Categories
Blogging Life Medical School

Second Verse, Same as the First

I have started my second year of medical school. I’m actually two and a half weeks in.
I’m still in the classroom, but since only years 1 and 2 are done on campus, it gives all of us MS-2’s this false sense of being “top dogs”. We’ve been showing the first years around all summer, and now we can pop backs so we think we are some hot stuff. Then the dream stops and we wake up to the nightmare reality every morning that we still actually only know very little and boards loom on the horizon like that scene in Apollo 13 where the astronauts are all walking toward the space ship dramatically. Will we all just burst into flames and never make it there?! Will we get halfway to the moon and then freeze to death?! Will we make it home to our lives and loved ones triumphantly?!
NOBODY KNOWS!
Sometimes I don’t feel like walking forward towards that spaceship. It seems like too great of a risk. Studying for the MCAT depleted my gumption reserves. It gave me mono and walking pneumonia and insomnia and anxiety and the sweats and nightmares. I always felt like crap, just completely run down for that 6 weeks or so I studied; only surviving by way of coffee and sonic drinks. Now that such conditions are normal for me as a medical student, I wonder how preparing for my tortuous first round of boards will plague me.
Okay, think happy thoughts! That test is not til next June and I am loving school for the most part. The transition back into a routine is always a little rough after a break though. Especially with the added change of living situations.
I moved out from living with my parents back in July. I live much closer to school now, with two classmates. My house turned out just the way I wanted it! (Easy to say when your dad is the contractor.) It’s cute and cozy and it felt like home right away. Though it was still hard to move out permanently- even at 23.
I think I got burned out being at the school all the time last year, so I study at my new house a lot more so far this semester. Since all of my roommates are medical students, (which I highly recommend doing!) noise is never a problem, and I get a lot done at home. Sometimes I think I live by myself, it’s so quiet!
It’s strange how my study habits change so quickly and seamlessly when I’ve been doing this school thing for so many years.
I want to do a study doing a functional MRI on medical students’ brains before first year and then after they graduate. Just to see what the heck goes on up there. I think it probably actually gains mass from sheer info and also probably starts to just fritz out on occasion during important situations especially. It would also be great to do a study on how many words we read a day or some other way to quantify the vast amounts of information that pass through in ear and out the other.
I’m also open to writing a book or piloting a TV show about the medical school experience if anyone with money or power is reading this. Its the most exciting thing I’ve ever been through, which is sort of sad because the majority of what I do is sit there. However, when asked, I bet money that YOU, Regular Joe, would like to see the process of taking a mostly kind and hardworking (but still dumb) person and turning them into a wonderful, knowledgable doctor- I think Regular Joe would want to see that. It’s got everything:
Romance-there IS dating in med school
Roller coaster of emotions- test grades, fake patients, and prostate exams, oh my!
Drama/Tension- “They said we would have 2 full hours, not 1 hour 50 minutes for this test!”
Fun/Action- med students have been known to throw a nice formal ball AND get down in sand volleyball. That’s riveting stuff!
If fishing for crabs in Alaska gets a show, medical school should have a show.
That’s all for now!
Eat, class, study, run, sleep, repeat!

Categories
Running

The Chinese Dragon

In cross country, there is a hill we referred to affectionately as THE CHINESE DRAGON (all rights reserved, just kidding.)
Dragon parade in Zhejiang
 
Much like the Chinese Dragon traditional in the Chinese New Year parade, this hill is long and ssssslooooooowwww.
It. Is. Rough.
From my house, the closest entrance to the running trail involves running down the Chinese dragon. Which means on the way back, I must run up it.
The jolt of each foot strike makes my quadriceps quiver, absorbing the shock. I can feel the power they hold in reserve. Goosebumps come up from my feet, until even my arm hair is standing on end. Like most runners, I get a lot of power on the uphill from the pelvis. I feel my hip flexors and glutes engage. They’re the engine here forcing leg after leg after leg as if I were pedaling a bike on the easiest gear. No effort, my legs practically fall to their target one after the other. My arms pump involuntarily. But suddenly, I feel nothing. No pain. No emotion. I don’t even hear my breaths anymore reminding me of the strain I’m under. There is simply the pavement in front of me. While at the beginning of the hill, there was that thought in my mind “you can stop if you need to”- stopping is no longer an option here. I am powerful and invincible. If a wall were to suddenly appear in front of me, I would plow right through it. While so many things escape my grasp and I fall short- this, right now; this, for such a short time- this, I can do. I will do. For the remainder of my climb, this hill is my sole mission, my only goal, my purpose on Earth. The simplicity and certainty are what I am chasing after on run after run. If only I could have that clarity, motivation, and follow-through on everything I pursue. While the Chinese Dragon seems longer than the few minutes that it actually takes to conquer, I can’t help but wish that my other journeys only involved 3 minutes and 30 seconds of pure resolve and hard work, followed by only a stretch and a hot shower to recover. I could do so much more if only that were the case.
 
