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Vet's eye view - The Daily Shuffle

The second blog in the series from our veterinarian Christine Nelson, who is currently out in Costa Rica at the howler monkey sanctuary. Click here to read the first installment.

​The Daily Shuffle by Christine Nelson

Work in the Refuge for Wildlife clinic is a daily shuffle.  The triage, treatment, lab, surgery, supply storage, and kennel areas are one and the same. It acts as a sort of quarantine for new rescues, which are often injured and in need of care anyway, and also houses those undergoing medical treatment.  It is a place for monkeys and other creatures that need extra monitoring or those that just don’t have another place where they can thrive.

Today, the good news is that a patient is recovered and has rejoined its group, and a space has opened in the cage block. The place feels so open and we breathe a sigh of relief as an extra ray of sunlight shines in. The bad news is that the healed and healthy one is likely to be replaced by two more intensive care rescues tomorrow. We study the room as if it were a puzzle. Maybe we could trade the parrot cage for the squirrels, and put the owl where the bat used to be? To give all the animals the best chance at survival and recovery, we have to be efficient.

Nobody is more determined to make the existing space work than Dr Francisco Sanchez, the staff veterinarian. The Refuge is lucky. Many sanctuaries do not have adequate access to a veterinarian, particularly one as motivated and dedicated to wildlife as Dr Fran. With square-footage at a premium and restrictions on the structural changes that can be made, Dr Francisco has been busy drawing the blueprints for a remodeling project that can elevate the standards he and the Refuge can offer. Plans include dedicated lab space, a sterile surgical suite, and an easy to clean cage block for the patients. “We have a good start here at the Refuge, but with a clinic upgrade we can greatly improve care, reducing treatment length as well as stress for all the recovering animals,” says Dr Francisco about the new design.  Construction labor does not come cheap, however, not to mention filling the space with all the necessary equipment to care for any rescue that might come through the clinic door. The Refuge relies partly on donations for expensive medications and supplies, some of which are hard to come by or unavailable in Costa Rica, and they will still need funds for the improvements.

In the meantime, Dr Fran and I will continue the amusing challenge of assembling makeshift IV stands for surgeries and whittling bird perches with scalpel blades. When a medical case doesn’t go as planned or a patient doesn’t recover as quickly as it should, as veterinarians, we always ask ourselves what we could have been done better. With the support of a quality clinic that eliminates some of those possible contributing factors, we can spend less time questioning decisions and more time focusing on the next animal in need.