Written and Submitted by Juanita Rose (Kohlman) Ivanochko, RVT
I didn’t think it would happen to me. Watching commercials on T.V. and thinking to myself “Why would you do that?”. I have stage 4 liver disease caused by consuming alcohol. Did I turn yellow… yes. Did my eyes turn yellow… yes.
This is my story as a Registered Veterinary Technologist of nearly 23 years.
I graduated from SIAST College in Saskatoon in 1998. It feels like it was yesterday. I was the Distinguished Graduate of my class, and all I wanted to do was enter my career as an RVT. My mentor, Dr. Richard Krauss, hired me to be a part of his team at the Preeceville Veterinary Clinic. We did everything together with much respect, trust and amazing communication. I always knew what he needed and was prepared and ready. I enjoyed the clients, patients and had very good people skills to add to the dynamics of the clinic. I still do. I worked for 9 years at the clinic. We worked hard, late hours, and we were very, very busy. Dr. Krauss and I trusted each other to do what was in the best interest for the patient and client. Dr. Krauss’ wife Ivy always treated me as her daughter, and I am so grateful for that.
I met my husband and we were married in three months! Yes, three months. Land had been purchased from his parents, and we developed our own homestead. We worked hard, clearing bush, sanding and staining a log home. We are very blessed today due to our inspirations of having a family and ranch. Things took a turn for the worse for me when we lost our firstborn child. I was devastated. I think it triggered my alcoholism. I don’t think it… I know it. My husband and I went on to have three stunning daughters.
I was always wanting to go back to work… to be the “Old Juanita.” I lived and breathed the clinic. Being what I was gifted and granted, worked so hard for; an RVT. I did, but my life was too busy. My husband worked away in the Western Provinces. I was alone with our children, house, cows and I developed anxiety, which I probably always had. Alcohol helped ease the pain after work and sometimes later into the evening. Hence, my sleep issues started. Going from room to room with “Come sleep with me.” The stress from my husband being away (7 weeks, 10 weeks), ranch, and wanting to be the best mother for our children and an RVT for my dedicated employer and the surrounding communities we serviced. I was getting up in the middle of the night to shovel snow, haul wood, prepare school backpacks, and to ponder when to feed the cows next and lifting bale feeders by hand so cows would clean bales up. It finally took its toll on me. I became sick with throat problems, cough etc. It was the year of our clinic inspection. In a very short time of a few years I had damaged my sensitive body. Alcohol brings on denial, self pity, shame and it hurts the people you love. It has no boundaries, discrimination, and age. It takes you away, leaving you powerless.
I am very grateful to be a survivor of this horrific disease and will continue to deal with its effects for the rest of my days.
I owe my life to my husband, Dr. Richard Krauss, and my dearest friends and family. Dr. Krauss found me weak, lethargic and very ill after being in the hospital. I should have never been left alone. I couldn’t even make it up the steps to our entrance door. I crawled. My husband drove home to be with me, and I’ll never forget it. The tears he shed. Since then I have had my health battles, all due to what I did to my body, severe anemia, blood transfusions, rectal bleeding, severe weight loss and the list goes on and on.
This is a hard story to write. I am admitting my shortcomings to my peers. I have admitted my shortcomings to friends and family and that is still a work in progress. I hope by sharing, that I might be able to help someone by reading this. We are not perfect, and life draws us in different directions. I know I’m not the first person in this profession to struggle, hence my desire to reach out to my SAVT and SVMA associations to bring positive awareness with alcoholism and other issues in our province and beyond.
On a positive side, I have my husband, children, thriving “Three Roses Ranch”, my mentor and his wife Ivy, co-workers, dearest kindred spirited friends, close relatives, and a community that I am so proud to belong to. They all have stood by me with no judgment, only comments of bravery and much love for coming out of the darkness into the light. I’m very lucky to have all the support I needed, and to live and laugh again. My body doesn’t let me do the things I used to do, but that’s alright, I’m alive. I can still perform microscopic submissions and be of value at the front end. I will always be an RVT, I’m proud of it.
I would sincerely thank Dr. Richard Krauss and his wife Ivy for allowing me to use their names and practice in sharing my story. Your support over two decades have made an impact on my recovery, for that I am grateful.