Sunday, September 21, 2008

Donuts in Hell

So, for some reason we've been hellatiously busy of late. That's fine; it means we're doing a lot of good, helping a lot of animals, helping a lot of people. And we always have a bit of a surge in clientele around PFD time; when the Permanent Fund disbursements come out, people have a little extra wiggle room in their bank accounts. We do more dentals around PFD time than any other month of the year, for instance; dental cleanings are often a sort of "maintenance" item, something that gets done routinely but often isn't immediately life-threatening, so there's some leeway on choosing WHEN you do them.

It's also true that, should something emergent occur, clients have a little financial breathing room so they can go after things they way they'd like to, rather than the way their finances might dictate at other times of the year. But even so, we've been freakishly busy. We've just hired two new vets, so you'd think that I might be less busy, as they take some of the appointments. Hasn't worked out that way, though. The workload is amplified more for the techs than it is for me, since we did NOT hire two new techs to take up the slack, so they're scrambling at the moment.

Our techs are great, and we try our best not to overwhelm them. But sometimes circumstances don't cooperate.

Friday we had a dog come in that had been in labor since the previous night. She'd produced three pups, all dead; the dog herself had once been hit by a car and had had a pelvic fracture which had narrowed her pelvis. This is something we always discuss with the owner, since in an intact bitch it might (or might not) affect her ease of whelping. In this case, it appears that it did. So, into our already-full surgery book we added a C-section. Or, in this case, a C-spay, since the owners wisely elected not to attempt breeding this dog again.

C-sections are time consuming; it's not the surgery so much - once you get the dog induced, you go like blazes to get the puppies out, so as to limit their anesthetic exposure - and because you make a pretty big incision, the spay part is actually easier than usual. What takes time is puppy resuscitation. No matter what, there's some anesthetic exposure, and by definition, if the dog needs an emergency C-section, the pups have been delayed in their delivery and are in need of help. In this case, the four remaining pups were delivered alive, and two of them responded quickly, breathing readily and warming up quickly. The other two required a lot more intervention, voiceless even after their siblings were chorusing lustily in their high, warbling cries. In between appointments I go back into the treatment area, trying to help for a few minutes between cases. Two of the pups are trying to crawl out of their impromptu bassinet, while the other two are being worked on by the techs. I pick up the two lively ones, who are starting to chill a little, having crawled repeatedly out from under their warming blankets. I snuggle them under my chin, sharing body heat. The mom is out of surgery now, still recovering from anesthetic, and I express a little milk from one of her nipples, putting the noisiest puppy on the nipple. She suckles inexpertly, still crying. Dr. N comes back and takes the other puppy, trying the same maneuver on another nipple. Well, they're not great at it, but they're trying.

I get called back up front to take appointments, and the next time I go to check, the mom is awake but uninterested in the puppies. Two of the techs are coaxing the mom to lay quietly and accept a little scritching, and incidentally also accept the pups nursing.

This actually works with surprising ease in this case; some dogs will not accept the pups at all, and others take longer to accept these strange little alien noisemakers, lined up along their recently-operated belly and sucking on them. (Some bitches, with strong maternal drive, are trying to clean the puppies before they have even woken up fully from their C-section. We like when it happens, but it's a lot to expect, after all.... the dog has been struggling for hours in labor, has been yanked out of its familiar surroundings, drugged, operated on, and then woken up in a strange hospital setting and presented with a number of unfamiliar little creatures who are demanding attention right this minute.) Luckily, though, this dog is getting the hang of it before very long, overcoming the distractions of her circumstances and starting to take an interest in her babies.

This successful outcome is quite gratifying, but it HAS thrown off the surgery schedule quite a lot. Even with four techs, it's a busy morning. Dr. M - who has a day off - happens in to the clinic for reasons unrelated to work, and ends up being roped into helping out. He spends an hour making things easier for the techs, and then makes noises about leaving again.

"Hey!" says J. "How come YOU get to leave? Here we are, in desperate need of DONUTS, and you're just going to LEAVE us here?" she demands. Dr. M, recognizing that his fate in the immediate future will be determined by pastry, wisely elects to placate the sugar cravings of the scrambling crew and returns shortly with two boxes of donuts. Busy up front, the first I know of it is when I go into the treatment area (with a dog to be X-rayed, more work) and smell the unmistakable aroma of maple glaze. There have been serious inroads made, and there are telltale traces of sugar crumbs and sprinkles on certain people's smocks. Hmm. It's 11:30 and I still have procedures to do, having been pushed back like everyone else to accommodate the C-section. I'll probably develop hypoglycemia before I have a chance to eat lunch. Hypoglycemia is dangerous, you now. I could DIE. I'd better eat a cruller while my X-ray is developing.

We keep chipping away at it, and the remaining procedures are mostly routine and relatively quick. For some reason we have a line-up of very cute dogs in, as well, so it's easy to be in a chipper mood. I defy you, for example, to walk past this pup without cracking a smile:

That's E lurking behind the pug mix. Her hair really IS that beautiful - and she's a marvelous girl, smart and funny and very pretty, as well as cheerful and calm and capable. We love our E. It's my good luck that she's my Saturday tech.

We also had The Cutest Sheltie In The World. He is also the Sweetest Sheltie In The World.

Unfortunately, the afternoon is equally as busy as the morning, so there isn't much time to enjoy cuddling our patients. It's bloodwork after X-rays after hotspot after abscess all afternoon. Around 3 p.m. E's work day is done, and she departs. Shortly thereafter, Dr. J - who hasn't had lunch yet - decides that 3:30 p.m. is better than never.

"I'm going to leave the hell-hole and go get some lunch," he says, smirking in a way that tells me he's joking about something.

"Eh?" I ask him. He smiles.

"When E left, she asked if we had it under control, and J told her 'Go, go! You'd better leave this hell-hole while you still can!' - So now I'm leaving it, too," he explains, while J chortles.

Well, I guess I can see why J was feeling shell-shocked and harried, given the day we've had. She's barely had a moment to catch her breath, and we're still not done for the day. It certainly has been a hellatiously busy day for her. Still.... it may be hell, but at least we have donuts!


MaskedMan said...

Good team - Y'all look out for each other.

AKDD said...

We try, anyway! Some days it's easier than others. Donuts usually help, though! :D Or coffee. GOOD coffee, I mean. Mmm. Goooood coffee..... maybe I need some now.... it's been a long day!

Oooh! Or today, T made us some banana muffins. They were top-drawer.

Would've been good with coffee.