Upgrade!!

by Luke, in Thailand
20th August, 2009
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Centre Parcs was a great weekend away with Cords, Noah, Craig, Jodie and Henry. It’s a resort that offers the chance for babies/toddlers to be completely unleashed amidst hundreds of other babies and toddlers, which means Mums (Cords and Jodie) can relax and Dads (me and Craig) have license to release the inner child. I had a brilliant time in the soft play centre for the under fives. Loved it – except crawling through the tunnel was a bit of a tight fit. But it was totally accepted I had to supervise Noah – loads of Dads were in there – men were virtually grabbing random children so they could have a go in it. Craig and Henry were in the thick of it too and Noah loved rampaging through the obstacles, although he was much quicker than me in getting round the course so I didn’t see him much. Outside, everyone races around on bikes (car free zone) with babies/kids strapped on the back, there are huge swimming pools, water slides, swings, slides and climbing frames at every turn and it was in short, a winner trip.

Unfortunately there have only been a couple of weekends between the last shoot and this one. News from home is that my wife, Cordelia, is pregnant again which is fantastic, Lily the dog whose pelvis was shattered and who I operated on before I left for the last trip is walking – a big high, and I had my 33rd birthday present which was a brilliant ride in a helicopter – 30min lesson – allowing me the chance to scare the wits out of the instructor as I took control and swung us wildly across the sky. I’ve discovered helicopters are very sensitive.

Back to business; there is currently a bit of turbulence as I charge towards Thailand but I’m oblivious because I am flying in style. Booked to fly economy plus (those extra inches make all the difference) – I have been magically upgraded. The story is that Abe (my brother in law) told his best mate (Oli) that I was flying today and Oli happens to be a BA pilot. Within about two minutes of sitting down I was moved up to club world!! It’s incredible!! Cases of ale all round!! I have a big dilemma now because part of me can’t wait to let them team know that I spent a lot of the time lying horizontally on a fully reclining seat being served delicious wine in a real glass (rather than plastic) but part of me feels a bit of solidarity with the boys who are flying out economy. Maybe I’ll just saunter off the plane with my little cloth wash bag to meet them and see if they pick up on it…

Fragile Giants

by Marc the Producer, in Thailand
27th August, 2009
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We met a couple of amazing people over the last few days. Lek and Dr. Preccha both dedicate their lives to help and take care of mistreated and injured elephants.
It was a real privilege to film with Lek, a Thai conservationist. Over the years she has built an amazing elephant orphanage  and with the help of many volunteers she is doing a truly magical job. Her dedication is second to none.

We also visited Dr. Preecha, who works at the Friends for the Asian Elephant (FAE) foundation. They take care of elephants that have stepped on landmines while working for the illegal logging industry near the Thailand-Burmese border.

Great people, great elephants, great stories!

Care for Dogs

by Luke, in Thailand
21st August, 2009
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Located on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, the hotel is surrounded by lush rice fields and deep green mountains. It’s a great place, the scenery is outstanding although there is a lot of rain and it’s incredibly humid. Today was our first day at the shelter and Karin, Emma and Ally are doing a fantastic job. The biggest thing that struck me straightaway was the happy vibe of the 130 dogs at the shelter and that Karin has gone to the huge effort of trying to ensure each pen has enough ‘activities’ to occupy the dogs. I think dogs like height and one aspect of the big pens is that they all have raised platforms which the dogs can climb up or go under according to preference. Too many shelters or pens are all on one level and a split level is definitely the way forward.

There are some very severe TVT cases to look at, a few sick ones – one I think has concurrent heartworm and it has been a day to find our feet and get to know everyone. My gut feeling is that it is going to be a great trip.

Net curtains

by Luke, in Thailand
22nd August, 2009
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The Thai people we have met so far have been brilliant people. Big smiles, very calm and although there is a lot of work for organizations such as Care for Dogs to do with regards animal welfare, I’m really enjoying this trip so far.

One very sad case today was a poor dog which had a broken back and an abdominal mass which had to be put down – it was rushed to the shleter as an emergency late last night, I gave it some meds to keep it out of pain and we drove into the city today so we could get some X-rays at a main hospital. It isn’t easy to put things down here as it is a Buddhist dominated society (i.e. if you kill you destroy karma so it is absolutely the very last option). If it wasn’t for the shelter though, that poor dog would have had a very slow death so it is a wonderful resource that they are here,

There are plenty of ops lined up for me tomorrow so it is going to be a big day ahead. We visited a hill community and a temple to get a feel for the work ahead there and I spent some time trying to help a dog with heartworm and a TVT – quite a tricky case.

