Another Peril Of The Profession

Dr. John Kaya
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Wednesday - May 26, 2010
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The unexpected is the spice of life.

Let me clarify that statement. Flowers received on Valentine’s Day are nice, but when a bouquet arrives on a non-celebrated day of the year, now that’s spicy. Checking in at the airport and learning you were randomly selected for a first class upgrade - very zesty. Ordering won ton min at your favorite Chinese restaurant and finding five won tons in your bowl instead of the customary four morsels is piquant indeed.

There are times, however, when the unexpected can be a different kind of spice. Allow me to share with you one of these moments.


 

It was a lovely autumn afternoon and most of the early-morning appointments went smoothly. I perused the schedule to see the nature of my next patient’s visit and noticed that it was an itchy mouse with crusty lesions on its back. I took out the skin-scraping instruments because experience had taught me that mouse + itchy skin = creepy, crawly skin mites.

Whiskers and his owner Tom sauntered into the exam room with one thought on their minds: “Help!” As Tom recounted the events that led to the office visit, I noticed Whiskers eating a robust seed from his bowl of “trail mix.” Suddenly he stopped and began clawing at his raw, crust-ridden skin. Soon I caught myself scratching my own arm as his incessant pawing became infectious.

“How much time does Whiskers spend scratching?” I asked.

“Well, Doc, he pretty much scratches all day and all night. He’s definitely lost some weight either from the added physical exertion or from the decreased amount of time spent eating.” Tom’s voice wavered in anguish. He obviously cared for his little buddy.

In order to arrive at a firm diagnosis of skin mites, I needed to obtain a skin sample from Whiskers. This involved holding him securely and rubbing a small stainless steel spatula against his inflamed, irritated skin. On a larger animal this would not be very difficult, but a squirmy mouse can pose a challenge.

As I positioned Whiskers in my hand, I struggled to keep him immo-bile for the procedure. After fumbling a bit, I got what I needed as well as an unexpected surprise. Whiskers bit my finger. I stayed calm and didn’t panic. You see, I’ve been mauled before, as it is one of the hazards associated with being a veterinarian.

As I excused myself from the room and headed to the microscope, I couldn’t help but notice the copious amount of blood dripping from my finger. Looking down, I saw blood stains on my coat and pants.


A few minutes later, the skin scrape identified the culprit plaguing Whiskers and we prepared the medication needed. Although I had continued with the pressure at my bite wound, the blood continued to flow. Whiskers must have hit an artery.

I calmly walked back into the room and assured Tom that Whiskers would soon be back to his normal self with proper medication. At this point, I couldn’t say the same about my health. Either I had lost a lot of blood or just the thought of losing the blood made me swoon slightly.

With an ice pack and five more minutes of pressure, the bleeding stopped. Thank goodness. I imagined myself rushing into an emergency room for a mouse bite. Yikes.

The unexpected can definitely add spice to your life, but what’s wrong with bland? In my opinion, sometimes it’s good to live on the mild side.

Pet Tip: All pets have the potential to bite regardless of your relationship. Be careful of the unexpected and be forgiving.

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