My job is difficult. I work as a veterinary technician in a small animal internal medicine specialty clinic, and despite what you might have heard about veterinary jobs consisting of “playing with puppies and kittens all day,” it is a physically draining, emotionally and psychologically taxing, sometimes horrifying but deeply rewarding job. So for a job that already tests one’s emotional and psychological limits, I have recently found it more difficult than usual to deal with. This makes sense considering I’ve been through a rather traumatic event. One that was supposed to help me but left me a fun case of medical PTSD.
Working in a veterinary internal medicine specialty clinic means that we see the very sickest of the sick cases. We see the pets who have exhausted all options with their regular vets and are in pretty bad shape by the time they make it to us. I see a lot of death. I put my heart and soul and sweat and tears into many cases, I go home wearing their poo and infectious urine, I spend time befriending animals who are terrified to be in a hospital, and then they often pass away despite our best heroic efforts. When it’s time for the animal to go, it’s time, I understand and believe that.
But it really sucks ass when they die!
Another challenge of working with the sickest of the sick patients is that parts of my job that are usually routine – placing IV or urinary catheters, drawing blood, collecting sterile urine samples, etc – become exceedingly difficult in our patients. Their veins are usually so diseased or scarred from previous sticks that catheters will not feed into them, or their internal processes have damaged their urinary systems so that routine procedures become stretches of skill and patience. I think my patience fell off during my recent hospitalization because anything that is supposed to be routine that I cannot successfully perform will effectively ruin my entire day.
This was my problem last night. I had one patient in my care last night, and that would usually make for a long and slightly boring night for me. Not last night. This poor dog was sweet as can be but really sick. Every routine procedure yielded 1-3 complications, and I felt like crying every single time he had a treatment due. He had five IV pumps and the alarms went off on at least one of them every 20 minutes or so, he got up and moved every few minutes, twisting and pulling all of his lines, he snapped an IV line completely at one point and just sat there bleeding. It didn’t help that the poor guy was constantly oozing bloody diarrhea, whose smell overpowered the wet paint smell from the clinic next door. It was a war zone in that kennel.
My main battle through the night was with this dog’s penis. He had a urinary catheter (of all the mental images I’ve given you so far, I’m most sorry for this one, men) because he was too weak to walk outside to urinate. At one point this catheter stopped working, either because the dog’s urinary system was blocked or because he pulled on the catheter at some point during one of his repositioning festivals and did something to dislodge the catheter.
No amount of troubleshooting could get the urine flowing through the catheter again, so we removed it. Then we attempted to place another one and the line wouldn’t feed. Let me say that placing a male urinary catheter is a very straight forward task. (pun) So the fact that three of us tried and failed to successfully place a new catheter made me cry angry tears. This penis was rejecting me, and I felt like a failure. One of the techs, a lesbian, who was assisting with the urinary catheter placement (which basically entailed holding the penis in place) kept gagging and saying, “I’m really not into this…” It made me giggle despite my frustration.
So we had to leave the catheter out of the dog and place a temporary one periodically to empty his bladder. This prospect filled me with a lot of anxiety because if I wasn’t able to place a regular urinary catheter, and I already felt like a failure, how in the world was I going to be able to place a temporary one? I had no confidence in myself, and I was already mentally filling out applications for file clerk and toll booth operator jobs.
When the time came, my lesbian coworker got to (angrily) grasp and steady this poor dog’s penis for me while sweat dripped down my butt crack as I got ready to do the impossible. Side note: the dog never seemed the least bit put off by three women manipulating his penis all night long. I scraped up the few dregs of self confidence I had left in me and I got ready to thread a penis for the millionth time that night. I blocked out the sounds of the lesbian gagging, the previous failures of the night, which were trying really hard to defeat me, and I started threading. And I kept threading. And I finished threading as urine poured out onto my hand.
I had defeated the penis! I won!
Dog Penis: 4
Oh, so I didn’t win, but I got on the board (a metaphor for my life’s sexual history). I took that night’s little victory and I ran with it. It was enough to refill my self confidence stores to passable levels and make me feel like less of a veterinary technician fraud. I do still feel a lot of anxiety about going back to work tonight, though. I work hard, there’s no question about that, but it’s starting to feel like the harder I work, the less good comes out of it. Fighting depression and anxiety and PTSD and type 1 diabetes already feels enough like an uphill losing battle a lot of the time. More and more, I feel like my job is just another uphill battle that I can’t win.
But I did win that one fight with a dog penis. I can cling to that for now.