By Dani Johnson (Fort Carson)June 8, 2017
FORT CARSON, Colorado -- Some had neck injuries, others abdominal lacerations. A few needed eye transplants. Many needed extra stuffing. All were loved by a military child and needed "surgery."
Fort Carson Veterinary Center staff held its second Teddy Bear Clinic May 30, 2017, through June 5, 2017.
The Teddy Bear Clinic allows military children to bring in their worn and damaged stuffed animals for repair. The unique event created a cross-training opportunity for veterinary technicians and their veterinary food inspection counterparts to improve suturing skills and prepare for emergency trauma scenarios encountered during daily work and while deployed overseas.
"(Teddy Bear Clinic) allows us to train as we fight," said Capt. James Sieg, veterinarian. "We use different suture patterns that can be used in deployed and garrison situations.
"It helps keep us sharp," he said. "This (event) improves morale and makes our military kids happy, especially those with parents deployed. It's a win-win."
According to Capt. Anya Price, veterinarian and the organizer of this year's event, the clinic is a great opportunity to hone skills and for animal care and veterinary food inspection Soldiers to training together before they deploy as a team.
In 2016, the center received around 65 patients; this year more than 200 stuffed animals were brought in, said Sgt. Casey Lubiniecki, vet center NCO in charge.
The clinic is an opportunity to practice as well as train younger veterinarians and technicians. The vet center is one of seven in the Army where brand-new veterinarians go to intern before going to their first duty station. The Army provides all the veterinary services for all four military branches.
"It means a lot to the kids, especially ones with (parents) deployed," said Pvt. Omar Arenas, veterinary technician. "I get to practice different sutures that I see the officers doing."
The veterinarians and technicians take the training seriously, said Lt. Col. Nic Cabano, clinical medicine instructor for the First-Year Graduate Veterinary Education program.
"They are using real equipment, real suturing techniques and each stuffed animal brought in is given an intake form and discharge paperwork," said Cabano. "While fun for us, it is a low-key opportunity to hone our skills."
"This is a great opportunity to learn how to suture," said Lubiniecki. "(Vet techs) can get called to deploy where there are no veterinarians and have to work on an injured military working dog.
"After last year's clinic, I used these skills in real life when we had an emergency with a military working dog and I was the only one available to suture," she said.
One repaired animal's discharge instructions say "Biggie Bear was a great patient. Please make sure he gets extra hugs three times a day for the next 10-14 days."
"This was the perfect event, I didn't have time to repair the tears," said Christina Whiting who brought in "Mr. Teddy," her 6-year-old daughter, Vanessa's large stuffed bear. "Her dad (Spc. Matthew Whiting, 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division) gave it to her when she was 3, she takes him everywhere.
"It is how she stays connected to him while he is deployed (to Europe)," the mom of four said. "She won't let the movers pack (the bear) so we moved here with a Family of six, two dogs and a very large bear in our vehicle."