Y'know, if I had known that I'd get so many questions from outside of the US this week, I'd have put it up as a theme week! Here's a question from Lauren in the UK, with a situation that is applicable regardless of your country of origin.
Sir, I am a 16 year old student based in the UK. The thing is, I have a passion to become a vet and have spent 7 months volunteering at a small animal practice. I find the surgery to be extremely interesting, and quite frankly, I love it! Only on one occasion I did actually faint, and I'm now worried that it will be of a regularity. I am just seeking your honesty, and wondering if you have any experience or advice for this? I have a fear of this holding me back from my dream! Kindest regards, Lauren
When I read this I knew that I had to answer as soon as possible because of what happened to me when I was young. I started working for a veterinarian when I was 14, and my job was to help clean the kennels and take care of the pets in the back. My parents didn't think I would last long, even though I had wanted to be a vet since I was nine years old. The problem was that one of my chores at home was to clean the dog poop out of the yard, and every time I went through to do this, I would gag and almost throw up. Yet here I was with a job that not only had me doing it, but doing it with my hands (gloved, of course)! I quickly got over the problems I had with the idea of messing with dog and cat waste, and it stopped bothering me.
The first surgery I ever witnessed was a ferret descenting. I was watching over the doctor's shoulder as she was closing up, and the ferret started to move slightly (different kind of anesthesia back in the early 1980s than we have nowadays). She asked me to hold the hind legs while she finished a few stitches, and I was glad to do so. All I could see was a little pink tissue through the open skin near the anus, and I didn't think much about it. When she was done I walked out of the surgery room and had the most strange experience. The floor came up to meet me! Yes, I almost fully passed out. But the strange thing is that it felt like the floor rose up to me rather than me falling to the floor. I didn't stay out long, but yes, I did pass out from watching a surgery.
Over the next two years I slowly started getting used to surgeries. When I was 17 I had my first girlfriend, and she was also interested in veterinary medicine. I brought her in to watch my own dog being spayed. During the procedure I had to help her out of the surgery room as she was about to pass out. I had her put her head between her legs to keep from fully collapsing. As she was doing this, I passed out myself! I had seen spays before without problems, and yet I passed out watching my own dog. And in front of my girlfriend!
Over the next few years I continued to have sporadic luck with watching surgeries. I never passed out again, but I came close several other times. I began to learn how it felt just before I would pass out: bright lights, tunnel vision, a certain lightheadedness, etc. As I discovered the signs, I learned how to walk away from the surgery, sit and put my head between my legs, and prevent it from going all the way to unconsciousness. I was determined to get past this weakness and go on to be a veterinarian.
And I did. I developed a strong interest in surgery, and am now asked for surgical advice by other vets in my multi-location practice due to my expertese. I have seen every part of a dog or cat during surgery or during a necropsy. Just about every day I have blood on my gloves. And I never come close to passing out anymore.
So, Lauren, you see that I can completely relate to your situation! And there is indeed hope for you. It is possible to get past any queasiness and pursue your dream. If I did it, so can you. Best of luck!