The other day I felt something odd inside my left cheek. At first I thought I had just bitten myself without realising but then I noticed the cheek was actually swollen. Over the next hour or so this swelling engulfed the side of my face and crept towards my lower lip. It then proceeded to spread along my entire lower lip until it looked like someone had gone seriously overboard with the silicone injection. As my lip now felt like it was going to burst and I was concerned about the swelling spreading into my throat and asphyxiating me, I took myself off to the local hospital’s emergency department.
As always emergency departments are a hive of frenetic activity, particularly in the evenings, and I marvelled at all the doctors, nurses and ancillary staff racing about much like bees in a hive. Each one had their job and I was very impressed with the skill and efficiency with which they carried them out. I was examined and treated promptly and courteously and cannot speak highly enough of the staff, even the nurse who blew my vein trying to get the catheter in. I have certainly blown more veins in my time than most people have had hot dinners.
Watching it all swirl by I reflected on my choice of profession and was glad to have picked veterinary medicine over human medicine. The hospital environment felt very confining and I don’t think I have the temperament to cope with that constant stream of people and their various ailments.
This decision is strongly supported by an experience I had many years ago. A friend of mine was one of the doctors in the emergency department at a large American hospital. He had dropped by with a friend of his to visit, and I had shown them around. Now my wife and I were visiting him and I thought it might be interesting to see the emergency department from the inside.
After some cajoling he agreed to let us tag along, as long as we threw on a pair of white coats and pretended to act like medical residents on rotation.
Much of the day passed reasonably uneventfully but then a fellow came in who had been in a car accident. He was not seriously injured but he had tried to ram his head through the windscreen, resulting in a nasty gash to the top of his head. My friend took him into one of the consulting rooms, and we dutifully followed. He then proceeded to clean and disinfect the patient’s head, inject local anaesthetic and start stitching the wound. I leaned in a little closer for a better look and marvelled at how similar human medicine is to veterinary medicine.
It was then that I started feeling a little odd. My wife told me afterwards that she was wondering why I had started leaning against her so heavily. As all loving wives do she stepped aside and I crashed to the ground. Through my rapidly receding consciousness I could dimly perceive the room exploding into chaos. My doctor friend leapt to his feet and began elevating mine. The patient wanted to know what was going on, obviously thinking I had made a rather bad career choice. And I lay on the ground feeling perplexed and confused.
As a zoo veterinarian I was certainly no stranger to blood and entrails, having necropsied elephants, giraffes and even a whale. So what was this all about? I could only conclude that I had some kind of an issue with damaged human skin. To this day it continues to astonish me, the way my body’s unconscious desire to pass out completely overrode my body’s conscious desire to watch the task at hand.
Dr. F. Bunny