Friday, July 21, 2017

Orange Juice Stand and a wet super-hero

Last week, on a really hot day, my son declared it was, "Movie Day".  My husband and I inquired to what he meant.  He said, "Going to the theater and watching a movie on the big screen, like when I saw Peanuts."  That was a year and a half ago, and ever since, he had declared to us that movies were too loud and too scary.  That was fine with us, movies are very expensive too, so they would continue to just be a special treat for my husband and me for date nights.

Well, my son was adamant that it was "Movie Day" and knowing that the heat index was supposed to get up over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it didn't sound like a bad idea to me.  I searched to see if there were any movies that were even appropriate for him, and found Pixar's "Cars 3" which seemed to have halfway decent reviews for a kids movie.  Apparently the posting on the internet was wrong, because when I took my son to the theater at 11:15am, the ticket office said they didn't have any showings until after 1pm.  My son was upset and said he would sit and wait until then.  I was sure he wouldn't really want to wait two hours in a movie theater (or if they would even let us) so we searched for another one and he reluctantly agreed to leave, but insisted we couldn't stop and run errands.

We went to the movies at another theater and he had a great time and tried to stay to watch another one (after shelling out close to $50 for the tickets and his soda and parking, I tried to explain this was a special treat).  We went to lunch and then the only way I could convince him to willingly and pleasantly join me at the grocery store was to tell him he could pick out his own flavor for ice cream.

As we went through the produce aisles, I picked up two oranges.  He noticed they were like balls and I told him he could have them.  He was very sweet and insisted to me that he wasn't going to "squish them into the grocery cart like he did with the peaches last time".  That was an ordeal where I ended up rummaging through my purse for kleenex and wipes to clean up a mess and having 2 or 3 peaches I had to pay for ending up in the grocery trash... Lesson learned.  I told him I gave him the oranges because I was sure he COULDN'T squish them like the peaches, but I appreciated his promise.

As we continued to shop, my son started saying something about making orange juice for neighbors and we needed more oranges.  For my picky son who doesn't like to eat fruit most of the time to ask for more oranges, I decided not to quash that request.  We went back and I asked him how many he wanted.  Five, he said.  He was excited and held onto his oranges for the whole trip.

As I got home and started unloading groceries he took off for downstairs and out the front door with oranges.  It was about 3 pm, but he was convinced he needed to make orange juice for the neighbors like Daniel Tiger did.  I tried to get him to stay inside until I was done unloading groceries, but had a hard time, I ended up coming with ideas of things he needed to get upstairs, sprinting up the stairs ahead of him to get a few groceries put away and then coming back down with him with supplies.  The prospect of sitting outside for the next 3 hours to wait for the neighbors to come home in the heat was just not appealing.  Fortunately, a neighbor across the street who had just picked up her daughter from school was passing by.  I pled with her to please come over and have some orange juice from my son's stand so I wouldn't have to stay outside for the next couple of hours.  She looked slightly perplexed, but obliged.

They came over and had said some freshly squeezed orange juice (I was able to convince my son that a necessity of having an orange juice stand was thoroughly washing your hands before you touched other peoples beverages).  My neighbor offered to pay, as she thought it was like a lemonade stand, apparently, according to my son, "Daniel Tiger gave orange juice to his neighbors because it is a neighborly thing to do".  Free orange juice for neighbors, that's not a bad lesson my son had learned... Fortunately, quenching the thirst of two neighbors was enough to satisfy my son and he decided it was time to move on.

It wasn't too hard to get him to move on at that point when I suggested we take his new chocolate ice cream out to the back porch.  My dog Dewey, the "Arizona Dog" likes to sunbathe in 100 degrees.  It's kind of crazy, but he'll actually ask to go outside in the backyard and lay out in the sun when there is a heat alert.  I decided to let him on the porch with us too.  Not long after I had gotten water bowls, phone, ice-cream bowls, etc. out on the porch, I heard thunder.  There hadn't been any warning of storms other than the vague, "It could storm between noon and 9pm".  I told my son it looked like there could be storms to our north, and we would monitor it, I told him at the first sight of lightening, we should all run inside.  I surveyed the porch for Dewey, who has thunderstorm anxiety and he was as cool as a cucumber, so I decided I would start rounding up other stuff first.  As I did this, the lightening started.  I got my son inside first and then went for the dog.  Well, that was an adventure...  My son apparently likes to get excitable about storms, he's not really scared, but he's like my sister who has a strange fascination love/hate relationship.  He was like a cheerleader through the screen door.

