Archive for March, 2011

The Case of the Sick Hamster

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

A very mem­o­rable case from years ago was that of a ham­ster that pre­sented for just not doing right. In vet lingo we use the acronym ADR (ain’t doing right) and upon exam the ham­ster was a lit­tle thin but dis­tended in the belly, not as active and ener­getic. We ini­tally tried some med­ica­tions but this didn’t help and at the recheck visit, the ham­ster was much thin­ner and it’s belly was big­ger. Radi­ographs (X-rays) revealed a mass affect in the abdomen that appeared to be the repro­duc­tive tract. Based on the rest of exam and diag­nos­tics it appeared to be a pos­si­ble pyome­tra and the rec­om­men­da­tion had to be a spay surgery which is risky enough in a larger pet, but in a ham­ster it has the addi­tional chal­lenges of being such a small pet. The own­ers opted to go for­ward and we sched­uled surgery for the next day.  The next morn­ing, prior to surgery, I called the owner to give an update on the pet’s sta­tus and the plan and the owner revealed to me the impor­tanced of this ham­ster. It belonged to their daugh­ter who was diag­nosed with epilepsy and this ham­ster was given to her at the time of diag­no­sis. It was a source of emo­tional sup­port for the daugher and fam­ily. After this, I felt more pres­sure than nor­mal to do my best for this fam­ily. We pro­ceeded with the surgery and the ham­ster remained sta­ble under anes­the­sia. The uterus took up most of the abdomen and was filled with white fluid. I was relieved to remove the entire uterus with­out it open­ing up and poten­tially releas­ing bac­te­ria through­out the abdomen. Once the ovaries and uterus were out, I flushed the area lib­er­ally, sutured her closed and we woke her up. The ham­ster was a trooper and did amaz­ingly well. Two days later it was able to go home and con­tin­ued to thrive. The recheck visit was such a great visit in that the ham­ster was doing so well at home and had recov­ered. It is amaz­ing to think how much impact this tiny lit­tle crit­ter had on so many peo­ple. These are the cases that make it all worthwhile.


Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

I have always wanted to be a vet­eri­nar­ian. I think that holds true of many of my col­leagues as well as many other peo­ple I meet. You just know that it is what you want to do. I think I was three when I really decided to be a bird doc­tor. I remem­ber col­or­ing a pic­ture of a bird and decid­ing that this is what I should do. I am sure my sis­ter has had some influ­ence as well. She is four years older than me and I have always looked up to her. I am sure if she sug­gested that if I love ani­mals I should be an ani­mal doc­tor, then this is what I would strive for. She did remind me recently that when we were kids, she sug­gested I go to Cor­nell if I want to be a vet. So I have always had it in my head that I will go to Cor­nell and be a vet. I am very blessed that this is what hap­pened. As a kid, I always loved school and sci­ence. I received my first micro­scope before the age of 10 and LOVED IT. I still have it but it turns out it is only good for look­ing at pow­ers of 10 x and 40x. Still, I can­not bare to get rid of it. I would sooo love a real micro­scope at home but then my prac­ti­cal side kicks in and I real­ize there is just no room or rea­son for it. But I digress. Any­way, with my goal in mind, I tried to have pets as a kid and my par­ents humored me with rab­bits, ham­sters and bud­gies. We did not have cats or dogs but I still was able to enjoy myself with these “exotic” crit­ters. I was for­tu­nate to be a good stu­dent in high school and a fairly good test taker. I was very dis­s­a­pointed when I applied to Cor­nell under­grad­u­ate and was guar­an­teed a trans­fer but did not get accepted as a fresh­man. Look­ing back, it all worked out for the best. I met my best friend at Bing­ham­ton Uni­ver­sity as a fresh­man and we are still best of friends all these years later. I received a solid edu­ca­tion for two years before I trans­ferred to Cor­nell. The year I trans­ferred to Cor­nell, I met my future hus­band and started on a path of Ani­mal Sci­ence. Two years Later I grad­u­ated and was ready to go into my first year of Cornell’s Col­lege of Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cine. I did not take it for granted that I was real­iz­ing my dream as I knew many smart and won­der­ful stu­dents who were not accepted by the admit­tance board. That first year of school was the most dif­fi­cult and emo­tion­ally drain­ing time of my life.  There was a lot of pres­sure to learn as much as pos­si­ble and under­stand what is being asked of you. The tests are very chal­leng­ing to put it mildly and if you fail, you are set back an entire year. After lots of tears and late nights, I made it through the first year and then was able to get into my groove. Dur­ing the third year, I needed to start mak­ing some plans for life out­side of vet school. I have always loved bird and avian med­i­cine and I was able to take elec­tives that taught about these species in school. I also had to plan on some extern­ships. It was dur­ing vet school I was exposed to poul­try med­i­cine and really enjoyed com­bin­ing bird med­i­cine with flock and herd health. I went to Geor­gia for an extern­ship in poul­try med­i­cine and really enjoyed the month bar­ring the heat and humid­ity. I made a deci­sion to fol­low a dif­fer­ent path and applied for res­i­den­cies in poul­try med­i­cine. At the time, The Ohio State Uni­ver­sity had a res­i­dency pro­gram com­bined with a Master’s degree in vet­eri­nary pre­ven­tive med­i­cine. I was for­tu­nate enough to be accepted. So they day I grad­u­ated from vet school. My par­ents and I schlepped from upstate New York with my two cats and all of my belong­ings to Colum­bus, Ohio.

