Monday, June 18, 2012

I am sad to say that I think this blog is reaching its natural end.

For the past 7 years, I have kept The Homeless Parrot. It has been a part of my veterinary student life, my intern life, and now my ER veterinarian life. After 3 years as an ER veterinarian, the stories are starting to sound the same.

Motherhood, a full-time job, and outside interests have kept me from blogging. That and I just don't need the catharsis of words that I once did. My catharsis is now a 20 pound, red-headed ball of mischief that has just recently learned to crawl/scoot, grab the cats, and clap her hands. I don't find myself NEEDING to sit down and write anymore, although I hate to think of the stories that I will forget as a result of this. If there is no need, then there is no drive - hence the 1-2 week pauses in blogging.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for your comments. The support of readers I have never met has been invaluable during some difficult times. Blogging has been wonderful. There are several of you that I consider friends, though I don't know your last names, and we have never met.

If you'd like to keep in touch, my email remains the same.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

On how to be a better veterinarian

Self improvement is something I work on constantly. This week brought a new experience that helped to open my eyes to ways that I can improve my interactions with owners.

Wednesday morning, we had a doctor's meeting. I'd been up all night at work, obsessing over my dead patient. I was tired, demoralized, and just stressed in general. I stopped by the house prior to the meeting to pick up Evaline. I wanted to let my husband sleep in, and she is usually a very good baby out and about in public. The first half of the meeting, she happily ate her egg and entertained herself. Toward the latter half, she became fussy and tired. I had my husband come pick her up, and the meeting continued.

When I got home, she was napping. It became apparent when she woke up that there was something wrong. She was glassy-eyed and very lethargic. Her cheeks were flushed, and she seemed to be breathing with effort. My husband thought I was hallucinating from being overtired and emotional, but I know my baby. I knew she was sick. We packed her off to the pediatrician's office quickly.

I was a mess quite honestly. I was overtired, emotional, and stressed about work. And to see my little Smoosh become so ill so quickly was terrifying. I started to cry. I cried the whole way to the doctor's office and while we waited. Worse case scenarios kept running through my head.

The doctor that saw Evaline was not her normal pediatrician. She was kind, thorough, did an excellent physical exam, and listened to my concerns. Despite my somewhat overwrought tears, she listened to me and took me seriously. She didn't make me feel silly about how upset I was. She explained her physical exam findings and then she went over differentials with me. She answered all my questions carefully and seemed to really understand my anxiety. Despite being fairly confident in her diagnosis (bronchiolitis likely secondary to a virus), she sent me for a chest X-ray. She knew it would assuage my worries.

I learned a lot from her mannerisms. What Evaline has is a common disease of infants. History and physical exam are usually sufficient for diagnosis. She's probably seen it a thousand times. Yet, she never made me feel rushed or as if I was overreacting about a fairly common illness (which I was).

It reminded me that although I see bite wounds and hit by cars and heart failure dogs all the time at work, most people are seeing it for the first time, and it's scary. It reminded me to talk to people gently. To listen to owners' fears and concerns. To answer questions and take the time to make sure my recommendations are understood. It reminded me to be compassionate no matter now silly or over the top an owner's reaction may be.

To that end, I wrote a thank you note to her and her staff saying pretty much all of that.

Evaline seems to be on the mend, although she is still hoarse. Me - I will be on the mend once Monday rolls around and I can forget I'm a vet for 9 days.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

General demoralization

Due to scheduling of one of my colleague's yearly continuing education, I ended up working 5 nights in a row this last week, including the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday shift of Memorial Day. Come Monday morning, I was exhausted to the point that I was having trouble thinking clearly. I had several very ill animals that need intensive, detailed care. It wore me out. By the time I left Monday morning, I was done.

Tonight, I had to work again. Tired and sorely missing my family time, I dragged myself to work. And of course, of course, of course, I would be faced with a patient of mine from this past weekend suffering a severe postoperative complication that may or may not be my fault. It lead to the pet's death this evening. Only a professional necropsy (done tomorrow) will tell if I am to blame.