That didn't help the already freaked out dog. As I was trying to wrangle him inside, the cat snuck out.    This is the same cat who I previously had to jump from our 2nd floor porch to our neighbors 2nd floor porch to get her off of before she could jump to another neighbor'
s porch.  The prospect of jumping porches as the wind was picking up and the lightening was going made me forget about the dog and get the cat.  I got her inside and then almost gave up on the dog.  Except I didn't.  The mom in me just couldn't leave him out there.  I wrangled him inside and got some anti-anxiety medication down him (He was so stressed he refused beef jerky and all of his most favorite treats).  My son was excited; he had had perhaps the most exciting day he'd had in a while and he almost looked at me like I was some type of frazzled wet-haired super hero.  I had tried to spend the day like a kid but responsibility had kicked in.  A very memorable day and one I'm not sure how my son would re-tell it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Day In the Life.... of a general practice veterinarian

I've given some info in previous blogposts about what it's like to be a veterinarian, but those of us veterinarians and technicians in the veterinary community really feel a lot of people just don't get it...  A couple of years ago, my husband would give a bunch of "Monday Night Quarterback Talks" with feedback from what I brought home and how he thought things should go.  Fortunately, we had the childcare and he's a wonderful guy, so I convinced him to come in and be a "honorary tech" for just a Saturday morning.  He didn't get the full scale picture (it was only a Saturday morning and because he gets queasy, I tried to keep him away from the gross stuff).  He did get an idea that it was a little different from how he thought it was before and new respect for my coworkers.

This is going to be a long blogpost, only meant for people who really want to get a taste of things.  If that's not for you,  wait for Friday's post which will be something cute about my kid.

Well, the best way to start this is with a discovery that my four Physics classes at the University didn't go to complete waste.  I always wondered how they would be relevant to being a veterinarian.  Besides concepts of velocity and force with fractured bones and pets hit by cars, and electrocution wounds and how to use the paddles during CPR, I have a new one to add.  The concept that I had to pass on to someone that, "Please don't use the shock collar on your dog while I'm holding your dog."  Yep, that actually happened.  They went to shock the dog while I was holding the collar.  I won't get into a diatribe about shock collars (that'll be another post).  One point for physics class and the concept that if electricity flows, it flows to any object attached to it.  Luckily, I saw her big electric control before she zapped me.

A typical day for me involves vaccinations, preventive health visits, parasite exams, preparing cytologies (my husband was confused why I carry a lighter with me when I don't smoke, but this would be the reason).  I look under the microscope and identify bacteria, yeast, inflammatory and cancer cells and crystals in the urine.  I help clean ears and teach people how to do it, restrain animals to get their blood drawn and toe nails cut, or I perform those tasks myself.  I express anal glands (won't go into that one), clean up after animal waste and chase animals around trying to get samples.  I occasionally have to rodeo a rambunctious labrador or calm an angry cat (all while trying not to get injured).  I also sometimes make copies, enter charges and answer phones.

Diagnosing diseases and finding appropriate treatment is the fun part for me.  It's like being a detective and occasionally I get something I haven't seen before.  In 10 years of work, I've probably diagnosed 20 ear infections a week x 52 weeks in a year x 10 = roughly over 10,400 cases.  I've got a spiel for many diseases that ooh and awe the owners but that are like my "bread and butter" routine stuff.

In many cases, I'm the dermatologist, neurologist, cardiologist, ophthalmologist, internist, orthopedist and more because owners either choose not to or are unable to go the specialist.  I don't really do many surgeries now but before I used to be the surgeon and dentist too.  How many of your general physicians would be able to take out a 15 pound spleen or pull an abscessed tooth?  Yep, that's the life of a general practitioner.

Just today, I dealt with cases of "Cognitive Dysfunction" or dementia, testicular asymmetry, anal gland issues, gastrointestinal parasites, a bee sting (Did you know some dogs need Epi-pens too?) and urinary issues, among other things.  Interesting cases and helping animals is why many of us came into the profession and one of the reasons I haven't specialized in something specific.

Now the difficult part of the profession and the part that puts a lot of stress on our profession, the communication issues.  The talking with owners about finances is probably our least favorite thing.  The even worse thing is when owners accuse us of being money-grubbing and worse.  I've had people say many inappropriate things on these lines.  Just for the record, I don't make any money off of whether people do or do not do certain diagnostics and treatments for their pets.  I make a set rate regardless of what I recommend people do, which means when I recommend something, it's because I truly think the pet should have it.

