By Brian Stevens – Camera Operator:
Central Michigan. Mid Summer. Late Afternoon. Temperature 102 degrees. Humidity 95%
The emergency call comes in around 5:00pm as the clinic is preparing to close. A dairy farmer in a town 45 miles away has a heifer that is having trouble calving twins. Dr. Brenda is on call and our camera crew follows her to the farm to film her assisting the birth.
It’s the middle of summer in central Michigan and it’s steamy hot. Recently our days have been spent figuring out how to spend as much time as possible in our SUV with the AC blasting. Every time we step out of the vehicle the heat and humidity wash over us like a molasses tidal wave and our movement slows to a glacial pace.
The animals don’t have it any easier. When we arrive at the farm, the farmer informs us he’s moved his heifer into a covered pen where he can run water over her to help cool her off. Calving twins can be difficult for a cow because all of those baby limbs get tangled up and the calves don’t line up the way they’re supposed to; in a superman like pose with their head coming first and arms overhead. This birth is probably especially labored because of the heat.
As we step into the pen it’s immediately apparent that it’s hotter here than anywhere else on the planet at the moment. The air is perfectly still. There isn’t a trace of breeze and the humidity easily seems 100%. Sweat instantly begins to drip from my face and armpits and back. I can feel my clothes soaking through. Dr. Brenda and the farmer go to work furiously attempting to extract the calves from the heifer.
It’s nearly impossible to work. My hands are slippery wet and there is a constant stream of sunscreen filled sweat running into my eyes. I can see sweat pouring from the faces of Dr. Brenda and the farmer as they reach into the heifer yanking and pulling and even using a tool called a calf jack to pry the calves from the uterus of the visibly distressed mother. At one point Dr. Brenda has to stop and regroup mumbling something about it being too hot to think straight. In the end neither calf made it out alive but the heifer was spared and could be bred again.
One of the most incredible things about Dr. Brenda and Dr. Pol is their tenacity to perform veterinary medicine in any condition imaginable. They are relentless in their efforts be it 105 degrees in the shade or -10 degrees in the snow. I’ve seen them get kicked, bitten, scratched, slammed, rammed, poked, sliced, jammed, pinched, walloped, stepped on, and crushed and they carry on their duties without so much as a grimace. Their passion for animals and medicine is evident in every case they see. It’s an honor and a privilege to work with these doctors on a daily basis.