This famous quote is from Winston Churchill and those of you who are college basketball fans probably remember Jim Valvano giving a similar speech in 1993. They were speaking about serious things like war and fighting cancer, but never giving up is something you and I need to remember too when tough times come our way.
How many of you sometimes feel like giving up or giving in- I know I do. I am very fortunate in my surgical practice to work on healthy animals, and very rarely do we have serious issues with our patients, but we had three cases lately that made me question myself.
The first was a dog that had a TPLO three weeks prior and acutely became neurologic in the opposite hind limb. This poor dog was one of the most painful dogs I have ever seen. He ended up going to our local teaching hospital where he was put down because the owners could not afford work-up and possible treatment. I felt horrible-was it something we missed or was there anything we could have done differently?
Why is it these “weird cases” always come in three’s? We did an extra capsular repair on an older dog, and the surgery was uneventful. She never really did bounce back from surgery as expected, and when I saw her at a 4 week recheck she was definitely showing signs of being neurologic with some deficits present in the operated limb. I recommended she go have some physical therapy performed, and when she was evaluated there a few days later-she was even worse. What in the world was going on? Her owners then decided to take her to our local teaching hospital. They performed a MRI and found a spinal cord tumor-what are the odds of that? Again, I start questioning myself-did I miss something?
The last case is one that is hard for me to even write about. We performed upper airway surgery on my favorite breed of dog, and the surgery went well. We performed it in the morning (as is our policy,) and she received steroids to combat any swelling. Throughout the day, she did fine and went home with her owner’s overnight. The next morning, she was reexamined at the animal hospital, and all was well. That afternoon her owners brought her back in because she seemed to be having a difficult time breathing. Her pulse ox was 96%, and all other vital parameters were fine.
The doctor gave her another dose of steroids and sent her to the emergency clinic. I checked in the E clinic and we talked about her treatment plan. Three hours later, right before going to bed, I called to check on her and was told by the ER doctor, our patient had died. What? Are you kidding me? What happened? I about became physically ill- I could not believe she had died. I racked my brain with what else I could have done, what should I have done?
Honestly, part of me wanted to give up after having this string of crazy, heart-breaking cases. It times like this, I am glad I have a board in my office filled with thank you cards from owners. I have to remind myself that I am not God, and I am not perfect. I try each and every day to do the best job I can, and crappy cases are going to come my way just like I am sure you experience too.
During the tough times, it is so important to remember the difference you do make, learn from what happened, and most importantly, never, never, never give up!