Veterinary Superstitions

I could publish this on Friday the 13th, but something tells me that in the rush of pre-spring break trip preparation, I’ll forget, so I’m going to write it now.

I admit it, I’m superstitious.  Last Summer, a black cat crossed my path on the way to the post office and subsequently: Perry (my then 3 year old) ate a nickel, I accidentally slammed Aidans (the 6 year old) hand in my car door, and hurricane Ike hit Galveston/Houston (I’ve got family and friends in Houston and a house in Galveston).   I frantically Googled how long the bad luck lasts, or how to reverse it.  I found that walking backwards away from the site of the crime helps (I didn’t go back to the post office road, but I did walk backwards around the house, just in case).  I don’t remember the other stuff, but I decided that bad things happen in threes, so Ike should have marked the end of it.  Fortunately there was a silver lining to all the black cat issues, my son pooped out the nickel (well, at least it’s not in his stomach anymore, we quit looking for it after the second or third x-ray), he also didn’t set off the metal detector at the airport with the nickel(we had the x-ray with us just in case).  My other son’s arm was  not broken (thank God because I heard a horrible crunch when I squished it), and we are inordinately grateful that Ike spared our house and my family and friends houses any major damage. 

I don’t walk under ladders, don’t break mirrors, if I spill salt, I throw some over both shoulders (I never know which one is the correct one).  I had a 4 leaf clover for all of college, but one of the leaves fell off when I moved from Vet school to Plano.  Luckily, nothing too terrible usually happens to me on Friday the 13th, but I did get a little nervous when my son got the number 13 on his basketball team.  He wasn’t the greatest player in the world, but suffered no major injuries or catastrophes so guess he’s ok there.

So, I do have some superstitions in the workplace as well.  Way back in vet school we were taught to NEVER “take off our lead” before an X-ray was developed.  That means, if you remove your lead gown, thyroid protector and gloves (the 10+ pounds of gear you have to wear to protect your gonads, etc from radiation…those of us who are done having or don’t want kids dont’ wear lead just for fun…ha ha, just kidding Radiation Safety Board people) before the picture develops, the picture will invariably not develop right and you’ll have to put everything back on to shoot the picture again. This is especially true if the dog or cat is super mean or crazy.  If you keep your gear on, odds are the picture will be perfect.  You might notice lead clad techs running around the clinic doing miscellaneous things, waiting for their pictures to develop as I’ve spread that superstition around.

Another one that I have trained the staff  to do is NEVER, EVER say a vein looks good, or easy to hit, etc.  Any positive comment about a vein will result in complete failure to extract blood from or inject into said vein.  Even if it is the most beautiful, bulging, lovely vein in the world, it will immediately evade your every stab.  I’ve had to berate clients for making good vein comments.  It’s a total no-no.  This is also a big mistake made by new technicians, they learn quickly. 

Another no-no that the newbie techs get caught on is: NEVER, EVER comment or complain about it being a slow day.  The minute those words get uttered, a series of events begins to take place in the world,  that ultimately result  in the following events occurring approximately 15 minutes before closing : a hit by car dog with blood pouring out of every orifice, another one coming in that was seizuring  all day,  and a cat who happens to have been vomiting every day for a month. 

This one seems to be an Animal Med Center one, not sure if this happens at other clinics.  Here, everybody tries to keep a running balance on their account.  Otherwise, pretty much like clockwork, the minute somebody pays off their balance, something medical will happen to one of their pets.  Just happened last week, our office manager handed the final check to my boss, with not a little trepidation.  The next day, she comes in “what did I tell you..?!”   her cat had been coughing all night and was diagnosed with asthma!  Other office manager, same thing: pays off her distemper puppy, then her other dog eats a towel and need surgery.  Never fails.

I have a personal superstition (or maybe it’s just a hangup, I’m not quite sure), but any time I draw blood or inject something, I have to put alcohol on the vein.  It lays down the hairs and makes the vein easier to see, but even if I can see the vein, clear as day, I have this compulsion to alcohol it.  By the way, the alcohol is to some degree just for show, it has to sit there for 15 minutes before it kills any bacteria, but you guys (the clients) might worry about our cleanliness if we don’t use it…ancient Chinese secret. 

Anyhow, my alcohol compulsion provided an awkward moment for me the other day.   I was doing a home euthanasia as a favor to a friend of a friend.  It was a very nice, very old Chocolate Lab.  This was these people’s kid, so I really wanted to make sure everything went smoothly.  However, one of the reasons I’m not a fan of housecalls is that I’m forgetful and invariably I leave something at the clinic.  So this time, the dog is on his bed, he’s sedated, clients are ok, so far so good.  I prep the dogs leg for the injection and (cold stab of adrenaline) I realize (dammit) I forgot the alcohol.  Moment of indecision, do I try to overcome my little hangup and just give the shot (what if the vein explodes because I didn’t use the good luck alchohol?) or interrupt the moment and ask ….  I interrupted the moment.  So picture this, the clients are crying, talking to the dog, the vet is at the dogs back leg, and she quietly asks them…” Do you have any alcohol?”   Pale, wide eyed stare from the clients (I can just see their brains thinking OMG..does she need some Vodka to steady herself…what kind of vet is this?)…”oh” says me: ” RUBBING alcohol”….”whew” says the expression of the clients, vet is not crazy alcoholic, ok…rest of euthanasia was uneventful and smooth.  

Hopefully, they laughed about it later…knock on wood.


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