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Monday, December 27, 2010

Sugar, the economy, and their recent role in my life.

I have worked as a Veterinary Technician at the same clinic for about eight and a half years now. Over the past two years business has gradually slowed. This past year has been the worst so far. Although I am still very grateful to have my job, the saddest thing has been to watch clients come in with their sick pets and have to make very tough decisions based on the fact that they don't have jobs or money.

I am fortunate enough to work with doctors (well, most of them) that are kind and understanding and will try to provide the best possible care for what little some people have to work with. Two weeks ago posed an interesting challenge.

It was about 5:45 (we close at 6) when a man came in with his chocolate Lab, Nina. Nina had somehow escaped the day before. The owner spent all night, until about 4 a.m., combing the streets looking for her with no luck. He notified Orange County A
nimal Services to be on the look out for her. About an hour before his arrival to our clinic, OCAS called him to tell him Nina was there. When he picked her up she had a bandage on her leg, they informed him that she may need some stitches, and to bring her to a clinic a.s.a.p. When we took the bandage off her leg to see what we were dealing with, what we saw was kind of shocking. She absolutely did NOT need stitches because there was nothing left to stitch up. She had the worst case of road rash I had ever seen. Not only was her skin gone, but so was the muscle, to the point that her bone was exposed.

Dr. Garrels (who is my favorite) gave the owner two options. One: they could spend a lot of money trying to save the leg and it still may end up being amputated, or two: amputate the leg. I'm not sure if it was before or after she gave him his optio
ns that he informed us that he had just filed bankruptcy because his wife got cancer and the medical bills drained them. Yeah.

He asked for a moment alone so he could call his wife. When we got back in the room he told us that he wanted to try to save the leg. So we got right at it. We took her back and cleaned the wound and put a fresh bandage on it. We set her up in a comfy cage with lots of blankets, food, and water and left for the night. Now we had a challenge - try to save this dog's leg without racking up an enormous bill for the owner.

Even though she probably wouldn't admit it, I'm pretty
sure Dr. Garrels thought about that leg all night. When she got in the next morning she said she had done some reading on sugar bandaging and thought it would be a good idea for this pet. Sugar is cheap, it has natural antibiotic properties, and it helps to "sand" away all the dead skin. This was the first I had ever heard of this but it made sense and I totally thought it was a good idea. Pretty much everyone was behind her except for this one doctor. We also called in two of her medications into a human pharmacy. One was on the free antibiotics list and the other was pretty cheap.

So twice a day for about the first four days or so we took off Nina's bandage,
irrigated it well, debrided any dead tissue, poured a shit ton of sugar on it, and put on a fresh bandage. Every day her leg looked better and better. It wasn't getting infected, there was lots of healthy granulation tissue forming, and soon enough we were able to stretch what skin was left and put in some tacking sutures and reduce her bandage changes to once a day.

Nina spent two weeks in our hospital and went home today with her very happy owners and instructions to return in two days for a bandage change. She's on the road to recovery. We saved h
er leg and for less than what it would have cost to amputate.