Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Reality of Veterinary Medicine

As most of you know, I recently switched jobs from a day practice and now work in a 24 hour hospital as an Emergency Veterinarian.  I absolutely LOVE this aspect/side of vet med, and I wouldn't (and don't) want to do anything else... ever (like every other vet, I am a type-A overachieving work-a-colic). However, there are moments when I am hit with the reality of what my job REALLY is, and I wanted to take a moment and share with everyone my experience, especially in light of the recent media regarding vet med.

I walked into work this evening at 5:45pm ready for my overnight shift, and felt like I was walking into a room of chaos. I took a moment just to evaluate my surroundings and see where I could jump in and help.  What I realized was: 1) there was nothing for me to do, and 2) the hospital at that moment was the reality of vet med.
*I would like everyone now to really try and picture what I am about to describe. For my vet friends, this won't seem out of the ordinary... in fact, this is probably every day. For those that are not vets, it will give you insight into what YOUR vet REALLY does... it is not all happy healthy puppies and kittens... actually... it is UNCOMMONLY puppies and kittens...*

Sitting in the back on one of the treatment tables was a cardboard coffin with a 5 month old puppy in it, waiting to be picked up by its owner. This puppy had passed away during a neuter. Come to find out during surgery, that the puppy had several congenital abnormalities that were hidden from pre-op bloodwork and physical exam (every precaution to make sure anesthesia and surgery is as safe as possible), and only discovered during surgery, causing the puppy not to wake up after anesthesia. Any veterinarian will tell you that a neuter is one of the simplest surgeries that we do. We could do it in our sleep. However, unseen complications happen, and there is nothing that anyone could have done to prevent this from happening. This was an unhealthy puppy that was not going to live a long and happy life, it would have gotten very sick and died at a very young age. However, the veterinarian that performed the surgery was devastated. This was the first time this had ever happened to this veterinarian in 5 years of practice... 5 years and countless surgeries. Put yourself in this vet's shoes for a moment: You just lost someone's baby under anesthesia for a surgery that YOU recommended. Colleagues and even your own head tell you - This was not my fault. There was nothing that I, or anyone could have done. This happens to everyone. But your heart only feels pain and guilt and anguish for a life lost and your failure, and an inability to serve the purpose that you were put on this Earth to do: HEAL. Now comes the hard part (I know, like everything else isn't hard enough!). You now have to get on the phone and call the owner of that puppy and tell them what happened. You get to break the news to mom, dad, and their son (the person the puppy was bought for) that their best friend is gone. You get to tell someone who is excited about playing fetch and running around in the yard, you get to tell them, I am so sorry, but your dog is dead. It puts a knot in your stomach and chest that nothing else can. It makes you sick and hurt to the deepest part of your soul. You hurt for the owners, for the puppy. You hurt because you caused PAIN.

In this same moment there is a dog and owner in a room with another doctor. This dog has been unwilling to eat and unable to keep anything down for the past WEEK... and oh yea, the dog ate a cactus a little over a week ago.  The poor dog is so sick and painful it won't let the doctor feel it's belly. Xrays were taken and revealed three cactus needles stabbing through the dog's small intestines causing a perforating foreign body. the doctor explained to the owner that the only way to even give the dog a chance to live is emergency surgery and gave an estimate for the $1500 surgery and a 50/50 prognosis. The owner's response? Anger. Saying things to the veterinarian like: How could she be so cold and insensitive? She only wants money. If she REALLY cared about the dog, she would do the surgery for free. But no, she doesn't care and is a terrible, cold hearted, unfeeling, horrid person who is MAKING her kill her dog when the dog COULD be saved if she would just stop being such a money grubbing Scrooge. I ask again, put yourself in the vet's shoes. You have a dog that you know for the past WEEK has sat at home, starving, in pain, with a fever, feeling horrible and puking its guts up as three needles stab through it's intestines. And what did the owner do? nothing. You know the dog is suffering, but you can potentially help and save it's life! But what will the owner let you do? nothing. You know that had the owner brought the dog in right after it ate the cactus you could have used the scope and gotten the needles out for about $400. But they waited A WEEK. And according to the owner, this is all your fault. Her dog is going to die because of you. Talk about feeling powerless! You can't even defend yourself! Your response. "I know this is a difficult situation, and I am so sorry." But at the end of it all, you are the one that has to inject in the hot pink euthanasia juice knowing you have the skills and abilities to save this dog's life, and instead, you must end it.

