Last week I had the honor to participate in the Nobivac Global “Vet” Exchange Program. This program enables vets to exchange with a fellow practice owner, all over the globe. I was invited to exchange with Dr. Koichi Fujii, PhD, MBA, who’s the owner of a companion animal clinic in Yokohama, Tokyo area, Japan. First I went to Japan and in February 2015, Dr. Fujii will be our guest in The Netherlands for a week.
It was an amazing experience to practice 10,000 km from my own clinic, and find out that 80% of things are the same in Japan as they are in The Netherlands. But there were also remarkable differences. What really struck me was the enormous dedication of Dr. Fujii’s vets. “As long as there’s life, there’s hope”; must be their guidance.
An illustration to that was a severe case coming in one afternoon. We just had finished lunch when one of the technicians reported that a cat was on his way to the hospital, because it had stopped breathing. When the patient arrived it was just one small step away of cardiac arrest and a next life. Cats have nine lives, according to the old Egypt culture.
Dr. Madoka Mikuni immediately jumped into action and with the help of technicians and junior vet Dr. Kousuke Izawa she directly managed to get an intravenous line into this totally apathic cat. For those of you who have no veterinary background…..getting an i.v.-line in a “normal” cat is quite a challenge, but getting an i.v.-line into a convulsing cat with no blood pressure what so ever, is considered to be an art. Within a few minutes Dr. Mikuni managed to take blood samples, got two (one spare, just in case of ) i.v.-lines dripping and gathered the most important parameters, like body temperature, heart rate and blood glucose.
The concentration and dedication of the team was amazing. Hardly any talking or commands, no single sign of stress or pressure, only full focus on this extremely critical patient. All kind of machines (Japanese veterinary science is quite technically driven) were connected to the cat. A ‘microwave’ was rolled in to heat up the poor little tiger, several infusion pumps, an ECG, an pulse oxymeter, even a hairdryer to blow hot air was used to get this cat back to life. And after 20 minutes the efforts started to pay off and the cat was slowly doing better also due to a variety of injections, such as glucose to fight the extreme hypoglycemia.
Within three quarters of an hour this dedicated team had managed to turn the poor dying, comatose creature into a silently meowing cat, coming to consciousness. A combination of amazing perseverance, superb concentration and fabulous team-work made a little miracle happen.
And maybe a cultural component as well. In the last days I found out that death is a quite a taboo topic Japan. Death of humans and death of animals. For example, in Japan two religions are common. Shintoism, for the time you’re alive and Buddhism after you’ve passed away. Dr. Fujii explained to me that the euthanasia of a pet in Japan is pretty different than in other parts of the world, while pet owners try to avoid this as long as possible. And -generally speaking- Japanese people don’t want to be present in the practice when an animal is given the everlasting sleep. So this maybe also an extra reason for Japanese veterinarians to do walk the extra mile and do everything in their abilities to avoid a pet passing away.
After this interesting case and some surgery, Koichi and his team had prepared a special ‘practice dinner’ for me. Super sushi was brought in on large plates, combined with delicious salads and a diversity of Japanese culinary delights. Unfortunately also this great day came to an end and on my way to the door I took a quick glimpse at the cat of that afternoon. It was sitting straight up and turned around showing all signs of doing much better.
“In old Egypt cats are considered to have nine lives”; I thought, on my way to my hotel…….. “But thanks to the dedication, craftsmanship and care of my Japanese colleagues this one got ten!”