A weekend without work can take on many shapes: a relaxing and protracted breakfast, plenty of coffee and The Yorkshire Post’s Country Week is one pleasant way to recover from the previous five days.
Equally, a mountain biking adventure with the boys is hard to beat. But when on duty, working a Saturday can be better than the other five days put together.
There are fewer staff so, if it’s quiet, a sort of party atmosphere can develop. If busy (and nobody can predict these things) then the smaller team is drawn into unified action, working closely together.
My last Saturday was already fully booked with appointments by half way through Friday, so Lucy, Sarah and I expected we would be busy. With very little space to slot in the possible emergencies, we would all have to be on top form. Just after ten minutes, one such emergency cropped up. A Labrador puppy had swallowed a sock.
“I know he ate it because I saw him pick it up,” explained his distraught owner. “And then he swallowed it before I could grab it.”
The puppy was rushed down to fit in as an extra. He looked very healthy and extremely pleased with himself, having outwitted (or so he thought) a human and eaten some of her footwear.
The other, uneaten sock was brought along for me to gauge the size and likely implications. I weighed up the options:
i) Leave sock to see if it would pass through – a risky strategy. I’d seen some socks do this but there were plenty that got lodged in the stomach or intestines.
ii) Give drugs to induce vomiting– a sensible strategy, until the vomiting pup fails to produce a sock, in which case the fraught vet has to operate on a dog who has just vomited eight times. I’ve regretted this course of action on several occasions.
iii) Attempt to remove the sock by endoscope – good in theory, but may take more than an hour, if the grabbers don’t grab. It can be impossible if the sock has already moved out of the stomach.
iv) Operate to surgically remove the offending sock directly from the stomach – this requires surgery but will resolve the problem in a predictable and fool-proof way.
Needless to say, after some thought and discussion, I opted for the last one. Before long, a fetid sock, stained with gastric juices, swollen and much bigger than the other part of its pair, was sitting in a kidney dish as the little dog raised his head in recovery, slightly confused about what had just happened.
The dream team continued its work and just before home time, Sarah put another phone call on hold.
“You’re not going to believe this. I have the owner of another puppy on the phone. She’s just swallowed a sock. What shall I tell her?”
“You’d better ask her to bring her down,” I said, and we readied theatre. It felt like Groundhog Day.
The second surgery was almost identical and went smoothly too. Whilst stitching up, we reminisced about interesting foreign body removals we’d seen.
One story went like this: We’d removed some lady’s underwear from a dog’s intestines. The owners came in to collect the patient and I handed the dog over as well as the pants in a plastic bag.
The wife suddenly shouted, “They are not my pants!” The husband went very quiet and they left in a hurry!
Evidently, that one didn’t have such a happy outcome…
The Yorkshire Vet continues on Tuesdays on Channel 5.