystocia had actually been caused by twins! Imagine that. Both calves’ legs were all intertwined such that we couldn’t determine which part belonged to which calf.
By then, the cow had become tired and just fell to the ground. Since my right arm was stiff and numb, I resorted to using my left arm, which was still inside the uterus trying to manipulate the embryotomy knife to cut the stuck calves.
The next thing I heard was a popping sound of my arm as it popped out of its socket. I screamed my lungs out in pain. You can only imagine the excruciating pain of that first moment when a shoulder pops out.
My arm was still stuck in the manga when the cow fell. My guys managed to help pull it out though. It was limp and even though I always thought of myself as a ‘tough cookie’, tears ran down my cheeks. Mind you, I wasn’t crying but my tears just ran voluntarily.
Anyhow, one of the elderly animal handlers, Mr Kazandona, whom I used to call “Dr Vet by experience”, just asked me to close my eyes and the next thing I knew was him popping my shoulder back into the socket. I will always be grateful to him for being brave enough to do that.
The relief was immediate although the crisis was still not over and I had to think about the cow that was under stress and pain.
Luckily by then, the progress was faster and the guys managed to cut and pull both calves under my guidance, or worse yet, the pieces of the dead calves.
Even though at that moment my body was overwhelmed by the pain it was under, it was still incomparable to the cow’s.
As much as I needed my bed and felt emotionally drained, knowing the cow would be alright powered me with a feeling of triumph.
The joy I felt upon hearing the cow’s sigh of relief was indescribable and made my shoulder’s dislocation so much worth it.
After another dislocation of the same shoulder during an attempt to swim and twice doing some minor veterinary work, I had to undergo surgery and have it screwed up with pins.
I would say the journey to full recovery is still long but is hopefully not impossible to cover.
Being a vet will never be smooth sailing at all and for the softies, it’s even nightmarish.
So to those planning to take this route, brace yourselves as you will be welcomed by horse kicks, dog bites and some cow dung in your face. Ha!