Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Friday, December 3, 2021

Solo Surgery

As the only veterinarian in a 100-mile radius, Dad certainly got around. Within months of his graduation, he was being called further and further afield.
Pun intended.
But thus far in his career, he had never performed a caesarean.
Oh, he had watched. Even assisted a time or two.
But never completed one solo.
For a new veterinarian, there must be a first . . .
From Dad’s journals:
As winter came on, we found the roads often heavy with snow. A trip could give good roads one day and be plugged the next. When I went on a call, I wanted to be sure I would be able to get home before the roads drifted in.
On one particular call, it was to a farm to the west of home and the road was often bad in snowy weather.
The case was a cow in labour. Upon examination, it became quite evident that she hadn’t dilated very much. I told the farmer that I could give the cow a shot of hormone and she should be ready to calve by morning.
The only alternative would be a caesarian to deliver the calf now. I didn’t want to do the surgery because the wind was blowing hard and the road would be blocked in an hour or so. Another drawback was the fact that there wasn’t a warm place to do the job. His barn was so in need of repair that it would barely act as a windbreak.
Another thing worrying me was my lack of experience. This would be my first caesarian.
With the farmer’s insistence, I decided to go to it right away.
We took the cow to the barn and to the corner farthest from the wind and I parked my car close by and kept it running so as to have a place to warm up from time to time.
I put the cow to sleep and started to work. As soon as the calf was out, it was taken to the house quickly to keep it from freezing.
Now it was time to start sewing.
I could only work a few minutes at a time because of the cold and had to get in the car frequently to warm up.
Finally, the job was completed and now we had to do something to keep the cow warm. There was lots of straw so we buried the cow completely.
Next, they brought in their small herd of sheep and they helped to keep the wind away.
As soon as this was done I was on my way home, and not a bit too soon. The road was so badly drifted that I was glad to get through.
The wind continued all next day and there was no traffic in that direction for two weeks.
Under the circumstances, I really didn’t think the cow had a chance to survive. The temperature dipped to 25 below zero (F) that night and stayed much the same for the next two weeks.
I didn’t have a telephone and was reluctant to see the farmer, but when I did, he surprised me by telling me the cow came through very well. She was on her feet the next morning and looking for the calf.
“I knew she would be okay,” he said.
I guess he had more confidence in me that I did.

I never did tell him that this was the first caesarian I had done solo.

4 comments:

  1. Wonderful news. I suspect that many more caesarians followed.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This sounds like someting out of If Only They Could Talk, which I devoured.

    ReplyDelete
  3. There's the expression "fake it till you make it". Your Dad didn't have to fake it for too long! This story makes me think of the James Heriot books.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your dad was an astounding man, it doesn't surprise me that he did so well, even under the circumstances.

    ReplyDelete

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