Once a veterinary professional, a simple person hit hard by a recent news article.
Journalism is a noble career, more than given credit; it is how we get information about the world, the news spread over a spectrum of viewpoints: Right-Wing, Left, and Independent. Yet no matter the perspective, it is imperative the information fed to the audience is as objective as possible.
The writer should never choose a side.
It is a lesson major news outlets have learned time and again when they make the wrong choices in how they handle the information they are gathering. They are bound by an oath to explore every avenue, every angle of the stories they are pursuing. A perfect example of blunder was Kobe Bryant’s death in 2020. A sensational story, reporters jumped the gun and later had to backtrack to avoid further embarrassment to their respective employers. Bryant’s wife is still dealing with the emotional fallout of that situation.
Words can hurt.
The situation doesn’t need to be a significant headliner on the evening news.
It can hit even the little man.
In this case, the damaging effects of words have pummeled one Veterinary Hospital in Maine. One article was published, and people’s lives were changed in an instant.
There is hope this blog will help demystify the everyday situations veterinary professionals deal with and what happens when skewed word gets out of hand.
In this case, the damaging effects of words have pummeled one Veterinary Hospital in Maine. One article is published, and people's lives are changed in an instant.
This blog will lay out everyday veterinary professionals' stressors and what happens when skewed word gets out of hand.
My Schooling in a Nutshell
I graduated from a community college in 2016 with a humdrum Liberal Arts Degree. Knowing my best career chance was bookkeeping, I decided on a whim to apply to the state university. I never expected to get in, yet four weeks later, that envelope showed up on my doorstep, saying, "Congratulations!"
The degree was Veterinary Technology.
The primary thing that has stuck with me from my first day in class: the professors actively used every excuse to deter us from the profession. The professors’ tactics were cruel in some cases, one of the worst playing a movie detailing how other countries euthanized their animals with graphic images and expecting us to be clear-headed enough to pass our midterm immediately after. [Spoiler alert: a lot of us got a low B at best]
It is an excellent way to weed out those who cannot handle the work. Veterinary medicine needs only the brightest, most driven applicants.
It is not a profession to be taken lightly.
That said, it is an insult when clients say veterinarians and technicians are in it for the money.
I didn’t watch and cry over that graphic movie of animals dying horrifically, stuck in a classroom, unable to reach through the screen and save that healthy stray from execution with the use of a car battery, only for clients to say or imply, I only wanted their money.
The story that inspired this piece is current events of a troubling situation involving an veterinary emergency hospital.
An owner recently brought her dog to veterinary emergency care. The roughly nine-week old puppy was exhibiting signs of abdominal pain and lethargy. The owner swore he didn’t get into the trash or swallow anything he shouldn’t.
Animal health insurance is on the rise, and for a good reason. Emergency care is not cheap. Bringing your animal to any emergency care gives a glimpse of what fellow humans with no health insurance deal with when something significant goes wrong in their lives.
The puppy stayed overnight for observation, all the while becoming sicker. An ultrasound was performed, showing (a linear object) had punctured his duodenum.
The duodenum is the small intestines. Small intestines digest the foods we eat and direct the nutrients into our blood vessels for absorption. The stomach, the intestines, and the colon are all considered “dirty” compared to the rest of the body. If there is any penetration of organs, it is an emergency. The patient can go into septic shock in a matter of hours or bleed out internally. Not every animal can make a recovery from that, and this puppy had been suffering for over 48hrs.
It was a rush to save his life after the ultrasound results came back. The original estimate of roughly $3,000 had turned to $10,000 or more.
This is where options are explained at length to the owners. There are credit options if the clients are less fortunate and unable to pay.
Trust me when I say anxiety hits the roof when I relayed news and estimates to the owners. You never knew the reaction you’d receive, and since it is YOU, the technician, the mouthpiece for the veterinarian, it is you who will be the lightning rod.
Taking a moment, as awful as it is for the owners in that exact moment to find out the state of their pet, they are in their worlds. I've been there; nothing matters when your pet's wellness is at stake.
We all get it. We’ve all been there; nothing matters when your pet’s life is at stake. However, as the owner, take a moment to realize the technician in front of you might have assisted in five, six, or seven euthanasia, and it is only 9:00 am. That is five, six, or seven deaths the technician has already performed and internalized for saving face. Veterinary professionals don’t get a moment to deal with the grief.
Yes, owners are devastated; nothing is worse than sitting and watching the life drain from your beloved animal’s eyes. But it is not to be minimized when the technician is holding the needle, watching that euthanasia drug slither into the cephalic vein, knowing it is them assisting in that death.
Returning to the story: The owner of the foreign body puppy was contacted. There would be a 50% deposit for the lifesaving surgery to start. This is not a number pulled out of a hat. Nearly every veterinary hospital requires a 50% deposit before any major surgery. Yes, $10,000 is a lot.
Sitting here right now, I don’t have $10,000 to give.
Veterinary emergency hospitals are the same as human emergency rooms. They have diagnostic and other equipment ready for the patient who needs them. These devices: x-ray, ultrasound, and surgical suites, these cost money to purchase and maintain; radiology especially is a significant investment in an emergency room, human or animal.
