The alarm starts ringing at 5 am. My whole body hurts, especially my right shoulder. Even in my sleep-deprived state, I remembered the giant Thoroughbred that jerked his head up over and over. My head is pounding, matching the throbbing in my shoulder.
I sit back on my heels with my head still on the mattress. My chin is still on my chest as I finally ooze out of bed. Fifteen minutes later, I have left the house. I do not remember the drive to the vet hospital, and wonder how conscious I actually am during these drives to and from the school.
I grab horse feed, temperature probes, and my stethoscope and start going through the morning routine: temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, medications if there are any, and make sure there are no signs of colic, laminitis, or pain. They need food and fresh water. Then I get a couple of swallows of coffee before meeting with the rest of my rotation mates, doctors, and residents to go over each patient and what the plan is for them today.
Five horses are scheduled for surgery, so there is frantic activity to get intravenous catheters into each. Everything feels like it is an emergency or five minutes late. Pre-surgery medications are given, and the first horse leaves for surgery. The first appointment arrives, and the day really starts.
Horse trailers pull up as horse after horse arrives, and things are crazy again. My first appointment is a lameness; I do a full physical exam and palpate each leg. She is an endurance horse, so there are “normal” abnormalities, but no obvious cause of the lameness. We go through the lameness routine: hoof testers, walk, trot, and trot in a circle, and we have narrowed it down to the left foreleg. I flex each joint of both front legs to see if it makes her a little sorer when she trots off, but there are no obvious clues.
I check in on my other patient, and the bloodwork has abnormalities. After a discussion with a doctor and the owner, it was decided that he will not be going to surgery. I swallow a granola bar in two bites and have a couple more swallows of my now-cold coffee before running back to my endurance horse appointment.
We start doing nerve blocks. Students do not always get to actually do these procedures, but it is my lucky day – we are so busy, I get to do everything. Radiographs are taken to see if they will reveal any abnormalities, but the bones are normal. The horse will need to come back another day for ultrasound imaging to look at those ligaments.
Back in the barn, I check in on my other patients and brush Brown Mare — my favorite part of the day. She gets a little nervous in her stall but seems to like having a human with her. She rolled in manure overnight and is pretty dirty; the ten minutes I spend brushing her is the longest break I have had so far. There were a couple of minutes when Brown Mare turns her head and snuffles me as I brush her sides; her owners will never know how much I love their horse.
It is about 5 pm; the other appointments have gone home and only one surgery is still going. I bring Grey Horse out to the stocks. He needs sedation, and then his frontal sinus is flushed. We are not completely sure why his nostril has drainage every day and we insert an endoscope up that nostril, but do not find an answer. Radiographs are scheduled for tomorrow to try to get to the bottom of the problem.
I start the never-ending paperwork, while the other rotation mates, doctors, and residents filter back in. I have one final task for the day, so grab some syringes filled with drugs, and go get Big Bay. We walk out of the building with a resident and to the stocks across the way. Big Bay cannot be cured, so we are doing the only thing left that we can do for him. Afterward, I check to make sure his heart has stopped and then walk back to the barn with an empty halter.
This was my last day of vet school.