Tag Archives: love

Return of Spontaneous Circulation

7 May

It’s a random shift in the middle of the week, a week I’m barely getting through. But I do my best to sleep all day and prepare for the night shift. I put on my uniform, manage to eat a couple of bites of peanut butter toast, force down a tall cup of coffee, place a cold washrag on my eyes to bring down the puffiness.

“Let’s do this,” I say to the mirror and listen to pump up music on my way to work.

At work, I’m told that I’m floating, which means I don’t have a patient assignment, I’m supposed to go around the department and help out any nurses that are busy. Not ideal for me at the moment as I’m truly looking for something to distract me, to keep my mind busy and away from the cyclical thinking that has been torturing me. But I do my best to find things to do. I see a doctor who is going to be discharging a patient with crutches, and she asks me to come help her apply the splint. We stand outside the patient room while he’s changing out of his hospital gown. She looks at me for a minute before saying…

“Are you pregnant?”
“No, I’m not.” I say loud and angry. I’m a firm believer that unless someone is very very visibly showing (6/7 months at least), you should never ask someone if they’re pregnant. Maybe they’re slouching a bit. Maybe they ate a big lunch. Maybe they’ve been lying in bed crying for days. No matter the case, don’t ask, don’t be an asshole.
“Oh,” she pauses. “But were you recently pregnant?” She had the nerve to double-down on the assertion that I look pregnant.
“Nope. Never been.”

I help her in the room with the patient, and as soon as she seems like she doesn’t need me anymore, I rush out of the room and head straight to the pantry, tears burning in my eyes. One of my co-workers that I’ve become friends with sees and follows me. She knows I’ve been heartbroken lately. I tell her what happened with the doctor, and she comforts me as best she can.

“She’s crazy!” she says. “I would kill to have your figure. You don’t look pregnant at all.”
“I just didn’t need this right now, you know.” I cry as she rubs my back. “I already feel so low, so alone, and I didn’t need this tonight.”

The radio I wear around my neck announces that a cardiac arrest is en route to the hospital. A second or so later, the charge nurse radioes me directly to say the patient will be assigned to me.

“Okay. I’ll be there,” I say as I wipe my tears on a rough paper towel and take a deep breath or two and tell my co-worker thank you, but I guess I have to go do work now. She’s an ER nurse too, she understands.

I run out of the pantry, my eyes still blurry from tears. I throw all my PPE on, the gown, the goggles, the extra face shield, grateful that it can cover my blotchy, mascara stained face to some degree. I run into the resus room as the patient is being wheeled in, a pretty large man who is intubated but the cardiac monitor is not showing activity. The doctor in the room says to start CPR. There are large EMTs present, and they’re usually the ones that do the chest compressions during CPR since it takes a lot of strength and stamina. I see a couple of them rolling up their sleeves. But I know this one is meant for me. I grab the stool, put it beside the patient, elbow my way past my co-workers and start my compressions.

These are the best chest compressions of my life. And unlike other CPR I have performed, I feel like I could keep going indefinitely. I look down at my criss-crossed hands on his chest and lose myself in the beat of “Stayin Alive.” My compressions are deep, even, perfect. I think only about hearts about how there’s one heart out there, somewhere in Brooklyn that I would particularly like to pound on, to beat until it hurts as much as mine. But this one will do, so I just keep going.

After a couple of rounds of CPR and medications, we do a pulse check and find that he has ROSC, return of spontaneous circulation. The meds worked, and he lived. This is rare. This almost never happens. Every time I’ve been in a code and performed CPR, the efforts were futile and the patient didn’t make it. Who knows why this guy did. Maybe he was young enough. Maybe the meds and CPR got to him quick enough. But he lived. It was another hour or two of stabilizing him and preparing him to be shipped off to the ICU.

A week later, I’m at drinks with some friends, going over and over and over my heartbreak, how I feel so confused, so hurt, still so low.

“Anything good happening, though?” one of them kindly jokes.
“I did CPR at work and the patient lived. I’ve never had a patient live before.”
“Woah, that’s incredible. Do you hear yourself?”
“I guess. I did the cardiac compressions. It felt good to pound on a heart like that.”