 
 

Categories
Life Medical School Medicine

The Truth About Anatomy Lab

Before reading this post, please take time to review my disclaimer here.
If I had to pick a theme to encompass this semester thus far, the theme would be time. What time is it? What time do we have to be there? ? When can we stop studyingHow much time left on the exam? How long have we been studying? Where has the time gone? How much time is that meeting? Time, time, time. There’s never enough of it, but I’m always ready for whatever-it-is to be over.
Speaking of which, I have neither the time to write this, nor the amount of sleep I require, but I think I need to say it.
Simply because it bothers me so much, I feel like I have brought up the fact of having no time to reflect at least a couple times on this blog. Where it bothers me most though, is anatomy. I don’t have the time to be bothered though.
We were told to be grateful for the gifts of these donors’ bodies. We were told strict rules of how we would show that respect. (No cell phones in the lab, no pictures, be courteous, be mature, don’t take body parts, etc.) Some of us have even had cadaver labs before. Let me say this though, having now done both. Medical school cadaver lab anatomy is nothing like undergraduate cadaver lab anatomy. Do I feel more prepared having taken undergrad anatomy? Maybe I was more prepared on the first day of school, for words like “inferior” and “malleolus” to pop up. Maybe. I may remember some superficial muscles from anatomy 3 years ago. Rarely has this been true. I got my feet wet handling a dead body. Barely. (We shared two bodies with about 100 students.) Still, I don’t feel like I was prepared for the semester in store. Not really at all.
Some days it doesn’t bother me at all. I go in, do my work, chatting and laughing and focusing on the anatomy and other things and then I get out, and go get my dinner and go back to studying.
Some days I do not want to go in there. Not at all. Some days I just can’t find it in me to touch the bodies or talk or even think about anatomy. Because some days, it really just feels wrong. Honestly, I don’t even know how to deal with it. And even worse, I think a lot of people really aren’t dealing with it at all. It’s just become something we have to do.  We have to do it for a lot of reasons- because we have to learn it, and we were told to do it by our instructors; we’ve even been told that it’s a noble pursuit. Unfortunately, the severity of it gets ignored in the name of duty sometimes.
I feel like I’m doing something straight out of a concentration camp somedays and nobody has told me how to deal with it!
I’ll even go so far as to admit to ignoring the fact that they were humans at all. The smallest details sober me up though. I went to another group’s table and saw that their cadaver’s legs, (skin still on) were peeling like a sunburn. Something I don’t have to learn and not at all relevant to this anatomy unit, startled me and reminded me that her skin gets dry and flaky just like mine. We are humans. And one of us is cutting the other up.
I know how terribly fibrous and tedious it is to pluck through the connective tissue of the back of a human neck. I know the best technique to skin a human stomach- and leave the fat on- in less than an hour. I know the different texture of cutting through the human heart pericardium. I’ve heard the sound of a human tendon peeling off of bone, of a human sacrum being sawed through. Of flinging human fat into a bucket. I’ve had a neck ache from cutting on a human body for too long. I’ve wiped my forehead with the back of my glove, only to find that I’m wiping my forehead with the fatty “grease” of another human being. I’ve gone home with my cadaver’s armpit hair stuck to my shirt, found flecked bits of human tissue in my hair, in my scrub pockets, on my body. Each and every human body in that room has a distinct smell. We’ve made up names for them. Some nice, some not. The women’s hair on their heads is shaved. There is poop still in their intestines, though it doesn’t always stay there.
Are you catching my drift? I want to scream, “None of this is normal, or even OKAY!” Its not healing, its not easy; its ugly and its dehumanizing. These are opposites of what I’m trying to do here!!!
But for all the terrible, disgusting things I have beheld in that horrid lab that I hate with a passion, there is good. There is always good.
I have physically seen human organ cancers and surgical alterations and held a human gallstone, and a human ovary, and a human kidney in my hands. I have learned and traced and touched and owned the knowledge for myself what is in the human body. The depths and awe and intricacy and straight up crazy things it has to teach us. I felt the juicy, soft texture of a lung and looked inside a heart. I know the shape of each vertebrae and why its like that. I got elbows deep into the spinal cord and saw straight down a trachea into the lung. I’ve traced the ureter from its beginning in the bladder and out of the body. I follow the arteries to each and every place the hearts pump their blood- their sizes give away their importance. I’ve palpated a lymph node filled with disease and one that was healthy and smooth like a pinto bean. I’ve compared sizes of prostates to other bodies and looked at inflated bladders and black lungs and liver cancer.
We laugh and joke and play and gosh darn it, we get every last thing on our list done because its what we have to do and we are medical students.
If I choose to donate my body to a donor program I wonder what the students will say. What will they speculate about my life, my scars, my abnormalities. What will my body tell them? The truth is, a cadaver tells very little about what really mattered in their life. Would they have ever known or cared to know if their hepatic portal vein was much larger than normal? No.
Though I find it incredibly skewed that I know so much about my cadaver’s insides without knowing them personally, I know their anatomy- the health and diseased states of it. They’ve taught me a lot and I won’t let it go to waste. Cancer is ugly and surgeries leave gruesome scars. Palpation is a key tool I will always have in my hands. Variations are numerous- no body is the same. These are things they have taught me about patient care even though I wasn’t able to do anything but cut them.
They’ve taught me the depth and beauty and intricacy of the human body designed by God. They showed  me the beautiful mess that it is and allowed me to touch it and see it outside of a textbook. They’ve left me amazed, wowed, grossed out and “oh cool!”ed.
The truth about anatomy lab isn’t spoken about much. I certainly didn’t know what went on. A lot of it is unavoidable, and no one is completely innocent or at fault. It’s going to be messy and gruesome and uncomfortable. I think the point of it is to get the most education out of it that you can- both didactically and emotionally. Gratefulness, always. I now think donating my body would be a great sacrifice, one I am not sure I can stomach.
If anyone is asking me, though, I think it can be handled more gracefully by medical schools and medical students alike. My class isn’t particularly keen on mamby pamby feelings chats because we are so busy, but I think a candid briefing before anatomy starts and a debriefing after the semester would be helpful for us as future physicians. What we are called to do is heal and humanize and what anatomy lab is right now, is anything but.