One big thing I have just realized though is that the net curtains in my room turn out to be completely transparent when it is dark and the light is on in the room. This in itself would be mildly amusing given the fact I have been parading around naked and oblivious for the last two nights – except for the fact that my double windows directly overlook the main hotel dining area – which may explain why it always clears when I go down there. The hotel staff must be in stitches about room 302. Bruce, Scottie and Marc pretty much wet themselves when we realized that I haven’t been drawing the curtains and I have definitely introduced myself to all the hotel guests as you can see completely into my room – including the bath. Wonderful. There should be a sign or something warning you. I plan to check out tomorrow.

Return of The Talent

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Thailand
23rd August, 2009
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We’ve started filming in Thailand at the Care for Dogs shelter in Chiang Mai. It’s a sweet little place that is only really let down by the stench of dog faeces everywhere – although I’m sure this is partly to do with the humid Thai weather.

Anyway the crew has ventured out with fond memories of Mexico still flooding our minds, but also with a determination to make our days a bit shorter. We’ve got some cracking stories involving hill tribes and elephants lined up so it should be an exciting ten days.

My new name is Chai apparently…

Oh and on a final note we’re all boycotting Mr Gamble, A.K.A. The Talent, as he flew in to Thailand on business class whilst the rest of us crammed ourselves into cockerel class with the freaks and weirdos – we were not happy bunnies.

Nudity wins

by Luke, in Thailand
23rd August, 2009
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Instead of me checking out – the hotel have taken steps to remove the nudist from room 302. I found out this morning that we have all been upgraded free of charge. Our rooms are now well out of view from the main dining area and we’re all convinced this has something to do with my nocturnal antics in the window.

No complaints though and it shows a little flashing can get you a long way. This room is amazing – it has a plunge pool outside which is simply incredible. Just as well because today was hardcore. Very enjoyable but also fairly epic. I had the chance to operate on the paw of a dog that has been in a buster collar and hopping on three legs for the last nine months. I really hope I have got him sorted out because it’s his only chance to get sorted and stand a chance of being rehomed.
 
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The shelter is wonderful and the efforts of the staff are tremendous but there is no escaping the fact that the place is a bit overcrowded and there are sometimes issues that accompany that sort of problem. I very much want to help this shelter and they are facing a lot of challenges. They simply need to be able to rehome more dogs and get more support for more staff and better facilities.

Karin is being amazing and is working incredibly hard, especially considering that she also has an eleven month old baby to take care of, Emma is working all the hours possible and seems very selfless in her graft and Ally is simply brilliant. Without Ally we would be really stuck for our planning and her support and commitment to the cause is simply inspiring. She spent all day today getting the heartworm dog sorted out and I really admire her for her strength of character and passion for helping the shelter.

The other big op today was an entropion and fingers crossed they all do well and I’ve taken enough skin off for that to be a success. Bruce is very happy because I said something about banana fingers today which has kept him chuckling for the last few hours. In response it is only fitting I let you know his Thai name for this trip is Chai. He believes it means man – but it actually means boy which is close.

Banana Fingers

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Thailand
24th August, 2009
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Luke is attempting (and I use the word attempting as the imperative word here) to take the series on a new tangent and introduce a hint of humour into the show. This is in the hope that it will make him a real “character” and extend his career in TV – I presume he wants to get an invite onto Have I Got News For You. The only problem is that his comic timing is a little bit amiss; yesterday whilst taking a severely injured dog to be x-rayed he decided it was the right time to make a “funny” comment, claiming that it was “good that somebody else was doing the work for him”. Absolutely “hilarious” I assure you…

And after this he got on a role and has been dishing out lines left, right and centre. My favourite today was his description of his fat fingers whilst doing intricate suturing: “I’ve fingers like bananas”… Yes Luke, your fingers are just like bananas… Ridiculous…

Apart from that it’s been an immensely satisfying day, with some great operations and Luke has worked like a Trojan. It’s just a shame that he’s more Timmy Mallet than Bill Hicks…

