(Jason, class of 2015, travelled to Sheshatshiu and Rigolet on the Chinook 2014 trip)
When I think of my role as a student veterinarian within the Chinook project, the first word that comes to mind is accomplishment. Accomplishment in that I have fulfilled a goal I embarked upon many years ago. A goal that began for certain on August 28 2011 at AVC, and was played out in the small community of Sheshatshiu in Northern Labrador as a working student veterinarian. I came to the AVC to become a veterinarian, and in this unique community I was able to put all the years of hard work into practice for the first time.
Day one of project Chinook began in the community Sheshatshiu on an already warmer than expected sunny morning. Our base for the next three days was the town garage that had been generously converted by the town’s members into a working veterinary clinic. The day began in a not overly stressful manner, going out on a few house calls to perform health checks and vaccinate a number of animals. Upon our return to the clinic things had become considerably more busy. A number of surgeries were underway and my fellow team members were deep in the mix of things, rotating positions between either primary surgeon or anesthetist. I remember experiencing a sense of excitement, intimidation and nervousness as I watched them work, knowing I was about to put into practice what I’ve been preparing for over the last three years- on a mature 4 year old female husky mix who was next in line to be sedated. Meanwhile the warm sunny morning had progressed to a hot mid day afternoon to the point where sweat was starting to drip from my forehead even when just standing in bustling clinic environment.
This being my first dog spay, I tried to concentrate, recall the anatomy, the important landmarks, and the proper surgical techniques while at the same time trying to mentally block noise of numerous dogs barking and people conversing in the background. Once my patient was sedated, prepped, and draped- I grabbed my scalpel and made my first incision hoping not to cut too deeply, or cut into something that would bleed excessively. Success! The incision was made effectively with minimal bleeding and I then opened the abdomen with the help of one of my fellow student veterinarians. Now the tricky part, locate the left uterine horn, which turned out to be straightforward- I talked through the anatomical landmarks as my fellow co-surgeon located it and ligated the vessels with minimal difficulty. I remember thinking, “Ok not so bad, just do the same thing for the other side.” I followed the same approach, except this time the right ovary was further up in the abdomen, making it harder to reach and much harder to visualize. I could feel the ovary, but I could barely see it.
My stress and frustration was growing, the sweat was running down my arms and off my forehead as I realized that I was going to have to reach in blindly and break down the attachment to the ovary without being able to see it, while at the same time knowing how close it was to the ovarian artery. I remember trying to concentrate on what I had learned, feeling around pulling and tugging blindly, with the fear of blood filling the abdomen if I pulled and broke the wrong attachment. Finally after what seemed like hours of trying and multiple attempts, switching back and forth between my fellow surgeon and me, the attachment broke, the ovary was freed from deep within the abdomen and a sense of accomplishment replaced the feelings of stress and frustration. Using what I had learned, talking it through with my fellow surgeon and putting a plan into practice actually worked. I guess this will be the same approach I take once I am practicing as a veterinarian on my own.