The final scenario that was occurring was an older dog that suddenly started limping on one of his legs. The owners thought, oh he must have arthritis, we will take him in and get some meds and he will be fine. The vet had already taken xrays before I got there and saw the bone cancer that was covering this dog's humerus. Again, put yourself in the doctor's position. You now have to tell someone that their best friend of 10+ years has cancer. The big C. Their options are either 1) amputate the limb, 2) very short term pain management (days) or 3) euthanize right now. You have to shatter their world and make people cry. You cannot offer any relief aside from euthanasia, which is no relief at all for the family. You get to be the bringer of bad news.

All of this occurred at 5:45pm... AFTER an entire day that started at 8am, with even more cases similar to these. This was one 15 minute section of time in a 10 hour long work day. No wonder veterinary medicine suffers from the highest suicide rate and highest addiction rate of any other profession. No wonder all veterinarians at some point suffer from what is called "compassion fatigue". Unfortunately, the majority of people do not understand this about our profession. I cannot tell you how many times people have said to me, "oh you must LOVE your job! You get to play with puppies and kittens all day! Though, I bet it is hard when you occasionally have to euthanize something." I just nod, and smile. What they don't know is that I am thinking - yes, it is very hard. Those THREE patients I euthanized in the past 30 minutes were very hard (which happened on my overnight shift tonight).

I appreciate you if you made it this far!! All I am trying to do is help people to realize what the reality of vet med is... and what it is not. We are NOT in it for the money. We recommend tests and vaccines because we had 8 years of schooling that taught us what was best for your pet. We are overworked, emotionally drained, compassion fatigued, under appreciated/respected, and SEVERELY underpaid for what we do (because no amount of money is worth what we go through on a daily basis, *and side note, average salary for a veterinarian is $45,000/year and average student loan debt is over $150,000 :)* ). Yet, we wake up every morning and devote our life to your pets. We love them as if they are our own, we cry over them when they don't make it, we work long hours and stay late working and reading to learn and try to figure out why your pet is sick. We talk to them like they are people and love them even when they try to bite us. We deliver pain, hurt, bad news, and encounter countless situations that we have no control over throughout our entire day. Our reward is internal... it is knowing that at the end of every day we have done everything that we can to the very best of our abilities for every patient we have touched, even if that means ending their suffering.

Thanks for reading :)
Lindsey Lane Verlander, DVM

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Extroverts Explained... as best I can :)

This post is extremely long, my apologies!!!

Due to the recent surge in introverted pride, (don't get me wrong, I am thrilled introverts are identifying themselves) it has made me feel that extroverts are as misunderstood as introverts are.  In their explanation of what is an introvert, many of these blogs/posts/articles make extroverts seem... well... pretty terrible, and inferior.  In reading it as an extrovert, I have actually been slightly offended by what is being said. 

To me, the gist is: Introverts are wise introspective and intelligent souls who are misunderstood and mistreated by extroverts and a society that values extroverts, because no one understands them. Extroverts are loud, boisterous, party people who never think, just act, and are usually dumb, shallow, and superficial, with no feelings (and are constantly bulldozing over introverts).
These articles/blogs/posts also imply that extroverts need to accommodate introverts in all circumstances because, well, "it is their personality and so they can't help it". (Completely disregarding that being an extrovert is also a personality trait, and not something that can just be changed, but should also be accommodated in certain circumstances).

So psychologically the real question is: what is an introvert/extrovert? These are personality TRAITS (not a person's actual defining personality) that describes both how a person finds enjoyment, as well as how they recharge/recover when tired (this does NOT include intelligence, social skills, outgoing, shy, organizational skills, assessing situations, processing emotions etc.).  Myers-Briggs personality type indicator tests cover several major personality traits (and claim to not be complete!), and rank everyone on a scale in each category based on a (very long) test. and include (in addition to introvert vs. extrovert), sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling, and judgement vs. perception. When taking this test, a lot of people have characteristics in all categories and rank just slightly stronger on one side than another, and a lot of times the results are surprising. It is the combination of ALL the traits in different strengths that makes someone who they are (not just if they are introverted or extroverted).

