"Lethal Ingestion" -- Vet School Reflection

Photo courtesy of: Nat Geo Wild/ThinkFactory Media

Photo courtesy of: Nat Geo Wild/ThinkFactory Media

Fandango, the alpaca, was an emergency case I had during my cardiology rotation. I got another chance to learn how to interpret echocardiograms and apply the knowledge from previous years to a clinical case. Upon examination, we were able to identify pericardial effusion, or an accumulation of fluid within the pericardial cavity. Although the amount of fluid was small, it was still enough to cause a significant decrease in cardiac function, leading to congestive heart failure. Unfortunately, the prognosis was very poor, since the cause of the bleeding could not be identified and the procedure to remove the fluid was both difficult and dangerous.

As veterinarians, we are one of the few (if not the only) professions that has the legal capacity to end a life. This can weigh heavily on an individual, especially if you consider the number of times a vet has to perform this procedure over a period of 5, 10, 15+ years. Fandango’s euthanasia did affect me that day. Yet during cases like this, I am learning how to cope with death, since I know it is an unavoidable component of my job. On the plus side, I like the ability to bring an individual peace (and I’m referring to both the patient and client). I don’t think I will ever become stoic or numb to the process, and honestly I do not wish to.

-- Dr. G