I graduated. It happened. After 20 consecutive years of schooling, I donned a cap and gown for the very last time. If you’re wondering how life in the much vaunted (and feared and avoided) “real world” has been, just look at the date of my last post. Reality hadn’t fully set in until all the “oh em gee I can’t believe vet school is over” posts from the students a year behind my class flooded Facebook. I was almost a year out. Perhaps something more elegant or poignant should be said, but all I could think was “I need to change the heading of my defunct blog from Veterinary Student to Veterinarian.” Thus begins the next chapter of my life and of Chompd. I call it: Megan Thibodeau, DVM.
In my first months as a veterinarian, confidence was in even shorter supply than cash. Self-doubt swirled around my head like a buzzing swarm of flies on a roadside carcass. Unable to disperse the pestilent cloud, I surely was soon to resemble dead meat. Second-guessing myself became a luxury; usually the count was in the seventh or eighth-guessing before arriving at an uncertain plan of action for any given situation, no matter how trivial.
The flies escalated their infuriating hum to a roaring din when, during a difficult spay, a clamped artery suddenly tore in half. I stood still as death for a moment, processing the impending disaster as the dog’s abdomen quickly filled with blood gushing from the liberated vessel.
What do I do? How can I fix this? Where did that vessel go? I can’t find it, oh God, I can’t find it in all these intestines floating in a rapidly filling pool of blood. She’s going to die if I can’t fix it!
And there it was, the reality of the situation: No one else was there to help. No one was coming to my (or her) rescue. My patient would die unless I fixed her, unless I acted decisively and quickly – no waffling, no self-doubt, just swift and confident action. Emily, the assisting technician, interrupted my panicked babbling with a simple, calming assertion, “You got this.”
A minute later, a gory pile of blood-soaked gauze beside me and a clamp firmly secured to the rogue artery buried deep in the abdomen, I actually did have it. The flies would have neither me nor my patient today. Underneath the anxiety, the panic, the self-deprecating humor and only half pretended self-hatred, I proved that there was skill. There was grit and know-how and actual justification for the three very expensive letters after my name.
I still question my diagnoses, my treatment plans, and my sanity, but I have not since questioned my competence, my ability to alleviate suffering, and my value as a veterinarian.