This post is rated PG-13 for talk about the randy elderly, human brains, and jellyfish. Read at your own risk.
I’ve had plenty of bad days at the vet clinic. Like, the kind where you go home, collapse on the couch and hold a pillow over your face while you wonder why you ever thought this line of work was worth the effort you sunk into it. It has highs and lows, more so than lots of other jobs, but that is what makes it interesting, I suppose. But don’t worry, I won’t be starting your day with another one of those posts you need a stiff drink to make it to the end of. I usually save those for the holidays.
I’ve also had lots of bad days in the sense of, well, that’s a good party story. Like the first time I drained a particularly nasty abscess and ended up shooting myself in the face with pus. That was fun. One of my internal medicine profs in school tried Baytril once when he was fighting off a sinus infection- it’s related to Cipro, after all, how dangerous can it be? Turns out, one of its metabolites can cause hallucinations in humans, which is why it’s not used in people, as he now knows all too well.
I love listening to colleagues talk shop, because as a whole we all have a pretty impressive litany of stories. Though I have to say, of all the jobs I’ve had in my life, the two that gave me the absolute best, strangest, or weirdest stories were not veterinary related at all.
The Dead People Job
1. I spent one semester my freshman year of college while I was still debating going to medical school interning at the LA County Coroner. You know, the one Lindsay Lohan just spent hours mopping for her community service. I doubt she got to do what I did, though- it involved garden shears and a bone saw. It was gross, sad, fascinating, and horrifying all at once.
On the one hand, I saw things that would make your average horror movie look tame. On the other hand, I learned I was mentally tougher than I ever thought I could be; I’ve held a human brain in my hands, and took notes for the pathologist while a cop and a doctor stood over the body of a domestic abuse victim. I once asked a pathologist what the weirdest death was that he ever witnessed, and if you ever want to know, you can ask me in person and I will tell you what he said. But I won’t write it here.
The All-Too-Alive People Job
2. The year after I finished my undergraduate degree, when I did an about face and decided to apply to vet school, I paid my rent by working as a clinical research assistant for a urologist in Beverly Hills. It wasn’t until after I was hired that he filled in the rest of the details: his specialty was male sexual dysfunction, and he was working on the final stage clinical trials of a new drug called Viagra. Yep, the year Viagra got approved I was working for one of the world’s experts on the topic.
If you ever want a surreal experience, try being a 21 year old woman whose job it is to interview elderly men about their dysfunctional sex lives. They were either very reticent to share the necessary details, or distressingly exuberant in their enthusiasm to over-share in the hopes of making it onto the study. Viagra was a huge deal- at least as far as the men were concerned. The women in the waiting room, well, they were less enthused.
I have a couple of points here: one, everything happens for a reason. Crossing those two jobs off my bucket list by 21 pretty much assured no matter how gross, emotional, or uncomfortable my future career might be, I’d have already dealt with worse. I helped with the autopsies of children and murder victims, listened to strangers in their 70s describe in excruciating detail what they could or could not do when the lights went out, to what degree, and the duration; and absorbed earfuls of verbal abuse when someone would sign up one of their buddies without their knowledge for our latest study on premature ejaculation. I arrived in vet school unshockable, un-gross-out-able, and much more bullet resistant than the fragile little bird that showed up for the first day of college. Trial by fire is an excellent learning experience.
The job I am SO glad I never had
My other point is this: I thought I’ve heard it all. Years of working in weird fields and puttering around on the internet will do that to you. But yesterday proved me wrong. No matter how awful my stories are, someone, somewhere out there had it worse. Case in point: my friend posted a link on Facebook to the story of a poor chap who worked as a commercial diver. Sounds good so far, right?
In order to maintain some body warmth during cold deep dives, they had rigged up a system that took in seawater, heated it, and delivered the warmed water through a hose into the wetsuit. What could possibly go wrong, I ask.
All was well, until the system sucked in a jellyfish, heated it up nice and toasty, and sent it shooting down this man’s back, where it lodged itself firmly in the cleft of his hind end. After some muffled, incoherent communication with a less than sympathetic crew on deck who had difficulty talking over their laughter, they aborted the dive. Sadly, because of the risk of decompression sickness, despite the jellyfish residing in his rear end the poor guy had to suffer the torturous 35 minute ascent to allow for proper decompression, nematocysts be damned. He survived, though I’m sure there were moments he wished he hadn’t.
So I’ll ask you this: what is the worst thing that’s happened to you in your job? And can it possibly beat a jellyfish in your nether regions?