The majority of my time though is spent speaking with and educating people about many issues, some as mundane as grooming (and that it's not ok to have a matted dog to the point of discomfort) to the dramatic, such as a young dog with possibly irreparable trauma or telling a young child their pet is terminal.  There can be many awkward discussions too (such as weight loss and obesity issues that many human medical doctors don't have the nerve to confront people with) to anxiety problems that are actually due to the owner (either their anxiety rubbing off on the pet or inadequate training).  I won't go into the asymmetrical testicle or other reproductive conversations- that can get awkward.  These conversations are difficult and often unappreciated.  Often you spend ten minutes explaining something and the next question is regarding what you just explained.

There are other difficult conversations, such as discussing quality of life issues.  This may seem straightforward in some cases, but if you've ever euthanized a pet you would understand the emotions and difficulty involved.  When people consult you about their family member that will become depressed or even commit suicide if they lose their beloved four-legged family member and ask for your advice, that's a hard conversation.  So is explaining terminal illness to kids or euthanizing animals that have saved their owners lives in various ways.  Ending any four-legged animal's life is difficult for most veterinarians and it's something that I've determined if it ever got easy, I would have to quit.

These are all a day in the life of a veterinarian.  Please remember this the next time you see your veterinarian.  For every day I have people who are rude or unappreciative, that one person who actually listens to what I says- and does it- and says I make a difference helps to make up for a day of the other type of people.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Blessings of a 12 hour Car Ride

The title may be strange- but true.

We have endured many a long car ride together as a family, first as a young couple, then with a small child.  It can sometimes be very hard.  It can sometimes be challenging.  It's always humbling when the 4 year old is more patient with traffic than my husband or me.

The Blessings of a long car ride:

1) It's a great time to talk with your spouse.  It's really kind of funny, but the most fruitful, serious and life-changing discussions my husband and I have are normally on long car rides.  We can do our financial planning, scheduling and overall philosophical discussions when we are present to each other for a long time with no other distractions than the road (it especially helps that we have a data plan that makes internet surfing limited on these drives).

2) You get to listen to things you would never listen to otherwise.  The boredom of a long ride makes you creative with what you will listen to.  Books on tape, new radio stations and even a kids science podcast whose title is "The Velocity of Poop."  Yes, I'm not lying and it was actually based on a scientific study.  This last trip my son discovered the "Wow in The World" podcast by NPR and he loves it.  My husband and I actually learn too (when we are not completely grossed out).

3) Life lessons can become obvious.  On a recent trip, it was hot and we had to stop at a McDonalds for a restroom stop.  I decided to treat my son to an ice cream cone.  Then I heard his tantrums and screaming in the bathroom.  He came out and was being completely unreasonable and a not very nice "Human under construction".  I gave his ice cream cone to a little girl with her father waiting for their food.  They were maybe slightly confused by what was happening and my son was very upset.   On the very long trip back, my son asked if we could stop at McDonalds, he then repeated, unprompted, "I'm not going to be a fool this time and do something to lose my ice cream cone".  I'm more appeasing to my son on an airplane ride because there are innocent people on the plane, but when we are taking a car ride, unless my son has good reason for his grumpiness (lack of sleep, discomfort or hunger) my husband and I are not pushovers.

4) You get to laugh at billboards, political differences of regions and how every state has its "Driving vices".  It almost becomes a game for my husband and I to identify the license plate by identifying the bad driving habit first.  I could say what each of the state's habits are, but that could possibly be offensive.  I will let you guess.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Chick Fil-A Dress Like A Cow Day is Tuesday, July 11th

Just in case you haven't heard, Tuesday, July 11th is Chick Fil-A's annual "Dress Like A Cow Day".  If you show up at any Chick Fil-A with any type of cow clothing or a mask or tail anything showing your bovine aptitude, you will receive a free entree.  My son and I did this last year and I remembered to keep our "Moo Masks" safe just for this "holiday".  I made the masks easily with crayons, a papers plate and a disposable fork and crayons.  I'm not a very good artist, but it does the job!

My son has a great time, the place is crowded (but fun).  Everyone's in a pretty good mood because really- who doesn't like free food?  Especially good food from Chick Fil-A?  I might even splurge and purchase one of their lemonades tomorrow (that sugary goodness is sure to make me run 4 extra miles to burn it off, but another not as well known fact about Chick-Fil A is, they refill your drink for free!

