What a good sport! NIVA thanks Dr David Williams for agreeing to adjudicate this class for things that shouldn’t happen to a vet. David is a great ophthalmologist too – you can find out more about him here. His website also includes lots of interesting case studies.
A video of his adjudication can be found here.
In third place Susan Cunningham
Just your normal Sunday morning “Sick Parade” in the dark days before Vets Now arrived to allow most of us a weekend lie-in. “Next, please!” Enter a working German Shepherd, happily wagging his tail and (unusually) failing to give me any kind of ‘evil eye’, lead and choke chain rattling in the quaking hands of an off-duty Prison Officer. “He’s swallowed a lump of Semtex” “What??!!” Followed by “How do you know? Where did he get it? Why would he do that? How stable is it…..?!” It turns out the handler had trousered a lump of the plastic explosive from a training session, in order to steal a march on his colleagues, put in some extra work at the weekend, and have his dog out-perform all the others on Monday morning. The plan had gone spectacularly well until Fritz* got over-excited at a successful find, confused the Semtex with the expected treat reward, and gulped it down. The dog looked nothing but delighted with himself. The window of opportunity for putting an apomorphine tablet in his conjunctival sac was past, and the lump was mercifully small enough to be unlikely to stick at the ileo-caeco-colic junction. Although I grew up in 1970’s Belfast, I managed to get by without acquiring any knowledge of the finer details of bomb making and the materials involved. Fortunately the new VPIS was at hand (“We don’t have a lot of case reports…”) to reassure me that the most likely consequence would be gastrointestinal irritation and diarrhoea…..unless of course Fritz had also swallowed a detonator! I risked a cautious abdominal palpation – no discomfort detected…and the consulting room windows remained in their frames. Fritz and his handler were sent home with a bottle of kaolin, reassurance that the incident (pre-computerisation) need never be spoken of again (until now!) … and the entire practice got a giggle at the thought of running for cover if the dog even looked like farting!
In second place John Hill
Call came in at 11.30 pm to a farm I had not visited before. It was a gilt trying to farrow and she had been “sick to pig” since early morning. Heart sank as this was 17-18 hours later. Could have a belly full of dead piglets. Arrived on the farm and shown into the shed where there was a gilt lying on her side in a farrowing crate straining away. Her teats were swollen and oozing milk but no issue from the backend. With gown on and lubricated arm, I inserted my hand into the vagina. It was tight and dry and the cervix was completely shut. Sometimes you can ballott a piglet through the wall as the uterus loops round to the posterior. No sign of anything. The tissues were moving around easily, no weight at all of a full uterus. I was completely puzzled. Suddenly the penny dropped, this was a false pregnancy. All the symptoms were there. I had to tell the farmer that this was a case where the animal’s hormones told her that she was pregnant when she was not. He accepted the disappointing news, paid his money and I left. She had nine piglets after I left. Only goes to prove that a little knowledge can be a nuisance.
In first place John Hill
“While you are here, will you have a look at… ” is a phrase that strikes dread into every large animal veterinary surgeon. You are on a farm and just completed the job that was rung in and you are preparing to leave. You may have a busy schedule of further calls. The farmer then comes out with the phrase and your heart sinks because you have no idea what is coming. It could be something simple or a job that will require time and effort and reputation dependent. You are suddenly on the spot. James Herriot famously devoted a chapter in one of his books to this very problem. I was manning a stand at the London Vet Show in November 2017. LVS was very busy with 6,000 vets milling around the extensive trade exhibition. A vet approached and we immediately immersed ourselves in “vet talk”. I asked him what sort of vet practice was he in. He said he had had four practices around York, mainly small animal but that his main interest was being a Zoo vet at Flamingo Land in York. I thought this was brilliant as I always had an interest in wildlife from an early age. I decided to relate one of my wildlife experiences. The one I picked went right back to my student days in 1974. I was seeing practice (re-named EMS) with my local practice in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. The vet, Reid Marshall, was very much in the James Herriot mould, a highly experienced large animal vet from whom I learned a huge amount about veterinary work. One day we received a call to see an elephant. This unusual call come from a small private zoo owned and run by a Church organisation at a place called Magilligan. The zoo was part of a market garden complex run as a source of employment for unemployed men from Londonderry. This was in the early part of the Troubles and the market garden was seen as a distraction from the turmoil. The complex manager met us at the zoo entrance. He took us to see the elephant which he thought was losing some condition, but otherwise looked healthy. Reid gave advice on feeding and increasing the amount of vegetables fed. The elephant was very friendly and engaging. We were just about to leave when the manager came out with THE phrase “Oh, while you are here would you have a look at…… the polar bears. ” Reid said “Polar bears, you have polar bears?” “Yes.” He said “We have two, brother and sister.” We went round a corner and sure enough, there were two half grown polar bears in a steel cage. The steel cage was rather small and the only water bath was a large cattle trough in one corner. The steel cage was suitable containment for these animals though it was situated within what was the original enclosure constructed of posts and chicken wire. The manager explained that he had bought them as tiny balls of fur for a great deal of money and they had been a star attraction in the zoo. He reckoned that he had made his money’s worth out of them and his concern was the security risk of two dangerous animals. He asked Reid if he thought it would be alright to call in the police to shoot them at the end of the season. Before Reid could answer, I interjected saying “You can’t do that, polar bears are an endangered species, and it would be criminal to shoot them. You will have to find another way.” The manager was rather taken aback by this angry response from the “student”. When I returned home, I looked out some wildlife magazines showing the plight of polar bears and took them to him for information. I returned to college shortly afterwards to begin my final year. Some weeks later, my mother rang me to say that the Magilligan zoo had been closed down by the USPCA as they had concerns over the conditions some of the animals were living in. My mother said that the polar bears had moved to a zoo in Germany. I was very happy that the bears had been found a new home. At the London Vet Show, the vet I was chatting to said “That would be Marcus and Mandy.” “Sorry, I don’t understand” I said. “The two bears were called Marcus and Mandy.” he said. “How would you know that, they went to a zoo in Germany?” I asked. “Yes” the vet said “They went to Germany for a while and then came to Flamingo Land and I looked after them for years until they died. You know, I had been told that they had come out of Northern Ireland and I had not believed it until you confirmed it, just now, after forty two years.” Marcus had in fact died from old age and heart failure. His kidney were gone, and it was a swift demise. Mandy lived on happily for a few more years, until she succumbed to cancer, and that was the end of a pair of rescue bears at Flamingo Land. I have made enquiries about whereabouts of the elephant. The USPCA were unable to help as all their records from that era were destroyed. The sad part of the saga is that the mother polar bear was probably shot so as the cubs could be taken and sold on. This was an astonishing experience. I had often related the story of being in country practice in Northern Ireland and called to see an elephant and then polar bears and suddenly it came full circle over 40 years later in an event with 6000 vets. I happened to meet the right vet and told the right story to him.
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL ENTRANTS!