It’s time to look back on 2020! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2020 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
I’m the new LVT intern at The Wildlife Center of Virginia. New. New. New. Have I mentioned, I’m new? Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way (please keep it in mind later on), let me share with you the experience I had running anesthesia and monitoring vitals for my first time at WCV. I had been there for all of a week. On this day, there was much to do (as there has been most days since my arrival). Lots of patients to be seen, lab work to run, feedings, and more. To stay on schedule, Jess asked if I would be comfortable running anesthesia alone with the promise of poking her head in periodically to make sure we (patient, DVM, and I) were all doing okay.
Our patient? An Eastern Screech-Owl. Perhaps the cutest of cute and oh, so tiny. Without going into all of the gory details, this little guy (or girl) needed a rather extensive wing repair surgery. He (or she) would be under anesthesia for nearly three hours. Don’t panic! This is quite normal for this procedure, which not only includes the surgery itself, but also taking radiographs both before and after surgery, administering medications, and recovering the patient (when we get to wake them up). This EASO (Eastern Screech-Owl) did great the entire time! Pulse? Check. Pressures? Check. Breathing throughout surgery? Check. Breathing throughout final radiographs? Check again. Let it be known, I provided manual breaths during these three hours. Not because our patient needed it, but simply because it is standard procedure … and, at times our patient benefit from a little extra oxygen. During this time, I charted vitals every five minutes. Between charting results, I continued to monitor vital signs on our little friend.
At last, we were done, and we could wake our patient! At that precise moment, I suddenly suspected breathing had stopped. I checked. Double-checked. Triple-checked. This Eastern Screech-Owl was no longer breathing. Jess walked in and I quickly had her confirm my suspicions. This EASO had stopped breathing. There was the slightest of pauses when Jess and Dr. Cam decided to attempt CPR. As Jess applied compressions on the tiniest of chests, Dr. Cam administered manual breaths. Neither of them had high hopes of this screech-owl surviving – CPR patients rarely do. My heart sank. Not only because this little fella hung in there the entire time but losing my first patient under anesthesia after only a week of being there was also upsetting. Jess commended me on how well I did, but all I could hear was the voice in my head, “Oh, please don’t die! Please, please, please, do not die.” And, there it was … a breath … on its own. Then, another breath. And, another. Everyone was shocked. This little raptor rose from the dead. This little EASO was (and continues to be) a fighter.
This incident happened nearly three weeks ago. Our little friend is alive to this day. May he (or she) continue to improve, and experience being released back into the wild. Send him (or her) your best wishes.
-- Alyssa, Veterinary Technician Intern