Going through veterinary school, I (along many of my colleagues and classmates) had a very idealistic view of what our future career would have in store. We would balance home life and work equally, emergencies would be full of quick fixes and happy endings and you would be fully prepared for every call with no surprises! Well…I can tell you reality is much different. Which leads me to my story of the Jumbo Pekin Duck named Twizzler :)!!
Our on call schedule is a week at a time, and it was my last night on call before handing the torch once again to my colleague. My husband and I were debating over who would give our son a bath when the phone rang. Greenhaven has an answering service that takes our emergency calls when they come in and will then call the appropriate doctor on call. I pick up the phone and the voice on the other end said “Hello, doctor? This is the answering service. We have a client on the phone calling to say her duck is lethargic.” Immediately I thought I had heard wrong and repeated “I’m sorry what do they have, A DUCK!?” “Yes, Doctor that is correct, a duck,” replied the girl. “oh, ok, well can you patch me through please?”
As the phone was ringing through to the client, I was still thinking I had the wrong animal. Am I really being called for a duck emergency? I didn’t know Greenhaven even treated ducks! Sure enough, it was in fact a duck emergency! After talking with the owner, it was clear Twizzler was in distress and the owners would really appreciate it if someone could meet them at the clinic.
On my way to clinic I was racking my brain for any information I had learned in school about ducks. I couldn’t even remember having a lecture on duck medicine! While slightly panicking over what I could and could not give a duck, I called Dr. George for advice which he so graciously gave over the phone.
On arrival Twizzler seemed pretty alert but she was having difficulty standing and seemed to have some difficulty breathing. In talking with the owners, they gave me a full medical history on their duck. About 2 weeks previous, they had noticed her limping but she seemed ok. They had not seen her lay and egg this week but sometimes she skips weeks. Their ducks are not just run of the mill farm ducks. They have a very nice habitat with a kiddy pool and the owners keep a keen eye on them! On physical exam, I could not feel any broken bones or abscesses but she did appear to be quite warm. I had given her a few medications for pain and some fluids under the skin but nothing appeared to relax her. I suggested a radiograph just to make sure she was not egg bound.
Well the picture shows it! A very large, catawampus placed egg trying to come out! The other abnormality seen is the fracture to her left femur, which I think contributed to the egg bound dilemma in the first place. After explaining what was going on to the owner and showing them the x-ray, I needed to get the egg out!
I tried manual extraction, (hopefully this is self-explanatory, I really don’t want to have to go into details.) with no luck. I gave her calcium and tried using warm water and fluid bags to help the muscles contract. That didn’t work. After spending a considerable amount of time in the tail end of the pekin, I was running out of options and it was clear Twizzler was becoming more and more distressed. I reached out to an exotics friend of mine who suggested anesthetizing her to help her relax to extract the egg. After thanking her for the advice, I once again talked with the owners. I explained the risks of anesthesia and the fact that at this point Twizzler had a guarded prognosis but ultimately we needed to get the egg out. The owners agreed and to the surgery room we went!
Once relax from the anesthetic, I once again tried to manually extract the egg. Finally! After just a few tries, I could reach the lethary shell. Moving the tissue folds over the egg it was so close! I inserted a needle through the shell as one of the owners gladly helped draw out some of the contents collapsing the shell slightly. Once slightly collapsed the egg was able to be removed!! Finally! Yes!! We did it! The egg is out, What a relief!! We turned off the gas and started to recover Twizzler. Once with it, (or mostly with it), Twizzler almost immediately started acting normally again!. The next 24-48 hours would be crucial but Twizzler seemed to be on the right track.
Being a doctor of veterinary medicine, you career, patients, and situations will never happen in the idealistic way you might have once thought. But I think that is one of the perks of the job! Never did I think I would be called to do an emergency egg extraction on a duck named Twizzler…but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Plus, what a great tale (or should I say “tail”,) it is to tell!
Thanks to Twizzler for being ever so patient as I worked at your tail end!