War Wounds


A Day in the Life: Dr. Casey Kurtz

An incident that occurred last week caused me to start thinking about all the bruises, scratches, bumps, cuts, bites, abrasions and scars we receive on the job, and how those wounds are like a photo album of our professional lives.

I recently stabbed myself in the lip with a 1.5-inch long needle.  There was some blood as well as some bruising. (Yes, I know, I neglected to follow proper OSHA safety guidelines.  Let’s just say, I’m not OSHA’s wunderkind)  To double down on my stupidity, I then used silver nitrate sticks on my lips to stop the bleeding.  Something I didn’t know before this event … silver nitrate permanently turns your skin silver until new skin cells grow!  It seems impossible that this very simple fact eluded me for so many years, but it did.  I sadly resigned myself to having a partially discolored and bruised lip for several days, while my “supportive” colleagues laughed and mocked me mercilessly. (I can’t be too upset, we are equal opportunity mockers; no one is immune, and we do so equally, regardless of race, gender or religion … I think it says so on our job applications).

Another scar I possess is on my right forearm and I received this early in my career while I was still a technician.  I was asked to hold Whitey Kreitzhausen for a blood draw.  Whitey was a 17 year-old, somewhat senile, white (of course) cat who was unfortunately failing.  I recall being particularly careful holding him because he was so decrepit and somewhat comatose.  The blood draw went well and I stood next to Whitey on the table, now just sitting there, no one touching him when someone called my name.  As I turned my head, Whitey must have sensed his chance for his final hoorah.  He leapt up with the speed of a cheetah and attached himself to my arm and wouldn’t let go.  It took a good five seconds of me flailing for him to release his bite.  What remains remarkable to me is that he immediately returned to his partially comatose state.  To this day, I have never seen anything even close to his sudden blitz attack.  I found out later that Whitey passed one week later, and I still feel special to have been involved in his Last Stand.

A third, and perhaps, the best scar is also on my right forearm.  (Thank god I’m left-handed.)  This melee involves a certain technician’s cat named Rosco.  (The name has not been changed to protect the innocent – he’s guilty)  I was feeling for his bladder with someone holding him, when he wiggled away and latched onto my arm.  To make matters worse, an emergency rushed in at that exact moment, so I quickly wrapped and taped a paper towel around my arm so I could attend to the crashing dog that had been carried in.  The owner of the dog took one look at me, with blood starting to run down my arm, and said, “I hope you’re better with dogs than cats.”  To this day, Rosco is one of my favorite pets.  I’m not sure if it’s because he is so ornery or just because he beats to his own drummer, but I love him, even when he rolls over and meows at you, inviting you to pet him.  Don’t believe him, he’s just luring you in with a false sense of security.

I could continue the list of war wounds I have acquired, and I know everyone on our staff has at least one or two good stories to share also. All I have to say is if these are badges of honor, most of us are four-star generals.

Dr. Casey Kurtz is a staff veterinarian at French Creek Veterinary Hospital in Pottstown, PA


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