28 June 2022

A Student Vet Nurse (SVN) here at Willows has recently played a vital part in a major operation to cure a dog’s lameness.

While SVN Emma Paul was not directly involved in the surgery to repair a damaged cranial cruciate ligament, her role was still essential to proceedings, as she used her sign language skills to communicate throughout with the 10-year-old cocker spaniel’s owner, who is deaf.

Emma explained: “Communication was initially difficult between our client and clinicians, so I was asked if I could help with explaining the planned treatment and operation.

“I have been signing for as long as I can remember as my older brother is deaf and I grew up going to the BID Deaf Cultural Centre in Birmingham, so was delighted to help.

“The owner was really happy when I went out and introduced myself. He was so relieved that there was someone who could understand him and explain all the important information to him.

“It was also extremely rewarding for me to be able to use my skills to help, as I know my brother struggled with going to places and not having someone there who could communicate. It was very frustrating for him. 

“The owner has requested I interpret for him when he and his pet come in again for future consultations and I have since used my sign language to help one of his friends who is also deaf.

“I’m so glad my sign language skills were able to help with this case and I will hopefully be able to assist with clients who are members of the deaf community in the future.” 

The further good news is that the cocker spaniel’s operation went well, as Kinley Smith, our RCVS and European specialist in small animal surgery, successfully repaired the CCL damage.

Dr Smith said: “Emma’s sign language skills were a huge help in this case and ensured the owner was kept fully informed throughout.

“We’re very conscious that having a sick or injured pet can be a stressful and anxious time for owners, so we always strive to communicate clearly and openly with them about the way forward.

“In this case, it was proving problematic but Emma really made the difference, not just for the owner, for all of us.”