Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The "don't become too focused" debate

So I do have some idea of what it is I want to do when all is said and done with school. And that idea has changed as I have crossed things off my checklist which I found did not meet some of the criteria I know I want in my career as a physician and things have been added as I have discovered routes and options that I had no clue even existed. And I am sure the latter will probably still continue as I enter into rotations and see more options in medicine.
However, I was talking with someone the other day here at school about one of my newer interests and quite frankly probably one of my top prospects of consideration, and he told me I should not become too focused and eliminate things. Huh????
I do not think I am *that* focused, I simply know what I want and know what I am bad at.
For instance, I am a clutz. I swear I can trip up stairs, and I have in fact done so. Knowing this, I know surgery probably not a good career choice for me. Is it bad for me to say I know this is not me at this point in the game knowing that the field and what it requires is not ideal for me??
Also, is it bad to say no I do not want to do OB/GYN because I do not want to have to deal with the insane hours of call that are required because you can not control when someone goes into labor (as much as we may try). This does not fit with my idea of what I want for my family. Is it bad for me to eliminate this at this stage of the game because the demands of the career are not what fits in my lifestyle and my personality???
I guess it leaves me in this crux. I am trying to keep an open mind to new things that fit what I want, but at the same time I think when you do this as a non-trad you have to have some idea of what it is you want and where it is you want to go. Otherwise, how do we endure all of the exams, all of the sacrifices we make, all of the junk we put ourselves through as we reach this dream?? What makes it worth it if it is not for the light at the end of the tunnel?? Why sacrifice a weekend with our family to spend time with 30 cadavers if not for the knowledge of the fact that we are doing so in order to be able to do what we were meant to do and what we love to do? And to endure that torture (sorry for those that love anatomy, but it is definitely not me), why is it bad to keep in mind the goal we are working toward?
And even now, as I debate the whole do I or do I not take the USMLE debate, why is it bad to have some idea of what it is I want to do? Does this not help me make that decision based on availability and location of residency or fellowship programs? Does this not help me decide whether I want to put myself through the horrors of two major board exams, one of which I do not have to take, in order to be abel to have a career as what I want to do rather than settling for something less???
I guess it just comes down to one of those non-trad things that some people, despite their best intentions, do not truly understand.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The "how do you do it?"/ "I don't know how you do it" crowd

I swear if I had a nickel for every time someone said to me either:
1. "How do you do it?" (med school and family) OR
2. "I don't know how you do it" (med school and family)
I think I would have a serious dent made in children's college educational funds ;)

I know these comments come from a place where people do not understand and would like to understand, but I find it hard to explain. It would be like me asking a traditional student "how do you do it without a family?". They equally find their words lacking but they know that they just do. Just as I just do, just as I keep trucking away one task, one accomplishment at a time towards a finish line that keeps inching ever more closer.
Over the past few days I have given this some thought and here is what I have come with so far in my sleep-deprived musings:
I was a mom first. I came into this being a mom, being a medical student was merely a bonus. Being mom was my identity not being a student not being in medical school but mom. That has not changed. When I come home at the end of a long day, I am still greeted with choruses of "mommy!!". I am still greeted with bounding running hugs coming from the bus stop by the over excited kindergartner. I still read stories at night, I still ask what happened in school that day. I am still mom.
Before this began, I knew how incredibly time consuming and life consuming this process could be, and I made a conscious decision NOT to let that happen to me. I made a decision that there is nothing in this world that is worth my family. I was raised in a family where both immediate family and extended family always came first, we always watch out for each others back and always lend a hand where one is needed. Family was always first, and that was something I vowed to keep as I entered medical is something that has been problem some at times, but something I think I am keeping. It is simple things, like eating dinner together when possible, having lunch together on weekends, going out to a movie on a free Friday night, making plans to go to the apple orchard or making cookies on a night after a bunch of exams.
There have been so many times in this process where I have been grateful for my family. This process can become so communing, so overwhelming so....well I think it is hard to explain properly until you are faced with it but it can just take over your life if you let it. Having my family helps keep me focused, they help remind me that there is more to life than medical school. They remind me of the simple joys of eskimo kisses, laughter, pride at watching you child succeed and the joy of spending time with someone who loves you so incredibly unconditionally. It is more than just exams, which is what it feels like at time, it is life.
And life is beautiful and complex, and exists outside of medical school.
THAT is how I do it........but that is also WHY I do it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

update on my crazy week

So here is the update on my crazy busy week last week :)

1. Pharmacology test Monday and Pathology test Wednesday. This means I have 7:30 mornings Monday and Wednesday and 8:10 mornings the remainder of the week. Needless to say there may be a lot of coffee involved this week.

UPDATE: Both exams went well. B in pharmacology and A in Pathology. I wish I could have done a little better in Pharmacology but there is always the next test :) I will say that Friday morning was a two coffee morning so yes there was an awful lot of coffee involved in my week.

