I've just completed the surgical training course at the ITC Ooty in India and can honestly say it's been one of the best experiences of my veterinary career so far.
We flew from Heathrow to Bangalore and the transfer to Ooty flew by as we were getting to know our coursemates, the beautiful country of India and the wildlife surrounding us. We were lucky enough to see wild elephants, monkeys and countless exotic birds on our way through Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.
The course was well structured, including everything I'd hoped for and more.A typical day starts with breakfast at 8am ready for rounds at 8:30. We worked in pairs so while one person sedates and does surgery, the other person maintains anaesthesia. The ITC works under 'limited resources' meaning we use Total Intra-Venous Anaesthesia rather than incubating and using gas anaesthesia we more commonly use in the UK, but we soon got to grips with it. I now understand how every one of the ten drugs we used works and how to use them in individual patients should they need more pain relief or anaesthesia.
That said, the care each and every dog receives is second to none, with constant monitoring throughout anaesthesia and recovery, we even had pulse oxymetry which some clinics I've been to back home don't have.
I've done a fair bit of work experience and assisting in surgery before but we were all still understandably nervous about performing surgeries by ourselves.
We went through each surgery to explain the procedure to the group then had scrubbed in vets supervising our first operations. By the end of the first week I was confidently doing dog castrates and bitch spays all by myself with no assistance complete with intradermals.
Intradermal suturing is something I've never done before, but as we are operating on free roaming dogs we want them recovered and returned back to where they came from as quickly as we can. Intradermals mean we don't need to take stitches out after a week.
During rounds the following morning we checked every dog, giving them a wound score and pain score followed by pain relief and a rabies vaccination. This also gave me the opportunity to check my tissue handling and intradermal technique and we could see how our wound scored improved over a few days.
During our first week, the ITC neutered their 20,000th dog which is a huge achievement and shows the expertise and experience the staff have. We celebrated with a giant chocolate cake and dog 20,000 was given extra treats that evening.I would recommend the course to every vet student and new graduate wanting to gain confidence in soft tissue surgery.
The highlight of the trip for me was spending Saturday going out to local villages giving 5-in-1 vaccinations to free roaming and owned dogs. This helps create herd immunity for the dogs and local wildlife including tigers and big cats which can be affected by Parvo virus and Distemper.
This also gave us the opportunity to see village life, meet people who are never exposed to tourists and find out how they live. A group of children followed us interested in what we were doing, fascinated by our cameras and loved taking selfies on our phones.
I spent a further two weeks after the course travelling around India and found myself comparing everything to Ooty. While I fell in love with India, the cooler climate and calmer pace of life in Ooty suited me perfectly and I would love to return to the ITC in the future as a volunteer vet.
I've had the time of my life and I owe it all to Ooo-ty!