On top of that soul crushing occurrence, I am dealing with ridiculous, needless technician drama that is making me crazy. I've barely seen my daughter in a week. I've barely had more than 10 words with my husband. He is basically solo parenting for all intents and purposes right now - other than breastfeeding duty, which obviously still falls to me.

This feels like the hardest job in the world, and right now, I hate it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ruminations on being a working mom

**Caveat: after re-reading this, I realize I meander a bit. Sorry about that. I DID title it "ruminations."

There is a tremendous amount of guilt associated with being a working mother. I try very hard to not allow guilt to creep into my thinking. It's a useless emotion. If one feels guilt, one should change the situation about which one feels guilty. If that's not possible, the guilt must be eradicated, as it is doing no good and quite possibly doing harm.

I love my daughter. She is the sun in my sky. I wake up every morning excited to spend the day with her, excited to see what new sound she'll make, or how she'll look when she's rocking back and forth in an effort to crawl. I take her to the grocery store with me just because I love her company. I think of things to do with her that will make her happy. She's pretty much the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Now, I'll say that I love my job. It's obviously a different sort of love. If I had to choose one or the other, the choice would be absolutely clear to me. That said, I still thrive at work. I'm good at what I do. I care about what I do. I have a great workplace that - while it has minor shortcomings - overall is a fantastic work environment. I do something that matters to people. There are days when I wish I could be a stay-at-home mother, and there are days that I realize just how difficult that job is. Spending all day, every day with a small person who cannot communicate effectively and who cannot hold an adult conversation, and further, who needs a LOT of care and attention, is exhausting. I admire stay-at-home mothers of kids, because it IS a job. And a difficult one to do well.

I work long hours. REALLY long hours. When I am away from my daughter, it is for long stretches of time. My shifts are around 15 hours typically, and I do several in a row. Thus, when I am home between shifts, I am sleeping most of the day. I "care" for my daughter by sleepily nursing her in bed, then turning her over to her father, so that I can rest more.

I am the primary breadwinner. I take a great deal of pride in my productivity - in the fact that I can provide for my family. Oddly enough, despite growing up surrounded by many family members with advanced degrees, I never really saw myself doing much in life. I certainly never envisioned that I would be a doctor. Financial woes were a part of my childhood, and ever since I was old enough to really understand finances, I was convinced that I would struggle with them. It's hard for me to believe even now that I own a house, provide for my daughter, have an IRA and savings, and am not in danger of a financial catastrophe. There are days when I still can't believe that my daughter will grow up with different worries than I did.

There are days when I realize that my being a doctor will be a fantastic model to my daughter should she decide she wants to have a career. If she decides to make her career being a mother and a wife, then I will be just as thrilled.

Those things make me feel good about being a working mother.

What doesn't make me feel good is watching my 8 month old daughter's face fall as I leave for a 15 hour night shift. Or calling to check on her around bedtime and hearing her wailing in the background, wondering where her mommy is to snuggle up against her and offer the breast. My daughter needs me in a very intense emotional way right now, and I am often not there for her. I wonder if this will somehow damage her emotionally, if she'll grow up not feeling safe and secure and loved.

Then I think how ridiculous that must seem to others. I breastfeeed my baby girl. I sleep with her. I wear her when the opportunity presents itself. I take her with me on errands, talk to her while I cook, kiss and hug her and stroke her face at every single chance. I don't take one day for granted with her. I watch her grow and I'm excited for the little girl, teenager, and woman she'll become, and my heart aches for the little girl that she is already leaving behind. How can a child raised with that ever be insecure? Not to mention that her father dotes on her as much as I do. Oh and don't even get me started on her grandparents - who are mad about her - and her aunts and uncles and cousins. And then of course, every single stranger we meet who has to come up and talk to my daughter.


I can't do it all. I can't do it perfectly. I can do it the best I can, and I can hug and kiss her every single time it crosses my mind. And she'll come out ok, I think. She'll know she's loved. She'll know she can do whatever she wants when she grows up - be it have a family and a career, or make her career that of motherhood.

