Getting ready to leave for the Chinook trip, I felt very nervous. I didn’t really know what to expect when I got to Labrador. I was an eager veterinary student, but I had only just finished my first clinical rotation – mere hours before hitting the road to catch the plane north. And I was anxious about travelling to practise veterinary medicine in places that were foreign to me, with people I had never worked with before, and with what minimal materials we could bring with us. These circumstances were overwhelming. It felt like so much could go wrong.
On the first day of our clinic in Nain, though, I forgot all my worries, and the excitement set in. My classmates were just as eager as I was; we wanted to treat as many patients as possible and do everything we could to help them and their owners. Our senior veterinarians were there to guide us through the experience with encouragement and insight. The days were long and back breaking, but I would not have wanted it any other way. I felt accomplished every night, and that I had made a positive difference in the lives of many patients with extraordinary teammates by my side. They supported me, I supported them, and together we achieved amazing success in the number of patients we were able to treat. We effortlessly formed a routine: while one student performed surgery, another was monitoring anaesthetic, and the third began the physical exam and sedation of the next patient. We became very efficient, cycling through the different roles.
Beyond the group I knew I would be travelling with, there were so many other teammates I was not expecting to meet and rely upon. In both Nain and Sheshatshiu, the community members who volunteered their time to help us made all the difference. It would not have been as successful a mission if we had not had their help. These men and women helped book appointments, they stayed late to help clean and prepare for the next day, and they helped with laundry for the clinic and even us! Charmaine and Dawna drove to various houses picking up patients to bring them to their appointments. They drove us to see patients at their homes. Dawna even escorted us to an owner’s home well after midnight so that we could discharge our last patient of the day.
They helped with anything and everything. We were so busy making sure our patients were well cared for, that we had no time to look after ourselves. Thankfully, there were people who were looking out for us. The food in both northern locations was outstanding. We never missed a meal, although lunch was often eaten for supper and supper became a midnight snack. The people who prepared our meals worked late in the restaurants or prepared them in their own homes. They always made sure food was available to us, even if we weren’t available to eat it, until much later.
The Chinook Project has been one of my most rewarding experiences I’ve experienced since beginning work in the field of veterinary medicine. And the friends I made on this journey have been a big part of making this experience all the more incredible.
Chris Dominic, AVC 2017, traveled to Nain & Sheshatshiu in 2016 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing. This is one of Chris’s pieces.