I don't want to get into all the personality traits (you can look that up for yourself if you are interested) but to make my point, I am an ESTP - extrovert, sensing, thinking, and perception. The sensing and thinking part of me goes directly against what these blogs/posts/articles are saying about me as an "extrovert" - the MBTI (WAY SIMPLIFIED) tells me that I sense everything around me before I make decisions, and I think through my emotions and analyze them, finding solutions to problems... the articles would say "that can't be possible because you are an extrovert, so you are impulsive and verbalize everything!" NOT THE CASE!!

A little bit more about me to help you understand... I am on the more extreme scale of extrovert... basically I have little to no introverted characteristics (according to MBTI).  I have a severely introverted mother, an introverted but closer to mid-line father, a severely introverted older brother, and a fairly introverted husband.  Almost all of my close friends are introverts.  I spent the majority of my time growing up sitting in my living room with my family as they were quiet doing their own thing (reading, playing video games, more reading, etc.).  I remember overwhelming both my mother and father (and older brother, but that was more on purpose), frequently... probably daily. I always wanted to DO SOMETHING. (Some of that also has to do with my ADHD, but thats a completely different topic). They just wanted to sit and be quiet. OR if they FINALLY appeased me to go out, it was to a movie... someplace quiet... where you couldn't interact or talk... fuuuun...

Don't get me wrong, I can self-entertain. I can read a book. I can be quiet. I can knit. I can play with toys and make up entire worlds in my head... it is just EXHAUSTING. But being in a family of people that recharge by being quiet, I learned to accommodate them. I played outside where I had neighborhood friends, I played on sports teams, and I spent a lot of time hanging out with my younger brother who was borderline intro/extro because he was the only one who could tolerate me (he passed away several years ago, but that is another topic in itself).

Somehow I ended up with friends and a husband that are also introverted.  As with growing up, I generally end up accommodating them with what they want.  My family likes day long movie watching get-togethers and trips up to the mountain cabin where there is absolutely nothing to do and no people within a 40 mile radius. My friends like to sit and knit and read. And again, thats fine... most of the time.  BUT I NEED TIME TOO!! I hear a lot of comments like, "you always bring me out of my shell" because I am always the one that initiates going and hanging out (the one day a week, maybe, that we do!!).  That is harder than you think!  Especially growing up and hearing how miserable that made everyone, simply asking my introverted friends/husband to spend one evening with me always makes me feel bad. There is always that struggle between what I need and what I know would make everyone else happy... I would just ask them to remember that sometimes I need to be accommodated too, and them suggesting something fun to do would be amazing :) And it doesn't have to be out... it can be at home, just talking and interacting involved - not a movie, or sitting around, but board games or even just talking - IDEALLY it would be somewhere social, but again, I AM WILLING TO ACCOMMODATE!! (And no, going out by myself to a social atmosphere is not an option, because though I can have conversations with anyone, I am not friends with everyone - extroverts do have friends!! I want to hang out with my friends because I like them, I trust them, I like spending time with them, and THEY recharge me).

I am not sure why everyone thinks that society is geared toward liking the extroverted personality better.  Think about schooling... You spend grades k-12, then 4 years undergrad and possibly 4 years graduate school stuck in a classroom, in one seat, not able to get up or move, or talk, or interact... just expected to listen and be quiet and learn... ANY IDEA HOW MISERABLE THAT IS TO SOMEONE WHO NEEDS TO INTERACT?!?!?! It is so exhausting and DRAINING!  And to do it every day starting when you are 4yr-24yr?!?! I was CONSTANTLY in trouble. For talking. For distracting people around me. For being late to class because I was talking to someone in the hall. I remember so many teachers LOVED my older brother, would sing his praises, and would get so excited when they realized we were related.  Second day of school, "you are NOTHING like your brother..." one week into school, detention. Truthfully, I HATED school. And worse: STANDARDIZED TESTING... Here, sit in this seat for 6 hours straight, not speaking to anyone and answering questions. Oh. My. God. Kill. Me. Now. But that is how you move forward to get higher levels of education, and that is how they (falsely) determine your intelligence!  Doesn't sound like an extroverted society to me!  An extroverted society would have group activities, problems or projects with a discussion that determined if you moved forward or not. No individual tests... ever.