The last couple of weeks, I keep finding myself saying “There’s gotta be a metaphor in there somewhere.” Weird things that happen, things I notice in nature, the return of spontaneous circulation. What does it all mean? But I guess I’m not supposed to know. Not while I’m deep in the thick of it, trying to keep my head above water. I think the meaning, the metaphors are only supposed to make sense in hindsight. But for the couple of hours where I worked on that patient, did my job as a nurse, all my other problems and heartbreak felt so insignificant and unimportant and weren’t even on my mind. So while I keep thinking of metaphors, maybe it wasn’t that I was trying to push on someone else’s heart, maybe it was my own, maybe it was something about bringing myself back to life.

I don’t know though. Those answers aren’t here yet. I just know that my patient lived, and I guess I will continue to do so as well.

The Fourth Floor

15 Apr

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About a week and a half ago, I got a phone call from my educator telling me that I was being moved from the ER to a makeshift Covid floor that they had installed on the fourth floor above the emergency room. I knew something like this was likely coming as most of my other nursing friends around New York City have also been shifted around to units that exclusively treat Coronavirus patients, but I was still nevertheless heartbroken. I had been training for 8 months to be an ER nurse, and in the matter of a day, all of my hard work felt like it was pulled from me. I was to be given one day of training into a whole different type of nursing. Oh, and I was being moved to the night shift.

It’s grim. It’s bleak. There are moments of light that I grasp onto and try to repeat over and over to myself in my mind, but the image of watching people struggle for air as they slip closer to death without family or friends by their side is haunting. On my first night, a couple of hours into my shift, I was given a transfer patient who was DNR (do no resuscitate) and was completely unresponsive. Her head was contorted backwards with her mouth open as she gasped for air. As I was instructed to do for a new admission, I took vital signs on her and listened to her lung sounds, roiling with the sounds of fluid as she slowly drowned.

I remember thinking, “How do I process this? How do I deal with this and with all that is still to come?” And I realized I can’t. I just have to do my job, and I’ll work through the trauma at a later date. Neither me nor any of my fellow healthcare workers have the luxury right now to take a mental health day or to see a therapist. It’s the first time that this whole pandemic felt like actual war to me. What it must be like to be on a battlefield, surrounded by death and the only option is to keep going, to keep fighting, because that’s the only way through. No end date. No idea when the resolution will come. Just keep fighting.

I love being a nurse, but right now, I dread my job. I never wanted to be an inpatient nurse (which is what I am now), especially not dealing with hospice care. I have a deep well of respect for those nurses, but I always knew it was not the type of cloth that I was cut from, that my heart was not built to endure or sustain this kind of work. But I’ve been drafted, and I don’t have a choice. I ride the lonely subway to work. I put on layer after layer of protective gear. Masks that make me gasp for air throughout my shift, gowns that trap heat and make me sweat, face shields that cut into my forehead. I try to do the best job I can and offer as much compassion as I have stored within me to each patient, then I go home to my lonely apartment and try to sleep through the daylight until the night comes, and I have to go back again.

Moments of light, though. Brief, beautiful, savory moments of light. My schizophrenic patient who is often confused and disoriented and asks me repeatedly if she can stay in bed (she’s homeless and used to being kicked out of places.)
“I’d be very happy if you stayed in this bed until you feel better,” I told her.
“Oh good,” she replied, relaxing a little. “Then I’m going to go back to sleep, and I wish you luck doing whatever you have to do in all that gear. Good night. I love you.”
“I love you too.”

An elderly dementia patient who asked another exhausted nurse to put on a ballgame for him. She explained there is no baseball and that it was the middle of the night. I got one of our iPads for him and pulled up the 1986 world series games for him on Youtube. I set it up on the table in front of him.
“I just wish I could bring you a hot dog,” I told him.
“Oh, I miss hot dogs so much.” He looked at me. “I know I keep asking you, but I’m waiting for your answer on my marriage proposal.”
I laughed awkwardly, not knowing what to say.
“It’s just that you are the most beautiful woman in the world,” he continued. Remember that I am wearing two masks, goggles, face shield, bouffant, gown, gloves.
“You can’t see me under all this gear!” I remind him.
“But darling, you look beautiful no matter what outfit you’re wearing.”

Moments of light. Moments of light. Long 12-hour night shifts with brief moments of light before I walk out into the early morning sunlight and head home to try and sleep.

30 Before 30: Read “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion

23 Dec

yearmagicalthinknig

In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

I read this book in the span of a day. It’s not a long book, and the prose is quick and simple. It’s also a story that pulls the reader in. It documents the year of her life after her husband John died. He had a heart attack in front of her, and, as she puts it, in an ordinary moment her life changed.