2. Aeryn (my youngest) had an asthma flare at the end of last week, sometime this week I need to get her back in for a re-check.

UPDATE: Aeryn went in Friday afternoon for a recheck and she was doing much better. We have her off of oral steroids (she was on a five day course), and are down to news twice a day for the next few days then will be weaning her down to once a day. Her inhaled steroid dose is also going down from 2 puffs twice a day to 1 puff twice a day then we will go back to one puff once a day over the next few weeks.

3. We have dance Monday evening, Thursday evening and Friday evening between my two girls.

UPDATE: Dance was only Monday evening so thank goodness :) Thursday and Friday were cancelled due to the fact that the studio has a production this past weekend and they were having dress rehearsals for that. Of course this means that the classes that were missed will be made up eventually so that week is bound to be crazy *sigh* Thank goodness for carpooling

4. I have a school conference for Declan Tuesday evening.

UPDATE: Declans conference went well. Completely different picture being painted for me than what I heard about last year. It is amazing what a difference being in the right school with caring teachers makes.

5. Speaking of Declan, I also need to get him in to the doctor. He had a cold a few weeks back but he just can not seem to get rid of the cough completely, it sounds really deep when he does cough and he has been tired lately. So he needs to get in to make sure nothing else is going on.

UPDATE: Declan went in with Aeryn on Friday afternoon, he is okay they think it is just allergies since he does not have any abnormal lung sounds. But he does however have a blocked tear duct so we got some ointment for his eye.

6. We have OMM next week, which means I will start working on that at the end of this week.

UPDATE: OMM is tomorrow morning and I feel pretty ready for it. I am going to do one more pass today then look over the practical sheets later as well and start working n those. I need to review cervical diagnosis but I think that will probably be tomorrow afternoon.

7. I need to make the charts for micro.

UPDATE: I actually decided to go with flashcards for micro and I have indeed started them but I need to make significant progress here so I imagine I will be working on this today.

8. I need to make flashcards for Pharmacology

UPDATE: I started flashcards and am almost through the first 3 lectures so I need to get cranking on this as well.

9. Declan has picture day on Tuesday so I need to figure out what he is wearing.

UPDATE: This was my sad moment of the week. I stopped at Lands End after school on Monday to pick Declan up something and without even realizing what I was doing I picked him out a pale blue plaid shirt, a heather gray shirt and dark blue corduroys. AS I set them down on the counter, all of a sudden as I looked at them I realized what I had done and my heart ached. My heart ached because I knew it was one of those outfits that if my granny had seen him in it she would have said how handsome he looked, she always loved him in blue. :(

10. Thursday evening I am helping out in the Health career professions day at school, something I love but something that means I will not be back until late in the evening, which will make the 8:10 class friday morning that much harder.

UPDATE: This was so much fun. I truly enjoy doing this so I always have fun. I have one more coming up in the spring then I will not get to do these anymore.

11. I need to find time to get my TB test down and my flu shot done so I can do my ECCP soon.

UPDATE: First step of TB and flu shot scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

12. I need to arrange my ECCP with someone.

UPDATE: I signed up to be in the ER on my birthday, cause what better way to spend your birthday then in the emergency room??

13. I need to call the allergist and make an appointment for Aeryn. Well first I need to find a new allergist. The one we have been seeing only is in the location close to us one day a week and that simply is not going to work with my schedule.

UPDATE: This was harder than I thought it would be, first I had to find an allergy group that took pediatric patients that did not have a zillion and one offices. But I found one and Aeryn is scheduled for her appointment on October 19th. I am praying they find something, that something comes back positive this time although I know there is a chance that she may still pop negative,

14. Somewhere in all of this I suppose I need to sleep.

UPDATE: I did indeed sleep, not as much as I would have like perhaps but I did sleep.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Busy week ahead :)

In an effort to keep up my blog more I am going to document as much of this journey as I can. This week ahead is going to be crazy and challenging and if I come out of it with less than 10 more gray hairs it will be a moral victory.
So here is a glimpse of my week:

1. Pharmacology test Monday and Pathology test Wednesday. This means I have 7:30 mornings Monday and Wednesday and 8:10 mornings the remainder of the week. Needless to say there may be a lot of coffee involved this week.
2. Aeryn (my youngest) had an asthma flare at the end of last week, sometime this week I need to get her back in for a re-check.
3. We have dance Monday evening, Thursday evening and Friday evening between my two girls.
4. I have a school conference for Declan Tuesday evening.
5. Speaking of Declan, I also need to get him in to the doctor. He had a cold a few weeks back but he just can not seem to get rid of the cough completely, it sounds really deep when he does cough and he has been tired lately. So he needs to get in to make sure nothing else is going on.
6. We have OMM next week, which means I will start working on that at the end of this week.
7. I need to make the charts for micro.
8. I need to make flashcards for Pharmacology
9. Declan has picture day on Tuesday so I need to figure out what he is wearing.
10. Thursday evening I am helping out in the Health career professions day at school, something I love but something that means I will not be back until late in the evening, which will make the 8:10 class friday morning that much harder.
11. I need to find time to get my TB test down and my flu shot done so I can do my ECCP soon.
12. I need to arrange my ECCP with someone.
13. I need to call the allergist and make an appointment for Aeryn. Well first I need to find a new allergist. The one we have been seeing only is in the location close to us one day a week and that simply is not going to work with my schedule.
14. Somewhere in all of this I suppose I need to sleep.

