I’m sure by now you recognize Stella and Justin’s faces and names from stories and posts. They have been our incredible duo; running the clinic from February 2018 until the end of September 2018. Last week they handed over the clinic to Carmen and Kate, and today they take off on their next adventure. Before they left, they gave us a small interview about their experience with us at Darwin Animal Doctors.
What was your most impactful case?
Once upon a time there was a puppy called Panda. Panda came in on the verge of life, and was hardly doing anything. We started the conservative treatment for one of the infectious diseases that are very common here. But his status got worse; his blood values (hematocrit) were dropping tremendously. We had to do something, something which was – at that point – outside of our comfort zone: a blood transfusion. But it was something that had to be done in order to save this pups life. We started reading and researching, and eventually we had a decent plan upon how to do a transfusion with limited equipment. With high hopes and a lot of nervousness we started; the owners brought in a healthy donor (named Candy), we took the blood and started the procedure. The first couple of minutes were stressful. But.. no adverse reactions. So we kept going and everybody’s heart was filled with joy when we saw he started wagging his tail a bit. Minutes and hours passed, he started moving more and more, even tried to stand up. At a certain point he even tried to jump from the table. After the transfusion was finished, the whole team was given empanadas and juice, what a good way to celebrate! The pup was kept in the clinic for a couple of days more in order to monitor him. But he kept on improving immensely so we decided to send him soon as soon as possible, with a list of medications, on the condition that the owners would bring him back for a check-up a couple of days later. Which they did, and which made us even happier. He literally walked into the clinic as if he owned the place and started wagging his tail to all the volunteers. We will never forget the stress but most important of all, the success, of our first blood transfusion with limited equipment in this clinic. After the first one, of course a bunch of blood transfusions in other dogs followed in order to save more lives.
What do you love about being a vet?
The one thing we love most about being a vet is the feeling you get when you do all your best for a dying animals and you see it improving more and more, finally ready to go home with their family who truly cares for the animal. Whether it’s in the middle of the night, during lunch break, early in the morning, at these moments you really have the feeling you are saving lives and are making a difference. For us, this quote is very important; saving one cat or dog won’t change the world, but surely for that cat or dog, the world will change forever’. Every living being is as important for us. And we try our best to rescue as much animals as possible. The other thing we love about being a vet is the fact that we can combine this job with our other passion; traveling. We want to provide veterinary care where it is most needed.
How have your veterinary skills changed during your time at the clinic?
Our vet skills have definitely changed during our time here. Working at a clinic with relatively limited equipment forces you to think out of the box for diagnosing and treating animals. Moreover we focused even more on the clinical history and clinical exam of the animal than we were used to do. During our time here we did surgery on about 1000 animals (85% being sterilizations and castrations) so our surgical skills have improved immensely, included dealing with sometimes serious complications. Being in charge of a clinic puts you in a position that demands a lot of effort and time but it forces you to work independently and to make important decisions on your own. Moreover, the management position we had was also quite challenging for us. All volunteers rely on you, being the one in charge you are the person responsible for resolving all issues. After a couple of weeks we have gotten used to that and we started to like this aspect of being the lead vet, too. We learned to keep calm and work efficiently during stress situations. Over all, we have become a lot more confident in all aspects of veterinary medicine. Not forgetting to mention that all communication with owners was in Spanish!
What was your best part of your experience in the Galapagos, outside of the clinic?
There are a lot of small things that have made us smile during or stay at the Galapagos Islands; the sounds of the little gecko’s on the window next to our bed, the blue foots you see flying by while walking on the pier, the sound a pup sea lion calling for his mother, swimming next to turtles, penguins, sharks, sea lions and many more animals. The Galapagos nature is unreal; the landscape changes drastically from one spot to another, as does the weather. It’s the charm of these islands. The cruise we got offered by Lindblad Expeditions & National Geographic, through Darwin Animal Doctors, was the cherry on the cake. During that 8-day cruise we finally got know and see the 97% other part of the Islands for what we have been working so hard to protect and preserve. The environment, nature, wildlife is incredible and beyond expectations unlike anywhere in the world. We really hope this place can be preserved in the future as it is now. Not only the nature is important, there is also a local population; of which some people don’t even know. Although there are a lot of problems, we have seen that there are a lot of people fighting for a good cause and really taking good care of the environment, the animals, and their pets. It was a pleasure to work together with local authorities and people to preserve and protect.
Where are you going next?
A couple of months ago, two newborn kittens were brought into the clinic. We have been taking care of them since June and haven’t been able to find good responsible owners for them, so we decided to take the difficult road to try and take them to Belgium. Therefore, a lot of paperwork has to be done on the mainland, including a 3-month quarantine for rabies. During this time we will be helping out on a shelter/farm with lots of rescued dogs. Moreover, we have been asked to help set-up and manage a new project in Salinas, which would focus on spaying and neutering stray dogs. We are more than happy to cooperate and help these organizations.
Will you come back to work with DAD?
We definitely want to and are planning to come back in the future to work with Darwin Animal Doctors. This organization, the animals and these islands will always have a special place in our hearts.
To Stella and Justin: On behalf of everyone at Darwin Animal Doctors, we thank you for sharing the past 8 months with us. Your individual spirits, hard work, and love of animals has left a beautiful mark on the clinic. We hope to see you back in the near future. Good luck on what comes your way next!