It will all be ok. That's what I tell myself when I hear my daughter crying over the phone.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I know you're dying to see pictures

Of my sweet almost 8 month old baby! My best friend from vet school is in town. We went hiking today, and the sprout had a wonderful time. So did we.

Friday, May 18, 2012


I'm off work for 9 days, so my time has been spent cleaning the house and hanging out with my daughter and husband.

My old man cat is home and doing well. He had surgery on Tuesday night. 50+ stones were removed from his bladder (small ones). His kidney values are better, and he is improving. He'll eat for us at home, but he is incontinent at the moment. It's not surprising with the stretching and moving of his bladder, and it will hopefully resolve in the next few days.

I'm late starting, but I finally got around to planting my garden. Well, half of it anyway. It's hard to do anything that takes focused attention for more than 1 hour when you have an 8 month old. I got one of my boxes planted (the tomatoes and peppers). I have 1 more box (cukes, squash, and maybe something else), and then I have a patio container that I'm trying out this year. We'll see how it goes. I'm feeling ambitious and plan on planting a late summer/early fall garden this year too - trying to grow lettuces and broccoli, etc.

The sprout is growing like a weed. We are still doing mostly baby led weaning. I'm not giving her big slices and chunks of food. I just can't do it. I am letting her feed herself though. She gets whatever we are having chopped into smaller, more manageable pieces. Tonight, she had meatloaf, baked potato, and avocado. She really likes feeding herself and loves to eat. It's fun to watch her, and my anxiety is eased by taking this middle-of-the-road approach to feeding. We've ditched the rice cereal, and we never did purees.

Today was her first experience at the swimming pool. We (meaning I, I think my husband had reservations about her tiredness level) made the mistake of taking her to the pool when she was over-tired. I didn't realize how tired she was until I saw the pictures. Her little eyes were so red! She hates taking naps, and she will fight them with every bit of strength she has. Getting her to nap is a constant battle. At any rate, she didn't seem to know what to make of the big, warm bathtub, but I finally elicited a few smiles from her by blowing bubbles in the water and "chewing" on her feet. We'll try again tomorrow maybe.

This weekend promises to be fun. One of my best friends from vet school is flying in to spend the weekend with me and visit with Evaline. I can't wait to spend time with her!

Lastly, to all that were concerned about the man that stabbed the puppy, he was arrested on the spot. He was already on his way to jail when I saw the dog, so thankfully, I didn't have to deal with that aspect of it. North Carolina has Susie's Law so hopefully this non-human will suffer consequences for what he did. I also hope that his daughter is taken away from him. If I get any further information, I'll let y'all know what happened.

That's all for now! I hope everyone has a good weekend.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I worked all weekend. We were very busy, so I didn't sleep on Friday or Saturday night at all. Once upon a time, I would've been able to handle that no problem. No longer. I blame my personal miss on my own cat on this lack of sleep. I noticed on Saturday morning that my old man cat seemed sluggish. He wasn't very active, just kind of lying around. I filed it away for further consideration. I noticed it again Sunday, but again, I didn't think too much about it. He wasn't vomiting or straining in the litterbox or vocalizing, so I wasn't too concerned.

Then, Monday afternoon, I caught him straining to urinate on the dog's bed. He has bladder stones. I KNOW this. I should've palpated his bladder when I first noticed the sluggishness. But I didn't. I snatched him up then and felt his abdomen. His bladder was HUGE. It was also rock hard. He didn't make a peep. That's highly unusual. Most blocked male cats I see at work are screaming their heads off. Their bladders hurt that badly. Archie never made a sound.

At any rate, he's at work now. He has a urinary catheter in place, and his urine is the color of cherry Kool-Aid. He is in acute renal failure secondary to obstruction. I'm hopeful that I caught it soon enough for it to be reversible. Hopeful that my slow-on-the-uptakeness has not caused him any permanent harm.

*Sigh* Why do the cobbler's kids always go barefoot?