On the Edge of Common Sense
ON THE EDGE OF
by Baxter Black, DVM
Dr. G is a veterinarian in the cold country. They are a tough breed, those vets and cowmen and outfitters who live where the snowdrifts are over a horse’s head and the thermometer has to wear a wool sock in the winter!
It has not been a good year when the nurses in the emergency room call you by your first name. As in, "Roll on in here, Lee, what did ya do this time?"
Judy was talking to her grown daughter on the phone Sunday morning. "Yep, I’ve finally talked your father into going to the hospital. He’s in the bedroom now tryin’ to get his shirt on over the bad shoulder. Just a minute, I can’t hear ya over his groanin’, let me just close the bedroom door."
It began slowly and built up till Lee finally had said, "I can’t sleep on my left side ’cause of my bad arm, my right side ’cause of my bad leg, or my back ’cause of my bad back." The shoulder had been the accumulated erosion and stalagmatization of buckin’ hay, preg-checking cows and roping. He actually started wearing button-up undershirts since he couldn’t raise his arm above his head. That worked until he broke his thumb in a hitchhiking accident and couldn’t button his shirt.
"I’ll get the shoulder fixed some day," he told the emergency room doctor as they were taping his thumb. He repeated the commitment two months later as they were recasting the re-broken thumb. Judy had always been resigned to his reluctance to get immediate medical help. She watched him for years limp and bang around the house always waiting ‘one more day to see how it does.’ Her friends often lectured her about taking better care of him. She reminded them that there were rare occasions when she whisked him right to the hospital emergency room in Steamboat, an hour away. It was the two times he’d been unconscious.
"He hurt his ankle this morning tryin’ to rope a sick calf," Judy continued explaining to her daughter. "…corral was icy, the horse went down. He went ahead and finished checkin’ the new calves. Now he can’t get his boot off…I better go help him. Bye, love ya."
Judy got Lee loaded in the car but about halfway to Steamboat, he decided he better cut the boot off. She pulled over and came around the passenger side to help. He handed her his pocketknife. "It’s sharp," he said, "Yeoww!"
As she wheeled him into the emergency room, everybody said, "Hey Lee! How’s the thumb? How’s the knee?" How’s the shoulder?" Judy had to explain why there was blood and a knife wound in the injured right ankle. They were going to sedate him and had some official questions. "Does he have a church affiliation?" She replied, "If we were religious we’da been in church this morning and this never woulda happened."
That afternoon, they wheeled him out to the car with his ankle tightly wrapped. "Now don’t let him put any weight on that." they told her.
"Thanks for everything, I’ll take good care of him!" she promised as she accidentally shut the door on his foot!
Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television and also through his books, cds, videos and website, www.baxterblack.com.