Reflection on West, Texas by Brittany Marvel

Having thought about and prepared for a devastating situation through the Community Connections rotation for almost two weeks prior to the events in West, TX, I undoubtedly comprehended more fully the tasks that laid at hand in West, TX. It’s difficult to think about your life being uprooted and forever changed in a split second. This truly “sunk in” as I looked upon the destruction caused by the explosion in West. Having now seen devastating loss first hand, I understand why the Community Connections rotation and Veterinary Emergency Response Team are so vital. And why, though difficult, it’s important to have thought about and planned in case of an emergency. Ignorance will not always be bliss.

The Veterinary Emergency Team was well equipped and able to respond quickly in just a matter of hours. Those of us, who have been through the Community Connections rotation, understand the hours of thought and the dedication of lives to this mission. Teams so well equipped and trained do not suddenly appear, although to the public eye, it may seem that way. But it was only after I was led through the process of preparing a plan for a shelter, for a temporary veterinary clinic, for my own personal evacuation, and now especially having seen these plans be put into action in West, that I comprehend the depth of planning required. Hap- hazard planning results in flash lights without batteries (my usual planning strategy: last minute); thoughtful planning results in a team well equipped and trained to handle whatever may come. Excellence in planning was exemplified in West, TX. Our team moved seamlessly through the triage process of each animal and was able to deliver each animal to safety. I call that success!

I also learned in West that it takes a community to run a first response mission. Now understanding the efforts it takes to coordinate a team to carry out such successful tasks in somber situations, it was refreshing to have others who aid in what seem to be ‘simple’ logistics. The American Red Cross deserved a standing ovation for providing warm meals to our team and the Task Force. It was one less logistic our fearless leaders had to worry about everyday. Because they carried this burden for us, it allowed the Veterinary Emergency Team and Task Force to aid in full capacity. Resources, such as this, are vital to keep the team up and running, but are often overlooked as not “part of the mission.” Having other first responding entities like the American Red Cross, and local schools (who donated their locker rooms for us to shower in), means that our team and the Task force were able to focus on our overarching missions. I learned that partnering with community leaders such as these to ensure that the team’s needs are meant results in better service. I’m also thankful for those who give to entities such as this, and I hope they know the impact of their gift.

However, the bottom line for me was this: The Veterinary Emergency Team is about loving people. (The animals are definitely loved too!) But the team in West gave up their lives at home and all their comforts in life, to help others they did not even know. Looking at the destruction and placing yourself in the shoes of those who lost so much, certainly makes you realize what recovery of a beloved pet means. The Veterinary Emergency Team works countless hours to recover animals to bring people hope; they are certainly lovers of people, and exemplify sacrifice of self for the betterment of others. While in veterinary school we focus on the animals, on the disease, on the medication or surgical procedure, we cannot forget that veterinary care is more than just treating the animal; it’s about love for people and community who care for those animals. This team’s sacrifice, without a doubt, summed up why I am so proud to become an Aggie Veterinarian.

So this essay may be too emotional, and not exactly what you were looking for. But this trip didn’t necessarily expand my knowledge of emergency medication or how to triage a patient, but it expanded my compassion for others. It provided the reality of what it takes to form a team, provide for that team, and to work successfully as a team to serve others.