Dr. Carrie Jurney DACVIM
We’ve all had that moment when the client says something that makes you do the internal eye roll. Something like, “He’s had trouble walking for three months, and has been vomiting every day for weeks, but he was perfectly healthy until he collapsed this morning.” Something that is so obviously false, when, clearly, they’ve made some very bad decisions that have led to a less than ideal situation.
I had the opportunity last week to be that client.
I fell down the stairs on vacation a month ago. Let me be clear. I’ve never been graceful. I am known in my family for “tripping on air.” This was a bad fall. Gave myself a black eye, had a good knot on my head, bruises everywhere. My foot hurt. I thought I sprained it, maybe broke a toe. But you don’t fix toes, so I figured I would just try to take it easy. At the time I injured this, I was training for a marathon. So, my version of taking it easy was swapping some run workouts for bike workouts, skipping a half marathon and “only” running a 10k on it, even though I knew it was still injured.
After a month, it wasn’t healing. I went to the doctor. We were talking about the person who referred me, also a veterinarian and marathon runner, so the doctor knew what I did both professionally and as an athlete. She took off my shoe and looked at it. “It’s really swollen.”
And I swear to god, it’s like the doctor part of my brain finally, after a month, engaged. “Huh, yeah, I guess it is.”
Incredulously she asked, “And you’ve been running on this?”
I, the doctor who authored a three-page handout on the importance of cage rest, a doctor who gives out advice on the importance of rest literally every day of my professional career, had to sheepishly nod and say “Yeah, but only like 10 miles a week.” She gave me the look. You know the one. You’ve given it to someone before. The one that says, “You are so incredibly stupid and professionalism is all that is keeping me from slapping some sense in to you right now.”
I can tell you the multitude of excuses for why I did what I did. How running is so important to my mental health, how I didn’t think it was that bad, how I was so excited to run a race with my work team. How I had cut back so much! But let’s get real: They are all terrible excuses. Just as bad as when my clients tell me that their dog “hates the crate” or “needs his exercise.” But none of them matter and I should have known better. But I’m human. I thought it wasn’t a big deal. I ignored things I shouldn’t have ignored, and now I’m going to pay the price for it.
I appreciate that doctor for her patience with me. And I’m taking the lesson to heart. Sometimes very smart, well-intentioned people make bad decisions and stupid choices. Life is busy, and we are all a little too good at soldiering on through pain and inconvenience. It’s easy to just sink in to a routine, to just clean up the vomit or ignore that limp every day and not think too deeply about what it means.
We’re all human. Adaptability is one of our greatest traits, but it can also be one of our greatest weaknesses. So, the next time one of my clients tells me about all those symptoms they’ve been ignoring for months, I’m going to remember my foot, and how I nearly PRed a 10k when I should have been resting.
The Admin Team of NOMV is a group of veterinarians dedicated to improving veterinary mental health.