Here is to a crazy week, hoping I come out of it with some sanity intact!!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A small victory

We did phlebotomy today and I had a small victory.
I managed to draw blood on the first try.
After having two exams this week with a small amount of sleep it was a over deserved victory.
Sometimes it truly is the small things :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

And so we begin again........

I am still unsure how exactly I feel about this whole early start thing. On one hand, it is nice because we start with less than a full load so it lets you get your feet under you before the real craziness sets in. This was especially useful first year as we got a feel for classes and how to study before we were fully entrenched in dissecting and all that other fun stuff. But this year has been harder. I has been harder to come back to things after having the summer consumed by the munchkins.
So what did I do this summer? Well, here is what I got a chance to do:
1. play chauffeur for the girls back and forth to dance lessons which they take year round
2. attempt to study for boards which I did do but did not make nearly as much progress as I would have liked to have at the time
3. attend the girls spring dance recital as well as the summer dance recital...yes there was a LOT of dance in my summer
4. play cheerleader at softball and baseball games and try not to lose it when my oldest daughter announced she will not be playing softball next year as it marks the end of an era for us, she has been playing softball/teeball since she was 6 (she turned 12 this summer)
5. got my littlest daughter ready for school. how on earth *I* have three school aged children I will never know. I swear she was just born last week and now she is in kindergarten *sigh* Moreover, who on earth told the 12 year old she could almost be as tall as me and have feet and hands that are bigger than mine *eek*
6. my oldest daughter started on pointe in ballet class. This of course is a huge deal for her and is something she has dreamed of since she first donned ballet shoes at the she of 5 :) she is in fact going to be in her first performance on pointe this holiday season in the Nutcracker. I am still shaking my head over how big she has gotten.
Than the last thing I did to officially say farewell to summer was something I would not recommend anyone doing as close to the start of school as I did. Yes ladies and gentlemen we did the insane thing...we did the probably stereotypical thing....We went to Disney World!!!!! Okay Disney in August is nuts, getting back from being in Disney in August the day before you start second year classes not such a brilliant idea. It seemed like it took me forever and a day to get back in the groove of things. Plus if you have traveled with kids, or evenly yourself, you know how insanely crazy it is to come back from vacation and all the things you have to do when you get back from vacation. *sigh*
Then we did the early start, which was nice. It felt good to get back into things to get back some of the identity I had associated with myself. It was good to see so many friends again.
The only bad thing about the early start is that they decided we should have our Immunology course during the 4 week August session *eek*. Now do not get me wrong, we did complete courses last year, we finished Psych but that was no where near as demanding and mentally draining as Immunology. Last year early start was more of a lets ease you into the process, this year I feel like we got both feet held to the fire right away. No chance to ease in, no chance to adjust just full steam ahead from the get go. Of course this was probably compounded by the fact that I had just got back from a long tiring vacation (who ever says Disney with kids is relaxing obviously has never gone to Disney with kids) and I was not completely ready to be in school mode yet. But there I was. It seemed like it took me longer this year to get my feet under me and to get that good study groove going.
Our family life has not changed very much. My son is at a different school which he is loving so that stress of dealing with a school with simply was not a good fit for him is gone. And obviously, I did not have the added stress of dealing with wondering what was going to happen to my granny because she had passed at the start of the summer. But that made first day so incredibly hard. She was with me and supported me every step of the way. She was my rock in many ways and took joy in rejoicing with me over the little things. First day is a day I would have called her to tell her all about spending 3 hours in Immunology and I could not, she was not there to call. So the next few days were tough emotionally. I know I have any more of these milestones ahead, I just hope that it gets easier as time goes on to know I can not caller and I have faith that it will simply because I am surrounded by such loving family and friends.....I am truly blessed.
There have been times in the last 7 weeks when I have wondered again why I am doing this. Times when I have pushed myself to the very limit of what I am capable of doing, times when I wanted to give up. This process asks so incredibly much and become so incredibly consuming. But then there is the little things. Doing well on an exam which you studied so hard for, having someone tell you that you picked the right path because you have the personality for it, meeting people who are as passionate about things as you, having a successful blood draw the first time ever. These things outweigh the lack of sleep you get sometimes, the fact that sometimes your stress level is high. The things you miss out on, my youngest first day of school, are sad but there are many more things and firsts you get to see and do. is all about balance.
And I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Ready or not second I come!!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

update on second year coming soon

My stalkers at school....yes you know who you are ;) (and I adore you all) mentioned that I have been a bit lax on updating here.

