Cleaning Up Spilled Milk (Formula): The First of My Many Mistakes

The first time that I really messed up big time during my internship was when I aspirated a baby bunny that I was feeding with a syringe. Aspiration occurs when a fluid, or foreign object, enters an animal’s airway and obstructs their ability to breathe. During my internship, I was told that if I aspirated an animal I would more than likely kill it, especially if that animal was a turtle, a baby bird, or a baby bunny. So, when I heard the bunny that I was feeding start to sneeze and make clicking noises, which were sure signs of aspiration, my heart stopped beating. The only thought that was in my mind was, “ what do I do what do I do what do I do?”

As I was frantically looking around the room to look for someone to ask for help, I spotted a nasal aspirator (a tool that a mom would use to suck snot out of her baby’s nose). That was when a light bulb went off in my head. About a week or so earlier, I had been taught, briefly, how to un-aspirate a bunny. First, you were supposed to hold the bunny in your hand, like a baseball, with its head facing towards the ground. Then, you were supposed to act like you were throwing the bunny at the ground as hard as you could. I know it sounds mean, but that’s how you got the fluid to go back out of the bunny’s nose and it did not hurt the animal in any way. After the fluid started to come back out of the nose, you had to take the nasal aspirator and suck the fluid out of the bunny’s nostrils and repeat the process as needed until all of the fluid was gone and the bunny was back to breathing normally (and not making any clicking noises). So, that’s exactly what I did. I would “throw” the bunny towards the ground, suck, and listen for any clicking sounds. If I heard even one click, I would start over. I had to repeat the process three times before the clicking stopped, and even at that point I was sure that I had killed the bunny.

After sitting down in the back room with the animal while working up the courage to go talk to my supervisor about the situation for about 5 minutes, I slowly made my way to the front room with the bunny in my hands. I walked up to Erin, the supervisor, and in a shaky voice explained to her that I aspirated the bunny and did everything I could, and then I asked her to have a look at the rabbit to see if it was still showing signs of being aspirated. She first watched the animal’s breathing and then listened to it. During that time, I did not breathe once. Finally, she said, “Nope, the bunny looks and sounds fine. Good job.” I was happy, but in the back of my mind, I was still questioning whether or not my efforts really were enough to save the bunny’s life. My thoughts cleared up, however, when I went to the back room the next day and saw the same bunny happily hopping around its enclosure.

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