“Believe me when I tell you time and time again, I believe wholeheartedly that God has chosen me to help animals in this lifetime.”
In Part 1 of Oyen’s interview with Dr Thiba, we were told multiple heartwarming experiences from what inspired her to become a veterinarian, how Ministre’ of Pets was founded to one of the most rewarding experiences throughout her 17-year long journey. In Part 2 of Oyen’s interview with Dr Thiba, she discusses nerve-wrecking moments during a stressful event, ways to positively overcome negativity, and useful advice/ tips for pet owners and animal lovers who wish to adopt!
Oyen: Has there been a more recent event/incident you faced that you believe to be stressful?
Dr Thiba: I wouldn't say recently, but an owner had brought her little doggy for a routine procedure, spaying. I have lost count of how many pets I’ve spayed; I am confident that I can even do the procedure with my eyes closed! The owner was very nervous, his pet was a cute silky terrier. I assured him that I had done the procedure many times. I was fairly confident but something beyond my control happened.
I always feel as if God is teaching me lessons, humbling me in the process. So, we went in to do surgery on this little 11-month-old girl and she never survived the surgery.
It was a very simple procedure but she had an anaesthetic reaction which means that she reacted to the anaesthetic that was given and went into seizures. We couldn't revive her. We tried, and tried and tried.
I was dumbfounded, I couldn't believe it happened. Why did this have to happen to me? What did this little girl do to deserve this? I was shattered. Passionate vets want to save every ill or injured animal, trust me. But when an animal goes for surgery, even humans, there are just things beyond our control.
I’m utterly thankful to God that the owners were understanding, but it was so painful to watch because the owner was a friend of another vet I know. It was very heartbreaking. It really made me question what went wrong. How could have I done differently? I was constantly beating myself up. I found myself feeling lost and depressed for two weeks because I didn't expect to lose a life from a routine treatment.
Usually, if it’s a very critical surgery, I’d tell a pet owner that I would try my best or I would tell them to prepare themselves for the worst outcome. If I was given an option to say the same thing to the owner of that 11-month-old girl, I wouldn’t have felt as if what happened to her was entirely my fault. I went with the treatment feeling confident but we lost her. It really broke me. I know that I am good at what I do but God reminded me to always be humble even if the procedure is what I consider simple.
The owners were kind enough to understand what happened but their friends decided to react differently. They left very bad comments and reviews online and even asked for compensation. I don't think it is right to demand compensation unless there is negligence on my side. There was no negligence on our part. Everything was done correctly. From that point on, I made it mandatory to do pre anaesthetic blood work.
After that incident, words hovered that there was a case against me, someone made a police report. They sent the dog for post-mortem and even pointed their fingers at us saying we didn’t follow the SOP. To me it’s very simple, a post-mortem result cannot determine whether or not you followed the SOP because your SOP is different from mine. In the end, the post-mortem report stated no significant finding. This means that they didn’t know why it happened, it just happened.
I have stopped going online to read reviews because like anyone else, I am human and those types of negativity affects me and my work. People fancy judging others even when they don't personally know that person. They don't know the lengths I’ve gone to save animals. Cyberbullying is insane. I would always tell my vets to not give it any energy. Just let them talk because God knows what we have done, truth will always prevail. No matter how many times I felt like quitting, there were and are countless kind-hearted clients who would let me know how great of a vet I am . I keep on moving forward with their encouragement. I am a good vet, I'm a very passionate person. I will continue to stay in this fight till my last breath.
Oyen: Besides what you’ve mentioned regarding letting pet owners know if you can predict the outcome of their pets after treatments/surgeries, how do you deal with distressed pet owners?
Dr Thiba: Based on 17 years of experience, I would tell them that there is a divine being called God who determines everything. There were multiple instances where I would tell pet owners that their pets wouldn’t survive after observing the condition of their pets and I would suggest putting them down. I assess every patient’s condition meticulously and look at all the facts in front of me. Some owners were very reluctant and insisted on spending their pets’ last moment together. Miracles, some pets that were brought home recovered and survived.
In my practice, we have a room called the grieving room. We’ve prepared it for pet owners to comfortably express their sadness and emotions. Most would not want to weep in front of strangers. I bring forward every inch of sympathy and kindness I possess because love is free. I would tell them that they have been good parents, that they have done everything in their power but it’s time to let go. We let pet owners spend whatever little time they have left before asking if they wish to put down their pets or if they wish to just take them home and spend time together.
I always give them space to make their own decision, it is their choice and I never force them. Some would ask me if I think their pets could survive and I tell them that I am not God but I’ve witnessed miracles. For me, when I’m faced with situations like this, I put aside any judgement and try my best to comfort pet owners. Some I hugged but don’t get me wrong, I give them their space and only hug huggable ones! I never rush them with decision-making. Pets nowadays are considered family, they are babies. Who am I to be persistent that their pets would a hundred per cent die? Where would my compassion lie?
Oyen: I completely agree. I realised that the relationship between a vet and a pet owner is much more important than it seems. It’s all about trust and communication.
Dr Thiba: Communication is key. How you approach your client is very important. I have pet owners who are willing to travel far just to let me treat their pets. I have clients who would look for me when I’m on holiday, asking me when I’d be coming back and that to me is amazing. The thing is, I really love and need my holidays! I would often have to plan my holidays months prior and inform my clients that I won’t be around.
Oyen: The connection between a vet and a pet owner is indeed important! I admire the connection you've built with your clients. Since we are reaching the end of your interview, could you perhaps give a message or tips to our fellow animal lovers, most importantly pet owners!
Dr Thiba: I am somebody who strongly advocates prevention. Prevention is often better than cure.
- Do your homework before getting a pet! To be informed about your pet is an extremely crucial first step.
- Take your pet to the vet for a medical/health check-up! Vets will be more than happy to explain to you what needs to be done (about vaccinations, worm, heartworm prevention and so on).
- Ensure that your pet’s nutritional demands are met! Negligence often occurs in multi-pet households. Sometimes it is difficult to tell if your pet is ill unless you see them very inactive and weak.
- If you have more than one pet, make sure to feed them in separate bowls so you can monitor which pet is eating and which is not.
- Spend time with your pets. Pet owners who spend more time with their babies can easily detect if their pets are sick.
- Take your pets to the vet as soon as you sense that they are ill/injured. Do not wait for them to be in clear pain for you to seek medical treatment. It will cost you less when you detect early signs of discomfort.
I'm a vet who doesn't sell medications over the counter. I believe that every ill or injured pet deserves to be seen and observed by the vet. This is because from one pet to another, symptoms are almost always different. Additionally, if you want to save money and want your pet to live a long and healthy life, seek medical assistance as soon as you see signs of discomfort, I cannot stress this enough.
Preventive care is always better than cure and Google is not the answer for everything! I have clients who come in with a small wound on their pet and they mention cancer. I would say, “No, this is just a fungal infection!”
Our vets have gone through different depths of peaks and valleys to help animals in need. As human beings, we often forget that veterinarians are also individuals with emotions just like any of us. Treating them with respect and a sense of compassion does not not cost a single penny! We should be able to acknowledge that we have not given enough recognition to the contributions of our vets and their teams when treating our FurKids.
We here at Oyen would love to thank Dr Thiba for her time, consideration, and beautiful and heart-wrenching stories during our interview with her. If you enjoyed reading Dr Thiba’s stories and experiences as a veterinarian, contact us and let us know!