Big Op Day

by Luke, in Thailand
24th August, 2009
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A big op day today which was great. Had to remove an eye from a very sweet little dog that was having some problems, tumour removal, a few medical cases, some warts, and a pts on a dog with a horrendous anal fistula. True to form the Care for Dogs team have been trying to treat and help this dog but it simply couldn’t be surgically excised and repaired and I had to make the decision. I worked with Soraya a lot today – she is the Thai member of the committee and was very brave helping me remove Billy’s eye. It is a gruesome operation and Billy didn’t have the best ketamine recovery. For the uninitiated it doesn’t get much more hardcore than eye surgery and she was a real help.

Emma stuck with me later this afternoon as we cracked on with a few other cases at the shelter. Poor Emma has had the short straw twice now as the shelter staff are supposed to go home at 5pm and Emma has stayed on and been a great help. It is hard graft at the shelter and they are over loaded with animals but I haven’t heard a single one of them complain about anything. I really enjoy working with such commited people – makes it seem very worthwhile and nice to contribute to their tremendous efforts.

The Business of Saving Lives

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Thailand
25th August, 2009
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What a hard day it has been for all of us, not least Luke; we spent the morning chasing our tails in a vain attempt to get some sick animals from the local farmers that Luke could look at. I can’t help but feel that it was a bit of a waste of time; the best we could muster was a dog (yup another one) whose tooth was rotten and his penis was covered with a TVT (transmittable venereal tumour). We were all pretty tired by the time afternoon came around and with a huge operation awaiting us it was pretty important that we regained focus. And we did.

There have been many times on this blog where I have mocked Luke and his antics, but there are also moments where I acknowledge the great work that he does. And this is one of those rare occasions because he truly worked his socks off this afternoon. Presented with a case in which a dog had a massive problem with one of his eyes, making him go blind, Luke decided to remove the eye to lessen some of the pain. It was an incredible piece of surgery. It takes a lot of skill and patience to do any kind of surgery even with the correct facilities and help. But when you are in an unhygienic dog pen, your assistant is inexperienced and slightly squeamish (understandably so due to the nature of the operation), you have a television camera recording your every move and demanding you tell the viewer exactly what is going on, and you are sweltering under the humid Thai sun, it is astonishing that you can perform the operation so well and stay so cool under pressure. Yet this is exactly what he did. Remarkable.

And even as I write this, back at the hotel digitizing the footage after a nice cold shower, Luke is still plugging away at the shelter operating on dogs that are desperate for his help. It is this side of the programme that viewers of the TV series will not get a chance to see. Luke has dedicated his time, money and effort into helping these charities around the world and he never says no to requests for help (often to the irk of us the TV crew who would like him to concentrate on the filming). He shows a dedication to his work, rare in the world today, and should definitely be applauded.

Buddhist Monk – Saviour of Chickens!

by Luke, in Thailand
25th August, 2009
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Slow start at the hill tribe but incredible scenery. Nestled at the top of amountain overlooking Chaing Mai, we passed through some low lying clouds on the drive up. The people living there speak a slightly different dialogue than those in the rest of the region and were fairly non plussed as to why I was pitching up to treat their animals. I struggled to get a vein on a collapsed pig that we found half dead in a ditch and treated a few dogs but the most interesting case of the day was meeting a Buddhist monk who has lived at the top of the mountain for the last three years and looks after injured chickens that he rescues after chicken fights in the villages.
 
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I removed an imbedded claw from the chest of one of the chickens – it was completely walled off inside it and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I was absolutely amazed at what I removed and at first I didn’t want to cut into the swelling because I was convinced it must be a bit of bone from an old break. The monk knew otherwise and encouraged me to do so – he had seen it before. Realising he had probably treated many chickens in this condition, I trusted him and incised down to the mass. The reason he couldn’t remove that particular claw was when they were deep in the muscle he had no way of closing wounds afterwards and lacked the forceps to probe around. I donated a pair of crocodile forceps to his cause and a few meds suitable for chickens. As a devout Buddhist he is forbidden from showing emotion but I think he was pleased.
 
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It has to be one of the most remarkable cases I have come across and it’s fantastic to meet people like the monk who really do care and have a personal quest to do what they can in hard situations.
 
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