I’m still processing how I feel about the book. It’s different from most anything I’ve ever read. Death and loss are not new topics. I think the difference with Didion is that she doesn’t try to pull at your heartstrings. She doesn’t conjure up lost memories of her husband and her at their happiest. Their first kiss. Sweet things he did for her. None of that is there. It is simply the story of her mind coping with the grief.

Reading her analyze her mind and notice her thought patterns in the year after she lost her husband pulls the reader closer to understanding how it feels to lose a life partner. At one point, I took a break from reading it and looked at the simple layout of the cover. Only four letters in a different color than the rest. My eyes scanned from the J to the O to the H to the N. John. Her ex-husband. I give that cover designer enormous credit for putting together such an understated cover that describes the essence of the book. The shadow Didion’s husband cast over her life, especially in the year after he died, was unavoidable and seeped into her mind in curious ways.

Her writing is so straight-forward and without embellishment that I was surprised by how much her love for him resonated. In interviews, she has said that she thought the book turned into a love story instead of a story about grief. And I agree. This is not a book for the faint of heart. Your heart will break alongside hers. But it is beautiful, and it is important, and I learned so much from it.

“We are not idealized wild things.

We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. And as we will one day not be at all.”

 

The Indian Wedding

8 Jul

Khyati and I in London, 2007.

Khyati and me in London, 2007.

This is my dear friend Khyati. We met in student government when we were 12-years-old. Somehow over the years we have managed to stay in touch, and I feel lucky to have her, even if our friendship is now maintained over sporadic g-chat sessions. She is the most honest person I’ve ever known, never afraid to tell me when my hair color looks unflattering (the black bob I had in high school) or when I’m making a poor life decision (moving across the country with someone I wasn’t happy with). That makes her an invaluable person to have in my corner. So when a year ago, she asked if I would consider attending her wedding even though it was all the way across the country in California, it was an easy “yes.”

Khyati is Indian, and I knew her wedding would be semi-traditional. But I still didn’t know what to expect. The months leading up to the wedding, she sent me a slew of emails explaining all the events, the expectations of the day. She flew to India to get invitations and her dress amongst other things. Knowing I’d be one of three non-Indian women at this event, she had me send her my measurements so she could get a dress made for me.

Even though the wedding was on a Saturday, I flew in on Friday morning to attend her Mehendi at her uncle’s house in Pleasanton, California. Walking into the house, I saw colorful drapery and flowers everywhere. There was singing and drums and laughing. Somebody led me to her where she sat in the middle of the events, looking tired but blissful, every inch of her skin covered in turmeric powder to “purify” her. I hadn’t seen her in four years since her fiancé, Ravi and her had visited me in New York. Her sister led me to a woman in the corner who got to work painting Henna on my hand. The food was overflowing. Chai tea, weird honey candy things, flower cracker things, Indian crepes filled with spices and vegetables, sweet rice balls. I met up with one of the other non-Indian women, and we made plans to meet up the next day.

My Henna

My Henna

After all the food, music, Henna and brief catching up, I began the two-hour drive South to Monterey where the wedding was going to take place. She had given us coupons for pizza which I ate in my little hotel room before passing out while watching CNN. I knew the next day was going to be a long one.

The next morning, I got up at 8 to get ready in order to be outside the venue around 9:30 for the beginning of the ceremony. Everyone headed down the street to meet up with Ravi who was on a white horse to be led into the wedding area. His friends all had drums and speakers to play Indian music. Her cousins explained to me that this part of the proceedings was to let the whole town know that there was a wedding happening. Her family members were gracious and amazing throughout the whole day, stopping to explain to me what was going on and why. They also distributed a program that explained the significance of each part of the ceremony.

Riding in on the horse.

Riding in on the horse.

So much dancing. So much celebrating. So many strange little traditions. Khyati’s sister came out with a sculpture on her head to greet Ravi. He had to break a clay pot with his bare hands to prove to Khyati’s parents that he was strong enough for her. At last, she came out, under a large sheet with a flower lei in her hands. They exchanged leis (representing a time when arranged marriages were negotiated) before she went back to her waiting room and he went ahead to perform rituals with a Hindu guide.

First sight of the beautiful bride.

First sight of the beautiful bride.

