I am a veterinary locum and I only work as a GP consulting vet. I was very surprised that with the current lockdown where the government and RCVS have stopped any routine veterinary work and practices are to remain open for emergencies only; that they still needed me to go in.
I so appreciate the wonderful team that I work with and my daughters and I set about stitching some face masks the night before to give to our hardworking team of nurses and receptionists who have stayed behind to keep up with emergency cases. They were fun to make but not great to wear as they fogged up your glasses and were very hot to breath into!
A very different way of consulting
The day proved to be emotionally draining as we all adapted to this very different way of doing veterinary work. So much to remember – no clients allowed in the building, phone them in their cars to bring their pet to the door, take the pet from them at the door, take any forms that need to be signed to a table outside the door with a special sterilised pen to sign, wash hands all the time, wear a mask, do not stand too close to colleagues while working…..it was exhausting!
The response of the animals was so sweet to watch. They were only too happy to leave their owners at the door and be led into the empty practice with wagging tails even though there was with no full waiting room or other animals to socialise with. The owners were so understanding and really lovely. How heartbreaking to hand over their most treasured possession to us all gowned and masked and not be there to speak to us in person except have a telephone conversation from their home or from their car. It was so obvious that emotions were running so high and even while doing telemedicine where I had to just console an owner rather than seeing their pet, I realised how like all of us, the smallest worry we may have at such a difficult time becomes an enormous worry.
One owner burst into tears on me over the phone when I gently consoled her that the lameness her dog was experiencing was due to the fact that their dog was still young and being taken on walks that were just too long and some paracetamol (at the correct dose and given with food) would sort the problem – everyone’s emotions are understandably very fragile at this stressful time of lockdown.
Euthanasia with an extension lead
My emotions were really tested as my very last case was Milly – a 19 year old cat who had suddenly gone blind. I was dreading having a euthanasia as they are the times when an owner needs you the most and to be gowned and gloved and masked and to have to keep your distance goes against everything we want to do in such a private time of a person’s life with their pet.
I had admitted Milly and realised very quickly that any form of treatment was out of the question. Although she was not in pain, she had a very high heart rate and this increase in blood pressure had caused her to go completely blind overnight. Her owners said she had awoken crying loudly and bumping into everything which distressed everyone in the family and especially Milly.
The owner rang his wife from his car when I rang him in his car to give him the very sad prognosis and kindest decision. She was unable to be there and join him as she was at home with their 2 young children and with the lockdown she could not leave them with anyone. With the help of my wonderful nurses on the day, we had Milly connected to a long intravenous line that we would normally use for drips to keep us 1m apart, and we had 1 empty room that we kept for owners that was fully sterilised and empty – even tissues had been taken away!
It felt so far removed from a euthanasia that we all want but at least he was able to hold little old thin Milly and when she had gone, with me standing all gowned 1m away, he cried into his mask and told me how she had been his only constant this last 20 years. The added stress of the lockdown really tests all of us. I wept very quietly into my facemask once he had left, feeling so relieved that they did not need me to work the next day as originally planned as this form of veterinary was emotionally draining and just felt all wrong.
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