Embracing the Unknown: A Transformative Week in Sheshatshiu
Updated: Oct 4
September 20, 2023
Jamie Kennedy, AVC 2024, travelled to Sheshatshiu as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of writing.
Walking into the old school building that served as our makeshift clinic for the first time was exciting. As we unpacked our supplies from bins and suitcases, the clinic gradually took shape. We mindfully created distinct areas for medicine appointments, surgical preparation, patient recovery, and our surgical suite (operating room). At that moment, my anticipation was focused on the days ahead. Little did I know, this experience would shape me profoundly as both a veterinary professional and an individual.
On the first day, opening the doors of our clinic to the community felt like a whirlwind. The unexpected influx of local residents pouring in with their animals took us all a little by surprise. We were still finding our way among the supplies from the late-night setup the previous evening. (Editor's note: due to flight cancellation, the team was delayed by a day, but still managed to get the clinic set up to start on time) Dogs were barking, the line-up was growing, and we all felt a bit like headless chickens amidst the commotion.
At first, my conversations with community members felt choppy, my confidence in recalling protocols wavered, and my IV catheter placement skills were rusty. Despite all the chaos, we managed to pull through. As a team, we saw several surgeries and treated over forty medical patients, marking the day as a success.
As the week unfolded, I found my confidence growing despite facing numerous first attempts. My initial venture into total intravenous anesthesia with minimal monitoring equipment was daunting and stressful. But then I did it again, and again, and yet again. By week's end, I was amazed by how much my anesthetic skills had improved. Placing IV catheters in various breeds and sizes of dogs and cats started to feel like second nature, and I stopped overthinking each step of the process. My conversations with community members were becoming effortless and I felt comfortable making diagnoses and recommendations. One special case I recall, was discovering an ear full of purulent discharge in one of our recovering surgery patients. I cleaned the ear thoroughly, and upon closer examination, found two puncture wounds at the base of the pinna. After the initial treatment, I added antibiotics to go home. Later I learned the owner had been worried he had been bitten by another dog earlier - she got her answer!
Then came my very first solo dog spay. It's safe to say that it didn't go as well as I had
imagined it in my head. I was grateful for our mentors' guidance and my classmates' unwavering support. However, despite their kind words, I still left the clinic that evening feeling discouraged in my surgical abilities. The very next day, my classmate looked at me and said, "There's another dog spay booked today, and you're doing it." I really appreciated this nudge, because she and I both knew I needed another attempt. That morning, I successfully carried out my second solo dog spay from start to finish without any issues.
The journey with the Chinook Project often crosses my mind — the clinic setup, facing
challenges, and celebrating successes. Uncertainty turned into confidence, and if one of us had a question, another had the answer. Anesthesia and surgeries grew familiar, conversations flowed, and stepping into the role of a veterinarian for a week felt unexpectedly comfortable. I will be forever grateful for this experience and the people I had the privilege to share it with.