The day after the VCF conference in March, I was on call, with one of our TB testers who enjoys helping with clinical work and was coming along for a ride. We were called to a calving around 7.30pm to a particularly difficult client on a farm at the edge of the practice area. The calf was dead, breech and massive and the cow was not the easiest patient either. So we carried out a full fetotomy, which took around 4 hours. Getting back into the van at nearly 1am, having scrubbed off all the muck and lube and with arms, shoulders and back aching and stomach very loudly grumbling I was reminded of the main verse we studied at the VCF conference - James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy...whenever you face trials” and had a little chuckle to myself. The TB tester asked me what I was laughing about and I explained the verse to her and we spent the 45 minute drive back listing all the ‘joys’ of that job - the successful outcome, the learning experience, the beautiful starlit sky, even the taste of the 1am McDonalds we stopped for! Since then I have been reminded many times of that verse on difficult calls and sought to see the joy rather than focus on the problems.
The following week we had a whole practice “future vision” meeting, which I was feeling apprehensive about, thinking it would turn into a massive whinge-fest as a number of issues needed dealing with and there had been a lot of grumbling recently. Before the meeting we each filled in a survey about what we like most and least about the practice and what we should do more or less of in the future etc. After Ann O’Flynn’s excellent seminar at the conference on stress and management, I went home and rewrote my entire survey, raising the same points but putting a much more positive, encouraging tone to it. I prayed before the meeting that it would be positive and constructive and Praise the Lord it was! And the partners thanked me for the positive feedback I had given.
Here in Wales, TB is a massive issue. We lack the infrastructure and easy communication found in much of England and the diversity of farms operating cheek-by-jowl is huge, such that getting control of endemic diseases such as TB is incredibly difficult. I was humbled and inspired by Christianne Glossop’s seminar on, among other things, TB eradication in Wales and it gave me a much more positive outlook on the problem. She used the analogy of Moses, saying he had nothing he could use to set the Israelites free, but God said, “What is that in your hand?” and God used Moses’ staff to perform many miracles that helped to convince Pharoah to release the Israelites. Likewise we may feel like we have few real tools in the fight against TB, but we can and must use what we have in our hands - testing, biosecurity, sensible purchasing policy - to do the best job we can. Since then, when I have had the hard task of closing down a farm with TB, or keeping a farm closed that is desperate to go clear, rather than moan about the poor sensitivity of the test or about DEFRA in general - great is the temptation - I have tried to be proactive in discussing things like biosecurity and assisting them through the process of evaluating the cattle, post mortem results and next steps. We know that the testing and the whole eradication policy is far from perfect, but if we use what we have as best we can, with honesty and integrity, we can make an impact. Having a different approach to others, seeing James 1:2 in these situations, can generate a positive, progressive attitude and generate interest in why we are so different. So be encouraged church!