Journal Entry #14

September 12, 2005

    This is my last journal entry for the summer of 2005.  Though I started my equine rotation today, I will report on it later this week in another journal entry (the start of year 5!).  The past month has flown by and I had some wonderful experiences.  I am thrilled with how my summer turned out.  When I last left off with my journal entries, I had just arrived home to southern California from my EMS placement in northern California (the Medical Center for Birds).  That one week I had at home with my parents was fairly busy.  First, we went hiking up in Mt. Baldy and on the way down the mountain we got lost (the trail was poorly marked and we went one way...only to find we lost the trail)!  We were pretty unhappy trying to pick our way down creek beds and through spiny bushes to eventually find a different trail - I started to get a migraine headache (altitude sickness or lack of caffeine?) and just wanted to get out of there, while my parents were stumbling a lot and running out of water.  Next, I went to lunch with my dad to the Cheesecake Factory - yum!  One day, I spent the day at the VCA animal hospital where I used to work.  I helped out with surgeries, including a mammary mass removal from a cat and a extracapsular repair of a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament on a dog.  I felt maybe slightly more prepared for my upcoming RAVS trip.

    I flew away from southern California on a Sunday and arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico around 1 or 2pm.  I was kind of saddened to not run into any vet students at that time.  I ate dinner alone, constantly on watch for anyone who looked vet-like.  I was happy when Justin arrived around 8pm - he's a second year student at my vet school (Glasgow), originally from southern California and a fellow Cal Poly Pomona alumnus.  Soon, we went to pick up Tara from the airport (also a second year student at Glasgow, originally from Wisconsin).  The next morning we met up with vet students, finally!  We all signed the attendance sheet and met Sarah, a veterinary technician that we got to work with on our trip.  There were lots of people who drove, including Justin (he had a red pickup truck), so most of us split up into private vehicles for transportation.  I believe RAVS had to rent only 1 van to transport the remaining volunteers.  It was a 3+ hour drive west to Zuni, where the Indian reservation was.  It started to rain on us at one point and we had to turn around to buy a tarp at Wal-Mart (so everyone's stuff in the bed of the truck would stay dry).  The scenery on the way to Zuni was beautiful. 

    In Zuni, we had a nice talk from a Native American about eagles and the Zuni tribe's eagle sanctuary (they have 24 non-releasable gold and bald eagles).  We then drove to our building - where we lived and worked for the next 5 days.  It was like an old school or something like that, with a perfect area for receiving (3 exam rooms and a pharmacy area, and two rooms for doing paperwork/filing) and surgery (large room with good natural light).  The only real drawback to the place was that it had only one operating bathroom - one toilet and two small sinks...and very dirty).  There were about 45 of us (volunteers) total, and in the mornings and evenings, the bathroom line was pretty long.  During the day, the bathroom was used extensively for scrubbing in for surgery!  We were lucky in that the community let us use their hospital for showering - that meant 2 female showers and 1 male shower, open 24 hours.  That first day, we set up our stuff (really cool-looking surgery tables and well-packed/organised equipment) and had lots of orientation.  We divided into teams of 3 - my team included two other vet students from the University of Pennsylvania (one in 4th year, the other in 2nd).  Each day, the teams were assigned to a certain role.  The first day (Tuesday) of work, my team did receiving.  One of us did the physical exam, another restrained the animal, and the third acted as scribe (and we rotated).  All this was free for the people who brought their pets in.  We gave vaccines (rabies and canine or feline combos until we started to run out of stock), gave de-wormer, applied Frontline spray (lots of tick-infestation) and gave advice as to basic health care of the pets.  Sometimes we'd find some abnormality and we would ask a "real" vet for their opinion.  The majority of pets we saw also were spayed or neutered by us (RAVS) later that day or on the next day. 

    My team got 3.5 days of surgery, which was really nice.  We tried to split up all the roles (surgeon, assistant surgeon, and anaesthetist) so we all had an equal chance at surgery.  I ended up doing 1.5 dog castrations and 1.5 dog spays, often with a lot of help from a "real" vet.  One of my spays started to bleed and it was pretty scary - it wasn't my fault from what I could tell - all my ligatures were fine.  We think the dog may have had a bleeding disorder such as Ehrlichiosis, which could be caught from ticks (very common there).  Dr. Egar and Dr. Jones were a great help in solving the problem - many thanks!  I really enjoyed doing anaesthesia, as usual, and was pretty happy with the available monitoring devices: pulse oximeter, oesophageal stethoscope, and at most tables, indirect blood pressure monitors.  As for meals - the community was SO so good to us by providing us with LOTS of tasty food.  In all, we must have spayed/neutered around 150-200+ animals, and some miscellaneous procedures were also performed (entropion surgery, mass removal, laceration and wound repair, GI clips and foxtail removal, etc.). 

    After my RAVS trip, I flew to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  There, I met up with a lab animal resident, whose house I stayed at for my 3 week exotics externship.  The exotics externship was a different experience for me.  We handled a LOT of wildlife and after the hurricane (which was a big surprise to me) there were hundreds of baby squirrels to feed/raise.  Some cool species I saw there: Mississippi kites, barred owls, a great horned owl, a great egret, a pileated woodpecker, a sugar glider, a hedgehog, ferrets, red squirrels, opossums, and more.  One day we went out to lunch and to the Bluebonnet swamp (man-made nature park) - we got to handle young alligators that were in a vivarium.  I met many great people and overall had a good experience.  Some of my cases included a ferret with a tumour in its thorax (ended in euthanasia), a sun conure with an oviductal prolapse and respiratory problems (died), a Canada goose attacked by an alligator (successful so far!), and a peafowl with poxvirus.  One of the things I am thankful for with this experience was that I got to see a US vet school from the inside - I was literally working alongside vet students doing their rotations.  Although I enjoyed myself there, I am quite happy to be back in Glasgow now - I feel more comfortable at my own vet school, where I've spent 4 years getting to know my classmates and the faculty (and it has a much smaller animal hospital - I won't get lost here). 

    To close this journal entry, let me say the last exciting thing that happened to me: I saw the NORTHERN LIGHTS!  I was flying from Memphis (TN) to Amsterdam, and we must have been over Canada or somewhere close to it when they announced that the northern lights could be seen to the left side of the plane.  I walked over and looked out the window and saw them!  They were white-yellow and it looked almost like a UFO would be hiding behind the clouds or something odd like that.  Beautiful!  I would like to see them again one day, but I think it may be a once-in-a-lifetime type experience.


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