We have started second year and are in the midst of it. I promise to give an update soon :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Breaking the cardinal rule

Traditional wisdom says to take the summer off to recharge between first and second year as that is the only summer you will have off agin in a long time.

Conventional wisdom and advice also say that one should prepare for the USMLE/COMLEX the same way you prepped for the MCAt and other standardized tests.

So what does one do when these two pieces of advice collide??

I know from the first time I took the MCAT with about 5 months prep that I am the type of person who needs more than 5-6 months to prepare. The last time I took the MCAT, I prepped for the better part of a year, spending time on the areas where I was weak. And my score was siginificantly better becuase of it.

Yet I am not supposed to be doing anything this summer, I am supposed to be relxaing....that is what many of my fellow students are doing. They are taking vacations, enjoying time off and just chilling out.

Yet, since I am not traditional, I am chosing notto follow traditional advice. As of a few days ago I officially started the prep for the USMLE/COMLEX Step 1 exams I will be taking next year around this time. I am taking this summer to review the areas in which I am stronger as well as shore up the areas in which I am weaker.

Sometimes I feel like I am playing chess while others are playing checkers. I am thinking eighteen moves ahead and planning and carefully thinking about what steps to take and what path is the best. I am thinking about how to best maximize my chances at getting a residency in this area, since we have the house here and my husbands job is here when I know that is the furthest thing from some of my classmates mind. But I think it is just part of being a non-traditional student. We need to think ahead, we need to plan ahead. Our lives are much more complicated than our traditional counterparts....we have other factors and people to consider....we do not always have the luxury of picking up and going just anywhere.

So here is to breaking the cardinal rule :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Final update on my grandma

For those of you who are not also my facebook friends....
My grandmother was readmitted to the hospital the Monday after finals with a right side lobe pneumonia, sepsis and a urinary tract infection.
Thursday morning, May 26th she went into multiple organ system failure. After fighting for over three months since she had her hysterectomy and her colon perforated, she passed away at 11:45pm on May 26, 2011 surrounded by her loving family.
She will forever be missed and forever loved.

A picture of my granny and me at my Masters graduation May 2010.

Reflections on 1st year

What an incredible rollercoaster is all I can say!!!

So for those of you about to begin, or thinking about beginning this journey.....all I can really say is buckle up and enjoy the ride.

The hardest classes of the year by far: Anatomy and Neuroscience. Just an incredible tremendous amount of information and to know every detail in depth was daunting.
But at some point during these courses, it became not about knowing every minute detail, but simply about surviving. About passing. And you know what that was okay.

Most people have to only deal with the stress of medical school, which make no mistake is a HUGE stress.
On top of that, add in the fact that I had a grandmother who was in and out of the hospital and the ICU from February on, I am dealing with pre-teen drama courtesy of the almost 12 year old, the same almost 12 year old was significantly under performing in her classes and we had to push her to get her to achieve to the best of her abilities, my son had the teacher from heck who made his second grade year absolutely awful and miserable and just the normal stresses of having a family. I think my stress meter was at about a 15 on a scale of 1 to 10.
And just as I am in the midst of dealing with all of these things which are combining to make the first year of my dream a nightmare, the semi-truck hits.
It is hard being a non-traditional student. I think sometimes it is harder being a very identifiable non-traditional student. I have had so many people marvel at how I do it over the course of the year, openly ask me how I do it. There is no answer to this, I think it is something that only a parent understands. As parent, when everything needs to be done and you are the main one doing it you simply do what needs to be done to get the things done that need to be done. Things may not be perfect, but they are as close to perfect as you can get them, but they are done. And that was my year, I simply did what needed to be done. There were incredible sacrifices made along the way....we said no to family gatherings, we made the kids say no to birthday parties and gatherings with friends, we limited the activities they were involved in....but we kept the things that were important to us as family like always having dinner together or our family lunch on the weekends. But I guess there are some people who do not understand, who will never make any attempt to understand and who will try to undermine you no matter where you are. Those people targeted me, made me the center of their rumors and innuendo. Why?? Simply because I am different, simply because they can not understand, simply because they made no attempt to understand, simply because they made no attempt to know me or to know my work ethic and the sacrifices made to be where I am to do what I am doing to realize a dream so long in the making. I was so hurt when I heard of these rumors/innuendos, but now I am past hurt I am past angry, I am even past the point of trying to understand why these people would do what they did to me. I just know that they did it at the worst possible time, they did it when my stress level was at a 15 and they caused my stress level to creep up to a 20.
But these people are everywhere, I have seen people like them when I was working, even when I was volunteering. I think where I am now comes from knowing I can deal with these people, I can deal with these people and one day somewhere along the line karma will come and bite them on the behind.
So if you too are unfortunate to run across these people, these people who make no attempt to understand or to know, then I say to you what was said to me: Ask yourself if these are the type of people you would associate with if you did not have to. If you are like me and they are not then I was told the following: since you do not want to associate with these people, then why give them power over your happiness and let them control your path. And that was so take the power start to take my life back.
Then one stress got resolved.....we made the decision to switch my son to a different school next year. Knowing that he will be in a better situation for him is such a relief and has been a huge weight off my shoulders.

