Sunday, July 8, 2007
Well, today is the last day of my ambulatory large animal medicine block and I will greatly miss it. I'm on call today so I might have to go out again (which will hopefully lead to some more good stories). The picture here is of yours truly placing a tube down a cow's esophagus. After placing the tube you secure it to the cow's face and then pump a watery mixture of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and other nutrients down into their rumen. Many farmers can't afford real expensive medications or advanced procedures, so you're often left to only provide supportive care as your primary treatment for these animals. This cow in particular was bouncing back from an LDA correction like I described in my previous post.
By far and away the neatest part of my week was going to work prison herds. I thought I was only going to one prison, but I ended up going to two. The first one I went to on Thursday and only worked on about 40 cattle. The second one had about 300 cows.....all of which had to be rectally palpated for pregnancy diagnoses. We had to move the cows through a chute, assembly-style, where at the end of the line a doctor would palpate and ultrasound them, then a student would palpate. The doctor I was working with was nice enough to wait and say what his diagnosis was to the person recording until I palpated and gave an answer. Through the course of the day, I rectally palpated over 150 cows (and I still feel dirty :P). At this time of year, the majority of the herd is kept on pasture at a state park adjacent to the prison, while a small portion of the herd is kept at the prison itself. The primary doctor in charge took me away from the major herd to go with him to the prison itself so we could be efficient. That's where the heat really picked up since he made it so I was palpating down the line from him, and whenever I slowed him down, he'd keep yelling up how we needed to keep moving, hurry etc. For each one I had to check with the prison guard who was assigned to recording what the doctor diagnosed and check my answer with him. Overall for the whole day I was about 75% right which is pretty damn good since I've never done it before.
While at that prison however I had a very frightening moment. I was palpating the cows as the entered the head chute at the end of the line, and before you can palpate, you close a door along the chute: one so you can get to the back of the cow, and two so you can keep a barrier between you and the next cow in line. One cow, however, was not to be deterred by such a barrier and attempted to leap over the door and on top of me. Fortunately for me the cow made a bunch of noise before doing so and I saw it coming; unfortunately for me I noticed as it broke the door open. Therefore I had to climb up on top of the cow I was palpating and leap out and over the head chute to escape being crushed. Needless to say, the rest of the day was spent looking over my shoulder.
One might say that I should've been looking over my shoulder anyway, and that's because the entire day I was working right with a bunch of inmates. There were usually no more than 1-2 guards around while there was somewhere around 15 inmates helping move the herd along our assembly line. They were surprisingly friendly, easy to work with, and flattering (because they kept calling me sir). The guards weren't armed and the inmates could have run away because the herd isn't kept inside tall barbed-wire prison fencing. I asked one of the doctors how this whole system works and why there aren't any issues with escaping, and he explained to me how these inmates have to be on tip-top behavior for an extended period of time to even get the priveledge, plus many of the prisoners had little time left on their sentence. One inmate in particular said how he only had 9 days left on his sentence. The whole bunch of them were rather entertaining because they had to try and stop some escaping calves that needed treatment for various diseases, but it was apparent that none of them had any experience dealing with cattle. Some were terrified of the lil calves running towards them. I laughed the hardest, however, when one of the inmates asked me "Hey man, how you know each of these cows is female?". Now, I was about to say something nice and polite like explaining what we see through the ultrasound, but the other inmates weren't so forgiving. Before I could say something, they others started bursting out in laughter and one said, "Aw hell no!! Tell me you did not just ask that! TELL ME you did NOT just ask that!!!"
I will certainly miss getting to drive around everywhere and get to work out in the nice weather, but I will be getting to work again with dogs and cats. Unfortunately my next block is anesthesia, and while I do feel anesthesia is an absolutely critical aspect to veterinary medicine, it doesn't peak my interest quite like surgery does. I enjoy the concepts of anesthesia, but I dislike sitting around and monitoring a 3-4 hour procedure. I have a couple extra pictures from my large animal block that I will post here in the next couple of days.