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My desert island drugs

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My ‘You know you’ve made it when . . .’ moment is being a guest on Desert Island Discs. Oh, to hear the seagulls’ chatter and Kirsty Young’s sweet voice say my name. Of course, the chances of me even getting close to choosing my eight discs are slim. In an attempt to console myself, I often think about my own veterinary variation of the show: desert island drugs.

The premise is simple. If you were to be marooned in a veterinary practice on a tropical island, what would be your eight drugs of choice? Alongside the drugs, you get to choose a luxury item, a book and select the one drug, above all others, that you would save from the tempest.

How best to approach this conundrum? On Radio 4, Kirsty talks the celebrity through their life and the songs that reflect an important chapter; songs that remind them of a particular person, an event or the nation at that point (cue trippy songs from the 60s). Needless to say, it’s difficult to find a POM-V that sums up the Brexit mood. Hence, I thought about what I’d most likely be doing in this veterinary idyll. I assume I’ll be treating a range of species and ailments, so need drugs that are effective across the species. Although the practice’s location is unknown, it is fair to assume that the Veterinary Medicines Directorate will not be carrying out regular inspections and so one can have a flexible interpretation of the cascade.

So, taking those and other subtleties into consideration, my drugs are:

  • Meloxicam: hangover cure from island rum;

  • Ketamine: will knock most things out for a bit of sun-drenched surgery;

  • Xylazine: takes the edge off;

  • Lidocaine: for desert island caesarean sections;

  • Co-amoxiclav: it’ll never solidify in the heat;

  • Dexamethasone: the drug of last resort;

  • B12: the Pink Floyd of drugs, always brightens up your day; and

  • Pentobarbital: a range of cover versions, but my favourite is ‘Release 500’.

As always, for the books you’re given the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare. In addition, would I choose a formulary, Fossum, Dyce or In Practice? I’d probably want a break from feeling inadequate next to the descriptions of delicate surgery and correct dosing. The taxonomist within me would request a watercolour guide to the flora and fauna of the island, the off-duty vet a trashy Flashman novel.

Now, for my luxury. If we assume that the island is stocked with the usual variety of disposables and surgical kit, then we are free to choose something that makes our lives that little better. My wife would choose her cat-patterned scrub cap (she thinks she’s Derek Shepherd). I shortlisted several: cable ties for easy suturing, a head torch for examining island warthog mouths, pliers for a dental, or, less of a luxury, more an essential, a nurse (come on, you know it would be an unmitigated disaster without at least one). But they all seemed a little too work-focused. So, I picked something that sums up a normal day at my practice: a Montecristi Panama hat; practical with a hint of ridiculousness.

As for the drug that I would save above all others; I’d have to protect the dexamethasone.

The thinking process has brought home how much veterinary medicine has changed in the past few decades. We can choose from a huge range of equipment and medications that our forefathers could only dream of. With that choice comes a high level of expectation from our clients. On those days of over-expectation, I go to the staff room, put my feet up, tip the Panama over my eyes and hear those seagulls.

#DesertIslandDrugs, what would yours be?

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