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Challenging Cases and Learning New Skills: A WVS Intern at the Hicks ITC

Wed 9th May 2018

Dr. Stacy is one of the amazing WVS Interns who visit each of our project sites around the world to assist with surgical courses, outreach clinics and treatment of the variety of cases that come in to our centres. for the past four months, Dr. Stacy has been assisting the team at the Hicks ITC in Goa! Find out what she's been up to in her blog below...

I’ve been in Goa for four months this time around and yet my time at the Hicks ITC never seems to be enough.  There’s always a million things happening at the centre, from training courses to Animal Birth Control surgeries, a ton of in-patients in the kennels and an overflowing clinic. Goa keeps you on your toes!!

            After an amazing three months at WVS Thailand it was nice to be back in my home place and help animals in need in Goa. As a WVS Intern, I was able to do a little of everything. Running training courses at the centre for a few groups of students, performing spay/neuter surgeries, treating all the animals in our kennel and attending to a wide variety of emergency cases in our clinic. 

            The most interesting and a new and challenging experience was setting up a rural ABC centre in Sanquelim where our target was to spay/neuter 1000 dogs in a month. It was literally something I thought almost impossible until we went there and did it. Set up right next to the garbage treatment plant, I was a bit skeptical on how we would manage but everything worked out perfectly. With the help of the entire team at the Hicks ITC the area was converted into a makeshift theater overnight. Innovative ideas and improvisations were being added constantly, the best of which was operating inside mosquito nets, to prevent the millions of flies around us from affecting the surgeries. Again, the teamwork and dedication of everyone was what made the project successful and a pleasure to be a part of. The local community was also very supportive and they provided us with delicious home cooked food every day.

            Also a nice new addition to the Hicks was the DR system for the X-ray machine. This helped us every day in making better diagnosis and improving our treatment which in-turn improved animal welfare. A case which comes to mind where this helped us in instant diagnosis was an intussusception in a cat. With a history of inappetence in the past eight days, we were suspecting a number of things, but with the help of the quick skiagram we were able to diagnose it immediately and take it into surgery. The cat did well post-operatively for a couple of days (had normal appetite and started passing stools normally) but unfortunately passed away a couple of weeks later. Without this equipment however, this cat would have had no chance at all of survival as diagnosis and initial treatment would have been more difficult. Another fabulous piece of equipment which was also donated to the Hicks ITC during my time there was a bio monitor which enabled us to better monitor critical patients.

            The variety of cases that we get at the Hicks is always something that interests me. Every day you get to see something new and different and learn a little more. I have been lucky to either be a part of the surgical team or watch many enucleations, amputations, tumour removals, reconstructive surgeries for wounds, hernia repairs, intramedullary pinnings, and many more which has helped develop my skills as a veterinarian. 

            During my stay at the Hicks I was also able to attend two special courses that were conducted there. The first being Emergency Critical Care and Neurology by Dr. Erin and Dr. Alex from Australia.  The contents of the course have definitely helped me better attend to emergencies and improve my first aid based on the type of trauma, as we get a lot of animals that have been hit by automobiles or fallen into ditches at the clinic. Also, the procedure of performing a basic neurological examination of any patient with neurological problems has helped me provide a better prognosis and decide on a line of treatment for most of the paresis/paralysis cases that come in as rescues or are brought by owners to the ITC. 

            The other course which I was able to attend for a few sessions was on Anaesthesia, Diagnostic Imaging and Animal Behaviour where the speakers were Dr. Louise, Dr. Raquel and Dr. Dawn. Though I was only able to attend a few of the lectures by Dr. Louise, it greatly enhanced my knowledge about different medicines that can be used for analgesia and anaesthesia and probably the part that interested me the most was on nerve blocks in the skull, head region and in the distal forelimb. This would greatly eliminate the use of general anaesthesia for patients that are very critical and not good candidates for general anaesthesia, yet at the same time would allow us to treat the problem by blocking the nerve supply to that particular area (eg. fixing a mandibular fracture with wiring with just a local mandibular nerve block and good analgesia).

             On the last day of my stay in Goa, literally before I boarded the bus to Ooty, I was also fortunate to be a part of a gelding of a pony done by Dr. Aswin. Working with equines is definitely fascinating me more and more and I can’t wait to be a part of the working equine team in Ooty.

            My time in Goa would not be the same without the support, encouragement and love from all my colleagues with me at the time in the centre. From the office staff, to the other vets, the animal handlers, assistants and the catching team, everyone always gives it their best and are always on hand in case of an emergency at any time of the day or night as we have often had. Also, the volunteers that have come to the centre while I was there have taught all of us something new. It was a pleasure to work with Dr. Asta again (we first met when she was volunteering at the ITC in Thailand) and also Dr. Kate. They were a source of new ideas and helped us look at the same case from different angles and thereby improving our line of treatment.

It’s been over a year now that I have been an intern with WVS and time certainly seems to be flying by. I look forward to my next rotation in Ooty, this time surrounded by the hills and with much cooler weather.