More Tales From The Vet School

  • March 27, 2017

If you’d like to see earlier vet school tales go here.

Horses were (and continue to be) never my strong point, so when we received horse legs in Musculoskeletal lab in second year to perform certain procedures on, some caution seemed warranted. Though having little experience or interest in horses, I still understood that some things could be applicable to other species. So, I kept an open mind.
I inserted a needle as instructed to do a joint tap and began to fill the capsule with fluid. After several minutes of this, with two classmates looking on, we started to have doubts. Now, one of the last things you usually wanted to do was to actually engage a professor in conversation so that they could tell you your ignorance was hanging out. However, we were all small animal inclined people and finally got up the courage to ask the instructor over for questions.
“How much fluid can the joint capsule hold?” I asked vaguely and, I thought, cannily.
“How much have you put in?’ she astutely asked, head turning in the direction of possible prey.
I knew this species of instructor could sense fear, so I gulped and tamped down my initial reaction. “Uh,” I said, boldly, “well, about 60 milliliters.”
To her credit, she didn’t erupt with laughter, but instead reflected quietly for a moment before saying, “It doesn’t hold that much.”
“Oh,” I said wisely. I was aware of my fellow classmates slowly backing away from ground zero.
Bending over the horse leg, she inspected the site of the needle, gleaning information from it that I couldn’t fathom. When she looked up, she said, “You’ve infused the deep digital flexor tendon. That’s very difficult to do.”
Maybe I can redeem myself here, I thought, It must be good if it’s difficult to do. “Is there any therapeutic reason someone would want to be able to do that?”, I asked.
She stared off into the distance in contemplation, gathering her thoughts, and replied, “No. But, leave it there.”
Then, she turned, went up to the front of the lab room, and using the microphone, announced to the rest of the class what I had done. She felt that it would be a learning experience for people to view the incorrect needle position in relation to where it should go. Throughout the rest of the lab, my fellow classmates cruised slowly by our table, looking much like the people on the freeway when passing an accident. They’d look at the leg , then glance up and ask, “You did this?” Yep, that’s me. Leading from behind by bad example.

We had an anatomy professor, a true dinosaur of a man (I’ll call him Professorus Rex), who reminded me of a twenty-three year old Miniature Poodle; poodles being the equivalent of the Ever-Ready Rabbit – no matter how old they get, they keep going and going, even when they enter a zombie-like state of animation and parts start falling off. Anyway, after a long day of classes, I went into a locker room in the main veterinary building to change clothes in order to work-out at the campus gym. As an aside, this working-out thing didn’t last too long in the vet school pressure cooker environment.  The locker room had a bathroom attached and, while I was disrobing, P. Rex entered to use the facilities. I didn’t think much of it, except for a stray thought that after a certain age it must be wonderful that the plumbing works with any regularity. The next thing I know, he’s finished his business and is walking toward me.
“I want to ask you a question, but don’t feel badly if you don’t know the answer,” he said.
Of course, I figure there must be a joke in the making, especially considering that I’m standing in my underwear and socks. So, I said, “Okay.”
“What is the difference between the long ciliary and the short ciliary ganglion?” he asked.
I thought for a moment and replied, “Length?”
“No, no. I mean in their functionality.”
It was then that I realized that he wanted a serious answer. I thought and had to say, “I don’t know.” (Little did I realize at the time that was to become my mantra for the next four years)
He gave me the answer and I’ll be honest, to this day I have no idea what it was. It had to do with one being sympathetic and the other parasympathetic, but I can’t remember which is which. Oddly, in now twenty-four years of being a veterinarian, it has never come up again.
For months after this incident I would have anxiety attacks if I had to use the vet school restrooms. I kept having this image of me sitting on the toilet and P. Rex would stick his head under the stall and start asking questions.

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