“Doctor Bland, we have an emergency!” Words I hear all too often. I drop what I am doing and proceed to the treatment area. As I progress towards my patient, I can hear the owners lament, “Do whatever is necessary, just don’t let Jessie die!” I am determined to do everything I can to prevent that from happening, but sometimes it is way out of my hands by the time I get the patient. I hope this is not one of those cases. I walk with a deliberate stride and purpose. Not run. Deep breaths and an open mind are the key to handling and getting through such situations. Emotions get in the way. Save them for when everything is over, good, bad, or indifferent.
My patient is an older Schnauzer who is having a seizure. I take my usual position standing over the pet with a full view of the room and start barking orders to the technicians. “Let’s get 5mg of Valium in this guy and an IV catheter. Get the oxygen mask on and flowing.” We have to get the seizures under control and have an access point for drug administration. And it never hurts to make it easier for your patient to breath. “What is his temperature?” I hear 105.0 F. This dog is on fire. Excessive muscle contractions generating body heat and a 94 degree south Florida day don’t help. Besides the sky high temperature frying his brain and internal organs, it is also impending the normal chemical reactions of the body, in short a condition not comparable with life. “Get that catheter going and give him a 25ml push of NaCl and then slow it to 15ml per hour. Get some wet cold towels and ice packs and wrap him in them. Call out and record his temperature every 5 minutes. Be sure to not the time. ”We want to bring his temperature down but not quickly we cause hypothermia. “Also spray his pads with alcohol every 5 minutes.” An old school trick from back in the day. Evaporation of the alcohol from his feet draws away heat from the body. Not a huge amount but every little bit helps. “Let’s give 12 mg of Dex SP, 10 mg Famotidine IV, make sure you have samples for a CBC, full profile, and electrolytes.” A steroidal anti-inflammatory and shock treatment plus a gastrointestinal protector. This will not be his last larger dose of a steroid and they can cause GI upset do better to be safe than sorry plus it is always good to have a diagnostic panel. The seizures are under control and the temperature is back in the normal range within 15 minutes of starting treatment. We remove the cooling equipment and begin the process of making sure stays warm and maintains a normal temperature. Things are pretty much as stable as can be expected for now but can change in a second. I thank the staff for doing such a good job. I couldn’t do my job without them and they definitely make me look good. The next step is to speak to the client: find out what is going on from their perspective, what I am seeing, doing, and think is going on and explain a plan of treatment.
I enter the room and introduce myself. The clients are a mother, and two pre-teen boys, I explain their pet is stable for the moment but there are most likely challenges to come. We discuss what happened and I provide my best interpretation as to why it happened and what we did to save their pet’s life. I answer their questions in a way they can readily comprehend and as honestly as possible. The question “Is Jessie going to die?” is asked over and over again by each family member. I take care to answer honestly that it is a possibility but we will do what we can to make sure that does not happen. After a 30 minute conversation, there are no more questions and I feel assured the family had a good understanding of the situation, the treatment plan, and prognosis of their pet. The next step is for a member of the office staff to come in and present an estimate for services rendered and future treatment cost. I explain this is about to happen and left the room. The staff member entered the room and explained the charges. When she finished, the clients asked to see me again.
The mother told me how she felt the bill was excessive in every aspect. In front of her pre-teen sons, she repeatedly told me I was “…one of those greedy Niggers who wanted to make things difficult for hardworking people.” After hearing this insult for the third time, I decided this was best left to the office staff. I had animals to treat and better things to do with my time. Besides, I was pissed off and knew it was better not to respond in kind. This incident occurred on June 18th, 2015.
We are all sadly aware of what happen the previous evening of June 17th in Charleston. In no way am I saying what happened to me is equivocal to the tragedy of that evening but I think it does share some unfortunate colorations.
Hate is insidious, irrational, and highly contagious, especially to young people. I am sure the two children who were with the client have heard and seen her fire and fury in other situations, but seeing it aimed directly at a person must have a frightening effect. Seeing such vile behavior on a regular basis normalizes it and makes it seem like a way of life. Humility and respect are the basis of civilization and when they are eroded, our world and way of life falls into chaos. Add the stresses of day to day living and we get tragedies such as Charleston. Sometimes it seems there but for the grace of God go I when it comes to being a victim or encountering a perpetrator in such heinous acts.
We can only pray that God will continue to look out for us, but it seems fools will have to look out for themselves. Be sure to watch for fools.
Dr. Pierre Bland is a small animal practitioner who offers office and house call appointments to his clients. His offices are located at 3225 N. Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL and can be reached at 954 673-8579.