The ceremony was lengthy with a variety of symbolic moments involving her sister, her parents, his parents, his sister. The overcast weather turned to sunlight and the wedding was framed by the calm Pacific Ocean. One point of the ceremony had Khyati and Ravi walking in a circle together representing the different aspects of their union. After the four circles (pheras), there’s an important moment when whoever sits down first will rule the household. The friends I sat with joked with me about whether Ravi would even try to beat Khyati to the punch. Of course, he let her sit first, and it was a moment of knowing she had found the perfect partner for her. Someone calm and quiet, willing to let her have her way, while also providing a loving counsel to help her grow as a person. I’ve seen the good he has brought out in her over the years and know how good they are together.

The ceremony

The ceremony

After the ceremony, we waved ribbons as they walked toward their “Just Married” car. Ravi’s friends lifted him off his feet and stole his shoes. Another tradition in which the groom has to negotiate to get his shoes back before he is allowed to leave the wedding venue. Khyati posed for pictures and rolled her eyes in a playful way, “Is he STILL negotiating?!” she’d ask.

We all drove to a small garden a couple of blocks away where an Indian buffet was waiting. After eating our full of incredible Indian food, some of which I recognized, most of which I didn’t but enjoyed nonetheless, my new friends and I grabbed a couple of beers at a bar nearby while the rest of the wedding party changed into their second outfits.

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Bride and groom in reception outfits. Me in my Indian dress with one-hour-in-sunlight-sunburn.

A couple of hours later, the reception began with a performance created by Khyati’s sister and starring her cousins re-enacting Khyati and Ravi’s love story through a variety of classic Disney songs. Speeches were given, then the dancing began. My skin was burned, my feet were tired from a long day, I was a little tipsy from the beers, but I danced and danced and danced without rest. I was so happy and excited for my friend.

Khyati is my first friend whose wedding I have attended, and I wondered how I would feel about it. I had said goodbye to a great guy a month earlier, one more in a string of lovely humans who just aren’t what I’m looking for. I was worried I’d feel sad or worse jealous. But throughout the day, I felt nothing but pure joy in the celebration of love that existed on that day. I’ve attended weddings before, but to go to a wedding of someone who I’ve known more than half of my life meant a much greater emotional investment. I danced with such an elation for her, for the amazing life and loving marriage that I wholeheartedly hope is ahead of them. Not an ounce of sadness, loneliness, or jealousy to be found in my body. If anything, it made me feel like I’m on the right path. I want what they have, what she has found: a partner that fits for me that makes sense for my life and my personality. I’m okay with not having found that yet, and I felt more certain that day that I would never settle for anything less than that “right for me” feeling. Why would I?

Tulip Marie

13 May

Tulip's first day at the clinic

Tulip’s first day at the clinic

About a month ago, we had a nameless, rescue pug dropped off at the clinic. By her drooping belly, we could tell that she was far along in a pregnancy. She was shy, timid, and terrified. We dubbed her Tulip, and I figured out that all she wanted to do was sit in someone’s, anyone’s, lap. I was happy to lend her mine.

That night, after I had left, she gave birth to two puppies. One was stillborn. The next day, the overnight tech relayed to me the story of how he tried CPR on the tiny body and how when it didn’t work, he presented Tulip the puppy so she could see it was dead. He told me how she pressed on its chest with her paws, how she licked its nostrils, trying in her own way to revive the lost pup.

“I never see a dog do that in my life,” the night tech told me, pointing to the pug. “That’s a special dog.”

Despite her efforts to nurse the other puppy, it passed away the following day, leaving her with none.

Tulip with Upper East Side tulips.

Tulip with Upper East Side tulips.

I felt so heartbroken for her that in my downtime at work, I let her snuggle on my lap while I petted her and hugged her and told her it was all going to be okay. And over the course of a day or two, she became attached to me. She is a friendly dog who will like most anyone, but she had it made up in her mind that I was her one and only. She insisted on following me everywhere I went, always at my heel. When I left the room without her, she would cry and howl until I came back. And when I came  into work in the morning, she hopped around me, barely able to breathe from the excitement.

I fed into it too. I loved being so adored, so chosen by her. I continued to let her sit on my lap during my downtime. I cleaned her face folds and ears, daily, got her a pink harness and a gold-striped collar. I even came in on my day off to pick her up and take her to Central Park for the day. After all, that’s what people do with their dogs. They take them to the park and lay in the sun together. And she felt like mine. We felt like two peas in a pod. Two kindred spirits. She was my sidekick, and my partner in crime.