Categories
Blogging Health Life

Bedtime Routines

This weekend was busy busy! I got a lot done. I painted my bookshelves for my study room and did a couple more DIY projects and finished up some loose ends. I’m still working on recapping my trip.
I had some shopping to do today and it was as I was buying a large container of body wash that I realized…I will be using this body wash WHEN I’M IN MEDICAL SCHOOL. This will be the body wash I will use when I start medical school. 37 days until orientation begins. That is crazy stuff right there.
I’m getting all my ducks in a row. I’ve been budgeting, I bought a backpack, throwing bunches of stuff away, etc. One thing I’ve been focusing on that I don’t usually do is taking extra care of myself. I usually don’t have a high maintenance beauty routine in the morning- I usually forego full-on make up and just use mascara. And other than being a night shower-er, I don’t have much of a night routine either.
When I was little, I used to watch my mom get ready for bed. Sometimes I got bored so I climbed the bathroom door frame. I also specifically remember sitting on her bathroom counter, taking “shots” of water straight out of the second vanity faucet in a paper dixie cup with a Lion King print. Then, I’d jump off the counter and jump up and down and listen to the water slosh in my belly. My mom would take off her makeup, wash her face, remove the residual makeup again, apply six different night creams and then coat her whole face in vaseline. (Maybe that’s where I got my love of the stuff.) Anyway, the whole thing was a process.

IMG_7985
I found this little gem when cleaning out my keepsake box

All that to say, I’ve been taking my time getting ready in the morning, filing my nails at night, putting lotion on my elbows. My new thing is brushing my teeth when I’m in the shower. Is that weird? I guess the thought is that I won’t have as much time to take this much care in my upkeep once school starts.
Do you have any nighttime habits that you can’t skip?

Categories
Family Life

Graduation party

Edited pictures of other things from my “medical theme” will go up tomorrow evening. My stomach is full and my heart is happy from the party and being with family and friends! I have another busy summer week up ahead but the posts should be more regular as I get into a routine after my trips are over.
I hope everyone’s weekend is going well.
And as promised, here is the Pinterest fail version of what I posted about yesterday.

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Nailed it! Not.
Special thanks to my mama and my sisters for helping prep for the party.

Categories
Health Life Medical School

Nocturnal People

I’m pretty sure I am permanently a night person. If I wake up by an alarm I HAVE to have a nap that day or I get very sleepy around 1 to 4. If I wake up on my own around 11:30 (after going to bed at 2:00 AM), I don’t need a nap!
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Source
I’ve been a late night person for as long as I can remember. I stayed up late talking to my sisters when I was little. When I was in high school, I did my most productive homework (and watching Jimmy Fallon before he was on The Tonight Show) from 9PM to 1AM. College, well, you get the picture. Everyone stays up late in college. But, I am always sleepy in the morning. I envy the people that can wake up before 9 in the morning and actually feel okay about getting out of bed. I get sick and cranky easier when I’m running on low sleep for days at a time.
 
I have had big plans many times to be the type of person that goes to bed at midnight, wakes up at 6, goes running, showers and then starts the day at 8. No dice though. I plan to try again an get into a routine that I can handle and carry that into medical school. I want to be sure to get good sleep and a good workout at least 5 nights a week to stay healthy and sane.
Right now, I usually shower at night after everyone else is in bed. If I run, I do it at night, before my shower. I’ve heard it takes 2 weeks of getting used to a new sleep/wake cycle and you just have to get through it with no naps or extra sleep no matter how tired you are and then your body gets used to it.
I’ve also done some research on “alternative sleep cycles” in the past. Of course, I love the whole 8-hours-of-sleep idea too much to ever try this but I still can’t help but wonder if it actually works. Anyone ever seen any of these in action or used them yourself? Doesn’t seem like it would be healthy or sustainable. Plus who has the kind of life that allows for a 20 minute nap every three hours, besides newborns? That’s whack.
We’ll see how my plans go. I’ll probably lower my expectations and have to work up to the waking up at 6 thing. Even when I have 8AM classes, I wake up, oh at about 7:47.
Sleep is the best.

Categories
Science

"The amazing th…

“The amazing thing about mammalian development is not that it sometimes goes wrong, but that it ever succeeds.”
-Veronica Van Heyningen