Photo Courtesy David I. muir/for South Florida Times
I was sitting at my station in the treatment area working on the day’s records. The back door swung open and a Golden Retriever was brought in on a stretcher. Not a good sigh. The pet had been referred by another veterinary clinic.
The story on my new patient was he had possibly ingested a foreign body. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was also a repeat offender. His history included at least two previous incidents of foreign body surgery and removal. The possible foreign body remained to be determined. With dog’s you never know. Over the years, I have removed steak knives, coins, face towels, marijuana, and panty hose from the stomach of dogs, so this could be almost anything. I reviewed his medical records and x rays from the referring veterinarian and proceeded to the exam room to talk with the owners.
Prior to entering the exam room, I peeked through the one way window into the room. I saw two gentleman. An older stout, unshaven man wearing huge sunglasses, the kind you wear after a medical procedure, and a slightly younger, tall gentleman. I entered the room and introduced myself. The gentleman in the sun glassed responded “Hello my son.” while handing me a business card from a stack conveniently stored in his shirt pocket. I graciously accepted and scanned it. The card identified him as a priest. “This may be interesting,” I thought to myself.
After introductions with the second gentleman, we began to chat about their pet, Taylor. They discussed the two prior surgeries for the removal of a foreign body from his stomach and were very afraid there would be a third tonight. As we talked, tears began to stream from beneath the sunglasses of the older gentleman. Emotionally, he shared how much Taylor meant to him. His best friend and companion. As the tears flowed, I handed him a box of tissues from the counter. He removed the sunglasses and I noticed very fine, delicate lines of sutures just above and below the upper and lower lids of each eye. As he gently dabbed the tears from his eyes, he stated, “I am ok. I just had a bit of work done last week.” He smiled slyly and replaced his sunglasses. We discussed the diagnostic plan for Taylor and I departed to go to work on their pet.
An hour later, I met again with the Father and his friend to discuss my findings. I did think Taylor had probably swallowed something and recommended exploratory surgery. The Father began to cry again and I passed the tissues. I explained the procedure and prepared to leave to work on an estimate for the procedure, which the staff would go over along with consent forms. As the Father continued to cry and wipe his tears, the tall man interjected.
“As you develop your estimate, please remember Father is retired and lives on a limited income. Also take into consideration his contributions to the community as he is an icon within the community.” I was a bit gob smacked by the statement and replied, “Yes, it will probably be a bit expensive and I believe in being fair to people. Being fair means treating everyone the same, especially when developing estimates.” The tall man said, “You don’t understand” and reiterated his previous proclamation, like a well-rehearsed monolog. Father continued to cry. “Just damn!” I thought.
I can think of only one situation in my life in which I was at a loss for words. This was not it. I retorted, ”When you go to the grocery store, do you present Father’s business card and explain his “status” in the community to the cashier with the expectation of receiving a discount?” The tall man replied, “No.” “So why would you do it here?” I responded. My point made, I left the room. The estimate was accepted, consent papers signed, and within 20 minutes Taylor was on the operating table. As far as exploratory surgeries go, things went as expected and the patient did well. A foreign body was found in Taylor’s stomach: a red silk T back thong.
In my postsurgical conversations with the Father, he conveyed his frustration with Taylor’s third surgery and foreign body retrieval. He shared with me the two previously remove foreign bodies had also been underwear. Color, fabric, and style was not revealed. Father asked if I had a suggestion that my help prevent a fourth occurrence. My suggestion? A clothes hamper with a very heavy lid.
Dr. Pierre Bland is the owner of Dr. Bland’s Vet House Calls. He can be reached at 954-673-8579 or at doctorblandvet.com.