The 'On-Call' Veterinarian

Written by Dr Lisa Towns

One of my worst weekends on call happened when I was six months pregnant with my second child.

The Saturday had been very busy. I got home late, and it wasn’t long before the phone started to ring.

My first call for the night was a kelpie who had collapsed after a suspected snake bite. I treated him with antivenom and he seemed to be improving when I tucked him up in a bed and headed home.

I was just climbing into bed when the after-hours phone rang again. A miniature poodle was bleeding profusely from where, the owners couldn’t tell. When I met them at the clinic, they were in their pyjamas and the bleeding had all but stopped. I patched the dog up and sent him on his way, before returning home.

I managed two hours of sleep before the owner of a boxer called. He had been googling and “bloat” (a word no vet wants to hear at 3am) had come up, so I arranged to meet him at the clinic. Thankfully, it was obvious when the dog trotted happily in, that this wasn’t a case of bloat. I sent them home with instructions to call if there were any further developments.

I got another two hours sleep before my alarm woke me. Sunday was also hectic during opening hours, but it was at closing time when things became crazy. A patient needed a blood transfusion and the after-hours phone wouldn’t stop ringing. Some of these calls turned into consults, then a distraught couple turned up on the doorstep with their little terrier. He had been attacked by two rottweilers and was in shock with some of his intestines hanging out of his body.

... you are on tenterhooks waiting for it to make a sound.

The rest of the night was spent stabilising this little dog and then surgery to resect and repair his intestines, hernia, and wounds.

My lovely vet nurse hand fed me jelly babies when I started to feel light-headed during surgery, not surprising given I was pregnant, had been on my feet all day, eaten just a sandwich since breakfast, and had four hours of broken sleep the previous night.

I finally got home at 2am on Monday and fell into bed. The phone woke me up four hours later.

My baby was born three months after that weekend, and from day one he has allowed me more sleep than that stupid phone.