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Julia’s weekly column for the middy

A Vet’s life certainly isn’t always glamorous!

“Don’t panic! Don’t panic….”

My brain had frozen, I was in a cold sweat, and everything was going horribly wrong.

I was a final year Vet student, proudly conducting one of my first solo consultations. My patient was a portly Staffie, and I was taking his temperature. Another student was giving him some cuddles, and his anxious owners were hanging over us, watching everything.

And then the weirdest thing happened. As a kind person, I had smothered the end of the mercury and glass thermometer with Vaseline before inserting it, and, correctly pinching its end to one side, was ensuring it was pressed up against the bowel wall inside.

He made no obvious objection to this intervention, except to stretch and ease himself a little. Then he did it again, and again. And each time his bottom moved the thermometer disappeared inside him a little further. I gripped it tighter, but the Vaseline had got itself onto my fingers, and right before my disbelieving eyes it had completely disappeared up inside him.

My brain froze, then unfroze whilst listing all the awful things that might happen. The glass might smash inside him and perforate his bowels. The mercury could escape and poison him. It might be lost forever, and I would be thrown out of Vet School!

“Stop panicking!” I told my brain. “And think. Make a plan!”

I asked my assistant student to leave the room and fetch a supervising Vet teacher. And then, without alerting the poor owners that I was anxious at all, I drew out a pair of haemostats, which are a fine, gripping tool usually used to stop bleeding during an operation.

I opened them ready in my right hand, and slipped my left finger into my innocent patient. I was thrilled to find I could feel the end of the thermometer within reach still. Inserting the haemostat, whilst carefully shielding the Staffie’s flesh from damage, I guided it in blind to grip the wayward instrument. Moments later my patient was foreign-body free, just as the top Vet in the School arrived.

I still have no idea what caused that pet’s bottom to treat me that way – I have never seen it before or since. I imagine it was a form of reverse peristalsis! I was just grateful that a potential mountain became a molehill, and the lovely Staffie was unharmed and even apparently unaware of my adventure under his tail.

PS His temperature was normal in the end, even if mine was rather warm!

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