Yorkshire vet Julian Norton tested by call to remove bull's eye

TV vet Julian Norton writes for The Yorkshire Post every weekend. Picture by Tony Johnson.
TV vet Julian Norton writes for The Yorkshire Post every weekend. Picture by Tony Johnson.

My first visit had already been arranged when I arrived at work on Wednesday morning. It wasn’t at all what I expected.

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Julian Norton had little choice but to remove the bull's eye.

Julian Norton had little choice but to remove the bull's eye.

“There’s a farmer who wants you to take his bull’s eye out.”

The message was unequivocal and it put a small spanner in the workings of my day, which was already pretty full.

I made a few phone calls to rearrange my morning and headed out with armfuls of surgical equipment, lots of local anaesthetic and some trepidation. It is not a common operation to undertake and I had only done the procedure on cattle twice before.

The first time didn’t go too well. It was complicated by an extensive tumour that was growing from the unfortunate Simmental’s third eyelid and proved impossible to remove.

The second time, the op went perfectly, which was just as well because it was all being filmed for The Yorkshire Vet.

The bull in question had a huge, swollen, glaucomatous eye and the farmer was, quite rightly, worried it might pop. It must have been painful, although the young bull in question appeared stoically normal.

Aptly, the condition of a hugely swollen eye is called buphthalmos, which derives from the Greek and literally means “ox eye”. I hoped this third occasion would go as smoothly as the last.

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When I got to the farm, the animal whose eye I was instructed to remove, did not look so stoic as my previous patient. The eye, however, did look terrible and there was surely no hope of the injury healing naturally.

There had been some kind of accident - the spikey, thorny type of accident, which is not good for the delicate structures of the eyeball. So, as you might expect, the eyeball had come off worse. The injury had gone undetected for a day or so and the topical ointment the farmer had applied had not proved very effective.

I agreed that the only way forwards, to alleviate the pain and to have any chance of healing, was to remove the eye.

Once the head was restrained, I clipped off all the hair and then instilled as much local anaesthetic as I could. There are some specific nerves that we aim for, with a long needle. The local will numb the nerve and provide perfect analgesia.

However, it is hard to find the exact location of these nerves and so it is sensible to inject as much local as is possible.

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Finally, the whole op site was numb and I set about the (rather basic) surgery. Half an hour later the final suture was in place, the eye was out and the outcome was pretty good.

I stood up, stretched out my aching back and admired my work. The bullock seemed oblivious to what had just happened, although maybe just a bit confused about the numbness to the right side of his face.

It must have been like a very serious trip to the dentist for an extraction, albeit a rather different sort of extraction.

I cleaned up and headed off to continue my rounds, leaving a happy patient and a grateful farmer and with satisfied feeling.

Later, back at the practice, I ticked my way through a list of phone calls. The last one involved an owl.

“Julian, thanks for calling me back,” said Joe, replying to my call. Joe kept a selection of unusual creatures and owls were part of his menagerie.

“I’ve got this owl and I’m worried about his eye,” he explained.

“It’s badly ulcerated and I’ve been putting drops in but it’s no better. I think it needs to be removed. Can I book it in?”

It was my turn to roll my eyes, skywards this time. This would be even harder!

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