As I see the baby getting pulled through the incision in the uterus, I get my towel ready. My friend, who is our surgeon for this c-section, drops it into my arms. I turn and start running down the barn, rubbing the lamb and trying to get it to breathe. As I move, I can feel it moving and its head shaking. I pass the baby off to a 4th-year veterinary student and together we cover the baby in dry towels and get to work. The baby didn’t seem to be reacting like it should, so we stick a suction device down its nostrils and throat and pull up as much fluid as possible. Still no response… The veterinarian assisting at the station takes over and starts giving injections and oxygen. Not long after the little lamb is declared dead.
What was supposed to be one of the more exciting parts of my semester has now turned into one of the most depressing things. The first baby that I’ve dealt with during a c-section didn’t make it. Now I have to return to my friends who are suturing up the ewe’s uterus and tell them.
As the surgery was coming to an end, one of our friends came down and told us that none of the ewe’s 3 lambs survived. At first, knowing this guy’s personality, we all thought that he was joking. But unfortunately, he wasn’t. Even though this wasn’t my c-section, it was very a sad moment. One of my friends started tearing up and I could tell the other two were a little shaken.
If you were to ask anyone what a veterinarian does, most of them would probably think that we get to play with kittens and puppies and other cute creatures all day. While that is true on some occasions, most of the time you are dealing with sick animals and situations that may be out of your control despite you doing everything perfectly. This probably was one of those situations, perhaps the ewe wasn’t as far along in her gestation as the sheep farm had originally thought? Maybe they just needed some extra time and then everything would have been okay?
These lambs didn’t look great after leaving the womb but even in spite of all that, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that we all could have done something differently to change the outcome. Unfortunately, in veterinary medicine, you can’t treat and cure every patient and you definitely can’t save them all.