For the past month, I have been a part of a mentorship program through school at a local 24-hour emergency room hospital. The experience thus far has been completely eye-opening for me! As someone who has only had a taste of small animal medicine at a general practice, I’ve been introduced to a completely different world. Shifting from assisting with vaccines, nail trims, anal gland expression, ear cytology (you know, the GP life) to something a little more fast paced has awakened my soul. The love for dogs and cats is something that has been instilled in me since I can remember, but sometimes I felt working at GP could be a little repetitive (in my personal opinion). My background is in exotics and wildlife, and it’s really all I’ve ever wanted to do. Nonetheless, when talking with many different veterinarians, my favorite question to ask is always “Did you end up where you thought you would be, doing what you thought you would be doing?” A large amount of the time, that answer tends to be no. I love hearing the life stories of how a path may have changed for somebody, and it reminds me to always keep an open mind. This mentorship is a great example of why I’m keeping an open mind.
Now, I want to tell you a story of one of my first nights in.
My colleague and I have noticed that, since we started, there seems to a theme every night. On this particular night, there were several blocked toms hospitalized, and that was the theme. In general, at the ER, we get a lot of blocked toms, and it has peaked my interest—why!? That topic is for another post. Later that night, a blocked male cat came in on emergency with the usual signs: straining to urinate, painful, and blood in the little urine that does come out. We got him prepped for the procedure, and when he was fully sedated, the doctor began to pass a catheter into the urethra. A short distance in, it stopped. I was given the exciting task of flushing the catheter with saline as I moved the catheter with the doctor into the urethra, pulsing the fluid trying to dislodge the stone. It still wouldn’t budge. The doctor tried to medically dissolve the stone and also used a technique called retrograde urohydropropulsion, the purpose being to move the wedged stone backward into the bladder to allow the catheter to pass. After numerous frustrating attempts to advance the catheter, the doctor was ready to surrender. Palpating the bladder one last time, we all saw an awe-inspiring stream of urine which gave us all that last touch of hope that was needed (only in medicine do we get so excited about pee!). With a little saline flush, the catheter effortlessly passed through, and sutures were placed.
I had never experienced something like this before, and since then I’ve seen several blocked cats have urinary catheters placed as well as other, more intricate, procedures. This mentorship has convinced me that my future may have a place for emergency medicine, as long as I keep an open mind.