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Family Pet Animal Care - July 2015 - Trading Places


Family Pet Animal Care - July 2015 - Trading Places

by Dr. Michael Trapani

Difficult though it may be to believe, I am not so young as once I was. I know! How could this happen? I am just as vital and healthy (and handsome) as ever! How could I have possibly gotten… Dare I say it?  Older?

It started, as these stories so often do, on Tuesday after the Memorial Day holiday. I was receiving my usual punishment for taking a day off. The hospital phone was ringing like crazy. My patients needed care, TODAY, and my staff was busily modifying the time-space continuum to create free minutes where none had previously existed. I was living on stress and coffee. The well-oiled machine that is our veterinary hospital was running a little hot, but not quite smoking. We were making health care, and lots of it. Our little hospital was a happenin’ place.

There was this one patient, a cute older kitty, with a big intestinal mass. Her surgery had already been pushed back on account of the holiday, and that tumor had to come out today. I’d scheduled the surgery myself, fool that I am, for Tuesday, knowing it would be crazy. But what else was there to do? Tumors gonna grow, surgeons gotta cut. Kitty gotta live. Git’er done!

So there it was, a great big ugly mass, just inside the colon but involving the cecum (the great big thing cats have instead of an appendix) and the far end of the small intestine too. Cut cut, snip snip. We removed the whole big piece of tissue, then had to connect the itty bitty small intestine to the great big colon. The connection is made with a single continuous stitch that has to be done exactly right. It’s a painstaking task and any mistake means a leak, or worse, a failure of the repair and certain death for Kitty. I was in it, on it, focused laser sharp. Two hours later, Kitty is back together. All is good. I have fifteen minutes to write my records before the next patient arrives. I sat down.

That was a big mistake. Adrenalin is weird stuff. It’s easy to overlook when you’re floating in it, but when it goes away, you notice. When all the color drained from my vision, I noticed. The hospital was strangely whitewashed, which didn’t bother me a bit, or even seem unusual. Everything was just kind of foggy. I decided to stand, which didn’t help at all. I checked my pulse, but couldn’t find it. Somehow that didn’t seem quite right.

Barb called the paramedics. My blood pressure was 53 over 38. They suggested I go to the hospital. I was in no mood to argue. I vaguely remember someone plugging in an IV catheter and before long I was in the ambulance reading my ECG. “Not cardiac,” I decided, completely detached, as we threaded our way through the crazy Sebastopol drivers. At the hospital I met TJ, the ER nurse, who reads my column. He’s an excellent caretaker who made me feel comfortable and safe. By this time I’d received a liter of IV fluid — and felt fine. My lab work was all normal. ECG normal. Nothing wrong with me, no sir.

Dehydration: It’s what happens when you don’t eat or drink. We all know that coffee is a diuretic. So is stress, apparently. I’d gotten so involved in taking care of everyone else that I’d forgotten to take care of myself. That was really dumb.

I will cop to it: The heart of the problem was Ego, me thinking that no one else can possibly do what I do. I also committed the sin of Pride; not “self-esteem, dignity, honor, self-respect,”  but the OTHER definition; “arrogance, vanity, self-importance, hubris.” I am a caretaker — it’s what I do — but I ignored the first rule of care taking: Take care of yourself.

I hope that others can also learn from my mistake. We are each obligated in many ways; to our pets, to our loved ones, to all those we care for. But we cannot care for any of them if we do not first care for ourselves.

TJ is great, but save yourself a trip to the hospital. Take care of yourself. Do it for the people and animals you love. I’m going to start right now.