A ‘Disasterous’ Valentine’s Day

Each year, Texas A&M University hosts the nation’s largest student-led interprofessional emergency response simulation, known as Disaster Day.

 

This event allows students from the colleges of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Pharmacy, Public Health, Nursing, and Medicine to

collaborate with the Corps of Cadets and the Texas State Guard to practice emergency response on a grand scale.

This year (on Friday, Feb. 14) was my second time attending Disaster Day.

Each year, there is a unique catastrophe presented for students to manage.

 

This year’s simulation was an earthquake that resulted in
building collapses and a train derailment; last year’s event was a research plant explosion that devastated the entire
neighborhood.

 

With actors covered in makeup and bandages, as well as first responders, hard-hats, and mock animal cases, this “disaster” teaches students the appropriate response skills needed for

such situations and allows them to learn the interprofessional channels of communication required when an entire community is affected by crisis.

The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) provides some of their actual medical response units for day. These trucks are outfitted with medical equipment and supplies needed for stabilizing and treating animals in the field during a

crisis.

During Disaster Day, we had to triage animal cases according
to the severity of their wounds or diseases and then chose
treatment plans according to what supplies we had on hand. Sometimes these animals had diseases that were transmissible
to humans, requiring us to collaborate with the human medical 
doctors and public health
officials on the proper containment protocols as well as owner education or care.

 

As a third-year veterinary student, I am about to leap into my final clinical year before graduation.

I think it’s invaluable for veterinarians to receive training in emergency response and become better prepared to take leadership roles in the community when the unexpected happens.

 

Events like Disaster Day are fun and exciting ways for me to apply my knowledge and feel equipped to serve my community when it needs me most.

Training with the VET

Mikaela at VET annual exercise
Mikaela (far left) and her peers—Emily, Luke, and Katlyn—feeling like astronauts as they donned the personal protection equipment the VET occasionally uses during deployments

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in the Veterinary Emergency Team’s (VET) annual exercise. It involved veterinarians, technicians, and other College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) faculty, staff, and alumni all coming together to assist in a mock disaster situation.The scenario for the three-day event involved two different explosions in South Texas. We “deployed” in smaller (strike) teams, made our way to the disaster sites, and then set up the VET trailers (mobile medical platforms) they use during actual deployments.

Mock cases would come in over the radio and teams would walk through how they would handle each situation and treat the cases, some of which involved, cats, dogs, horses, and cattle. You have to be ready for anything in these types of situations, which is why practicing is so important.

You also have to approach them differently than an everyday clinic situation—you don’t have the same equipment or personnel, or the history of the animal. Some of the cases involved animals that were injured in the blast; some of them were animals that had been stranded and just needed help finding their owners. As you finished a case, a new case would come in.

I was the controller for my team, so my job was to give information about the patients as my team asked for it, including blood values, microchip information, and radiation readings (one scenario included an explosion at a nuclear power facility). It was an interesting situation to be in because I got to watch the teams work through each case and see the types of questions that the teams asked in each scenario.

At the end of the day, all of the teams came together for a debriefing.

We also got to practice putting on personal protective equipment (PPE), which are special hazard suits that protect you in scenarios that include known or unknown chemicals that you could be exposed to. I was able to learn how to put on the suit and felt like an astronaut!

Overall, it was a great day and I learned so much about how the VET works and responds in disaster situations.