From the time she was growing up in Garner, Donna Decker loved animals. Now, as a diagnostic imaging technician at the NC State Veterinary Hospital, she gets to work with them every day.
Diagnostic imaging features multiple ways to get a clear picture of what’s going on inside a patient, including digital radiography, digital fluoroscopy, ultrasound, CT scan and MRI. These images play a critical role in diagnosing conditions and monitoring progress during treatment.
Decker began her career at NC State in 1990. She and her husband left North Carolina in 1996 to raise racehorses in Kentucky, but when that became a bit too physically demanding, they returned to North Carolina in 2010. At that point, she applied to return to her old job at NC State when an opening developed. “They were sweet enough to hire me back,” she says.
What is your typical day like?
You never know what you’ll see. We get patients from every department, and we’re of service to everyone. One day might be more orthopedic or maybe it will be from cardiology. We see upper GI cases, too, and we’ll see dogs, cats, fish, turtles and a wide array of things. We’ve even seen sloths and kangaroos and other exotic animals.
What is the most rewarding thing about your job?
There’s a lot. Being able to assist with the diagnosis of animals is one. I remember we helped diagnose a dog that had eaten an avocado pit. They’ll eat all kinds of things — pennies, needles, a cellphone, even a light bulb. Once a dog ate part of a watch. And it’s great when you can help prove that there’s nothing wrong. It’s nice when you can give good news and know that you’re helping.
What is the hardest part of your job?
When you have seen a patient on a regular basis and it’s time to say goodbye. It’s like your own pet. There was a horse once that had laminitis and he just fought so hard. He wanted to live. That was the hardest.
What made you want to go into this field?
I like it because you can do more for animals than you can for people. I worked for a human doctor for a while and you can take more time with animals and show more compassion. Animals will love you no matter what. This is a fantastic place to work. It’s like a huge family. We work together for a common cause.
What is your most memorable professional experience?
I was involved with part of the process to design a prosthetic limb for a cat and it was amazing. Just to see the thinking involved and to see how it all came together. That was my most “ahhh” moment. There really are some incredible people who work here.
This is the fourth in a series of NC State veterinary technician profiles that will run throughout the week in celebration of National Veterinary Technician Week.