Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reflecting on last week at the clinic…

Note: I wrote this the day after these appointments.
It never gets easier. You think it does because some cases don't hurt you as much. But then you get the one that breaks your heart. It never. gets. easier. 
I started writing my post early this week because I didn't want to try to write this part days after it had happened. Maybe I should be used to this by now, maybe I'm just emotional, maybe I just care too much?
About two weeks ago a favorite patient  was hit by a car in their neighborhood. It didn't appear that bad, as far hit by car injuries go. She ended up with some lacerations on her inner left leg, slight head trauma, and at the time she was not quite paralyzed but couldn't support her weight. Mya (name changed for privacy reasons, seriously there is a HIPAA law for pet patients too) had been coming in for bandage changes and laser therapy. She stayed overnight one night and by the next day she was able to support herself on her front legs, slightly on her injured leg, but her right hind leg just hung there. She still had deep pain and some reflexes. By the second or third bandage change I could tell her owners were considering euthanasia. They felt it wasn't fair to Mya to keep treating her if she didn't have a chance at recovery. To be fair we really didn't know if and/or when she would recover. They were having to help her walk everywhere. She had a special sling they used to carry her about. She started to develop pressure sores from laying on her side all the time. My vet told them if this is how she is going to be from now on he understands euthanasia but if its only a few weeks he thought we should give Mya a chance, she wasn't in much discomfort and certainly wasn't suffering. Mya was shaking it was as if she knew. I hugged her close. Her owners agreed to give her some more time, we felt she was getting a tiny bit better. 
Yesterday (monday) I came in to work and my manager informed me that we had two euthanasia's scheduled for the morning. Meh, I hate starting the day out that way but its part of the job. 
Side note: Obviously one of the hardest parts of my job is euthanasia. Sometimes when it is the pets time it isn't all that sad. Its a kind thing we are able to offer our pets when they are suffering or terminal. Another hard part is when clients don't have money and can't afford care for their pets. The worst is when we have to euthanize a pet when it isn't quite their time (I suppose that's my opinion).
The first euthanasia that day was a 17 year old cat named Peanut (named changed). We had been fighting with kidney failure with him for about a month. He hadn't been doing well despite all our treatments. He developed a sinus infection over the weekend and stopped eating. I took one look at him and knew we were doing this pet a service. One difficult situation in euthanasia is when the owners don't want to be present. We feel very sad for the pet and make sure one of us is there holding them and telling them how good they are until the end. Peanut's owners didn't want to be present so I held him. 
I understand why a person would not want to be there or possibly couldn't handle it. However myself and the rest of the team at the clinic feel that it is our responsibility as pet owners and pet parents to be there until the end for our fur babies. I know when my kiddos go I will be holding them and telling them how wonderful they are until their last breath. But I can't blame them for having to leave, its so hard to say goodbye. 
(even now I'm getting teary eyed)
The second euthanasia nearly ripped my heart out. It was my Mya. (Yeah I think I'm crying now a little) Our Doctor carried her into the back so we could place her IV catheter. Mya began shaking again, I held her and told her how good she was. There was a lump in my throat, my eyes burned, my composure dwindled. I was sniffling a little. We were all very upset but she hadn't shown any improvement and we couldn't promise them she would ever recover. Her owners felt it was selfish to keep her going if her life was going to be this way. Who could blame them? I felt I would have given her more time if she were mine, but she wasn't my dog and I didn't have to watch her struggle to move. They knew their baby, they felt it was time. I don't think Mya was ready. She was still so full of life, but who am I to argue? 
We technicians have the option to not go in the exam rooms with the doctor for this procedure. I always do. My boyfriend would probably say I'm torturing myself. I feel that I need to support my clients and patients.
I stroked Mya's fur, it broke my heart that only her dad came but in a way I was glad, if I had to look on any more sad faces (that I knew for sure reflected my own expression) I don't know if I would have been able to hold my composure. Mya's mom wasn't there to hug me, which I know would have sent me into tears.
Doctor asked her owner if he was ready. He nodded. Our vet told her she was such a good girl while he gave her the medicine. Her owner patted her and kissed her. I scratched her ears and told her she was good. And then it was over. Doctor listened to her chest to confirm for a full minute. Mya was gone. We helped carry her back to their truck, they had a special place for her on their property. 
Doctor went into his office (he was upset too) and I went into the surgery room to take some deep breaths.
Then I had to go prep for surgery.
It times like these that make me realize I can still feel this way. Sometimes when you work in this field you wonder if you begin to get desensitized. But I don't think we truly can and if you do you need to get out of the field or take a break. Some patients will affect you more than others for whatever reason. We are conditioned to deal with death on sometimes a daily basis. As unfortunate as that may be it is also an amazing gift of release we are able to offer suffering pets.
Later on in the week doctor and I discussed the cases we had. It helps sometimes to know that other staff members are as upset as you. Even though these pets aren't ours, we all care for them as if they were.   
Disclaimer: I did not know this dog or her owners from anywhere but the clinic. These are pure emotions that I feel for my patients because I love each and every single one of them (ok except maybe the ones that try to eat me, I just like them a little less). Also I don't believe euthanizing homeless animals is an act of kindness when there are other life saving alternatives available...this may be a post for next week. I do however believe if they are terminal or suffering and medical hopeless that they should be humanely euthanized. Don't get me started on the gas chambers...yeah they seriously STILL use that outdated horrible inhumane piece of equipment in several states.
All this being said, if you aren’t sure: I do love my job.


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