On April 9, 2019, Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences had the pleasure of hosting a very special young man, Matthew Harrison age 16 from Lewisville, Texas. Accompanied by his mother, Teresa Wood, Matthew spent the day learning about veterinary medicine and participating in some hands-on activities.
The visit was made possible through Best Christmas Ever, a non-profit organization that lifts up families in need by giving them a “Best Christmas Ever.” Matthew is wheelchair bound and suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Duchenne is a progressive, muscle wasting disease that impacts approximately 15,000 children and young adults in the United States. The lifespan of those suffering from Duchenne is 30.
“Matthew’s dream is to be a veterinarian,” said Dr. Daniel Burba, head of the center’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and one of the organizers of Matthew’s itinerary. “We wanted to show him what it is like to be a veterinary student here at Oklahoma State University.”
Fourth year veterinary student, Jessie Davis of Hutto, Texas, escorted Matthew and his mom throughout the center’s Veterinary Medical Hospital. Matthew received his own white veterinary coat, scrub top and surgery cap, and stethoscope as part of his visit.
The day began in food animal medicine and surgery where a cow was put into the hospital’s hydraulic chute for an examination. Matthew learned how a cow’s hooves are trimmed and more. He met Daisy, OSU’s rumen fluid donor cow, and discovered how she helps other cows in need. Matthew met Bullet and the Spirit Riders and then he helped remove sutures in an OSU blood donor horse and learned how to bandage its legs.
By mid-morning, Matthew gowned up to assist in a neuter surgery for Dante, a German shepherd dog from Stillwater Animal Welfare. He learned about proper scrubbing procedures before surgery and sterile fields. OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital partners with approximately 35 Oklahoma animal shelters to help reduce pet overpopulation.
After lunch on campus, Matthew spent time in the hospital’s cardiology, radiology, and ophthalmology services. His last hospital stop was in the avian, exotics and zoological medicine ward where he met Jax, a wallaby whose owner brings his to the hospital for his veterinary care including wellness checkups.
A special ceremony was held in the center’s McElroy Hall with guests Pistol Pete and members of Pete’s Pet Posse including First Cowgirl Ann Hargis and Scruff.
With an auditorium full of veterinary students, staff and faculty, Dr. Carlos Risco, dean of the center, presented Matthew with a certificate declaring him Dr. Matthew Harrison, Veterinarian for a Day.
The last stop was Babcock Park in Stillwater where Matthew and his mom helped release a rehabilitated red tailed hawk. The hawk had been in the hospital’s care for being under nourished and unable to fly when it was brought in by a Good Samaritan.
Teresa thanked everyone involved and noted that the day had refocused Matthew’s desire to be a vet.
“He is thinking more about his grades and scholarships,” said Teresa. “Matthew has a fatal form of muscular dystrophy and he is actually thinking about attending college alone, without us, which is amazing.”
Thank you to the Best Christmas Ever organization and all the faculty, staff and students at Oklahoma State University for making Matthew’s ‘Veterinarian for a Day’ experience memorable.
View all photos from Matthew's day at Veterinarian for a Day.