Gross ER Veterinary Stuff

Posted: Aug 30, 2013
Views: 6151 - Comments: 16

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IVECCS is coming. It’s NEXT WEEK. It’s my favorite conference of the year, even when it’s in San Antonio (river walk again?). Because it’s 4 days of emergency nerds trying to one up each other with our stories. Stories of how many hours we’ve gone without sleep, stories of being the only person on the floor who knew how to deal with all of the fancy tubes in that patients, stories of crazy toxins and days on a ventilator, and stories of gross.

I can handle gross. I wear it like a badge of honor. Tell me your stories, show me your pictures, and there's a good chance I’ll just ask more questions out of fascination for your yuck factor. It comes with the territory of what I do. Poop is literally in the job description. Pus collects and is meant to be enjoyed. Trench mouth is a real thing. Open fractures, hemorrhagic diarrhea, vomit containing feces, that’s just a Tuesday night. But there are a few things that get to me… I can taste the bile now…

OTFadvice: Keep your mouth closed. Picture of gloved hands squeezing pus out of a cat's abscess.

Early mornings. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it happens to me early in the morning, chances are it will make me gag. I used to have to start (yes, start) my shift at 4:00am on Wednesdays, and I remember sitting on the floor against the pharmacy cupboards during rounds just trying not to vomit. Smelling yeasty ears in the early morning is sometimes enough to push me over the edge.

Dentals. I blogged about it. Enough said.

Dogs vomiting unmentionables. Yes. I am that girl who gagged at the used condom brought up in the vomit. Used tampons? Do you even need to ask? I will submit that there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with you if you don’t think those things are horribly disgusting to clean up off the floor. Now underwear? That’s more entertaining. Mind you, I certainly don’t want MY top drawer secrets on display to the entire ER floor, but making judgments on yours after your dog has chewed holes in it is perfectly acceptable. I will draw the line at the dog who ate poopy toddler underoos. THAT is gross.

Bones. Ortho makes me squeamish. Feeling bones grind against each other in radiology, or watching the surgeon try and reduce a nasty fracture. Yuck. I passed out in 10th grade biology class when we had to watch a video of a human hip replacement. I should have known then to stay away from the bones. Clicking, rubbing, scraping, cracking, I’m out.

Eyeballs. This is the biggie for me. My first veterinary surgery was a cherry eye fix. I had to leave the room. I’m realizing now how many red flags I ignored on my path to working in gross. Enucleations, melting corneal ulcers, even hyphema is gross. I don’t even like to look at pictures of gross eyeballs. And those of you that have left enucleated eyeballs in the wash for me? You’re sick. SICK!

But sometimes something is so gross that all you can do is laugh at the nasty absurdity of it. That’s the take home from my job – if I can’t eventually laugh about it, I’m going to cry or gag. Neither of those is much fun for me. So I file these stories away and wait for the right moment to share them. If I like you I’ll wait until you’re done eating. If you like me you’ll wait until at least 10am to share your stories.

OTFadvice: The best team-building exercise is just laughing about our weird jobs.



Megan Brashear's picture

Haha Chantal! Yes, it's that time of year! I hope to see you at the airport, I hope MORE to see you in San Diego at IVECCS!

Pamela Maurer RVT, MBA, MSc IHRM's picture

Ha Ha! :) Love your blog! I can't stand vomit any which way it appears when it smells! No smell, give me gloves or a tongue depressor and I'm there searching for treasure. But don't let me see the animal vomit! I'll be gagging myself.

My first day in the vetmed scenery was as a volunteer at an equine hospital, and observed an eye enucleation on an adult horse. Everyone was afraid I'd pass out or run screaming. Nope, completely enthralled!


Jamie Holms's picture

Megan, I need to email you some pictures. I have a great eye one. :)

Megan Brashear's picture

Pamela, the WORST vomit ever (even worse than condoms or (gag) used tampons)for me was a boxer that had eaten an entire tub of spreadable butter. It had melted in his stomach so came out in a tidal wave of liquid that smelled like the WORST movie theater popcorn. I will never get the liquid butter again. Ever.

