When first impressions change

January 8, 2019
Bo Brock, DVM

Bo Brock, DVM, owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas. His latest book is Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing From Rural America.

A veterinary student wearing a Ralph Lauren jacket can still muddy up and get the job done.

Sometimes, you have to sniff someone out before you know what they are capable of. (E.O. / stock.adobe.com) It was about 6 o'clock on a dreary Monday morning when the phone rang, giving me a dreadful premonition of how the week would be. The man described what could have only been a uterine prolapse in one of his two cows. The cow's name was Rainbow, and anytime someone names his cows-well, these are not livestock we're talking about.

I hate dealing with uterine prolapse. Every time I tackle one of these things, I feel like I'm wrestling a strong, giant guy, and if I push too hard on him, his skin will tear.

So I arrived at the clinic grumpy, looking for someone to assist with the nasty undertaking I was facing to start my week. We always have students from various veterinary schools at the clinic, and on this Monday morning, a new crop had arrived. All the techs and students had already been claimed by other vets, leaving me with just one fella who could help.

This young man was standing in the lobby wearing a navy blue Ralph Lauren rain jacket and starched khakis. It was the era when veterinary schools had decided that all their students needed to spend two weeks at a mixed animal practice. A nice thought, but most of these students were city folks who had no rural background, didn't want to be there and dreaded the entire experience. This guy was one of those.

Who could expect to do anything on a cow wearing a Polo coat and crisp khakis? This kid had “city boy” written all over him-but he was all I had to choose from for help. Oh boy, this was going to be a bad week.

I gathered the equipment we would need and told the city boy, Kirby, to get in the truck. It was misting and blustery as we pulled up to the pipe-fence-lined corral that Rainbow called home. The family who owned her were gone, leaving just me and Kirby to fix the broken beast. She was lying in the mud about five feet from the pipe fence-with about 40 pounds of swollen uterus on the rain-soaked earth behind her.

Kirby was bundled up in his raincoat and watching from outside the fence as I struggled to replace the displaced organ. It's a tough job. If you push at 12 o'clock, it comes out at 6 o'clock. If you push at 3 o'clock, it comes out at 9 o'clock. And so it goes. Push at top; comes out bottom. Push right; comes back left.

The first thing I do is clean the uterus off, cover it in sugar to bring down the swelling and put it in a black plastic garbage bag. This keeps it clean and helps prevent me from poking a finger through the friable tissue.

After about 10 minutes of struggling unsuccessfully, I was covered in mud and afterbirth and Kirby was standing in the exact same place. He hadn't said a word or offered to help at all. I was pooped and needed to walk away for a minute and regain my composure. I went to the truck to get some umbilical tape and a giant needle to sew things shut just in case I ever did actually get it back in.

Much to my surprise, Kirby had scaled the fence and was down on the ground trying to poke the thing back in. He was doing exactly the same thing I had been doing and having exactly the same pitiful results.

He looked up and said, “The height of ignorance is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. But I just had to get down here and see what was so hard about getting this thing back in. This is hard. What are we gonna do?”

I barely heard what he was saying because I couldn't believe he was lying in the mud with those clothes on. I was also amazed that he had the sense to know that doing the same thing I'd done wasn't going to work. The uterus was just too big and swollen.

I told him to let the sugar have some time to work and I would go back to the truck and get a shot of pain medicine and antibiotics to give her. He agreed and relaxed, still lying in the mud.

A few minutes later I arrived back at the scene. I realized then that I had never misread anyone like I'd misread this city kid. Kirby had pulled up the hood of his raincoat and cinched it tight under his chin. He'd then placed his head in the center of the prolapsed uterus and was pushing against the pipe fence with his legs, using the force of his body to hold the prolapse in the correct position. He was using his hands to push the sides of the uterus back in the cow. This kept the bulk of the uterus under pressure to slide back in without leaving as many places for it to come back out.

I saw what was happening and jumped the fence in a hurry. I went to work on the 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions and, to my surprise, realized that the thing was inching back inside the cow.

I began instructing Kirby. I told him the uterus would move back in quickly after it got to a certain point. I said that when it got back inside, the cow would feel the urge to push like she was having a contraction and that we couldn't let it go or she would push it all right back out. He was listening-I was amazed.

Just as I had predicted, the whole giant thing reached a threshold and suddenly popped all the way back inside the cow. When it did, Kirby's head went into her vagina all the way up to his nose. I told him to hold tight and not to pull his head out before I had a chance to put a purse string of umbilical tape around it or she would push the entire thing back out.

I marveled for a brief moment. Here was a kid I had met two hours ago, who I thought was a sniveling cry baby, with half his head in a cow's vagina and holding it there.

I worked fast and got the suture placed. I began tightening it and told him to slowly remove his head as I did. He did as he was told and, in a few seconds, the procedure was done. We stood up and high-fived each other for two minutes straight.

I took a picture of Kirby standing next to Rainbow in his goo-covered city boy clothes and told him he was tougher than a pine knot.

This was several years ago. Kirby went on to be a highly successful small animal veterinarian in a large city. We had become good friends during his stay in Lamesa, and I know he has an 8-by-10 glossy photo of himself in a blue Polo jacket, covered with mud and goo, hanging in his office.

Bo Brock, DVM, owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas. His latest book is Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing From Rural America.