I will have to see if my son keeps the book in the Kids Meal that he gets, or if he trades it for an ice cream cone (another not as well known fact- you can trade the toy/book in the kids meal for an ice cream cone).  He always used to pick the book, but with the weather around here in the 90's lately- I think he might go for the ice cream cone.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Yes, it's Friday and I didn't completely forget to post....

In between about a five hour storm last night that played out with lightening penetrating through my eyelids, an early trip to the gym with my Dad, dropping off a car for routine repairs and then taking a trip with my family to see a relative  - at his house - where I haven't been in over twenty years - it has been an engaging day.

I always find it interesting how I need a vacation from my vacation.  I'm pretty sure my son has no recollection that he has an actual bedtime.  Today he tried to convince us he needed to go back to the family cottage to take a bath because the bath tub is just not as cool as muck and a crawfish nibbling on your toes.  Though rest and relaxation rarely happen for parents of a preschooler, it's been a special week and with the toss up of what was normal activity and schedule and not, it has still been refreshing, if not relaxing.  My husband is smart in our scheduling that we have at least a day after coming back from vacation to "re-aclimate",  as if we've been in space or deep under the sea and need to prevent getting the "bends".  But vacations do help to get out of the norm for a little bit and help us remember that in the hustle and bustle of everything, family time is so precious and so important.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth of July!

This July 4th I'm taking a break to spend some time with family!  Have a great 4th of July and remember all those who came before us to establish our independence and keep us free to Pursue Happiness.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Making Lemonade from Lemons....

So, it's been a busy past couple of weeks and just when it feels like we are getting control of things, something comes out of the blue to remind you you're not in control..  I guess that's life.  I will look at it though not as the world spinning out of control and anxiety, but as a reminder of the blessings we do have.  There are several stories from the past couple of weeks I could share, but I'll focus on this past week.

I was working at a place that was super busy, but I was fortunate to work with a new graduate veterinarian.  In my line of work, it is fairly rare that I get to work with another veterinarian, because most of the time I am the only veterinarian.  This isn't my first rodeo, so to speak so I can survive ok on my own, but I sometimes find myself longing for a colleague to run my case by, or pick their brain, or just lament with.  The new veterinarian was refreshing for me to work with and reminded me that if it wasn't for the prospect of going back to school, I'd have loved to teach other veterinarians (I got to do this briefly when I was on a Mission trip).  It reminds me of how much I know, how much I have learned and that I've grown in more ways than just my cynicism in the past 10 years.

It's great to work with a new veterinarian because they are fresh out of school and they want to do everything "the right way".  They haven't been jaded by years of dealing with difficult people, too many long days and nights and they still feel like they can change the world and save everyone.  It's refreshing, but it also reminds me of how much I have forgotten since veterinary school.  As the new veterinarian was about to deal with some difficult clients, one of the technicians said, "Talk to Dr. Meg- She's good at dealing with pain in the butt people."  While I think that was a compliment, I told the new vet, "I'm happy to come in with you, but I know you can handle this on your own."  She seemed happy that I had confidence in her.

Ok, now to the lemonade from lemons moment.  The new veterinarian came back to see me to go over a case.  She presented it to me and then asked for validation.  "So, the next step would be a fine needle aspirate and bloodwork right?"  I look at her and say, "yes, ideally, but what does the client want to do?"  I told her I've seen and been involved in many cases where you do diagnostics and then there's no money left for treatment.  The patient was sick and had been sick with possibly cancer for a little bit.  I told the veterinarian, "I know it's not what they teach you in veterinary school, but it's ok to offer her to try to make the patient feel better for a little bit, knowing that won't be a cure.  If the diagnostics aren't going to change what the owner does, it can be better to skip those and just focus on what you can do."  A technician was in the office with us and told the veterinarian, "oh, I remember that client, when she called she expressed that money was a concern".  The veterinarian looked at me and said, "Ok, I'll go talk with her again and present that option."  She came back in and said with a look of enlightenment, "She seemed relieved when I presented the option to just focus on treatment, she was kind of embarrassed that she couldn't pay for the diagnostics and was glad I brought it up."  The new doctor learned just like I had in the past that the things you do in veterinary skill and the things they drill into your head that need to be done in every situation do not really apply to real life all the time.  Sometimes you have to realize you can't cure everything, but you can try to make everyone feel better, at least for a little bit.  You can make lemonade from lemons or at least you can try to.