My science teacher would laugh if she saw me now. When she knew me as a high school senior, I hated everything to do with chemistry labs—the tedious write-ups, the painstaking measurements, the absolute banality of acid-base titration. But if she ever caught me poring over serum chemistry panels, hunting for indicators of respiratory acidosis or for signs of compensation, she would know that acid-base balance has finally caught my interest.
Since I’m still only a first year, our renal physiology unit is covering the basic functions of the kidney: osmolarity and blood pressure balance, excretion of waste and excess metabolites, and acid-base balance. (The kidneys’ endocrine roles will be taught during our endocrine unit, I’m told.) I almost dozed off during the endless lectures on the nephron, and trying to keep track of which cellular transporters were on which membrane in which nephron segment was a losing battle from the beginning.
But surprisingly, the acid-base lectures perked me up. To realize that every exhalation is important in ensuring that your blood doesn’t get too acidic kind of blew my mind. Being able to work my way logically through a serum chemistry panel is a great confidence booster—it means that instead of just memorizing “whenever these numbers are high, it’s alkalosis,” I actually understand why these numbers reflect the alkalosis we’re seeing, because now I understand the cellular mechanisms and the chemistry behind all of it. Of course, there’s a disclaimer: I am only in year 1 of vet school, and our professors simplify the real-life clinical cases by leaving out the complicating factors… yet slowly but surely I’m getting there!