And now I have the summer to recharge :)

And I have finished first year. I may not have achieved everything I wanted to at the start of the year but I did the important goals:
1. I made it through the year without getting one of "those" emails from the dean advising me I was on academic watch/warning due to my grades in a class
2. I passed every class....again I passed. It may not have been the grade I was capable of if I did not have all of these other things going on but I passed.
3. I survived first year, the second half of which pushed me to the very edge of my limits.
3. Again I say to you I survived and passed first year.

May second year be smoother :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Finals week!!!

Okay here we go...finals week!!!
4 exams between me and being done with first year!!!!
Then be prepared for an onslaught of blog posts that have been started and saved but not yet finished on advice and hints on how I survived first year.
So that others may not make the same mistakes I have made and that they may find things which prove to be helpful :)
And of course, maybe with some prompting, I may share pictures of the munchkins who have been wonderful through this year and are my reason for being :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Just barely two weeks left in OMS-I

Holy S&^T!!!!!
I swear we just started yesterday...yet here I sit just slightly over two weeks away from being completely finished with my first year.

This year has been trying, not only in my schooling but with family stuff in general. It has pushed me to my limits. There have been times when I have been more than ready to throw in the towel and quit, times when that white flag of surrender was ready to be waved.
And then something would happen, even something small, that led me to know I am in the right place at the right time. I am where I am supposed to be and that gave me the strength to continue.
It is a simple as talking to the interviewees which always lifts my spirit.
Or struggling with then passing anatomy.
My first clinical experience in the ER in Chicago were I felt like I was coming home.
My second clinical experience where I got such valuable advice even if there were not many patients.
The blog followers who have come up to me and introduced themselves to me at the two health career professions day I have done on campus.
The way the people on campus have surrounded me and enveloped me and given me so much when I have needed it.
The way my classmates have rallied around me and have given support when it was needed and have asked for nothing in return.

I am ready to be done with this year....I am so ready to move onto next year. Yet in the same breath I can hardly believe it is over. I swear it was yesterday I started this journey. The time since the Christmas holiday has simply flown, and now it is almost done.

Deep to study and survive finals and enjoy my last summer of freedom :)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Anatomy 101: How I survived

There is no two ways about it, Gross Anatomy is the single most time consuming and challenging class you will ever find yourself facing. Unless of course you are an anatomy guru in which case it comes easy for you, but myself....I am no anatomy guru. I had to work, hard, and keep working to get very point to achieve the milestone of passing gross anatomy.

1. get a atlas....or two :)
I had a previous edition of Netter's lying around, plus I picked up a Rohen's and a Thieme.
I found I did not use the Netter's as much. I liked the Thieme over the Netters due to the fact that the Thieme has charts in it which helped me to organize and condense information about origin, action and insertion. I also liked the more stylized drawings than the hand drawing style of Netters. But this is entirely a matter of personal preference. What I would recommend is going to your school's library and looking at both of these atlases and determining which style you like best and will work best for your learning style.
I could not have survived however without my Rohen's. I used this to study the cadaver look at home when I could not physically be in lab. I feel like when I did this before we dissected I had a better idea of what to look for in the lab. Plus, I found that most tagged examples for practicals were based on the best cadaver example in class so looking at an idealized picture of a cadaver with how it would appear was exceedingly helpful.

2. the textbook to end all textbooks: grays anatomy for students
I tried the text recommended by our school which was essential clinical anatomy and I personally did not like it. It was too brief and I found the text to be very choppy. I did not use it much for my first exam and while I did well I felt like there was a lack of understanding on my part that I could not quite explain. So I researched on amazon and saw the great reviews of gray's anatomy for students and decided to try this book for my future studies. I used this book for the last three units of anatomy and really felt that the way it was laid out and the order of the text correlated well with my notes. I felt like when I used this text in conjunction with the notes that I gained a better understanding of the material and it eeked over into lab as well.

3. study for class and lab together, do not treat them as separate entities.
I made this mistake for the first exam. I tried to treat the written class portion and the practical lab portion as two separate yet equal entities. For all subsequent unit exams, I would study my lecture notes with an atlas open and my text open and integrate what I was reading into what I would see in the lab. Anatomy is such a highly visual subject and I am a highly visual learner so this worked really well for me. Again, what works for any person is highly personal and you will have to figure out what works best for you but I do recommend integrating the two portions of the class as it helps in both areas to make studying a little better.