When I brought her back to the clinic after out day in the park, I gushed to all my co-workers about how much fun we had together.

“Look at you!” Dr. N said. “You have that great first-date, falling in love glow!”

Asleep in my lap, her favorite place.

Asleep in my lap, her favorite place.

And I was in love with her. I found myself overjoyed to head into work in the mornings. I couldn’t wait to walk in and see her snorty, lolly-gagging tongue face. But a bitter-sweetness tinted everything, because I knew we were star-crossed and not meant to be. I still can’t have pets in my apartment, not to mention my supplemental income of pet-sitting that requires me to stay at other people’s apartments anywhere from 6-12 days a month. That’s not the kind of life a wonderfully puglet like my Tulip Marie deserves. Throughout our love affair, I was well aware that the rescue organization that brought her to us already had a couple of prospective homes lined up for her.

So it hurt every time I left work, and I could hear her howling for me as I walked out the door. And I shed a couple of tears when I hugged her goodbye before leaving on my vacation last week. I knew that it was likely the last time I would ever see her. She’s such a loving, special dog that I know she’ll find a good owner that will love her and bond to her as much as I did. And I know that things are all seemingly falling into place in my life, the pieces are coming together and not too long from now, I will be in a position to adopt a dog of my own who will hopefully live up to the greatness that is Tulip. But I will always hold a special place in my heart for the Spring romance I had with her. It was special. She was special. My Tulip Marie.

Our day in the park together.

Our day in the park together.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

23 Feb

People just kept recommending this book to me. Everyone saying the same thing. They couldn’t put it down. The writing is stunning. So I began this book with the highest of expectations. This always makes me nervous as it makes books easier to fall short, to not be perfect.

This however lived up to the many wonderful things said about it. Most of the talk generated around this book has to do with race, which Adichie addresses beautifully and in a way that I had not seen done before. The novel is about a young Nigerian woman Ifemelu and the love of her life, Obinze. The two of them dream of emigrating to America together. However, only Ifemelu is able to obtain the visa. Over the years, they drift apart as Ifemelu tries to acclimate to the United States, and Obinze unsuccessfully tries to get to the US by working in London, but eventually ends up back in Nigeria.

A lot of books talk about the Black experience in America, but this book does so through the lens of a woman who spent the first 20 years of her life where being Black didn’t make her a minority. The subtlety of the racism she encounters is beautifully documented, not overly dramatized, yet apparent. It’s real. It makes all the people in this country that want to try and deny that we don’t have an issue with race look insane. Black people have come a long way, but to try and say that racism has been eliminated from our culture is foolish. Books like this that confront the issue are more important now than ever.

But beyond the expansive issue of race, the book is a beautiful love story. Ifemelu is a whip-smart, loveable character, and I found myself not wanting the book to end if it only meant that I could follow her story forever.

That being said though, to anyone out there that read the book, did the last three pages feel rushed to you? Maybe I was overwhelmed with grief that the story was ending, but I felt it was forced. I wanted more, not multiple months and the most important encounter of the book (to me) slapped on at the end.

School Daze

5 Mar

HPIM3464 On Tuesday I went to a lecture at the ASPCA about Animal Cruelty laws and the veterinarian’s role in prosecution.

As I sat there watching the PowerPoint presentation, taking notes on my handouts on body conditioning score, and New York State laws, I felt at home. Not in that building, but in that role, as student.

I miss being in school. From kindergarten on, I loved school. I didn’t talk about it much, because it was not a popular opinion as a child, but I adored it. I got so excited when September came around. All the new notebooks and binders, the list of classes. I loved sitting at my desk and spreading out my things, getting ready to learn something new. College was the best, because it wasn’t formulaic teaching. I took classes in Architecture, Japanese History, Horror Literature, Advanced Spanish, Animal Behavior. I had enough credits to graduate early, and I went to my adviser and begged her to let me stay an extra semester. She told me I was insane, and I had to enter the real world.

The real world is rough. I’ve spent the last couple of years dreaming endlessly of returning to school. I just never could settle on what for. Technically, I am back in school with my veterinary technician program. I love it. I don’t meditate or work out, because to me, studying is my zen. I understand that you might be rereading that sentence in horror and confusion. I know I’m strange. But I feel such bliss when I turn off my phone, close my computer, and read through a text book, highlighting, taking notes. At the end of the hour I have allotted myself, I often crave more, but force myself to step away.

