In honor of October and "spooky season", I thought I'd (maybe?) lighten the mood a little with some tales from the trenches. After over 12 years in the industry, over a decade being in emergency medicine, I've seen and heard it all! Some of these will be quick little antidotes, meant to make you laugh, cringe, and be thankful it wasn't you. Others are slightly longer tales. As I'm writing this I'm sure more memories will flood in. So without further ado, I bring to you my first installment of "Spooky Tales from the Trenches"!
My first tale hails from Seattle. The location of my first real job after my internship. I worked as an emergency doctor at a large ER/Specialty clinic from 2010-early 2012. A couple brought their young pointer, Abby, into the hospital. She had been out playing with her dad, running through the woods while he hiked a trail. Dad heard Abby vocalize. When he got to her, she had a large stick (~1" diameter) penetrating into her cranial chest, essentially the thoracic inlet area.
Upon arrival at the clinic, Abby was fairly stable considering the circumstances. A brief u/s showed a concerning shadowed area associated with her heart. Emergency surgery ensued.
When the surgeon got into Abby's chest (I got to excitedly scrub in), the stick actually penetrated THROUGH Abby's heart! Ironically, we had learned about a similar case in school - a dog nicknamed "valentine" came in with an arrow through her heart. This case surprisingly came in handy when I discussed with the surgeon on Abby's case what happened.
Let's cut to the chase...the stick was slowly removed by me (eeeek!!! so scary but awesome) while the surgeon pulled purse string sutures tight to close the holes. Abby did great and was discharged from the hospital about a week later!
I had an ER client once who brought in their down, giant breed dog. Diagnostics were concerning for neoplasia and ultimately the owner chose euthanasia. But not before he questioned us extensively about cremation. Apparently (according to the owner), one of the well known pet crematories in the area was "run by the mob" and the owner could not be certain that the ashes he received back were his dog...or even the ashes of a dog. The owner then asked if he could see our body freezer, claiming that the last clinic he went to had a body freezer "covered in blood". The owner then went on to explain to me that he didn't really want to cremate his dog. He preferred at-home burial. But he no longer had room in his yard to bury another dog because of "all of the other bodies". We google mapped his address after he left and it was for a city park...the address had been fake.
A tech I was working with went over an estimate in the room for a small dog as the owner prepared to hospitalize the pet at the ER for multiple days. As the owner was saying good-night to her pet, she asked the technician if she could leave a shirt with the dog in her cage? The technician agreed. The owner proceeded to unzip her jacket, remove her sweatshirt with nothing on underneath (the owner was now completely topless in the room with the technician), wrap the dog up in her shirt and hand it over to the tech. The owner then put the jacket back on, zipped it up and left the room to go home as if nothing happened.
A co-worker of mine had a horrible wound + maggots case. The details at this time are fuzzy as it was in 2010 or 2011. What I do remember is the techs and the overseeing doctor telling me when I came onto shift about how they administered an enema to the dog (again the reasoning behind the enema I cannot remember), and maggots proceeded to pour out of the dogs rectum. The colon is probably not an ideal location to have a maggot infestation...
A technicians first maggot case was so horrific, that she proceeded to lean over and vomit into a trashcan all while continuing to hold the uncomfortable, slightly fractious cat for examination. #skills
The dog who had to have emergency surgery on Christmas for a foreign body and the surgeon proceeded to pull out a Christmas sock that the dog had ingested. It was truly a Christmas miracle. As a side note that dog returned to us multiple times for sock ingestion...it needed another surgery in the future and multiple rounds of emesis on other occasions. The dog learned how to open the laundry room door to continue perpetuating it's sock eating fetish and the owners were besides themselves with what else to do.
A cat was brought in by it's owner for difficulty defecating. Radiographs confirmed constipation. Following treatment in hospital, we sent the cat home with Lactulose for the owner to administer. While the technician was discussing the medication as a stool softener during discharge, the owner proceeded to turn his backside to the tech, take his arm/hand and point at his rectum...telling the technician that "I take stool softeners too!". The tech handed the owner the cat and walked away, speechless.
My very last overnight shift at a small ER, I had a cat come in for vomiting. The cat was fine for exam, diagnostics and SQ medication administration. As we went to put the cat back into it's carrier, it suddenly flipped out, running through the hospital. It knocked over the microscope (shhh, they still don't know that happened), proceeding to run into the breakroom. The tech and assistant ran after it closing the door. When I looked through the breakroom door window all I could see was the techs flailing to catch this cat while it scaled the walls. Following another bout through the hospital and the cat getting stuck behind the x-ray machine, we were finally successfully in wrangling the cat into it's carrier. Upon getting her cat back, the owner commented "man, that took a little while to do the treatments huh?". Yeah...just a little.
I had an rDVM referral when I worked emergency for a dog who "got her nose bit through the fence by another dog". Ok...sounds easy enough. The surgeon at the time had recently started and was trying to build up his referral base so was happy to see the case after it was transferred. Upon getting to the hospital we realized that the dog didn't just get her "nose bit"...her entire maxilla was hanging on by a thin strip of skin. The hard palate had been completely fractured across, leaving the dog with completely exposed nasal turbinates. The surgeon, being the amazing man he was/is, was able to place an orthopedic plate across the hard palate to appose it. The dog had mild swelling following surgery but ended up completely healing and having no issues with tissue necrosis. All I ask from general practitioners when you call the ER is be honest about how bad a wound/injury/case really is.
And finally...the scariest tale of all...the growling demon.
A small ER I worked for had an "on-call room" with a bed that we could sleep in if there were no patients. I went to lie down one night to scroll through my phone before napping. My dog George was in the room with me and typically would sleep on the bed as well. This particular night, George would not come near the bed. He was standing next to the door, wagging his tail and panting nervously, but would not come near me. This was especially weird because George always wanted attention and to snuggle. No matter what I did, George wouldn't come close.
Well then I heard growling....from underneath the bed. Panicked, I jumped up and ran out the door with George, shutting the door. I told the tech what had happened and we both immediately freaked out.
This particular hospital was old and the owner did not take good care of the building. We had instances of rats and raccoons being seen outside, and a feral cat which busted out of it's carrier one day climbed into the ceiling, getting being stuck up there for a few days. We had no idea what was growling under the bed. The possibilities were endless.
My tech, being way more brave than me, went into the room with her phone light to look under the bed. In my mind I pictured National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, and an animal springing forward onto my tech's face. But instead what she saw was a cat. Weird? But thank goodness it wasn't an actual demon.
Luckily the cat was nice and allowed us to reach under the bed and scoop him up. Turns out, a cat in boarding had MacGyver'd out of his cage and unknowingly run into the room to hid. Had it not been for George & the cat being completely freaked out at one another, we may have never found him!
I hope you enjoyed the first installment of "spooky tales from the trenches"! Have a spooky tale of your own? Comment below! (Please omit any hospital and/or staff names).
Happy Halloween everyone!