Monday, June 21, 2010

Tipping point

This weekend was rough - really rough. We had many very critical patients in the hospital, several perplexing cases, just a great deal on our plates. That's ok, it's part of emergency medicine - feast or famine.

What made it particularly difficult was the absence of my husband. He was gone for a week in Knoxvegas, meeting with his thesis advisor regarding his PhD work. I was alone. I'm nursing 3 kittens. When I got them (on Monday last) - they were only 48 hours old - blind, deaf, totally helpless. Taking care of kittens that young - especially 3 of them - is a full-time job. On top of that, I have the dog, 5 indoor cats, 1 outdoor cat, and the birds. Then, I have the garden to water, as well as all of my flowers. I got a jam jar stuck in the garbage disposal, and no amount of attempting would get it out. The A/C broke on Tuesday, and it was 87 degrees in the house. The whole week, I felt like I was walking a fine, fine line of nervous exhaustion.

Come Friday night and the start of my overnight weekend shift. It's ALWAYS, ALWAYS the hardest. 16 hours (overnight) for 3 nights in a row. By the time it's over, I'm usually a blob of incoherency.

What should come in on Friday night but a cat with a pyothorax? Pyothorax translates into normal person speak as pus chest. You can read more about it here. The owner was a young guy (maybe 19), and I assumed when I told him the cost and length of treatment required (3-10 days usually, $2500-5000 and possible chest surgery) that I would be dispatching kitty to heaven.

Boy, was I wrong. The owner wanted to go for it. I had to put bilateral chest tubes in poor kitty. They are painful, scary to place, and require a great deal of management. This cat managed to have 4 chest tubes in 36 hours, which is ridiculous. They kept backing out of his chest space, which was awful, because he really needed them. I worried and worried over him all weekend (although, he is doing GREAT now - or was, as of this morning).

Then, I had a tiny little kitten - 3 weeks old - that was hypothermic, hypoglycemic, and dehydrated. His owners wanted to give him a chance, so he got a teeny tiny IV catheter, and we worked on saving him. Come Sunday morning, he looked terrible, and the owner consented to euthanasia. I had it drawn up and the needle actually inserted into the catheter, and he started to come around and make biscuits on my face with his good paw.

I dissolved into tears. The owner elected to try for another day, so we did.

Then there was the horrible heart failure on Saturday night, owned by a girl a little younger than myself, pregnant, and having recently miscarried. The dog came in blowing bloody froth out of its lungs. We hospitalized it, and he arrested shortly afterwards. No amount of CPR could bring him back. His mother melted down in the ICU (my husband was there to witness this). I almost lost it myself, I'm not going to lie.

By the time I came home Sunday morning - with one shift still to go - I couldn't stand the thought of one more living thing relying on me. I went to water my garden, saw my dead squash vines (which I haven't pulled completely yet) and burst into tears. I almost had a panic attack because of my DEAD SQUASH. I felt like a failure, desperately needed sleep, and had exactly 5 hours before I had to be back at work for another 16 hour shift.

I was actually able to lie down for 3 hours on Sunday night/Monday morning, although I had so many patients to care for, I wasn't comfortable doing it. Had I not, I think I would have fainted from exhaustion.

Alas, today, all is well. I had breakfast with my husband, our A/C is working, all 3 kittens are doing fine, I actually rode today (looking at leasing 2 horses), and now I'm ready for bed again.

By the way - all of the patients I fretted over lived to fight another day.


Christian Kay said...

I totally understand the being upset over the dead squash. As you know, we recently lost our 5 year old Shih Tzu. Well just days after he died, my cactus literally fell apart. And so did I...I mean, I can't even keep a cactus alive. It felt so unfair and I felt like a failure. I get it. But unlike me, YOU save lives every day. Always remember that.

Mary said...

Hope things are still doing better. Lack of sleep/overnight shifts are such a pain and I'm always on edge when my husband is gone as well.

When it rains, it really pours!

Elizabeth said...

I hope things are getting better. Some of my zucchini is dying and it's very sad, but the squash is far.

Have you ever considered writing a book? I love reading books by veterinarians, but the writers are frequently narcissistic. There is no ego in your writing.

The Homeless Parrot said...

Christian: Glad to know I'm not alone :)

Mary: Things are better - the husband is home, I found 2 great horses to lease, and I'm off work until next Wed. It's pretty sweet, all told :)

Elizabeth: Thank you for both the suggestion and the compliment! I have thought about writing a book, but the discipline required might be beyond me.

belovedparrot said...

". . . the discipline required might be beyond me."

Let me get this straight -- you get through vet school, work unbelievable hours, keep all manner of creatures alive and happy at home, routinely deal with life and death too many hours a day, open yourself to new experiences like gardening, make wonderful updates to your blog -- and the discipline of writing a book might be beyond you?

Trust me on this -- you could probably write a book in your sleep. ;-)

The Homeless Parrot said...

Aw, shucks BP. You're too kind :)