It’s been over a month since I got home from a family Christmas in British Columbia. Within minutes of being here, I knew something was terribly wrong: my little man Mars, a Sugar Glider, was critically sick and needed emergency care.
While his fate is still uncertain, his care and recovery up to this point can be credited to the power of user-generated content and the social infrastructure that supports it. Oh yeah – and a super fantastic vet, Dr. Mitelman at Kingston Animal Hospital in Toronto.
Nine years ago, I faced a similar situation when my first sugar glider became ill. At that time, there was no YouTube, Facebook, Yelp (or even the concept of Word-of-Mouth) nor such prevalent use of Rich media like videos or pictures - Flickr.com did not exist. Despite the medical care, this little sugar glider died in my hands within a few days.
Today, the wealth of online resources, networks, and user-generated content combined with using rich media (photos and videos) may just save Mars. Here’s how:
1. ‘Word of Mouth” helped me find the right vet.
Like any parent with a sick child, you don’t want just any doctor. Despite my very limited options – it was New Year’s eve day and we’re not dealing with a ‘normal’ kind of pet, I wanted credentials and feedback on Kingston Road Animal hospital – all of which I found on Yelp.com. The comments from pet owners, the Word of Mouth content, validated that it was the right place to go.
2. The social infrastructure located other Sugar Glider experts.
Mars needed emergency surgery and until the test results came back, the course of action was uncertain. He had a gaping hole in his chest – the size of a quarter – and it was deep enough that I wasn’t sure if I was looking at his ribs or spine.
Unsure of what caused this, Dr. Mitelman and I would have to wait – and given the holiday weekend, it could take longer than expected. Things were not looking good for Mars.
Undeterred, both Dr. Mitelman and I reached out through the social infrastructure to find answers and the recommendations of other Sugar glider experts. Dr. Mitelman reached out through VIN.com, a veterinarian specific hub where he could collaborate amongst the 42,000 worldwide members.
I found a Sugar Glider-specific vet site, reached out (despite not being a vet) and within minutes received a reply and great support from Val Betts, the owner and President of Sugarglidervetinfo.com. She recommended an ‘e-collar’ for Mars and pointed me to a website where I could download the directions to make one. I also found an instructional video on YouTube which was incredibly helpful.
3. the social infrastructure enabled me to share pictures and video for monitoring his recovery.
It’s January in Toronto, Canada. There’s snow. And at times, a whole lot of it. During these times of arctic-like conditions, driving is not advisable, or even a possibility. But sharing videos and pictures via YouTube and Flickr is.
Using a FlipShare camera (best purchase ever), I could film Mars, edit the footage in minutes and then directly upload to YouTube. Likewise, taking photos didn’t require National Geographic-like finesse or equipment – my Blackberry was just fine. I could share the media with Dr. Mitelman and also with Val, who is located in Texas,
It hasn’t been easy to provide the care he needs and monitor him around the clock. He needs food, water, medicine, wound cleaning, bathing (often a combination thereof) every few hours. [I’ll spare you the details on the 2am glider enemas] . Having the support found online and the over-the-top attention from Kingston Road Animal Hospital (they call regularly to check up on him), has provided support, expertise and ongoing treatment that wasn’t possible nine years ago.
This is the first time I’ve relied on social tools and technology in my personal life – in this Veterinarian 2.0 experience. We’re not sure of the outcome yet (fingers crossed), but social and UGC could very well be the reason why my little man Mars survives.
Social and User Generated Content mentioned and used:
A big shout-out to Dr.Mitelman and the staff at Kingston Road Animal Hospital.
By far the most compassionate, attentive and committed vet and staff I've ever experienced. I don't know too many doctors who will call in a prescription at 11pm at night for a human, let alone a pet!
What the heck is a sugar glider?
No – it’s not a rat, or even related to the rodent family. They are marsupials.
Yes, like a Kangaroo or Possum
Yes, females have pouches and give birth to Joeys.
Yes, they have a lifespan much longer than hamster - they can live up to 12-15 years.
No, they don’t go to the bathroom on me.
No, they don’t ‘fly’, they glide, hence the name Sugar ‘Glider’
I’ve had pet Sugar Gliders for over 15 years and it has certainly been the topic of interest, ridicule and amazement – bottom line, I adore these little creatures.