2020 Year in Review: Ying Ngo, Veterinary Extern

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 a fourth-year veterinary student from Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. During the past three weeks, I was granted a fantastic clerkship time at the Wildlife Center of Virginia that loaded me with invaluable experiences! I came in knowing close to nothing about wildlife-specific species, so the first week was a huge adjustment for me. But all of the doctors (Dr. Karra Pierce, Dr. Cameron Berg, and Dr. Sarah Sirica) and the technicians/staff were extremely helpful, patient, and great teachers! I was amazed at how many wild animals they were able to manage with such good care in both the medicine and husbandry aspects.

In the beginning, due to my lack of experience in wildlife medicine, I was worried about how much I could actually give back and contribute to WCV. Most of my experiences have been related to pathology, lab animal medicine, and small animals. I did, however, grow up with a background and special interest in Traditional Chinese Medicine and am currently studying for my acupuncture certification at Chi University in addition to veterinary school. On my third day at WCV, I overheard Jess talking about one of their turtles (#20-3311) receiving acupuncture due to hindlimb paresis after a carapace injury. In my heart, I was jumping for joy that they were using acupuncture at WCV! I quickly voiced my interest and said that I would love to provide the treatment myself. I looked over the notes and, luckily, was very familiar with the prescribed points. I added an additional point to enhance the treatment protocol; by the end of my three weeks, the turtle was running across the yoga mat and using her back legs to do little turtle squats!

Another moment – probably my most memorable case at WCV – was a little Carolina Wren (CAWR #20-3689). This sweet little wren came in on 12/12/2020 after having its leg stuck in a mousetrap. I remember examining the wren – it could not use its right leg to perch or move its digits at all. “So based on your physical exam, what would you like to do for this little bird?” said Dr. Sarah. I looked at the wren and could tell that it still had so much fight spirit in it. “May I please try some acupuncture with it? I know a few points that may help.” I said. Dr. Sarah replied, “Of course! Just keep in mind that songbirds usually do not do well in captivity due to stress. But we can certainly try some acupuncture and see what happens!”

Equipped with my special mini-exotics acupuncture needles, I was overjoyed and got started with treatment right away.

Every day I went to Expanded ICU to check on and provide acupuncture for the little wren. There was not much major progress seen in the first two days, and I also started noticing that the left leg started splaying out, probably due to compensation. I added an additional acupuncture point to treat the left leg and continued on with the original treatment plan. After a few acupuncture treatments, the wren was hopping around the cage and I could feel the injured leg growing stronger. When one of the bird’s digits moved voluntarily for the first time, my heart jumped! “It can move D1 now! This is great!” I was really excited and knew that this bird was on the right track to recovery.

Toward the end of the second week, I peeked inside of the wren’s cage and saw it hopping around and perching on the branches! “It’s perching!! It’s perching now!!” I exclaimed as I updated everyone after treatment. By that time, it had escaped its enclosure several times and was flying/hopping beautifully. “We can start acclimating now to outdoor temperatures!” said Dr. Berg, the day after its last acupuncture treatment. This brought me so much happiness. The little wren is set to be released a few days after my time at WCV ends.

Reflecting back on my time as an extern, words cannot explain how grateful I am to the doctors and all of the staff at WCV for providing me with so much wildlife knowledge. They taught me how to properly handle wild animals, how to examine them for problems, how to form treatment plans, and how to care for them. I absolutely love how up-to-date the staff are with the latest research and medical techniques out there and are always trying to incorporate new ways to help their patients. My time with WCV will always be treasured!

-- Ying, Class of 2021

Check out all of our year-in-review posts!


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