The client applied for a bank loan and was denied several hours later.
The puppy was going on approximately forty-eight hours of awaiting for surgery, hopes of recovery were grim. The owner was advised the kindest thing would be euthanasia, or she could surrender him to the hospital where the financial means would be met, and he would get the lifesaving surgery.
The owner decided to surrender, wanting to give him a fighting chance nobly. And kudos to her. The surgery was completed, and the puppy recovered nicely.
A seemingly happy ending. Except what was a miraculous recovery from an injury that should have killed the puppy turned the veterinary medical center into the villain.
The owner spoke to a local new station, stating the medical center forced her to surrender her dog, and now she had no hopes of getting him back despite allegedly raising funds needed for the surgery after the fact. Yes, she did create a GoFundMe, but it was closed after she decided to surrender the dog. And GoFundMe is not a site where you can raise thousands of dollars in ten minutes.
The puppy didn’t have ten minutes. If it had been a child instead, would you have waited five days or a week to meet the funds? No, the patient would have reached the point of no return and most likely be dead. It was a good idea implemented too late and unfortunately had no hopes of performing to the high expectations.
Per veterinary medicine policy, anywhere you go, a 50% deposit is expected before any major procedure.
Someone has to take the financial burden.
The reality is and it sounds harsh, the veterinary staff’s thoughts are only on the patient. Everything else is secondary on their minds.
The owner agreed to a surrender. Once it is finalized, that is it. You no longer have the legal right to the animal, including information about the animal afterward. Think of HIPPA; people need written consent from the owners for any information to be given out regarding the patient.
The local news station took this plight to the national stage.
As a result, people are threatening actual harm to the staff at this emergency care center. Business has dropped. People are driving two times the distance to the neighboring state for animal care.
This is unacceptable.
Yes, the situation demands empathy for all involved. There is no dispute of that. It is traumatic to lose any pet in any situation. They are our family, after all.
Yet, less than ideal outcomes such as this sad story does not give the right to vilify the courageous, intelligent, hard-working people who only want to make the world a better place.
And I can say from experience the profession does not pay enough for the abuse veterinarians and technicians often receive.
They do their jobs out of a love of animals.
Not One More Vet
Veterinary Technology is rapidly becoming one of the highest suicidal-ridden professions. My professors said one in six of us sitting in the classroom would contemplate suicide in our lives, perhaps more than once. Bright people are killing themselves at an alarming rate, directly linked to 24/7 self-doubt, burn-out, and abuse. Not One More Vet is a website for those in the profession who feel they are in crisis.
“I could have done better….” “If I had done this, the cat would have survived….” “Why am I in this job? I suck at it….” These intrusive thoughts echo in the heads of every professional after an animal dies due to financial or medical reasons.
My confession: I slowed my learning at the clinic where I worked. I was a level 1 technician, and I stayed that way because if something happened on my watch or say-so that killed a patient I wouldn’t have been able to function. I know I would have been a statistic in Not One More Vet.
People enter the veterinary field with bright hopes of taking on the world and saving every patient, but reality sets in, and the hopes and dreams turn jaded and then to ash, and before you know it, depression is knocking.
It is awful: a 2yr old, unneutered dog in room 3 was behaviorally euthanized after the owner refused to listen to suggestions of dog trainers in the area, and immediately after that gut-wrenching scene, the veterinarian and technician go into room 2, where the family is overjoyed by their new, sweet 8-week old doodle puppy.
We can’t walk into room 2 distraught. We go into room 2 with a smile and the family never knows the difference. We are there for them always, them and their pet.
If and when an animal is surrendered, it is not something we strive for. We want you to go home with your animal healthy and happy. We don’t keep a score of how many families we can break up in a day due to whatever burden they walk through the front door.
One-sided soundbites, such as the one involving the puppy with the punctured duodenum, ruin people.
Yes, the reporter was only doing their job.
And yes, the veterinary officials involved in the case were slow to answer questions by the local news due to THE LAW stating they couldn’t give out private information regarding the patient without the owner’s consent. The owner being the hospital. They were not hiding information on purpose. This would be no different than a case involving a human and the same officials saying, “no comment,” or “we are not taking questions right now.”
You cannot vilify the people involved for keeping a low profile. Can you blame them when they are hearing threats to burn down their places of employment or kill them? These threats are unacceptable and were facilitated by one person speaking out to the local news and that reporter running with the information before they had a well-rounded story.
Remember, journalism is about gathering the most information at every angle, so the audience gets all sides of the story.
People are killing themselves over situations like this.
How about everyone having more compassion for the next person, regardless of the situation?
Without a doubt, compassion is to be had for the owner for not being financially able to pay for her dog, and losing him as a result.
The patient deserves a multitude of compassion, having to wait almost fifty hours before lifesaving measures were given.
And there needs to be compassion for the veterinary technology professionals for their work day and night.
Words have power. Words bring happiness. Words can bring death.
Let us proofread our words before we speak next time.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Regin St Cyr