4. time in teh lab, time in the laba nd time in the lab
there is no two ways about it, you need to spend a significant part of your time outside of class in the lab looking at cadavers. I personally was fond of Saturday mornings as I found that I was often by myself or with a few other people. I never found it helpful to be in groups as I needed to work through the material at my own pace with my own methodology.

I know these are all what worked best for me, so take what you feel you can use and eliminate what maynot work. But this is how I survived anatomy :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The family crisis: My granny and her miracle

As many of my fellow nontraditional students are probably know, when we were younger daycare was not as commonplace and if there was one it was very expensive. Both of my parents worked, so I spent the majority of my childhood with my two grandmothers.
My life became less full when I lost my paternal grandmother to lung cancer in 1998.
My life almost came to a freezing halt this past November when my maternal grandmother ("granny"), the only grandparent I have left, told the family she had been having vaginal bleeding for sometime. Now for a woman in her early 80's, this is not a good thing, especially given the fact that she is on blood thinners for her atrial fibrillation. There have been various points in this whole ordeal when I have thought about taking a leave of absence and coming back next year and doing it all over again, but each time i even think about it I know how upset my granny would be because she knows how hard I worked to get here and the sacrifices I have made and she wants me to continue. Anyway, so after granny saw various specialists, they determined that the only thing they knew was that her lining of her uterus was thicker and they wanted to perform a D&C to see if that ended up halting the bleeding. January came and the D&C was scheduled. The doctor began doing the D&C, but stopped when he saw her cervix as he felt that something did not look right and he was very concerned about cervical cancer. This absolutely terrified me.....I do not know of anyone who ever likes to hear the "c" word but in this case it is particularly terrifying. You see, a few years ago my granny was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia (CLL) and she has been doing remarkably well, her white blood cell count has stayed under control and has not spiked as they were expecting it to after she was first diagnosed. So the prospect of cervical cancer, and of any treatment that may accompany it, was particularly scary. As it would turn out, this doctor by stopping the D&C and not continuing, most likely saved my granny's life. So when they stopped, they took a small biopsy to see if their suspicions were correct and they wanted to schedule her for a hysterectomy. So, one was scheduled for two weeks later. The biopsy came back shortly before they did the hysterectomy, and all it showed was blood and inflammatory cells but no cancerous cells, the gynecologic oncologist said he could not rule out cancer because of the fact that you would expect to see inflammatory cells in a cancerous area.
The day of the hysterectomy came. Since they suspected cervical cancer, there was a high desire to keep everything well contained and limit the possibility for spreading, leading to the decision to make the operation open vs laproscopic. Once they began the operation, the surgeons encountered a more difficult situation than they had imagined. A few years back, my granny was also diagnosed with diverticulitis but no one really knew how bad it was. Apparently it was worse than any of us could have ever possibly imagined. Granny had extensive scar tissue and adhesions in her pelvis as a result of the diverticulitis which made the removal of the uterus without damaging the colon a very tedious procedure. Afterward, the doctor said he was worried about the possibility of a colon perforation as diverticulitis weakens the wall of the colon and in the process of removing the adhesions/scar tissue they were worried that the wall would not be able to withstand the stress. So as a precaution, they kept her in the ICU over the weekend.
Even though she was running a fever, it broke and she was transferred to a regular bed on Monday. But Tuesday she began running a fever again and her chest x-ray showed she had pneumonia. Then Wednesday she was still running a fever but was very weak, barely keeping her eyes open and was in severe abdominal pain.
then Thursday morning, the Thursday before finals week, I get the call I have been dreading for the past week. My granny;s colon has perforated and they will be performing an emergency surgery to repair the damage later that day. I picked up all the kids and we went to the hospital to wait with everyone for word. The surgery took over 5 hours. There was also an abscess in the upper portion of her abdomen and one of her ureters was damaged, so all these things need to be fixed leading to a quite extensive surgery. Every person in that waiting room knew the moment we saw the surgeon that the news was not going to be good. He told us that my granny was in septic shock from the colon rupture and she was in acute renal failure and that she may not survive the weekend. My granny was back in the ICU, sedated and paralyzed and on a vent. Somehow, even though finals had started and I had one the next morning, I managed to hold things together. I still do not know how, I chalk it up to perhaps being in shock...of not really believing what I was hearing of not realizing the extent of what was ahead of me.
Then the next morning, I took my ICM exam and the weight of the previous night hit me like a ton of bricks. It was Friday...and Monday held the exam that stood between me and passing Anatomy. And I hit full freak out mode. Worse case scenarios started running through my head. Something happening over the weekend, me taking the time to spend with my family and not devoting the time to anatomy, and then as a result not being able to achieve the needed points to pass.