Megan Brashear's picture

Oh Jamie. Please refrain. I can't even look through ophthomology textbooks, the eyeballs creep me out...

Ashley Franklin's picture

Had a rottie vomit up 10 lbs.. yes 10 lbs of RAW hamburger meat that stunk to high heaven like garlic

Brennen Johnson's picture

One time we had a terrier being housed over a pit mix and they shared a horribly gross moment together. The terrier vomited up horse poop and it ran into the pits kennel before someone could catch it. The pit started to eat that vomit which was getting to the point of too much nasty. Then to make it worse the pit vomited up that vomit and then re-ate the new/old vomit!! I wonder what makes them think "Oh I just love the taste of partly digested material!" YUK!!!

Terri Massa's picture

I can handle almost any disgusting mess at work, but let one of my own animals vomit or have diarrhea at home and I'm ready to gag. There's just something about having the nastiness in my own house.

Jennifer Lyons's picture

Call me crazy, but the one thing I absolutely cannot handle is snot. I am the dental technician at my clinic and also scrub in for orthopedics. I can handle broken bones, blood, guts, vomit, poop...the list is endless. But if you want to see me leave the room, bring out the snot! My doctor takes pictures and texts them to me on a regular basis.

Jackie Moan's picture

Megan, it's nice to see that you hate eyeballs like me, after 15 years in ER, they still give me the willies, and I am lucky enough to have my best friend still leave them in my locker as a "surprise" when I come in.......of course she always leaves me note....."I love you" OR "I see you"!

Sarah Huehn's picture

I can handle most things, but eyes give me the creeps (shudders) and I can NOT absolutely NOT handle drool. Is that weird? Do not even THINK about getting anywhere near me with a drooling Mastiff.

Nicholas Raimondi's picture

The most disgusting thing I have ever seen in my life:

I worked at a wildlife sanctuary where after animals dies or were euthanized they went to the freezer room and when the freezers were full they would come pick up the contents for disposal. The room in question had 5 large chest freezers in it so it usually took a few years to fill them up. We started at the back freezer and worked our way to the front freezer. These animals went into the freezer without bags. We usually went to shut off the freezers a day or two before pick up to create just of enough thaw factor separate the bodies making up the wildlife popsicle. So some time during the three or so years since the last body pick up the freezer at the back of the room had apparently stopped working. And when we went to look in it for disposal it had basically turned to wildlife sludge.

It was decided that the best way to dispose of this was going to be to duct tape the lid shut on this thing and transport the entire apparatus to the dump. So we duct tapped the hell out of the lid on this thing before tipping it up onto a hand truck.

Good news: Our tape job held up.

Bad news: The hinges on the freezer did not.

There was barely a identifiable piece of animal that came out of this freezer it was pure sludge.

Imagine the worst parvo diarrhea, worst vomit, worst maggot case, worst abscess, all rolled into one and magnified by a million. You can't possibly even bring yourself to imagine just how bad. Then the task of cleaning this up wearing face masks coated with vicks vapor rub and covering the entire mess with kitty litter and shoveling it into buckets for disposal while running outside to vomit every few minutes.

Hope no one is reading during lunch. I'm eating mine because I have finally hit that point in my life where I can laugh at it.

Elizabeth Walter's picture

Many years ago, I was a receptionist only for the emergency clinic that I work at. We had a dog come in that had dug up the remains of the clients' cat that had been euthanized and ate it. We weren't sure what Beuthanasia solution would do if ingested, so we advised the owner to come in so we could induce vomiting. According to the technicians treating the dog, it was the worst smell imaginable. I wouldn't know, and am glad that I missed that pile of vomit.

Maegen Carrell's picture

I can handle pretty much anything but the one thing that will make me vomit without fail is MAGGOTS. I just cant handle them. We once had a dog who hand a terrible open wound on its shoulder that came in and the skin was flapped over this wound so we noticed the skin was moving abnormally.... Full of maggots, hundreds of them. It was the worst thing ever.