Professionally there are a gamut of jobs ranging from a lot of interaction to none.  Being an introvert or an extrovert does not effect how well you can do in life, even in severely social environments (a LOT of actors and musicians are introverted!!) This gets into the rest of MBTI.  So please, just because one person gets a promotion and another doesn't has nothing to do with E or I. The person that got promoted might go home, alone, prop his/her feet up and open a good book... INTROVERT!!

Here are some of the things those articles say about extroverts... some are true, some are not. I will try to explain each:
- Extroverts want to do everything and be involved in everything: This is true.  Mostly because the more things they are involved in = more opportunities for social interaction! This has nothing to do with trampling over introverts, it really is that if you cram every second of your day with things to do, then you will never get stuck at home!

- Extroverts hate being alone (from either boredom, loneliness, insecurity etc): Not true.  An extrovert can be alone, just like an introvert can be at a party. It is possible, and for a short period of time not a problem, but it is exhausting, and afterward we want interaction.

- Extroverts have to talk to everyone, all the time, about everything, and express their opinions about everything even before they think: Again, not true. Extroverts CAN talk to everyone. They do have opinions just like introverts do. They WANT to talk to their friends because it gives them energy. But as I explained before, there are other aspects to personality that determines how you handle problems and emotions and whether you are an E or an I doesn't matter.

- Extroverts are "clingy" or "needy" because they always want to hang out and talk: NOT true. I talked about this earlier. It is very hurtful to be deemed a clingy or needy friend just because you need some recharging. Many extroverts (myself included) have to constantly be aware, even when we feel the need to call someone or talk to someone, to suppress that feeling because you don't want to overwhelm people. (and no, a text convo does not count as social interaction).
- Extroverts don't have feelings: WAAAYYY not true. I think I have said enough to support why this is false.

- Extroverts don't listen: Just false.

- Extroverts always want to be the center of attention: Not true. We may not want to be the center of attention at all, it just ends up happening a lot of the time. (Maybe because we are always going around groups of people and interacting).

- Extroverts are intense, loud, overwhelming people: Not true. We get excited around friends because we are recharged. This often is externally demonstrated with talking and activity.  Like I said earlier, I try not to overwhelm my introverted friends with requests to hang out, and often feel that I do accidentally, even when only asking for the occasional day because I am having one of my OMG I NEED TO BE AROUND PEOPLE days. (Just like introverts have days that they have to be by themselves).

- Extroverts hate intellectual conversation and only like to have small-talk/idle chatter and have no substance: VERY false. Extroverts love intellectual conversation. We love to get deep and talk about meaningful things.  We have very deep ideas and thoughts. Just because we CAN make small-talk with anyone and everyone and it doesn't exhaust us, doesn't mean that is what we would choose to do.

Extroverts don't want to change introverts... and hopefully introverts don't want to change extroverts.  We all should learn to accommodate each other... Just like I spend a lot of time (like right now) sitting on the couch with my introverted husband after his long work day of having to be around people and letting him recharge, play on his phone, and not talk to me, when all I want to do is tell him every second of my day, or go out, or DO ANYTHING BUT SIT ON THE COUCH; I would LOVE for my introverted friends to go out with me (especially if it is their idea! So then I don't have to worry about nagging/clinging/being needy to them -hint hint-) after I work, because that is how I recharge! Being an introvert has nothing to do with being shy or boring or snobby.  If that were the case, I wouldn't have married one, or choose to be friends with them!!  They just sometimes need time to themselves to recharge.  Just like I am not a shallow, dumb, loud, clingy, party animal; I just like to be around people! :)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book-Themed Baby Shower

As many of you know, I LOVE hosting.  I probably could have made a pretty nice career being an event planner :) There is only one thing that I like more than hosting parties; it is when I get to host a party for someone that I really care about. 

Today I was lucky enough to host a baby shower for one of my closest friends, Julie Barnwell.  When Julie asked me, I couldn't have been more excited.  Immediately (as anyone who has ever spent 5 minutes with me can imagine) my brain went into super-drive coming up with ideas for food, decorations, and a theme.  I decided on a book-themed shower for a few reasons... 1) Julie is neither girly nor sporty, 2) Kids now more than ever need actual paper books in their lives, 3) it gave me an excuse to decorate with other colors besides peptobismol pink... yuck.

