Mind Over Miller: Not all of my patients are animals

Mind Over Miller: Not all of my patients are animals

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Aug 01, 2008

Did you ever wonder why I titled my first book Most of My Patients Are Animals? It's because we veterinarians often, inadvertently, treat human patients. For example, once when my partner Dr. Bob Kind was on call, a caller mixed him up with his son Dr. Steve Kind, a local human gastroenterologist. "Sorry to call, Dr. Kind, but Ralph has diarrhea," the caller explained. "You know Ralph. He's 10 years old now."


Robert M. Miller, DVM
Ralph had no fever, wasn't vomiting, and seemed alert despite the diarrhea. It was a summer night, so Bob told the caller to tie Ralph out in the yard for the night and bring him in the morning if the diarrhea was still present.

Ralph, of course, was her son.

Then there was the time that a client asked if her 13-year-old daughter could observe a surgery. The young lady wanted to be a veterinarian. We always complied with such requests, so one day the client dropped her daughter off and said she would pick her up later that day.

I was seeing patients up front. Bob was preparing for surgery in the back, so we sent the young lady back to watch Bob. He was about to induce anesthesia in a dog. As soon as he hit a vein, the girl fainted and hit her head on the floor.

I was called to help while Bob proceeded with the operation. By this time, the girl was confused but could talk. We had no hospital in our community at that time. "Who is your doctor?" I asked the girl.

"I don't know his name," she said, "but he is young and good-looking."

I jumped to the conclusion that she was referring to my friend Dr. Roy Larson. As it turned out, there was another young and handsome physician in town.

Wearing my office smock and with my stethoscope dangling, I left a waiting room full of clients and rushed the girl to Roy's office. After examining her, he said, "I don't know her, but she has a slight concussion. Leave her here, and send her mother over when she comes for her."

I gratefully turned the girl over to Dr. Larson and rushed out of the exam room to return to my practice. As I entered the reception area, the nurse was greeting a patient who happened to be one of my clients.

"Which doctor did you want to see?" the nurse asked.

"It doesn't matter," said Mrs. McCarthy. "Except him." She was looking at me. "He treats my horses! What are you doing here, Dr. Miller?"

"I work here part-time," I breezily told Mrs. McCarthy as I went out the door.

Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker, and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member from Thousand Oaks, Calif. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his Web site at http://www.robertmmiller.com/.