My First Rollercoaster Ride

    April 5, 2013

    Rollercoaster Ride

    Rollercoaster Ride


    Dr. Ashley Craig

    Imagine waiting in line to ride a rollercoaster. You sit there wondering if the waiting will end, then it is your turn. You climb into the seat and ride towards the first hill. As the chain slowly pulls you up the hill, your heart starts to pound; you are excited but yet apprehensive as the anticipation of the first hill looms. And then suddenly, you are there zooming down that first hill and you realize any apprehension or anxiety you had is gone and you enjoy the ride. As quickly as the ride started, it stops but you look forward to the next rollercoaster ride.

    So why is an equine intern describing a rollercoaster ride? Because it is the perfect metaphor for my first solo emergency call that I had back in September, and yes I know this is a little late, but better late than never! Hopefully no matter how far along I go in this field, I hope to always remember the feeling of my first solo emergency. For the first month of the internship I was busy riding along and attending emergencies with other Field Care veterinarians. It was a great chance for me to get my feet wet and learn more about how Hagyard handles cases. My second month was in Medicine, where I was on-call, but more as a secondary doctor since the board-certified Medicine experts attend every emergency and case. During my third month in the internship; I am put in an on-call rotation where other doctors are also on-call but I am sent out to emergencies on my own. Up until my first true emergency, my time on-call had included some fun cases and routine problems, but no “true” emergencies. I was just waiting in line for the rollercoaster.

    My morning had been unexpectedly slow as a couple of calls were cancelled and I had some time before joining another Field Care veterinarian to do a castration. I decided to hang out until it was time to head out to my next call in Dispatch, which put me in the right place at the right time. The phone call came in that a farm had a horse that needed help immediately. As Dispatch tried to reach the primary vet for the farm, I talked through how I would handle the situation with another Field vet. When the primary vet for the farm couldn’t be reached, it was my chance to ride the emergency rollercoaster – and I jumped at it! With a vote of confidence from Dispatch and a mentor, I was on my way armed with directions, experience from my internship and four years of veterinary school knowledge. The drive to the farm was like the climb up the first hill of the rollercoaster; my adrenaline was high but my anticipation was higher. I ran through what information the farm had shared, all the possible scenarios, how I would handle the situation, what I would do, and how to differentiate the potential problems that I would encounter. Turning into the farm, my heart was pounding as I made the mental checklist of what I needed to pull out of the back of my truck when I got to the horse. Reaching the horse, I got straight to work assessing the situation, examining the horse, and determining the course of action. I was riding down that first hill of the rollercoaster and just focusing on the task at hand. As I completed the treatment that the horse needed and informed the farm of the next steps that needed to be taken, I finally took my first deep breath. I had handled my first solo emergency call without having a panic attack. My rollercoaster had come to a momentary stop.

    Driving back to the clinic, I called the primary vet for the farm to inform her of the situation and what all went on during the call. As I walked into Dispatch at the clinic, I was greeted with high fives from all of the dispatchers and one of my mentors. My rollercoaster ride was over for the time being, but I couldn’t wait till the next time. The rest of the day I was overwhelmed with the compliments from other Field vets who had heard about my first solo emergency call. While the rush from the adrenaline high was gone a couple hours later, I will never forget my first emergency call, nor will I ever forget how much support and encouragement my colleagues give to me each and every day. I am truly lucky to be riding the rollercoasters at the Hagyard theme park! =)

    Since my first emergency, I have gotten the chance to ride lots of other rollercoasters. Each and every single emergency brings about a very similar feeling to my first time. There is a sense of anticipation as I get the call, the mental exercise of running through all of the possibilities as I drive to the horse, sometimes the discussing of ideas with mentors, the excitement of treatment and the greater excitement of a positive outcome. With each and every call, each and every case, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have great patients, amazing clients and supportive mentors and staff at Hagyard.

    How do you do what you do?

    January 25, 2013
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    The joy of a new foal
    The joy of a new foal

    Dr. Ashley Craig

    The other day a young horsewoman was asking about the cases I had seen in my time at Hagyard. I discussed the medical problems I had dealt with in my short time as a Field intern at Hagyard. At the end of the discussion, she looked at me with heavy eyes and asked- “Have you had to euthanize any patients?” Inside, I cringed. Euthanasia is not an outcome that veterinarians like to talk about. No one goes into veterinary medicine because they like to see patients have a negative outcome, but I couldn’t lie to this young lady so I answered honestly- “Yes”. She immediately followed up with, “I don’t know how you can do it.”

    While her statement is one I have heard before, for some reason this time, it made me think a little harder. Thank goodness driving around farm to farm gives me a lot of time to think and reflect. As I reflected on the euthanasia cases I have witnessed in my time working at farms, as a vet tech, at veterinary school, and now at Hagyard, I formed my answer to the young woman’s statement. I can emotionally handle the death of an animal because I see it as the final gift we can give to our sick and dying animals. I don’t know of anyone that enters into the discussion of euthanasia lightly. As a veterinarian, we took an oath to help with the “protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering…” After we do all that can be done for the animal and the animal is still suffering and will eventually die, we can give them a final gift- the relief from suffering.

    Another reason why I can handle the death of a patient is because I am surrounded by so much life. Being in the field, I am often called out to handle preventative medicine such as vaccinations or teeth floating (dental care for horses). Not every horse I see is sick; at times it is the exact opposite! The joy of watching a new foal bounce around their mother, the anticipation of a yearling walking in the sales ring, the excitement of a racehorse or a show horse performing, or even the contentment of a pasture horse grazing in a lush field of bluegrass is what drives me. These magnificent creatures need veterinarians to help prevent and treat medical problems.

    So how do I handle the lows of death? Because I get to see the highs of life and I know that in everything I do, I am doing it for the benefit of the animal.