In Part 1 of Oyen’s interview with Dr Calvin, we were enlightened by his honest narrative about the veterinary industry. In today’s story, Dr Calvin will take us on another thrilling ride as he dishes out unjust treatments vets received during the outbreak of Covid-19, followed by a story of the passing of his sixteen-year-old daughter.
Dr Calvin: I recall a time I was revising for the microbiology exam that I had to sit for the next day. I studied until midnight and woke up again at 2 a.m. to revise. My partner was already sleeping and I remember bawling my eyes out due to immense stress. My head was tepu with information but I couldn’t sleep because I felt as if I hadn’t done enough.
I remember when I was in form six, my teacher told me that university life will be like a vacation, she said that it’d be very laid back but that was far from the truth.
Oyen: I feel like it's really sad that vets are not given enough attention, recognition or even the opportunity to talk about their experiences and hardships.
Dr Calvin: It's not just the lack of given opportunity to speak about our hardships, even during the outbreak of Covid-19, those who work in the medical field such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists were considered front liners and were able to receive their vaccinations early. Unfortunately, that didn’t apply to veterinarians, no veterinarian in Malaysia received their shots early but we were forced to open our clinics as front liners during MCO.
It feels as if we are just a group of forgotten people. Not just by society but by the government as well. We were so upset because they expected vets to open just like any other medical centres but our well-being and safety were neglected.
If you go through the Google review for my clinic, you will see those who complain about having to wait outside. One of my clients told me that she was surprised to see us receive bad reviews after the outbreak. We usually only receive positive and happy feedback from clients. Those who left negative remarks were mostly upset owners that had to wait outside where it was bound to be hot. We were blamed for looking after people’s well-being and for not allowing them all to sit in an air-conditioned waiting area.
People rarely complain when they have to line up outside a bank but when they have to wait five minutes for a consultation at the vet, they get overly furious and blame us. We had clients who would get angry at us for making them wait five minutes and they would say, “What’s the point of making an appointment if we have to wait for five minutes?” They forget that we can only estimate the timing for every consultation. It depends on the type of patients we’re dealing with; some might be in critical condition and need extra attention.
Oyen: Is there a particular event throughout your thirteen years that you think left a huge or lasting impact on you?
Dr Calvin: It would be when my dog passed away. I sent my dog for cremation and had to leave for the clinic straight away, acting as if I was emotionally stable. I was supposed to feel lifted and happy when clients brought their cute puppies in for treatments but I just felt so numb. My dog just left me. The dog I took care of for sixteen long and beautiful years, left me forever. I was with her for the entire second half of my life. I kept reminding myself that I was okay and that it is now my responsibility to spread the love I have for her to other dogs.
The pain is extreme. Every time I speak of her, I cannot control my tears. When my dog passed away, she was all alone at home. I was busy at the clinic, treating other pets so they could survive, she took her last breath alone. I believe that this is why whenever clients tell me that I haven’t done my best, it pains me.
Oyen: Are you okay, Dr Calvin?
Dr Calvin: No but luckily the camera is not turned on!
Oyen: Oh no! I’m glad you’re still able to laugh but I hope you’re okay, Dr Calvin!
Dr Calvin: No worries! There is definitely a scar. A scar that reminds me that I should keep on loving other animals even if my own daughter is no longer with me. I think age has a lot to do with how I cope with pain, I am able to control extreme emotions from taking over my focus. Plus, my daughter left me to a much better place and maybe one day, I will meet her again.
Oyen: I'm really sorry for your loss and I am sure that your daughter is in a really beautiful place now. I do want to say that how someone reacts to a moment of vulnerability really says a lot about them as a person. You are so beyond strong and I am glad that you’re able to think of her fondly.
Dr Calvin: Well, I do want to say that veterinarians are somewhat trained to switch emotions fast. We sometimes deal with clients back-to-back and every consultation brings about different waves of emotions. I feel like vets could make decent actors and actresses!
Oyen: I have to agree with that! Since we are at the end of this interview, could you perhaps say a few words to pet owners who might be seeing/reading this.
Dr Calvin: The most important thing is for people to not consider vets as mere vets. I do wish that people would respect those who involve themselves in this industry and it's not because we think that we deserve it. Being understanding is rather important which means that there would be no good reason for us to not help you when we can help you. However, when there comes a time we cannot assist you, it is not because we don’t want to. It’s due to certain limitations that cannot simply be resolved. Instead of expressing emotions negatively, it’s best to figure out what we can do with what we have.
Respect is just so much more than what it is made to be. As human beings, we need to figure out our emotions instead of avoiding them. Humans are born to feel, there is no fault in any of our emotions. We just need to learn how to navigate our emotions towards a beneficial outcome.
Our interview with Dr Calvin was beyond wonderful and most definitely informative. We here at Oyen would like to thank Dr Calvin for sparing his precious time to speak with us even after a long day at work! If you enjoyed reading Dr Calvin's thoughts and experiences as a veterinarian, contact us and let us know!