Wednesday, August 29, 2007

First Weekend On-call

Last weekend was my first weekend on-call. Since my normal on-call night is Thursday, when it is my weekend, I'm essentially on from Thursday night to Monday morning. As you would expect, I was a bit nervous. Strange things tend to happen on weekends, and this one was no exception.

It started with a late night call from a woman with a vomiting puppy. She had purchased the puppy earlier in the day, and -- typically -- had spent all of her money on the dog and would not be able to pay anything, even the emergency call fee. She wasn't sure if the puppy was sick before she picked her up, because the breeder had just set it on her lap and said it was "tired." After telling her I had to at least have the emergency fee before I could see the puppy, she said she'd see if she could find the money and call me back, which she never did. I certainly feel bad about the situation. I'm sure she wanted the puppy to be seen and treated. However, I can't do much without payment. Every vet I know of has been burned on cases just like this. Unfortunately, many people don't realize that veterinary medicine is a business just like any other, and we can't give out free services and products and expect to stay open. It's a bit of an ethical issue as well. I am supposed to relieve animal pain and suffering, and promote animal health. But how can I do that if I can't keep the lights on?

The next big case was a seizuring dog that, unfortunately, went badly. She came in twitching and covered in foamy saliva. A lot of valium later, the seizures were largely controlled, but she was never very coherent. She continued to have focal seizures and exhibit signs of abnormal mentation for the next 24 hours despite additional anti-seizure therapy. By the next morning, she was dead. What caused the seizures, we will likely never know in this case, but I certainly feel bad for the family.

The rest of the weekend was full of questions from the understandable to the inane. I'm just glad I have another month until the next one.

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