So armed with this idea, I started brainstorming... and pinteresting.  I found a cool idea to have people bring their favorite childhood book to the shower along with a gift:

Then came the food and decorations... that was the fun part :) I decided to pair children's books with food, and after gathering some ideas from pinterest and coming up with a bunch, the shower was finally here:

Hop on Pop: Chocolate Cake pops... first attempt at Cake pops... I made a chocolate cake and cream cheese icing, then mixed the two together.  I then put them in the freezer for an hour or so then dipped them in candy melt (first the stick and stuck that in, let that sit for a few min, then the whole thing).  It is very hard to get them to stay cold enough to not fall apart, and the candy melt warm enough to coat them, but I am not complaining too much (the ones that fell off I just got to eat ;) )  I am sure there is some secret that practice reveals :)  My food labels are corner bathroom tiles that I got at Home Depot.  They are amazing!  Stand up on their own and reusable (with dry erase markers).  If they get messy with food etc, they wipe right off.  I only have 8 and I had SO many ideas for food I ended up doubling up on a few of them :)

Cat in the Hat: Vanilla cupcakes and blue (dyed) vanilla frosting.  I used red cupcake paper and then cut out quarter sized circles and wrote "Thing 1" and "Thing 2".  I thought these were exceptionally cute.  Props to my sister Natalie for making the frosting spiky like their hair!!

3 Little Pigs: As I said before, this was a group effort.  Matt had originally suggested doing "Wilbur in a Blanket" for Charlotte's Web... While funny, it was a little morbid.  So we picked the 3 little pigs.  
One Fish Two Fish: Goldfish come in so many flavors we just filled the lazy susan with 6 different flavors: 1 fish, 2 fish, cheddar, white cheese, pizza, pretzel, BBQ, and sour cream and onion fish! 

Julie had specifically asked for me to make my cheese dip.  Easiest cheese dip ever: Small block of white cheese velveeta, 1 can Rotel (I like the lime, cilantro), 1 block cream cheese, a few spoonfulls of sour cream. Melt the cheese first, then add the Rotel and cream. DONE.  Then you can get creative with it... I have added shredded chicken, ground beef/turkey, and bacon.  All are amazing... but then, it is really hard to mess up cheese... mmmm :)

Green Eggs and Ham: I made guacamole deviled eggs... basically guac (avocados, green onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice - pour this on the avocados FIRST before adding the other ingredients and it won't turn brown on you, cholula, Worcestershire sauce, salt, paprika), the egg yolks from hard boiled eggs, then stuff the eggs like deviled eggs.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar: I made caesar pinwheel sandwiches... Use the Dole caesar salad kit and mix cream cheese with some sun-dried tomatoes and the seasoning packet in the kit, then crush the croutons and mix that with the lettuce, dressing, and cheese, then wrap it up in spinach wraps (to look like the caterpillar).

 Clifford the Big Red Dog: I made lemon puppy chow and put it in "doggie bags".  melt white chocolate and add lemon juice and zest, then pour it over chex and shake with powdered sugar.
Curious George: I made individual serving banana pudding... cool whip, condensed milk, whole milk, vanilla jello instant pudding,  cream cheese mixed together, then layered with bananas (dipped in lemon juice) and crushed wafers.

Peter Rabbit: Simple - Mr. McGreggors veggie garden and dip.
Blueberries for Sal: Again, simple - fruit tray and dip.


Several people had used the actual books as decorations on the table with the food it was paired with... I was worried 1) about the books getting messed up, and 2) space, 3) MONEY.  I had a LOT of food (which limited the amount of space and increased the number of books I would need to buy) and at $10 or so per book... it would get pricy.  So I printed the covers of the books and glued them to cardstock and hung them from the pot rack above where all the food was displayed. 

Make Way for Ducklings: This fit really well with the drinks (you know, water... ducks...).  I made cucumber and blueberry water, and punch - Random combination of blue Hawaiian punch, white cran-peach juice, sprite, and peach/mango sherbert... tasted pretty good!!

 Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs: Easiest meatball recipe ever! Frozen turkey meatballs, Heinz chili sauce, and grape jelly. Dump it all in the crock pot, cook for 4-6 hrs stirring occasionally.

I came up with the idea of having a "Giving Tree" Gift table (sticking with the theme).  Naturally, the Giving Tree HAD to be on the table!! So I made one!  I used a block of foam, cut it into a cylinder and used the edges I had cut off to make the roots.  After carving a wood/bark pattern into the trunk (as well as Baby Cora's initials in a heart- like in the book!), I spray painted it brown, then painted over with a lighter color brown.  Then I glued on some soft foam (what you used to put flowers in vases) to the top, and stuck branches in.  I finished it off by gluing apples to the branches.

Nothing would be complete without a wreath for the front door! When Saskia (aka my partner in crime for most crafty projects) and I raided Michaels, we found these ceramic letters that were just ADORABLE.  So we wreathed it up:

Good looking group!

 Because I am not a huge fan of shower games - some are ok... most are dumb and make people feel uncomfortable because no one really knows each other well, and they are forced to talk, plus the issue of trying to get everyone together to participate and corral them into the same room... SO I like to do ACTIVITIES.  The last shower I threw we decorated onsies.  This worked alright, but it required people to actually have drawing/artistic ability.  This time (again, sticking with the book theme), I decided to make an alphabet scrap book for Cora.  I (with my LOVELY assistants Natty and Sas), pre-made the scrap book pages with letters A-Z and numbers 0-10, and got a TON of stickers and other scrap booking items.  Then everyone picked a letter and decorated the pages however they wanted with that letter!  We had SO much fun doing it, we got the entire scrapbook done!!!  I think Cora is going to LOVE it!

Nurse Natty did the letter "N"

I LOVE THIS GIRL!! Julie, I can't wait to meet baby Cora Mae!!!

 I was so honored to throw a shower for one of my best friends!  What a wonderful day!!!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Annual Cost of Owning a Dog

Recently, a friend asked me a question about costs associated with owning a pet, specifically a dog.  I thought this was a great question, and something that more people needed to consider before adopting a pet of any kind. So here is my best breakdown of all the costs associated with owning a dog:

Annual costs for a dog: $2250 (or $188/month)- I find it easier to understand this number by breaking down the different costs associated with a dog to get a good/accurate answer:

Annual veterinary visit: $200 - the initial visit is going to be more, because you have to get the booster shots, spay or neuter surgery, deworming, etc, but as long as the dog is healthy, that's about what to expect.

1 year worth of flea/heartworm prevention: $350 - obviously will change depending on the products chosen and the weight of the dog, but that's what to be prepared for. **These should be purchased from your veterinarian.  OTC preventatives a) don't work, and b) can be toxic.  Remember, you get what you pay for.**

Annual food: $700 - Obviously this will also depend on the size of the dog and the type of food chosen.  A large bag of good quality food will average about $60/bag. **Remember, you are what you eat, and again, you get what you pay for.  I like to compare dog food to eating out - you could eat McDonalds every day for $1, or you could get a top cut sirloin at a fancy steakhouse for $50.  I tell people to stick in the Applebee's/Ruby Tuesday's range; quality food, but an affordable price.** 

Annual misc (toys, leashes, collars, bathing/grooming, beds, treats, crate, boarding etc): $400 - Initially obviously is going to be more to get all the equipment necessary for owning a dog, but that’s a good ballpark between $25-$35/month.

Annual emergency fund: $600 - I recommend setting aside between $30-$50/month for an emergency fund, starting when you get your pet. This is for “just in case” something happens where your pet is sick, needs hospitalization or emergency surgery. This is around the average monthly cost of pet insurance.  I prefer doing this over getting pet insurance because, with pet insurance, you are paying a company so if you end up not needing it, you never get that money back.  By doing this, if something happens (hopefully not in the first year or two) you are covered, and when the pet gets older and their medical costs go up (bloodwork, medicines etc), then you have backup funding. (BONUS, if nothing major happens, you then have a nice chunk of change to go on vacation).

Most people don't realize that pets do cost money, and sometimes, a lot of money.  Knowing what to expect and being prepared gives everyone the best chance at providing the best care possible throughout the life of their pet.