Saturday, October 21, 2017

Remembering the Vet Who Inspired Me Most. My Grateful Farewell to Dr Stephen Barsanti.

We never walk alone.

The building and shaping of a veterinarian is a collage. A little bit of pieces you borrow, collect, and compose from the others around you. While I know that compassion is the force that pulls you toward the journey of amassing the degree to publicly share your trade, the essence of who you are once you get there is made of little pieces of the peregrination you walk to that place where paper represents your destination.

There are mentors who come in all sizes and shapes, often in obscure and unintentional places or events. I was always that little girl..

The little girl who sought solace and comfort inside the calling of being alone with the animals. There was not ever another calling. When you are little and compelled it can feel lonely. I didn't have much guidance and veterinary medicine wasn't one of the options that met parental consent for "career" criteria. It was someone else's opinion and it drove too many decisions that my vote never counted for.

Then I started to try to spread my wings. As every resourceful child knows, false pretense can provide parental neglect and opportune access.

My childhood vet was Alton Veterinary Clinic, in a very small town by the bucolic Lake Winnipesaukee of New Hampshire. My parents had left the suburbs of Long Island to live the picturesque New England life. Again, it was not the postcard life I had ever contemplated. The singular exception to benefit my new quiet boring existence was the addition of having pets. In short order of buying land, old salt box home and a barn they acquired a horse, a dog, a cat, and a sheep. It was also the same time that I found Dr James Herriotts books for companionship. If divine intervention existed this was my beacon of hope to survive the winters even bird brained geese knew to flee from.

When the small town vet, of the newly minted Alton Veterinary Center, had their first child the opportunity to increase the veterinary staff from 3; Dr Stephen Barsanti, veterinarian, hospital receptionist, his wife Sherri, (who in short order became my second mom), and vet tech assistant, grew to 4, which now included a babysitter. I knew that this was my chance to get inside the building for longer than a nosy clients kids visit.

If you could time your transit to school by the Alton Veterinary Center (which was conveniently and tiny NH small town apropos two blocks down from the intersection of school and main streets) accordingly you could get front row unobstructed seats to the big picture window that faced the street for the weekday lunchtime cinema. Surgery!

That big flat glass window shielded me from where I knew the heart of the practice lay. That big multi-paned window, obscured from the neck down with a gossamer veil to keep the patients innards clandestine, was the peep hole to all the secrets of the magic that I longed to be elbow deep in. With the coveted title of "vet assistant" newly donned I was now allowed the back stage pass to see the innards in person, finally! Day by day I was lucky enough to be tolerated as the shy, intrigued, girl who got to spend lunchtimes, babysitting breaks, and eventually anytime I could sneak away from the banal obligatory school days. My earliest happy memories were those covered in smelly dogs, porcupine tatted pups, and Primo the parrot who barked when the afraid cat was the the adjacent exam room, or the pathetic meow when the hound was. That little home on corner was my utopia incarnate. I lived Dr Herriott's life for only that short time with Dr Barsanti. It was the magic of my adolescence and the compass to my lifelong path.

Dr Stephen Barsanti was the epitome of every professional veterinary battle we have forgotten to cherish. He was kind to everyone. He was sincerely compassionate. He was also inherently humble and generous to everyone and everything. He answered every 2 am call with a plan absent of an estimate. He was who I will spend my whole life trying to be more like. There are vets who leave two page obits in the veterinary professional rags, and there are vets like Steve who quietly walk out of a world they made a real tangible meaningful difference in. Not just in alleviating the suffering of their four legged patients, but in the hearts and souls of the communities they humbly served. The small town heroes who shaped lives, provided a foundation for dreamers, and passed on a legacy far beyond buildings, bank accounts, and honorary accolades.

Thank you to the whole Barsanti for sharing Steve with me during every Monday through Friday matinee surgery. On every 2 am cold downed horse call-out, and to a little girl lost in her own place in a world few others understood.  I will miss that smile of his, that charm destined to be much bigger than a baby blue off buttoned attendee shirt, and that laugh where any reality was not an impossibility.

Related blogs; Alton Veterinary Clinic

me, steve, diedra
Post script; I spent the day at home today after a long troubled interrupted sleep. Diedra's 15 year old rescue needed an emergency cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal) surgery yesterday. It was not a surgery I had ever done before, but her condition was grave and it was either jump in and try or surrender your patient to a possibly treatable disease. I always think of Steve in these cases. How he would have encouraged me to never be afraid. To always be the veterinarian I had dreamt of becoming. If I could diagnose it, and there was a possibility, you jump in. You never learn or grow otherwise. I know he would have been proud of me yesterday. I know he would have been singing praises regardless of the patient outcome. I know above all that there is grace in compassion and that it can be passed on beyond our days on earth.

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