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An Early Mystery Solved

A sobering thought but 15 years ago to this very day I graduated from Bristol Vet School! I thought I should share one of many stories that I have of mistakes during my first 2 years of practice in Wiltshire.

On this particular day, someone telephoned in about a swan that was found dead and suspected shot. Brimming with enthusiasm and thrilled at the possibility of solving the case, I set to the post-mortem. A passing colleague said,

“If they think it’s been shot why don’t you X-ray it? You’ll see the lead.”

Genius, I thought. So I X-rayed the carcass and waited with barely contained excitement as the film developed.

The result was not what I expected. No bullet, but clearly a hole in the rib cage! And hang on, another hole the other side which would confirm that the bullet had exited! Perhaps this would be the moment for me to get the deserved respect for being the veterinary super sleuth that I was?

Leaving the carcass, I phoned the client to give him the predicted news. I then returned to the X-ray room to tidy up when I saw one of the senior vets perusing the X-ray. I told him the verdict with a confidence way beyond my years. The response was succinct. “Those holes are just the wing joints” There I was, crushed again.

To make matters worse I couldn’t backtrack with the client about the news. My next challenge was to persuade them that we shouldn’t tell the police, but rather wait and see if there was a repeat shooting. After all, the police have enough to do!

Reflecting on the last 15 years I would say that I still make mistakes, fortunately, fewer of them. But the confidence that comes with experience means that now I can always own up to them!

Mike John