This is one of those cases where I was reminded again how lucky I am to be where I am and how incredibly supportive the university is of students.
I went and talked to one of our associate deans and she officially let me freak out, which I think at that point in time I needed to do. She reminded me of all the hard work I had put in to be here and she asked me what would my granny want me to do? Would she want me to risk all of that hard work and sacrifice for her or would she want me to try to continue on? I knew in my heart she would want me to continue on. She also told me that if something happened to call her immediately, even giving me her home and cell number, so that she could call our anatomy course director and we would figure out what we were going to do about the exam. Honestly, I was grateful for the distraction of studying over the kept me from obsessing over everything that was happening with my granny and kept me from freaking out all weekend. But knowing that even if everything went to heck in a handbasket, even if the worse case scenario happened, that everything would be okay.....the exams would be sorted out was a huge weight off my shoulders and enabled me to focus more.
The weekend came and went. Granny was producing urine with diuretics so we knew by the end of the weekend that at least her kidneys worked.
The anatomy written exam Monday morning went as good as the previous exams, leaving me with 6 points needed on the practical to pass the class. Again, a huge relief to know I only needed 3 of 50 questions correct. I knew it was within my reach at this point. The practical went equally well, at least for me who traditionally struggles with practical exams at least in anatomy. I knew going home that anatomy was done and passed and things while hectic and crazy were okay...not great but at least okay.
I found out shortly thereafter how incredibly lucky we were that the doctor who had done my granny's D&C stopped when he did. The biopsy results of her uterus came back and while they showed no evidence of cervical cancer (a huge relief), they did show that there was a fibroid which was slowly eating its way through her uterine wall and was the source of her bleeding. If the doctor had continued her D&C, it is quite possible her bleeding would have dramatically increased and they would have had to do an emergency hysterectomy which would have placed her life in dangerous peril.
Tuesday came and went....status quo.
Wednesday came and when my mom called me after my exam I knew something was terribly wrong. That morning my granny had some episodes of Toursades de Pointe which precedes ventricular fibrillation. Thankfully they were able to shock her and stop the rhythm but they were very concerned about her health and heart. So i left school and went straight to the hospital. The labs came back normal, the CAT scan showed no brain damage so it was okay...he heart and brain were still okay. However, she was running a fever.
Her liver bilirubin levels though were beginning to rise. So now we had to worry about the possibility of liver failure and granny is not a candidate for any sort of transplant. The antibiotics she was on for her sepsis were causing damage to her liver and the one left they could switch her to was penicillin based and my granny is allergic to penicillin. Sp we watched and waited.
Then the good news began to trickle in. Her blood cultures began coming back negative which meant the antibiotics she was on were finally working and she was beating the sepsis in her blood. There were no more arrythmias and even though her bilirubin levels continued to rise she was not showing any signs of liver damage. They eventually switched her antibiotics to one that was less liver toxic and her bilirubin levels began to come back down. They took her off of the paralytics and began turning down her sedatives. She began breathing over the vent but was not quite waking up.
Then came the day when everyone held their breath. It was a Wednesday, she had been on the vent for almost two weeks and they needed to take her off. We were all warned about the disctinct possibility of granny having to have a tracheotomy and that was everyones main that woudl affect her health and recovery. But then came another huge step forward. They took out the vent tube and somehow someway she did not need a trach. She was breathing on her own. Then slowly she began responding to us. She would smile and crack her eyes open when you came in the room. Then her eyes were fully open and she woudl smile at you when you came but we had not really heard her talk much and when she did her voice was very hoarse.
Slowly, things got better. She began taking liquids and her bilirubin levels came back to normal.
Granny was well enough to be transferred to and acute care rehab faciloity where she is now. Since she has been there, she is taking more food in and her NG tube has been removed. They are slowly working on building her muscles back up and continuing to get her well enough to finish her rehab at a regular rehab facility. But where we are todat compared to where we thought we would be is nothing short of a miracle.
I told someone the other day that I must get my fight from her, along with my stubborness. When the chips were stacked against her, my granny showed what an incredible fighter she is. And somehow through it all, I managed to complete my finals and finish my second quarter of medical school.
What does this proves that life happens. We may never know when the next thing around the corner that may come and knock us off our feet, but it is those times that we find out how strong not only we are but how strong others are as well.
My granny continues to amaze me everyday. I know forevermore I will cherish the time I have with her, my family's miracle.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The yin and the yang

