"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Polar Vortex Part 2

We're alive and well. Just very busy! I have 2 posts in the works on what we've been up to, which I hope to have up between tomorrow and Thursday.

The second polar vortex of the season arrived today, and this time it brought snow. We're expecting 6" in the DC area, and wind chills tonight and tomorrow night will be in the negative teens.

It was snowing sideways when I woke up to get ready for work.  

The view from our window.
We already had about 3" on the groundand it had only been snowing for 2 hours.

I live 3 miles from work, thankfully. The drawback of working in 24 hour hospitals, whether human or veterinary, is that they never close. Not even when the weather is bad. But you bet the people that live far away will call out. Most of my hospital's employees live over 45 minutes away. Some of them live in rural areas that don't get plowed until after the storm has passed. I would call out too if I lived that far and the weather was this bad! So it is my responsibility, as one of the few that lives close by, to show up.

I dressed in a fleece jacket, my 3-in-1 ski jacket, the waterproof insulated overpants I bought at the Maryland Horse World Expo this past weekend (one of the posts I'm working on) over my scrubs, and my snow boots. I carried my Danskos to put on later once I arrived at work.

The winds were close to 20 mph.

Snow blowing onto the foot of our apartment building's staircase.

The snow was coming down fast as I cleaned it off the car. There was a small plough working on the apartment parking lot, but it hadn't gotten to our section yet. I said a little prayer and backed up my front wheel drive car onto the 3" of snow on the ground. Remember guys: I come from the tropics. I felt the tires skid an inch, then gripped. I made it out of the parking lot just fine, the tires skidding a couple of times more, but I was fine. It was very much like driving over the wet moss on some of the back country roads in the rainforest on the island.

I stopped to take this photo as I was leaving our apartment complex. You can see the sideways snow:

On to work. The drive that normally takes me 7 minutes took me over 15. Way too many people out driving and not all of them driving carefully.

The wet, partially melted snow on the main road that I take to work was tan in color, again reminding me of sand. 

It actually was like driving on loose sand. You get the same spin effect of the tires, the same accumulation on the treads that can impair the function of your brakes. 

I took the photo below while waiting for the red light to change so I could turn. This is what I mean about the snow looking like wet sand:

Made it safe and sound.

My snow boots and overpants in the employee closet.
And one of my coworkers had brought Panera bagels for everyone!

Winter storm days like this tend to be quiet in our ER, except for the fact that when emergencies do come in, they tend to be really bad. Because only life or death situations will make people drive when the roads are bad.

We had one pitbull that came in with pericardial effusion (fluid buildup inside the sac that surrounds the heart. This literally chokes out the heart, inhibiting its ability to beat). She was in very critical condition. The owners authorized tapping her pericardium. We pulled almost half a liter of blood from around her heart (that is a shit ton of fluid of any kind to have in the pericardium of a dog her size) and suddenly, her heart rate and respiratory rate normalized and she actually stood up on the table. She felt better! Once all that excess fluid was removed, we were able to see that the cause of the effusion was a bleeding tumor on her heart.

She was placed in one of our ER cages in the meantime while the doctor went to report to the owners. 

My coworker and I kept a close eye on the pitbull while working on placing a bandage on another dog's leg (this guy had been attacked by his housemate and needed surgery to repair the wounds). I volunteered to place the bandage since it's one of those things that I love to do and I'm good at. I suddenly had 3 doctors passing me materials and giving their opinions. It was a weird and fairly rare role reversal. They liked my bandage.

It had been about 10 minutes since the pitbull's procedure had finished, and we immediately noticed the second she started to go downhill again. The doctor checked her chest with the ultrasound probe and discovered that her pericardium had already re-filled with blood. The tumor in her heart was bleeding at an unexpectedly alarming rate. 

The owners were brought into the ER and they ended up euthanizing. We couldn't save the dog. We could have gone balls to the walls if the owners had wanted, but she still would have died. The owner kept asking if it was something he had done. He pleaded with the doctors to tell him the truth. It really, really wasn't his fault. He was hysterical. I had stepped away to recover a surgery patient and give the pitbull's owner privacy. I was secretly fighting back tears of my own. Some of them just get to you, you know? 

On another, happier note (because this is how we roll in the veterinary ER: you have to focus on the positive), a good samaritan found this gorgeous guy up a tree, got him down, and brought him in. He's perfectly healthy and seems to be fairly young. He is microchipped; both us and his regular vet have left multiple messages with the owner's number registered with the microchip company, but we haven't heard back from them. We also let the local shelters know he's at our hospital in case the owner starts calling. Per Animal Control regulations, he has to be held for a week before he can be put up for adoption. There are several of us interested in taking him if his owners don't show up! So if you're in Maryland and know of anyone missing a male neutered Bengal kitty named Iggy, let me know!

Rubbing his head against the litter box because I was talking to him!

He loves belly rubs, is a talker, will let you pet him anywhere on his body while he purrs and makes biscuits, but doesn't like to be picked up. He'll let you, but he'll give a low growl to let you know he doesn't like it. He loves canned cat food.

Lily is fine: wearing her midweight blanket with a borrowed neck cover to protect her naked neck. Since the roads were too gnarly to be driving longer distances, I couldn't make it out to the barn. Kathy made up some warm beet pulp for Lily and took it down to her in the late afternoon. She tells me she licked the bowl clean!
Stay warm everyone!


  1. Replies
    1. I secretly love Bengals and have always wanted one. They get a bad rep for being a little...wild. Haha...

  2. Ugh. See, those owners who truly care killed me. More so if they'd had the pet for a dozen years, lived alone, and it was just them and the dog/cat. For most euth's, you're taking away a family member. But for those special ones, it's like... losing a soul mate or something. I'll never forget seeing grown men cry.

    Hope the Bengal finds his home!

    1. I know; exactly my thoughts. It's especially bad when it's a grown man crying over his pet. It gets me every single time. The really bad ones are when it's the dead spouse's pet, and the pet dies. The owner ends up grieving for both the pet and for the dead spouse all over again. Those break my heart into tiny little pieces.

      I hope he finds his home too! He's such a cool cat.

  3. Send california some snow, we need the water D:

    1. I've been seeing your forecasts. :( Someone posted on another blog that in their part of CA, it's warmer now than it was over the summer! You can have it all! Especially the rain we've been having inbetween snowfalls. *Rain dance for CA*