UT-VMC emergency room tails: an other-worldly experience

UTVMC COLUMN HEADER  2By Dr. Amanda Rainey

Working in veterinary medicine, especially in the ER setting, has provided me with very memorable moments. One of them came to mind recently and gave my students a chuckle when I told them the story late on a Saturday night.

This particular incidence happened earlier in my career, just before a Memorial Day weekend. A little Chihuahua named Mimi arrived on the emergency service with the complaints of being lethargic and not eating. The most striking thing on her physical exam was a very high fever. I discussed the need to perform further diagnostics to determine the cause. Mimi’s owner was worried, having never left her anywhere before. She agreed to hospitalize her overnight so that we could both treat her and search for the culprit causing the clinical signs.

Mimi did well but still had an increased temperature the next morning. My student and I pored over all her tests, which included radiographs and blood work. Most results were very normal. I admit we felt a bit stumped. I did notice that Mimi now seemed to be limping on her right hind leg. However, when I palpated the region around her knee she almost snapped at me. I was starting to put the pieces together when suddenly the receptionists called back to let us know Mimi’s owner had arrived, along with another visitor. I went up with the idea of discussing my next steps for Mimi, feeling as if I were on to something after noting her painful limb. Unfortunately, when I entered the exam room, Mimi’s owner had a different plan entirely.

“Dr. Rainey! I brought a pet psychic to do a reading on Mimi since we can’t figure out what’s wrong! She can do it right now.” I tried very hard to keep my disbelieving smile hidden and continued to listen to Mimi’s owner tell me what the psychic had done in the past. I am a person of science, but agree there are many aspects of the world that we do not understand. Feeling it would do no harm to Mimi to perform this reading, I quickly returned to ICU and brought her into the exam room. My student lagged behind, frozen in place with her mouth hanging open after I told her what was about to occur.

Over the next 15 minutes we all put our hands on Mimi and said many prayers, some of them I’ve heard before and some I’m sure I’ll never hear again, followed by a brief period of chanting. It was an interesting experience to say the least and the psychic eventually informed us that Mimi had been poisoned by weed spray. The owner fell into a heap, distraught that possibly she had caused her Mimi to become so ill. The emotion gradually subsided and the psychic speedily left to catch her flight out of town, but not before collecting a fee close to $500.00. I then told the owner after she had regained her composure that I was pretty sure Mimi was suffering from an autoimmune disease that affects the joints and causes high fever. With close monitoring and immunosuppressive drugs, she had a chance to recover.

The funniest part of the whole ordeal was about to happen though. When I opened the exam room door, a stack of interested listeners almost fell into the room. It was quite the event for the day and something I will certainly never forget.

 (Dr. Amanda Rainey, DVM, is a clinical assistant professor in the small animal clinical sciences department at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center in Knoxville.)

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