But these online courses aren’t enough for me. I want to walk through the regal and solemn halls of a university and sit once again in a classroom, becoming an expert in a million different fields. Is there a job where one can be an ever-learning student of life? I’m already a student at the University of Books, but I need MORE.

This is the year. I’m going to figure it out. Where I want to lend my talents to the world, what career can keep my thirsty mind studying and learning. I’m going to find it, apply to it, and in fall 2015 be back in a classroom where I belong.

Roger

20 Oct

Our clinic has a client that I’ll call Mr. F. He’s a kind man who prefers to adopt Jack Russel Terriers (JRT). He became our client during a time when he owned two great dogs. The kind of JRT of myth. JRT’s tend to be hyper, aggressive, not the ideal breed. But under Mr. F’s loving care, his JRT’s were loyal, happy, and loving. After one of his JRTs passed away, he went to a shelter and adopted a new one. He named him Roger.

He has owned the dog for a year, but I hadn’t dealt with Roger until Wednesday when Mr. F brought him in for a dental and wart removal. The dog was strange. That’s the only way to describe it. A large “B.C.” was emblazoned on the record. It stands for “Be Careful” and is our clinic’s tactful way of saying the dog or cat is aggressive and for lack of a better term, bad. But Roger wasn’t your typical snarler or swipe biter or growling pet. He wouldn’t bite when placing a catheter or during restraint. The dog would stand there and turn to bite without rhyme or reason. He would do it in a slow, nonlogical way. The more I worked with the dog, the more it seemed less aggressive, more neurologically compromised. It reminded me of autism.

I’ve read a couple of books on autism and what fascinates me about the condition is how we don’t understand it. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the spectrum and figure out how the autistic brain works. Of course, if it is present in animals, we would understand it even less as the animal brain is even harder to interpret.

Last Spring, I spent some time volunteering with autistic children during horseback riding lessons. The variety of the conditions and their reactions to different occurrences and stimuli was fascinating. Something about the look some of them would get in their eyes made me so curious as to what they could be thinking and feeling. Roger would get a similar look. Staring at a corner of his cage or looking right at me without reaction. At home, he is difficult. He will bite people randomly, cries as soon as he goes outside and is fearful of certain toys and people. When I mentioned to Dr. L that the behavior reminded me of autism, she began to agree. But how are we to know for sure?

When Mr. F came to pick up Roger at the end of the day, I witnessed one of the most heart-wrenching acts of love. The dog meandered up to the front waiting room, looked at his owner and had no reaction. I have never seen that before. Not a tail wag, not a faster pace to the owner, nothing. Mr. F crouched on the floor, his arms directed toward the dog. “Roger, it’s daddy. C’mon, Roger, didn’t you miss me?” But the dog just stared at the walls. I felt his frustration, and I admired the love and attention this man could put into a dog that simply doesn’t respond, doesn’t return affection. It was fascinating.

Any vet techs out there seen anything similar?

Side Note

29 Jun

That’s a rather amusing video, but my subject is not.

Today at work, Dr. S sent me to an exam room to get a cat. There was a couple in their 30’s, and the man handed me the cat, who was sweet and docile. I smiled at them and told them I’d be right back.

In treatment, I held the cat as Dr. S went about his exam, palpating the belly, listening to the heart, etc.

“You know,” he said. “This is the client with the fiance that got arrested.”
“What? I’ve never heard about this.”
“Oh, well his ex-fiance a couple of years ago went to jail for animal abuse.”
“What?! His cat? This cat?!”
“No, the cat died, but she took it to the Animal Medical Center with broken bones all over its body. They opened an investigation into cruelty. She actually confessed and went to jail for a year or so.”

He finished up his exam, and I carried the cat back to the owners. I’m not that much of a cat person, but after that story I felt a sad affection for the cat in my arms. It brought to mind a quote from a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode I saw years and years ago (I’m not ashamed.) “I will not let you destroy what I was chosen to protect.”

That might sound a little melodramatic. But I spend most of my days helping animals, sometimes in little ways, sometimes in big ways. It brings me so much joy and satisfaction. I’m lucky to work where I do, and I don’t often see cruelty cases. To be reminded that it happens in the world is so confusing to me. Why would anyone take out their malice on these creatures?

