Dr Siena’s Galapagos adventure

2012 saw our veterinarian Dr Siena volunteered her time and skills on the Galapagos Islands. Read her amazing story here:

"In June I had the wonderful opportunity to go to the Galapagos Islands to do some volunteer work with an organisation called Darwin Animal Doctors (DAD). DAD provides free, quality veterinary care to the animals of the Galapagos Islands.

Latika and her Dad after her first surgery

Without knowing what I had in store I jumped at the experience.  After a bit of research I realised that there was a population of about 30,000 people on the islands, most in Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz where I would be located. There are also thousands of domestic dogs and cats (as well as goats, horses, donkeys, cows and pigs) which have no regular quality veterinary care available to them.  My job was to spend two weeks of a “Summer Campaign” desexing as many domestic pets as possible, treating any sick and unwell patients that needed attention, and educating the locals on parasite and tick control. I was also mentoring and training nine veterinary students from the University of Pennsylvania, who were there for surgical and clinical experience, and also doing research on parasite burdens on the domestic animals of Santa Cruz.

Four planes, one boat, two buses, one taxi and 46 hours later I finally arrived at the gate of DAD's clinic in Santa Cruz.  The clinic was a fairly primitive 30sqm building. On arrival there was a flurry of activity as masses of donated equipment were being unpacked, organised and sorted by the Pennsylvanian students. It was that first night I met Latika – my first emergency!

I had just made it to my room and was ready to collapse in bed when there was a frantic knock at my door – a dog had been hit by the caterpillar, a children’s train-type ride which drives around the streets of Peurto Ayora. At the clinic I find Latika in severe shock and pain. I still wasn’t sure what equipment or even medications I had available to me, however I quickly learnt what a great team I had with me. We found a bottle of morphine, antibiotics, fluid bags and giving sets. Once Latika was stable and her pain was under control I was able to further assess her injuries. She was very lucky to have no broken bones, but had massive skin injuries which would later see her losing about 1/3 of the skin over one side of body!

Little Latika coming in for her final check up with Dr Siena

At the end of my two weeks, and two surgeries later, Latika was doing really well. She’ll only have a bit of a scar. I tried to think what would have become of her and others like her if DAD and the Veterinarians it brings to the Islands were not there.

Work hours were long and hard, but in my few days off I got a small chance to experience the Galapagos the tourists see - the wildlife you cannot see any other place in the world including Giant Land Tortoises, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas, swimming with eagle rays, reef sharks, sea lions and sea turtles. These isolated deserted islands with wonderful friendly locals, cold beers, surf beaches and volcanic terrain I could not have imagined if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

Ten days of working, 12+ hour days, 120 surgeries, 4 life threatening emergencies (all who survived), many new friends and my desire for adventure temporarily satisfied! Thank you Essendon Vet Clinic for lending me out, thank you DAD and thank you Galapagos for what was an experience I will never forget!"