Moments of intense stress often bring out the best in both individuals and teams. Last week served up an extreme test of the level of calm yet effective teamwork that can really work wonders in veterinary.

This story starts with a rabbit – let’s call him Mr Bunny. A rather elderly bunny but a healthy rabbit all the same. Well, apart from the large, unsightly, ulcerated and all round nasty mass attached to his lip, hence his being in the clinic with the intention to surgically remove said mass. Everything pre-op went according to plan and with an intra-venous catheter safely placed in Mr B we proceeded to give the standard anaesthetic combination of drugs, ready to continue monitoring his anaesthetic during the surgery and until he was back safely hopping around and munching on his hay again.

As I am sure most of us are acutely aware, real life sometimes follows a different script to the one planned and Mr B had plans of his own. Basically his heart stopped. Literally.

As soon as he had been given his medication my nurse, who had been listening to his heart from the word go, identified that there was a problem. The potential at this stage for mass hysteria and panic was there, especially considering that the owner (an employee of the clinic) actually happened to be in the same room, albeit talking with someone else and not actually involved in the procedure taking place. Full credit to my team as we very swiftly and decisively put a rapid resuscitation plan into full swing.

The reversal agent was immediately given, oxygen was adminstered, rapid fluid therapy was instigated, adrenaline was injected and cardiac compressions started. This continued for several minutes, although those minutes often feel like hours in such highly charged situations. Rabbits, as anyone with experience of either owning or treating them will be able to attest, aren’t great at dealing with stress at the best of times and always seem to be plotting cunning schemes by which to expire early. As such, the chances of a successful resuscitation effort seemed at best remote and at worst dismal. It was with a sense of surprise and relief then that during the cardiac compressions I felt Mr Bunny’s little heart kick in and take over the rather vital task of pumping. From there on it was a slow but steady path back from the light and into the world of the living again.

Mr Bunny did make a full recovery and actually returned this week for another attempt at removing the large mass on his face. This time, thankfully, things went much more smoothly and Mr B bounced through his operation safely.

This episode did highlight the benefits of a well trained, calm yet decisive team, coupled with a sensible approach to preparation and the importance of monitoring to pick up on issues very early on. The response of the entire team was exemplary and Mr Bunny is still with us as a direct result.