Before I went back in the room, I gave the cat in my arms a quick kiss on the top of its head. “You’re a good kitty,” I told her.

Clients

20 May

Eric Kayser Boulanger treats.

Eric Kayser Boulanger treats.

In a way I have the Upper East Side clientele to thank for my career as a vet tech. I asked to become a tech, because I desperately wanted to leave the front desk. I didn’t know how I’d handle working so closely with the animals, the blood, the death, the illness, etc. But I knew I’d rather do anything than deal with those clients day in and day out.

When some of the horror stories of our clients make their way to me now, I breathe a sigh of relief. My client interaction is at a minimum, and I couldn’t be happier. But nonetheless, I still have to deal with some clients.

One of our most notorious clients of legendary snobbery is a devoted follower of Dr. Z. She is the epitome of Upper East Side old money. She inherited millions upon millions and spends her time breeding Dachshunds for show. They are beautiful dog, many of which have competed in National competitions. They have the softest coats of any dog I know. And they are dead inside. Behind their big black eyes, lies nothing. No personality, no reactions. It makes sense for a show dog to be personality-less, as they’ll trot and hold themselves in a perfect manner, but they make for uninteresting pets. Anyways, back to their owner who we’ll call V. She’s a small, elderly lady, who wears her hair in a short bob with barrettes on the side much like a small girl. The things we have heard her say are legendary. Like (to the dogs), “Jumping is forbidden” or to other clients in reference to their dogs, “You really should have that bitch spayed so it doesn’t reproduce.” Ew!

Luckily I don’t typically work with Dr. Z, so I rarely have to deal with her. But I recently had a run-in with her. I went with Dr. Z into the room to examine the dog. He hands me the blank-stare dog, and I weigh it on the scale. As I do this V looks from me to the doctor and back again before cooing in a childlike voice, “Hmmmmm, can we get someone who’s experienced?”

I wish I could have seen the incredulity wash over my face. Before I could say anything, Dr Z calmly told her, “She’s very experienced.” V shrugged and kept mostly quiet the rest of the visit.

I head back into the treatment area to tell my co-workers who all laugh uproariously. It’s one of the rudest things a client has ever said to me, or more accurately around me, as V seemed oblivious of my ability to hear.
“That woman’s a c***,” says wise Dr. G. “She doesn’t like me either.” It made me feel better, but it’s still amazing how a client has the ability to suck the life out of you in one quick sentence.

But as far as clients go, there’s a flip side.

One of my favorite patients was a sassy, miniature Schnauzer named Juliet. A lot of my love for her is the breed. Their stern eyebrows, teeny ears, terrier bodies. Juliet was such a little lady, and I was always happy to see her come in. She typically came in with her owner Mr. W who is perhaps the nicest client we have. He’s an older man, soft-spoken, eternally patient. When I was a receptionist, I remember how kind he was to me. Never minded waiting a minute, never raised his voice. He was quiet, and he was good. His wife has MS and can’t function well anymore. His daughter (also a client of ours) is mean to her core. Selfish and demanding, it is mind-blowing that they are related. And in this storm of sick wife, difficult daughter is a gentle man with an utter love and devotion to Juliet.

She was an elderly patient with bad eyes, bad knees and diabetes. She required so much home-care, but Mr. W did it all with a smile. For him, she was solace. A quiet soul that he could tend to, away from the problems in his life. He would confide in Dr. L that she was his joy, his project to tend to. That dog had so much fight in her, and I believe it was because she knew how much she meant to him. She lasted a long time, but eventually we all knew it was time. In true, Mr. W fashion, he quietly nodded and agreed to the euthanasia. It was clear the fight had left her, and he knew he had to let go.

Weeks later he walks into the clinic holding boxes of pastries from a boulanger around the corner from us called Eric Kayser. Dr L and I ran to the front to greet him. He shyly smiled at us and told us they were from Juliet. Once we brought the boxes back to treatment we opened them to find a variety of beautiful pastries. We looked at each other, tears welling in our eyes.

The thing is Juliet’s death wasn’t sad. It was her time, and everyone involved understood. But sometimes, like with the bad clients, it isn’t the patients that get to you, it’s the clients. Working with pet owners I’ve seen such beautiful displays of love and devotion for animals. It reminds me of the inherent good in humanity. And sometimes the hardest part isn’t losing the patient, it’s dealing with the broken heart of a person you care about, you respect.

For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Mr. W.