I had just settled into bed with my four-legged cuddle buddy when my phone rang. I’d be lying if I said my heart didn’t sink in disappointment – I was on call for anesthesia, but I was the back-up person, and had been hopeful that I might dodge being called in. Using my best “I totally wasn’t dreading this call” voice, I answered the phone. The anesthesiologist replied brightly that although one dog was already under anesthesia with the primary on-call student, a second dog had eaten something she shouldn’t have, and now she needed surgery. We hung up and I gathered my things to drive in to school.
Upon arriving to anesthesia, I was greeted cheerfully by the anesthesiologist. I absolutely adore our anesthesiologists. It doesn’t matter that it’s 11:30pm on a Saturday night, they’re glad you’re here and they’re eager to teach. We got our patient under anesthesia without incident. It turns out that the procedure on the first patient was almost complete, so the anesthesiologist got my patient settled in, but then left me alone with a push-to-talk phone and instructions to call her if things started going poorly. Flying solo. Cool. My patient was overall pretty stable, but her pesky pulse wouldn’t settle. My confidence did a quiet happy dance as I contacted the anesthesiologist about interventions to try and she agreed with each one. Unfortunately, they didn’t work and the dog’s pulse clipped along faster than I wanted.
At this point the other patient’s procedure was complete, so the anesthesiologist and the other anesthesia student came in to send me home. I voiced my disappointment at my patient’s pulse and the anesthesiologist decided to try administering colloids, which help to keep blood in the blood vessels and therefore calm the heart from its frantic efforts to circulate the patient’s low blood volume around the body. She gave me to option to go home, but I opted to stick around and watch the effect of the intervention.
She administered the colloids and, almost immediately, the pulse started dropping. I basked in wonder at the magic I had just witnessed, and then the thought struck me that it wasn’t magic, it was medicine, and that was even more amazing. How incredible is it that we, as inquisitive, creative, persistent creatures, have unlocked the secrets of the body to the extent that we can [sometimes] exactly identify the problem and intervene? I’m all for magic, but it’s pretty cool when we refuse to write something off as mystery because we know the answer makes a difference, and then create our own magic instead.