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Monday, August 18, 2014

Here's Blood In Your Eye

I recently saw a king snake for a prolapsed hemipene and a swelling on the underside of his tail.  One of the interesting things about this case is that I had seen him for the exact same problem almost a year ago to the day.  Thankfully this time wasn't as bad and the swelling didn't have dead and decaying skin over it like it did in 2013.  Last year there was a large amoung of clotted blood under the skin, and between that and the hemipene I had to do minor surgery.  He recovered well and had no problems until this year.
As I was examining him I started to palpate the swollen area.  I had seen some blood on his bedding and wanted to get an idea of how extensive the swelling is.  Unfortunately I didn't realize how much pressure was inside the swelling and how the small opening could act as a nozzle.  I put some mild pressure on the area and all of a sudden found myself sprayed with blood along the front of my clothing and on the right side of my face, including near my eye.
So here's the picture for your mind....I'm in the exam room with the clients and with no assistants.  I've been talking to them and examining their snake.  Now I have managed to cover my lab coat, face, table, and counter with a fine spray of blood from some sort of lesion near his cloaca.  What to do in a situation like this?  I need to take care of the blood, especially that on my face, but I don't want to panic the owners, don't want to fling the snake away and risk injuring it, and don't want to totally freak out. 
This is where experience comes in.  Though I've never sprayed my face with blood, I've had other things hit me there.  When my son was an infant I was home alone changing his diaper.  While I had the diaper in one hand and his legs in another he suddenly defecated with a little gas behind it, quite accurately projecting poop into my beard.  Not much I could do then other than finish cleaning him up, put a new diaper on, and then go thoroughly scrub my face.  Last year I was expressing the anal sacs of a cat when a plug dislodged and all of the thick secretions coated my face and beard.  I still had one finger in his rectum and was half-way done, so I didn't want to pull out and have to go again.  I quickly finished, keeping my mouth tightly closed, and then went to scrub the smelly mess from my skin and facial hair.
I handled things similarly with the snake.  I transferred him over to one hand while I grabbed a wet paper towel and started wiping my face off.  I then pointed him into the skin and finished expressing the blood and clot, this time into the sink instead of on me.  Once he was cleaned up I put him back in his carrier and proceeded to clean and disinfect the table and counter.  The whole time I continued talking to the owner, trying to act as if nothing had bothered me. 
Thankfully things like this are rare and hopefully will never happen again.  But it also shows some of the risks of the job and how this is most certainly not a glamorous profession.  Anyone who can't stand the idea of getting feces, blood, urine, or pus on them every day should avoid a career in veterinary medicine.