Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Critically Ill "Guinea Pig"

For those of you who know me I am always one who is quick with a quip, pun or wisecrack and on occasion does engage in some practical jokes. This was one of my favorites, which I pulled on one of our technicians who is now a practicing veterinarian in Wisconsin.

Late one afternoon a black cat had come in that was in a state of neglect with huge mats of hair all over it's body. As we were clipping the mats off, there was a particularly large one on the back that I removed pretty much in totality. After I had removed the mat, I was holding it up, admiring my handiwork and I stated to the technicians helping me that it looked just like a guinea pig. Which it did....the size and shape made it a spitting image of a guinea pig. It was then that a mischievous thought came to mind.

We had one technician who was a very happy-go-lucky type and found humor in just about everything, but was a very diligent and dedicated worker. As it was her day off I decided to make her the "mark" of my practical joke. So the next day, before she arrived, I set up my little joke. I took the hair mat, put it in a hospital cage and set it up like a hospitalized animal. I placed food and water in the cage, placed a towel under the hair mat/guinea pig and placed a heat lamp on the cage.

When the technician arrived I said, "Thank Goodness you are here. I just took in a critically ill guinea pig who is emaciated, barely responsive and severely dehydrated." I told her that the guinea pig was all set up in the ward with a heat lamp and needed warmed subcutaneous fluids as soon as possible. She had a very concerned look on her face as she went to get the warmed fluids. As she entered the ward she looked in on the "guinea pig" and her concern intensified. (All this time the rest of the staff is muffling laughter and are just out of sight) She felt the "guinea pig" and looked horrified as she realized there was nothing to it. She then uncapped the needle and plunged it (what she thought was) subcutaneously to administer the fluids. After running the fluids for a few moments she appeared shocked as she noticed that the fluids were running through the "guinea pig" and starting to soak the towel. By this time the staff could not stifle themselves any longer and came out of hiding, laughing. She turned and realized she had been bamboozled and of course held me responsible, which was correct. She mentioned she couldn't believe how dehydrated the "guinea pig" was and could not understand why the fluids were coming out like they were. Realizing now it was a hair mat it all made sense.

We all had a good laugh and I told her she was probably the only veterinary technician in history who had ever administered subcutaneous fluids to a hair mat. However, she did get even with me.

Many years later I was giving a lecture to the Wisconsin State Veterinary Association. By this time she had gone to veterinary school, graduated and was practicing in Wisconsin. She had the honor of introducing me to the attendees before my lecture. Well she told the story of the hair mat/guinea pig and embellished it pretty well. She finished her introduction by stating that if I could do something like that to her she doesn't know if she could believe anything I was going to say in the lecture. The audience got a big kick out of her introduction and she sat down with a satisfied look on her face.

The practice of veterinary medicine can cause you to have some of your highest highs when you are able to help a sick animal recover but also have some of  your lowest lows when you have to euthanize a beloved pet that you have tried your best to save. I enjoy the interaction with both the pets and the owners (whom I feel are the finest people as they care enough to bring their pets in for veterinary care). After all these years at Niles Animal Hospital (thirty two years this May and counting) I still love what I do. I have had friends who are now retiring (I am not getting younger myself) and have stated that they are envious of me because they knew I had always wanted to be a veterinarian  and I am still living my dream. It helps to ease the pressure and keep things lighthearted when we are able to have some harmless fun such as occurred with the hair mat scenario.

Next blog I will tell you about another trick I pulled on a veterinary technician extern who was at our hospital.


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