Spay and Neuter Project in Costa Rica

Welcome to my first blog post!  I have intended to start a blog for some time.  I love to write and there is so much medicine to discuss and many stories to tell in veterinary medicine.

Dr. Fritzler and I love to travel.  We have long thought we could combine travel with providing veterinary care in under-served areas of the world.  Such an opportunity presented itself this spring and our family went to Costa Rica with Critter Care International on a spay and neuter project.  Our friends and colleagues, Dr. Stan Diment and Susan Savage from Orlando, Florida, have been traveling to Arenal, Costa Rica with this group since 2011.  They asked us to join them on this trip and it was a worthy journey. 

Several days of the trip were spent at a local Arenal home providing low cost spays and neuters.  The home had an outdoor area made up into a surgery ward and there were many willing volunteers and lots of animals.  We felt a bit like rock stars pulling up in our van full of the veterinary health care team.  Dr. Diment, Dr. Mario (a local veterinarian), Dr. Fritzler and myself performed the spays and neuters.  Our kids, Geoffrey, Aubrey and Nicholas, were along as assistants along with Keri, a volunteer who came with Dr. Diment and Susan.  We treated a few sick animals as well and repaired a wound on a dog that showed up.  A bunny also came in for me that needed extensive dental work.  Susan Savage is a licensed technician and handled all the anesthesia.  The group of volunteers handled everything else including admissions and manning the recovery ward in the homeowner’s bedroom.  It was certainly different than what we are used to in the United States but we provided good care and helped a lot of animals.  Dr. Diment and Susan have seen the pet overpopulation in the town of Arenal drop significantly over the years they have been visiting.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country.  We stayed in a small bed and breakfast with an innkeeper from New York named John.  He had 3 wonderful great Danes and a lovely house with a view of Lake Arenal.  We took a few days off and went on a river cruise near the Nicaraguan border.  We saw Caiman and monkeys and tons of birds and had a relaxing day on the river.  We also spent a day zip lining, which was very cool, but not relaxing.  We loved the local cuisine and the people were welcoming and gracious.  The people of Arenal in particular were thankful for our help.  A husband and wife team, Balo and Emily, were our drivers and we loved and bonded with them immediately.  We spent the last two days in the town of La Fortuna before flying home.

The experience was life changing.  It was difficult to do surgery outside of our comfort zone, but we adjusted to the conditions and everyone did well.  Our kids, at least two of whom want to be veterinarians, got exposure to lots of surgery.  We all saw another unique and beautiful part of the world while feeling like the place was a bit better off for our visit.