Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Nearing the end....

The last couple of weeks have involved a lot of lunging... The wee bun in this oven is defiantly positioned to prohibit any kind of bending at the middle. I often forget and it is only when I am halfway through scrubbing some fetlocks for injection that I realise the increasing hypoxia is becoming problematic. And so an awkward, bump-between-the thighs, lunge position has to be adopted. Now this is all very well, but it becomes hard to keep your tibiae in a location that is not risking a hefty crack should the horse decide to try to get rid of its irritation.

As a result I now take help with me for these procedures... this often comes in the form of one of our super technicians. Having someone highly skilled in the para-veterinary specialties of holding horses (properly!), understanding sterility and knowing what all the equipment is called and what you are going to need next, is such a vital part of any equine practice and now more than ever I appreciate the five star team we have. On days when I am feeling really indulgent I even ask the most recently qualified vet on the team if he would like to come and assist me. He is always willing and is now used to my frequent invites having been my radiography body-double since I found out that I was pregnant. This truly has taken the pressure off carrying out those procedures, whilst allowing me to maintain continuity with my clients and cases. The same young graduate has been doubling up with me on call, meaning I do not have to rectal colics or attend any physically tricky calls without a second pair of hands to carry out the tasks I can no longer safely perform (I don't think it is physically possible to use a stable doorway to protect my vast abdomen during rectal examinations any more!).

With only a few weeks left before I take some annual leave and then begin maternity leave, I feel confident that I can see out the rest of my time working as a pregnant equine vet without any further changes to my day-to-day work. I am sure that at the current rate of increasing waistline, were I to work longer than 34 weeks gestation I would certainly be struggling to manoeuvre behind the wheel of my car let alone carry out a PPE or more than one routine dental a day. It is not for want of trying - I can tell you now I will cry when I leave work on that last day (hopefully I'll hold it together until I have left the premises...). I love my job, it keeps me sane, challenged, satisfied and... well, happy! Without it I am going to feel like half of myself, and while I know this is all for a wonderful cause and that newborn will soon be filling any voids that have developed, I can't help feeling a little sad. I would love to work up until my due date, but it would be for selfish reasons. There is no way I could be doing flexion tests and joint medications the day before I give birth. Maybe some women can, but I'm huge already and why put myself, the baby, my clients, their horses and my employer at risk of dealing with the consequences if something goes wrong - it would be hellish for all involved. Some might say that carrying out these procedures at 34 weeks is still too high risk - but the truth is, these procedures always carry a risk to anyone performing them, not just the pregnant and I hope that I am adept at calculating that risk and knowing when not to do something. I may be prone to the odd bout of bravado but I hope I've kept my head fairly well screwed on when it comes to the baby's safety.

The key for me is gauging your individual circumstances and the risks you face every working day, not just when you are pregnant. Once you are pregnant those thresholds obviously change but only you can determine at what point they become unacceptable and a lot of this is relative. I have seen colleagues put themselves in crazy, dangerous positions, which I would not even if I was not pregnant. So there is some element of knowing one's own boundaries and then adjusting them accordingly when pregnancy overlays the risk assessment. I do not doubt I have placed myself and my unborn baby in positions of increased risk these past 7 months, but I have probably done the same getting in the car every day and driving down the motorways, A-road and country lanes... or having that sneaky bit of tapas with the cured meats and unpasteurised cheese, or that night I made no effort to prevent my Prosecco glass being topped up. I liken it to advising a client at a PPE - what constitutes acceptable Vs unacceptable risks differs from individual to individual. However, when we work for an employer and as a member of a team we agree to take on personal risk in exchange for the income we earn and the support we receive. Would you knowingly lay yours or your child's life on the line for any job, probably not, but we all accept a degree of risk all of the time. I made a friend laugh recently when I said I couldn't work in London - all that commuting on the terrorist-threatened Underground and walking along diesel particulate-polluted streets... then I realised the absurdity of what I said considering the line of work I have chosen... I think I'm the one most likely to end up hospitalised through my career choice!

And so my plan is to make it safely to 34 weeks, still carrying out the majority of my normal duties, then I'll be putting my feet up for a month (well on the days my daughter will remain in nursery at least!) with my trusty laptop for company, finishing off all the myriad of non-clinical projects I've been struggling to complete between work and toddler. I might even squeeze in some BEVA webinars to keep my clinical addiction satisfied... only a methadone for the real thing of course but I'll take my daughter to visit the village ponies for some much needed equine interaction. As for the clients, I shouldn't admit it, but I've told the best ones they can keep in touch... I'll miss those evening texts about Bob's arthritis, Millie's latest qualification for Regionals, Ernie's most recent bumps and scrapes, and Albert's latest growth spurt - after all they feel like extended family to me.

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