Tag Archives: workplace injuries


24 Apr
2013-04-10 14.16.59

The Classic Lion Cut

I used to hate cats. It wasn’t so much a hatred as a deep fear. Being in the same room with one would give me anxiety. If one walked on me or touched me, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. Everything about them freaked me out, from their long, curling claws to their rubber-band like skeletons.

Then, during a particularly rough time in my life, I met these kittens. They were so helpless and adorable. We kept them at the clinic for a couple of months, as I watched them grow from innocent kittens to adorable, gentle cats. It somehow helped me break through the fear. I still didn’t LOVE cats, but I was no longer panic stricken by being around them.

My boss sat me down a couple of months ago for my performance review, it was a rave review…except for one little thing. Cats. I don’t handle them well. As a vet tech, my greatest struggle is dealing with cats. I believe that there are two types of people in the world. Dog people and cat people. I don’t know whether it’s nature or nuture or divine providence, but everyone has a preference, whether slight or definitive. I will always sway towards dogs. Two of my co-workers (a vet and a fellow vet tech) are both avid cat people and are consistently trying to change my mind, to teach me to love cats. Their guidance has helped me a lot in learning what to look for in an angry cat (tail flicks, low ears) and how to coax a cat into calming down. I’ve become my clinic’s resident expert on the lion cut (see picture) where I shave matted cats. I love doing it. Something extremely satisfying about getting those matts off and exposing the skin beneath. I can entertain my inner perfectionist and spend long periods of time getting the shave perfectly even, leaving a poof tail and “Ugg” boots.

But on the other end of the co-worker spectrum is Darryl, who shares my history of cat fear. Every cat he sees, he eyes sideways, mumbling to himself, “I don’t trust him.” He uses a harsh scruff to restrain, and there are usually beads of sweat dripping down his brow by the end of the exam. My cat-loving co-workers tell me not to listen to him, less restraint is better. But somewhere deep inside of me, I don’t trust any of those cats either.

I’ve worked hard to suppress my inner-Darryl and have even recently gotten a pat on the back from my boss for handing what we call a “cat rodeo.” This is when a cat loses its shit at some point in the exam. As a technician, the only thing to do is hold on to that scruff and ride it out. Grab a towel with the other hand, grab a knock-down box with the other hand, but above all don’t let go of that scruff. Because once that cat is out of the staff’s hands and on the ground, it becomes nearly impossible to get them back into a safe restraint.

So last week, I’m holding a fat orange cat named Mama Rose for Dr. L. The cat was calm and didn’t seem bothered. I even was teasing her, calling her “a whole lotta woman.” Perhaps my fat joke went too far, because the cat spontaneously lost it. No warning, just decided to fling her body off the examination table. I lunge for her scruff, trying to stop her. But because she’s fat and had a jump start on me, my grip is weak. She flips herself in the air, contorts her body around, and slashes my hand and wrist. Dr. L in the meantime had grabbed a towel to wrangle the cat.

I yell a couple of expletives and feel searing pain in my hand. There’s blood dripping down my wrist from those cuts, but it is nothing compared to the pain I’m experiencing in my hand. I can’t feel my pinkie or ring finger, and the gash into the meat of my hand goes deep. I rinse it under cold water and try to calm myself down.

“That’s not enough, Chris,” Dr S says, pulling me toward the surgical, scrub sink. “Those wounds in the thick of your hand are the worst and will get infected.” He hands me the rough bristled brush that the doctors use to scrub in for surgery. “You need to scrub it with this for at least 10 minutes. And you need to make it bleed.”

I can’t tell you how difficult it is to roughly scrub an already painful, open wound. But I did, and I watched the blood ooze from my hand. I opened the wound wider, to expose the torn layers of flesh. Digging deeper in there to pull out any remnant of cat germs.

And now I’m back on the Darryl train of thought. Never trust a cat.


New Jobs Suck

12 Jun

Nail trims are the most dangerous things we do. Here’s proof.

My job as a technician isn’t new. I’ve been training at it for months. But, now I’m full-time. When they offered me the position a couple of weeks ago, they put me in the tutelage of my co-worker Christine who was due to give birth the first week of July. Dr. Z (the practice owner) very firmly told me that I had two months to “sponge Christine’s two years of college-level tech training and her 16 years of experience. You must become the best technician.”

One and a half weeks into my intensive training, Christine is out on bed-rest, and I am completely unprepared. I am a perfectionist. I hate not doing things well and starting a new job kills me. I hate being discombobulated and feeling useless.

Last week went really well. Christine is an awesome trainer. I was inserting catheters in pit bulls, intubating poodles, running ear swab cytologies, setting up ultrasound equipment and scrubbing in a dog for a nasty gastrotomy. I was feeling amazing. Drawing blood from the jugular vein of a cat? That ain’t no thang.

I don’t know what was wrong today. All I could think of is watching Mariner’s games where Felix Hernandez doesn’t pitch well. He’s such an amazing pitcher with exceeding talent, but sometimes things are off, and it gets into his head, and he pitches a shitty game. Today, I pitched a shitty game.

I made so many simple mistakes. I was tripping over myself, and I felt like I spent most of the day just standing around taking up space. It makes matters so much worse that Dr. S, the vet that once told me he’d help me in my path to becoming a vet tech and that he had complete faith in me, now wants me gone. He was happy when I quit, and I only got the tech position because of Dr. Z and Christine’s efforts. He glares at me. He snaps at me. But most of the time, he pretends like I’m not there. The man hates me for a lot of inconsequential and silly reasons. Stupid metaphor, but I feel like the dog that keeps getting kicked.

It got into my head. I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to criticism, and I’ll beat the shit out of myself mentally when I make mistakes. At some point in the afternoon I was running an ear swab cytology for Dr. R. I could not for the life of me focus the microscope. I kept checking the oil lens, readjusting, making sure the slide was in place. It just wasn’t happening, and Dr. S was standing nearby staring me down while flipping through his charts. I felt like crying. But I didn’t. I just kept focusing until I found the swabs I was looking for. But it took forever. Dr. R appeared at my side.
“How’s that slide coming? Got a yeast party for me?”
“Um, the left ear has tw0 to three yeast per field with occasional cocci, but I’m still checking the right ear. I’m so sorry it’s taking so long.”
“No worries. Listen, you are doing fine. It sucks that Christine had to leave early, but if you need help, I’m here. I’ve been exactly where you are. I can answer any of your questions.”
It was reassuring, but I hate being so helpless.

After that I held a Cairn Terrier for my co-worker Daryl to cut his nails. The dog started flipping out the second Daryl touched its paws. I tightened my grip and braced myself. This dog was going crazy. I had the dog in a muzzle and a headlock to keep him from biting us, but his foot got up under my arm and sliced me (see above.) I’ve been scratched a million times before, so I didn’t think anything of it until another technician Clive walked by.
“Woah, he got you!” I looked down at the gashes in my arm, gushing blood. No dog had ever broken skin before. Clive and Daryl started clapping.
“Welcome to being a technician! You are one of us now!” They patted me on the back and started to show me all their scars.

I’ve been staring at that stinging wound all day. I rolled up my sleeves on the subway so everyone could see.

I was a shitty barista at first, and my boss wouldn’t let me anywhere near a steam wand. Now I can make you gorgeous latte art and the silkiest milk imaginable. I was originally dead weight with the Mariners, but I ended up running my own kiosk and raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars for the team I love.

I am a technician now. It’s just going to take a while before I’m a really really good one. But I will be. I’ll be the Felix Hernandez of veterinary technicians.