So it has been a while since I updated and there is so much to update about.

There is the good....passing anatomy, bruning scrubs, making closer friends, discovering the depth of my inner strength

And then there is the bad...the family crisis that happened right before finals week among other things.

The good is easy to write about...the good is happy to write about. It is easy to share the good. The good is what makes me glad I am here. The good is what marks the little steps along the way, the hard fought achievments and milestones that must be passed to cross the ultimate finish line.

The bad is what happens when you are looking elsewhere. The bad is harder to write about becuase the bad happens when you least expect it. The bad happens to you and turns your life upside down. The bad is hard to share because people will suprise you, and how do you share that? How do you expose yourself at your weakest, when you are most vunerable and show that you are indeed human? Do you dare shine a light on others, that they may think twice about their actions? But is that fair to do to someone, is it fair to do to yourself? It is the bad that perhaps needs to be talked about most, but at the same time once you put words to paper or print they are there. But then how do you vent about the bad, how do you express the frustrations of the bad, the sorrows of the bad, the hurt and betrayal of the bad without feeling bad yourself for having put it out there in the first place?

But this is what medical school is....ultimate triumphs followed by ultimate sorrows....sometimes occuring at the same time. My friend once told me some days you are the pigeon and some days you are the statue and some days you are the pigeon. I think that sums it up perfectly. There can be no good without bad, no triumph without sorrow, no hope without despair, They are sides of the same coin. The yin.....the yang....they are both part of one yet inseperable.

Perhaps in time I will blog more about the bad....but for now look for some future blogs about the good to come

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What a difference a year makes

1/25/2010 was a day I thought would never come, a day I had dreamed of and hoped for and wished for so was the day of my medical school interview.
I remember everything about getting ready. The debate over to wear a dress or a pantsuit, what color, do I try to look trendy or go with my style? In the end I opted for a classic black linen dress coupled with a cream and black blazer. Jake called it my mini-Hillary Clinton look as it did look like something perhaps she would wear. It was classic and timeless, not trendy or flashy or bright. I looked my age rather than trying to look young and I hope that it helped me come off as professional.
I remember all to well not getting much sleep the night before the interview. Of waking up numerous times during the night and panicking that I had overslept, never mind the fact that I had three alarms set, only to find I had hours left to go.
Of carefully fixing my hair, which is not normal for me the wash and go gal, so it looked styled and professional. And how grateful I was when the style came out looking half like it was supposed to when I had gotten it cut.
And how I agonized over the gal who barely wears chapstick was carefully choosing muted colors for my eyes, for my lips, for my cheeks.
How I carefully put on the I was so proud to wear my grandma's opal earrings which had been given to her by my grandfather when he was still alive. How I prayed that they would bring me luck.
How I placed the shoes on my feet and kept my fingers crossed I would not slip and fall in the snowy sidewalks, especially since I usually do not walk in heels. :)
How the butterflies in my stomach dramatically increased as I made the walk from the interview holding room to the interview room, a walk I had seen others before me make...a walk I myself had longed to make.

And now here I sit a year later, feeling so incredibly blessed to be here. So incredibly blessed to be surviving....just so incredibly blessed period.

Now it is not interview worries that keep me up at night or make me have trouble falling asleep but it is studying.
I can again go back to wash and wear for my if I could just find a hairstyle that would work with me and this baby fine hair I would be a happy gal.
Accessories and makeup are things of the past...discarded for simple things like handlotion and chapstick to keep the lips from chapping during these all to cold months.

This past year has brought so much, has asked so much and at times I feel like I have given so much in return. But it has been worth it.

I will forever be grateful to have that interview, to have made that walk, to be living my dream....may I never take it for granted.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reflections on being 3/4 done with anatomy

Well what can I say other than...thank goodness!!!
I honestly never thought I would be so happy to be 3/4 of the way done with a course.
I am just not a 3-d visual person. Very frustrating. When things are in one position and I do not have to rotate them in my mind I am fine. The minute the structure is turned in a different direction or a different orientation than what I am used to looking at it in lab in and guess what...word salad.
I am going to try some new strategies for the last unit practical exam but if any one has any tips on how to make 3-d deficient me more 3-d oriented I would forever be grateful.

Someone asked me recently when I study. I can honestly say I get home and study while the kids are doing their homework. I even study while I am working on dinner, even if it is just to read over notes or re-listen to a lecture or look at an atlas but I am always doing something. I take a break for dinner and I study after dinner until it is time for the kids to go to bed. Some nights I help get them to bed and others I do not, it depends on what is coming up the next day and how much work I have to do. Then after everyone is in bed, I am up studying. I am typically a 7-8 hour per night but I have learned to live on less, I typically go to bed between 11pm and 12am most nights and I am up between 5:30am-6:00 am in the morning.
Coffee is my friend :)
But then during lunch, I am studying. During any free down time at school (if a class ends early) I am studying.
This is all about making the most of every minute you have because the moments you do have are so rare. And of course, it has been very important to me to maintain some sense of normalcy with my family, we still do things together. This means I work harder during the week so that we can take Saturday afternoon for lunch together as a family, or we can celebrate my son's birthday this weekend with my family.
This whole journey is about choices. You can have your cake and eat it too but you just have to work harder to get to the cake. It is about balance. If you are all school all the time you will go insane.
Now there have been times when I have been ready to give up, when I have wanted to go into the Dean's office and see about deferring until next fall. There have been times when my plate has not only been full but overflowing, there have been times when everything has gone wrong, there have been so many challenges and so many chances to rise to the occasion.
I could not have made it this far without my family, bless them for being understanding, bless them for being there, bless them for listening when I am at my breaking point and bless them for letting me know it will be okay.

Almost 4 months left to the end of my first year, and I would not change a thing.