Christmas 2013 unexpectedly became very spiritual for me yesterday afternoon.
Mid-afternoon Christmas Eve, I was called by a client I had never met before regarding Champ, a 16-year-old horse, with a complaint of what sounded like acute laminitis. Very unusual for me to take an emergency from a non-established client, but we had a great conversation on the phone and the horse was in obvious distress.
The horse owners were relieved at my arrival and poor old Champ was stretched out, reluctant to move, with a high heart rate, bounding digital pulses, and very painful front feet. I proceeded to quickly cut back some long toe, taped on "lili-pads," and administered IV pain-relievers. Placing the pads on Champ's feet gave him almost instant relief and he began to move around his large enclosure, getting a drink of water and starting to eat. The horse owners were quite satisfied by the progress we made in relieving Champ's pain and small talk ensued.
During our conversation, Mrs. Client related to me that she was the sister of one of my all-time favorite clients that had moved from my practice area 8 years ago. Mr. Favorite Client and his wife raised cutting horses and beef cattle, providing me many great veterinary practice memories; they were not only great clients, but great people.
In the 8 years since their departure, I found myself thinking of them often. Mrs. Client informed me of health problems her brother was having and I said, "Ya know I ought to give him a call". Mrs. Client ventured off to the house and returned with his cell phone number. As I departed the farm, I gave Mr. Favorite Client a call on my drive back home to check in.
Turns out, Mr. Favorite Client suffers from a rare, terminal untreatable form of kidney cancer. We visited for 35 minutes on the phone, talking about many cases we worked on, "remember this time, remember that time," etc. We talked about the life and death struggle he's facing and we talked about life. His words resonating with me this Christmas morning - "Take nothing for granted, appreciate what you have, appreciate your good health while you have it, life can change 180 degrees in a heartbeat." All words of wisdom. I had a most enjoyable, enlightening conversation with this man facing the battle of his life; I feel I received the gift of a lifetime!
The most unusual turn of events leading to this Christmas phone call is quite remarkable. Most people think that to be a veterinarian, you love and enjoy working with animals. That may be true. But in the end, it's the people, it truly is the people.
God speed Mr. Favorite Client, you've made this Christmas most humbling for this horse doctor. Merry Christmas to you and yours, hold your family and friends close, you never know when your life may change in a heartbeat.