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Never let them see your fear
The stage was all mine. With trembling hands, I went to work. ... As sheer dumb luck would have it, the surgery went perfectly.
I was watching our oldest daughter Emili handle the wheel when she steered the car for the first time. At 10, she's been with us half the time she's going to be and is starting to grow up. We've always made driving look so easy, she probably assumed it was a snap. I had to move the wheel several times to keep us from hitting mailboxes and swerving into a ditch. After a few practice runs and some nervous moments, I'm sure she'll be fine. In a few more years, she'll be driving while talking on the phone, drinking a soda and changing the radio station all at the same time.
Her evolution of confidence reminded me of my first c-section on a cow.
I was in the thriving metropolis of Clarendon, Texas, surrounded by cowboys who had seen many more c-sections than I had. In fact, at three weeks post-graduation, I had never seen even one. This meant that the first one I was going to see was about to be done by me. Think about that and then get nervous with me.
These weren't just any cowboys. They were from a ranch that had a reputation for being the best around. I was irked at my veterinary school for never in four years affording me the opportunity to see or do this procedure, although I did see it once on film.
The cowboys were sizing up the young Dr. Brock. They watched my every move, peering right through my artificial confidence. I was already half exhausted from trying to deliver the calf. I had pulled, poked, strained, twisted, lubricated, sweated and groaned for about two hours. All the other veterinarians were gone, and there was no one to turn to except these 15 guys, all of whom looked like the Marlboro Man. And, to make matters worse, they all thought I knew what I was doing.
The vet-school film showed the calf being delivered from the underside, with the cow on her back. I gathered from the cowboys that Dr. Deyhle performed c-sections through the left flank, with the cow standing.
What was I going to do? I'd never even seen a cow cut open in the flank, much less delivered a calf through that area. On the other hand, if they'd never seen one taken through the belly, they wouldn't know if I were messing up. Under that logic, I told them recent research had shown that the calf and cow did much better if the baby were taken through the belly and, with no visible scar, cows usually sold better. This produced some low murmuring, as they pondered a new idea. If there's one thing I learned about people who live 50 miles from the nearest town, it is that anything new must be studied a while before it is accepted.
After some high-level discussion among the oldest cowboys, it was decided the belly approach would be OK. We all knew that the calf was already dead. Apparently they decided there wasn't much to lose.
They let the cow out of the chute, jumped on her and in no time had her tied up and lying on her back. The stage was all mine. With trembling hands, I went to work. We put a local block in her belly and I went to cutting. As sheer dumb luck would have it, the surgery went perfectly. I was in and out of that cow in about 20 minutes. She got up and went into the trailer like nothing had ever happened.
The guys thought they'd just witnessed the newest thing in c-sections. As they drove off, I could hear them talking about the benefits of the "belly" approach, and how great it was that there was no scar that would keep her from selling.
As for me, I was never so glad to be finished with anything in my life. I could feel the stomach juices churning away at the ulcer I was sure was forming. How many more of these "first-time-see-and-do" procedures would I have to endure?
I grew up a little that day. I never did another c-section through the belly of a cow for anyone but that ranch and, if I can help it, never will.
However, the veterinarian who does their work today tells me the cowboys insist that every c-section be done through the belly.
I finally got to see Dr. Deyhle do one with the cow standing. Boy, is it easier!
I guess we all have to nearly hit the mailbox and swerve a few times before we gain confidence.
I've done hundreds of c-sections over the years now. I can do them even while talking on the phone, drinking a soda and changing the radio station.
Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.