A Vet Nurse's Experience in Thailand

You are here

A Vet Nurse's Experience in Thailand

Wed 2nd Aug 2017

Last year, vet nurse Lucy Gooding volunteered at our project with the Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand. This is her blog about the experience.

Before starting my veterinary nurse training I went on a trip to New Zealand to visit my best friend that was working out there. I needed a book to read for the long haul flight and something made me choose The Vet: my wild and wonderful friends. I hardly slept on that flight as I just couldn't put the book down. I started my nurse training knowing that when I qualified that I would love to be part of one of the trips WVS support.

A couple of years after reading Luke Gamble's book I started working at Wood Vet Group and one of our night vets Louise was telling about the many trips she has done for WVS. Knowing I would qualify within the next few months, I contacted WVS about a trip they were organising to Thailand. I spoke to Chris who chatted through the procedure and the trip and I was soon looking for flights and sorting out a rabies jab!

I was in contact with the two vets also attending the trip and they gave me tips and advice on what to bring and expect for my first trip and travelling by myself.

The trip to Thailand was amazing and the fact it meant staying at an elephant sanctuary was a big bonus! I arrived a couple of days before the project so I got to do a couple of elephant walks which was amazing. I love elephants and seeing them in a natural habitat with no chains, bull hooks and being allowed to go where they please was a delight.

We did a six day neutering project and neutered over 100 animals in those six days. This trip had three vets and myself as a nurse, so it was constantly on the go. We mainly treated dogs but we also saw a few cats for spays and castrations. Local villagers would come to the purpose built clinic (funded by WVS) with their pets to be vaccinated and neutered if not already done.  Each pet is given a number, weighed and added to the list to be neutered. As a nurse, my job was to get pets registered, weighed and work out pre-med doses. Once the vet was ready, I would place an I/V and clip and prep for surgery.

As well as neutering, we saw a lot of dogs with TVT's which we arranged with the help of Katherine to receive treatment for. This was funded by Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary but the owners would sometimes donate food for the elephants as a thank you.

The two patients that really stuck with me were two puppies that came in half way through the trip. One was a puppy that we named Bowie. She was found abandoned in the forest and a local villager brought her to us. She had the worst cases of mange I have ever seen! She had no fur, was severely underweight and riddled with worms. We started medicated treatment, parasite control and got some good food into her. She seemed to trust us instantly, knowing we were there to help. The day she came in was the day the singer David Bowie passed away and just as we heard the sad news she arrived, so the name seemed to stick.

And then there was Ruby. She came in two days after a suspected head trauma. She was in and out of consciousness when she arrived and the vets were worried she would not make it. Again, worm ridden and underweight, her chances were slim. We placed her on fluids, gave pain relief and just kept our fingers crossed she would pull through. After just a few hours of fluids and letting the pain relief work, she was starting to sit up and took her first meal. It was amazing!

Cases like these came back to the sanctuary so they could be closely monitored. We would do checks on them before heading back to our accommodation for the evening and then in the mornings before breakfast we would give meds, feed and clean out. These two cases came to the clinic with us for the day so they could continue to be monitored and get extra cuddles!

The days were long with early morning starts but the days went quick and you are kept on your toes not knowing what could come through the doors next.

My advice for anyone looking at doing a project for the first time is to keep an open mind. At first it was hard, as the way pets are treated in these areas is very differently to how they are in the UK. You have to remember that veterinary treatment is quite expensive and not always easy to access compared to the UK so the cases you see can be quite harsh.

I have learnt not to take things for granted; we are so lucky to have the kit and access to technology at home and provide a variety of services for our own pets. In an ideal world we would run the clinic just like we would in the UK but you have to make the best of what you have got. Every patient had an IV catheter in place, received fluids throughout the anaesthetic and plenty of pain relief for the day. We vaccinated against DHP and rabies and prevented so many unwanted puppies and kittens. We also educated owners and helped build the bond between the villagers and the staff at the sanctuary so they knew if they had a problem, they had somewhere to go for help. This all truly makes a difference to the lives of the animals and people who live here.

I can't wait to go back again. I've seen photo updates of Ruby and Bowie and they have grown into beautiful dogs. I do hope they remember me when I go back!

If you want to learn more about our project in Thailand or join us as a volunteer just like Lucy, please visit our trips page.