As an aside, one of my fun­ni­est mem­o­ries is the trip to Ohio. We stopped some­where in Penn­syl­va­nia for the night and checked into a hotel. My par­ents have no expe­ri­ence with cats and were not pre­pared for spend­ing the night with them. Tig­ger 1 and Tig­ger 2 were adopted dur­ing my time in vet school. Really sweet cats but Tig­ger 2 likes to sleep on your pil­low and purr really loudly. Once we set­tled for the night with my par­ents in the bed and me on a cot, the lights were off and we went to sleep. After 10 min­utes I hear a shout from my par­ents bed, and I see a large ball fly across the room, over my cot and thud on the floor. Tig­ger 2 was no worse for wear, land­ing on his feet but a lit­tle sur­prised. Appar­ently, my dad was falling asleep when Tig­ger 2 decided to curl up with him. This was a shock to dad and his reflex was to grab what­ever was near his head and throw it away from him. Tig­ger 2 was a big cat so my dad did pull his shoul­der a bit. But no cats were hurt in this story.

Any­way, once a set­tled back into uni­ver­sity life, I divided my time between classes, work­ing on a research project for my Master’s and learn­ing the ins and outs of poul­try med­i­cine. I had a gret expe­ri­ence, meet­ing down to earth peo­ple in the poul­try indus­try, get­ting out into the field, learn­ing about exten­sion work in which I would go to back­yard flocks (a few birds owned by a per­son who keeps the birds in the back­yard) and help them with sick birds or flock prob­lems. I was trained to speak at meet­ings, help set up large-scale  indus­try related pro­grams, teach fourth year vet­eri­nary stu­dents, speak at vet­eri­nary con­fer­ences, iso­late bac­te­ria and microbes, and help to run a uni­ver­sity lab. I was also for­tu­nate to meet a virol­o­gist that worked the state lab. He owned an avian vet­eri­nary prac­tice and asked if I would be inter­ested to work a few hours a week or as needed at his clinic. It was a great expe­ri­ence and allowed me to really learn more about com­pan­ion bird medicine.

After 2.5 years of the pro­gram, I com­pleted and defended my the­sis, fin­ished my cur­ricu­lum and grad­u­ated with my degree. As I ws fin­ish­ing my pro­gram, it was a dif­fi­cult time to find an indus­try job and I was a bit ready to get out of the uni­ver­sity set­ting. I found a won­der­ful job oppor­tu­nity in Vir­ginia that allowed me to prac­tice avian med­i­cine and exotics. Even though my exotic expe­ri­ence was lim­ited to per­sonal pets and vet school train­ing, they were able to take me on. Now my boyfriend who had been work­ing in Indi­ana at the time and was chang­ing jobs as well helped me to trans­port all of my belong­ings and my two cats and my boyfriend’s two fer­rets to North­ern Viriginia.

I have spent eight won­der­ful years at this job learn­ing and grow­ing as a vet­eri­nar­ian and a per­son. I have met so many won­der­ful peo­ple and pets, dealt with chal­leng­ing med­ical cases, unusual pre­sen­ta­tions of cases, and some­times dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions. I now have two dif­fer­ent cats, a budgie and a tod­dler along with my hus­band. After eight years, I am leav­ing my cur­rent posi­tion and will be tak­ing on a new chal­lenge. I will be work­ing towards start­ing an exotic prac­tice at a dif­fer­ent clinic. Right now, things are unde­cided but I am very excited about start­ing another chap­ter in my life and try­ing to cre­ate a bet­ter bal­ance between fam­ily and work life. So this auto­bi­og­ra­phy is to be continued…