Anesthesia specialist visits bear rescue centres

Today, I'm handing the blog over to our rescue centres' veterinarians, Mandala and Joost, who are continually working to improve care for the bears.

Mandala Hunter-Ishikawa, Resident Veterinarian at China Bear Rescue Centre (CBRC):
You will often hear the Animals Asia team talk about how the bears teach us things. They teach us about forgiveness, about living with dignity and perseverance in the face of unimaginable pain and conditions. Being on the vet team at the Chengdu Bear Rescue Centre, I find this to be true every day, in every way.

Last month, the bears literally taught us about anesthesia. It was for the sake of the bears that Senior Vet Nurse Wendy Leadbeater approached specialist veterinary anesthetist Dr Gudrun Schoeffmann CertVA MRCVS from the University of Edinburgh to visit our bears and consult on the anesthetic procedures and protocols. Having written a proposal, it took a year to find a generous donor to sponsor the visit.

Dr Gudrun Schoeffmann CertVA MRCVS, is originally from Austria but has been working and teaching at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Medicine for the past 7 years, working with both large and small animals. She has a calm and unassuming demeanor and put everyone at ease on day one. It felt like everything she said throughout the day and week was important. We will never forget how she explained vasoconstriction to us (narrowing of blood vessels): she grabbed a half-full plastic water bottle and squeezed it hard, and compared it to her ever-present cup of coffee: the volume may be the same, but the pressure is different when the vessel is squeezed. At one point or another, everyone in that room (vets and vet nurses) have studied the physiology of blood pressures, but it was at that moment we all looked at each other and Gudrun in awe. In one motion, she cemented the information in a practical and permanent way.

CDU visit 1
The Chengdu team: vets Eddie and Mandala, vet nurse Emily, Gudrun, vet Jen and volunteer vet nurse Lauren.

And so it went the whole week. She looked at our protocols, observed our anesthetics and suggested changes that may have been small, but important in the bears' health check experience. We also were able to discuss field anesthesia techniques in preparation for health checks and surgeries at Nanning Bear Farm.

Not only did she volunteer her time to teach us, she agreed to talk to the local Chengdu veterinarians about pain management and anesthesia. They were very happy to have the opportunity to learn from an expert and really enjoyed her teaching as well. It further cemented the good relationship between CBRC and the local vets and provided great capacity building.

CDU lecture
Gudrun shares knowledge with local vets in Chengdu.

Gudrun was able to see a bit of Chengdu and experience the local food and culture. She utterly enjoyed the spicy Sichuan cuisine as we showed her hot pot and various cultural dishes. Overall, we wanted her to stay here forever! We all learned so much, we are still processing. The bears will definitely benefit from her knowledge and expertise. We hope she comes back--she has a standing invitation!

The CBRC team and Chengcu vets celebrate Gudrun's visit.

She left here to head to Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre where she undoubtedly helped and spread more goodness. We can't thank her enough.

Joost Philippa, Senior Veterinarian at Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre (VBRC):
Gudrun arrived at VBRC at 2.30am after an horrendous flight delay, but at 9am she was ready to discuss anaesthesia with the vet team and 30 Vietnamese veterinarians (from zoos, pet clinics and the university). The attendees were so thrilled with this educational experience, that many asked her to visit their clinics/university.

Unfortunately for them there was no time for this, as Gudrun’s main objective was to provide insight into some difficult cases encountered at VBRC in the previous six months, and to perform necessary health checks on three of these tricky bears, including Ti Map, who’s anaesthesia during his rescue was especially worrisome.

The Tam Dao team: vet Joost, vet nurse Julie, Gudrun and vietnam director, Tuan.

It was great to discuss difficult patient responses with someone who can explain complex materials in a clear and understandable way, using every day examples and objects (as she apparently did in China as well). We are sincerely grateful for Gudrun’s time, flying half way across the world to share her knowledge and expertise which will benefit not only our bears but many other animals in China and Vietnam too.

Julie and Gudrun discuss Ti Map.

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