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For Equine Vets Everywhere

'twas the week before I started at BEVA

The week before I started my new job with BEVA I was due to travel to Dundee for my brother’s girlfriend’s graduation from medical school. Mum and Dad had gone up on the Saturday to make the most of the trip with a stay in Largs for a few days before the graduation on the Friday. I was still working so couldn’t travel until Thursday.

My Dad tends to suffer from a delayed stress reaction, meaning he often feels shattered and a bit crap as soon as he stops working. The updates I was getting from Mum suggested that he was going through this up in Scotland. Not much fun for Mum as understandably Dad isn’t in the best mood when he feels this way, but she said it seemed worse than normal. He was falling asleep constantly, shivering, coughing, didn’t have much of an appetite and no energy. Dismissing this as likely just a bad cold Mum tried to make the best of it. Wednesday showed a deterioration with him having to regularly pull over on the road from Largs to Dundee to rest. Blissfully unaware of this, it wasn’t until she phoned me on Thursday to say she had had to drive Dad’s very precious car to Aberdeen for their arranged meet up with her aunty and uncle that alarm bells started ringing. Dad will always insist on driving and no one but him drives that car, he really must be unwell. He’d also developed constant hiccups, so whilst speaking to Mum at the airport she asked if I could pick up some acid reflux tablets in the hope this would stop them.

A few hours later and myself and boyfriend Will are in Edinburgh enjoying a few hours in the city whilst waiting for my brother to fly in from East Mids airport in the evening. The plan was to pick him up in our hire car and drive through to Dundee, drop him at Laura’s flat and head to our Air BnB to meet my parents. Another phone call put paid to all this… “Mum and Dad are on their way to an emergency doctors appointment” says David, “they think it could be a chest infection or even pneumonia”. I’m thinking who’s “they”? With more information it turns out Mum and Dad dropped into Laura’s flat that she shared with fellow medical student Louise on their way back from Aberdeen. Both soon-to-be-doctors took one look at Dad and said “I don’t like that”, his breathing wasn’t right, he was ashen in colour and could not stop hiccupping. They performed a full assessment (despite neither of them being able to find their stethoscopes, slightly worrying…), Laura called her mum, who is also a GP, she wasn’t happy either. Next thing they’ve called 111 and Dad is talking to the call operator. An emergency appointment was arranged at a nearby clinic within the hour and Laura was going with them.

Trying to remain positive, Will and I carried on our wander round Edinburgh and just as we walk up to the castle the phone rings again, David. “Laura was right, it looks like he’s got pneumonia, they’re on their way to Ninewells Hospital now for x rays.” Later, having collected David from the airport and on our way to Dundee we’re still not aware of the full situation, only that Mum and Dad are still at the hospital and Laura is with them.

The next morning I heard Mum creep into the flat, I went out to see her, she looked knackered and upset. “It’s pneumonia, there’s no way he’s coming out today.” I gave her a big hug and sent her to bed for a few hours rest before the graduation ceremony. We knew from then it was not going to be the day we had planned but later news told us it could have been much worse.

It transpired that not only did Dad have a hefty dose of pneumonia but the delay in treatment meant he was very dehydrated and had contracted sepsis. Everything seemed pretty bleak and heading back down south on Sunday night before starting at BEVA the next morning without my parents was certainly not what I had planned. The amazing care provided by the staff at Ninewells Hospital however meant that around lunchtime on Monday I got a text from Mum showing me Dad sat up, discharged from hospital and enjoying a brownie in a Dundee café. But it was only thanks to two medical students, 16 hours away from graduating as fully qualified junior doctors, and one GP on the phone, that we got Dad seen in time to stop sepsis becoming fatal septic shock. Now almost a year since, Laura, her mum Anne and Louise are on the frontline battling COVID-19 to help save more lives.

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