Month: June 2011

Limping through the neighbourhood.

I went for my run, even though the universe clearly didn’t want me to.  Here’s why:

  1. I have a good going bout of sinusitis, but no, it’s above the neck so no excuses. I had a coffee which cures everything pre-run.
  2. It’s cold.  I hate the cold.  But to get around that excuse I recently invested in lined trackies, so still no excuses.  I will pile as many clothes on as I have to.
  3. When I was getting ready to go, I couldn’t find my keys.
  4. Then my phone.
  5. Then my headphones.
  6. Then my shoes.
  7. Once I got outside I discovered that the backup pair of headphones I had found whilst stamping around the house swearing only had one earbud working.  The other worked intermittently if I jiggled the connector which taunted me the entire run.  I consoled myself by saying hey, at least you can hear out of one ear now – perfect if someone tries to jump you!
  8. After 5 minutes in the cold I came to the uncomfortable realisation that I’d forgotten to take my ventolin.  Sigh.  Cold air asthma.  Breathed through it.
  9. Who knew there were schools on the road I chose to run on?  Many schools.  Who knew that schools get out around 3-3.30?
  10. I forgot to bring a tissue.  So I ran (limped) along with one working earbud, my chest in a half-spasm, and my nose dripping, dodging families walking 5-abreast (who does that?!) on the footpath, being judged by hordes of teenage girls with carefully messy hair.
Still, the other side of that is that I went for a run today.

Why did I bother at all you ask?

“because when you are running, there is a little voice in your head that tells you that you should quit. It says you’re too tired, your legs hurt, your lungs hurt. If you can learn how to defeat that little voice in your head, then you can learn how to not quit when things get hard in your life.”  – Will Smith

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Some more books for the pile!

A couple of books turned up in the post this week.

I started reading it before I realised they had forgotten about me at the chemist and got a fair way through it before realising they had forgetten about me.  Good grief this book picks you up and slaps you around a bit – it’s like watching your partner Grand Theft Auto except infinitely more interesting.

I started on this one a couple of nights ago when I was in a terrible mood over how much I’m working.  Michelle Au of The Underwear Drawer has blogged her way through medical school, residency, and motherhood and at all times has systematically deconstructed the myths of the medical profession (i.e. when you’re on the other side, it does not feel prestigious/glamorous/moneymaking/elitist/noble/any-other-altruistic-thing-you-can-throw-at-it), it feels like you’re being chewed up and spit out by a system keen on getting by on as little as possible).  The book starts off with her as a medical student trying to get a stool stample (yes, with their fingers!) from a 200kg person and had me nearly crying with laughter (and possibly with a little bit of wretched mania).  I’m nowhere near finished but her blog and her comics, and the beginning of this book means it’s a highly worthwhile read.  Highly entertaining – if you liked Scrubs, you’ll like this too.

And on my way to the dentist this morning where I was picking up a splint because guess who can’t stop grinding their teeth, I picked this up for $5 at a secondhand bookstore.

I have no idea if this is any good.  Apparently St Luke was a physician of ye olde days and in this book apparently does some soul searching.  It was written in 1959 and is in danger of being an overly romantic view of Roman Catholic times but I’ll give it a whirl, it was $5!

Now I’m off for a run.  Does anyone else get flu-like symptoms after they exercise and feel like it sets them back?  I do.  I googled it and found lots of other people do too and that their doctors didn’t believe them.  Well I believe you.  Although I’m only an intern and can offer you absolutely nothing to do about it other than to say ease off, but don’t stop.  We’ll see if I can take my own advice and actually get off the couch.  It’s a bit cold after all!

On the subject of family…

I command you to get yourself to a bookshop and pick up a copy of My Abuela’s Table by Dani Germain.

Dani is a something kindred spirit in that she also ditched her old career, risked ruin and ridicule (sounds familiar!), and switched from science to design.  In class she decided to illustrate all of her grandmothers recipes (Mexican), and the class held a competition which just happened to be judged by a publisher.  And guess what?  By following her dream and doing what she loved, someone discovered her, and gave her a book deal.  You can visit her blog here.  Buy the book, I did, and now it holds a prized spot on my coffee table, it is simply beautiful and I’ll post pictures of the first thing I cook!

P.S.  You can buy a tortilla press (if so inclined) and the right flour, from The Essential Ingredient.

P.P.S.  Not affiliated (well maybe very loosely), but I just love the book and her story.

…and a time to die.

Recently I was on night shift, eating KFC at 3am in the common room with the other interns and joking about things that shouldn’t be joked about around food, and my pager went off.  I could dedicate a whole post to my pager and one day will, but it will mostly about wanting to throw the thing at the wall.  But this time it was different.

I rang the number, and the nurse of a certain ward answered, and let me know an elderly patient had died, and the family would like me to come up and confirm it.  A lot of the time you’ll go up and confirm it without the family present but this particularly patient’s relatives wanted to be there.  I hung up and started making my way up through the labyrinth of corridors to the ward.

I’d never certified a death before.  When I put my chicken down and told the other interns, I was met with a sombre mood, and “your first?” followed by sympathetic pats and the promise of chocolate on my return.  As I walked through those silent corridors, my heart was pounding.  What would they look like?  How did they die?  What if I got it wrong?  What if I certified them and they weren’t really gone?  What if they had a pacemaker?  All sorts of ghoulish thoughts found their way into my mind and by the time I reached the nurses station, I was a quivering mess.

The nurse on was lovely, she asked me if I was okay, and I whispered that I hadn’t done it before.  “Want me to come with you?” was met by a frenzied nod on my behalf, and I took a deep breath, hung my steth around my neck, and walked into the room to met five grown men and women in tears.  In the bed was the dearest old lady with a pretty neckscarf on, her eyes closed, her face peaceful.

I looked in her eyes, listened to her chest.  She was quiet everywhere.  When I tried to take her pulse, my own heart was beating so hard that I could feel my own through my fingers and I took it for maybe a little too long.

Are you sure?” came a tiny voice, from a grown man, and I nodded.  I told them I was sorry for their loss, and that I thought she looked beautiful.

Outside the nurse squeezed my hand and I did the paperwork.  Then I went back downstairs where I was met with chocolate and similar stories.  One intern had dreamed about his patient for a week afterward.

I will forever be grateful to my patient.  The family told me she was a lovely and kind woman and I couldn’t help but think that in death she was the same.  My introduction was so gentle by comparison to others, and she (I will never forget her name), has my eternal gratitude.

A time to live.

I’m not counting the months (months!) between now and my last post.   But now that I’ve come up for air after drowning for a bit, I’ve decided to make a few changes.  I was originally going to keep work out of this blog but I can’t.  It adds a dimension to my life, an appreciation for the simplest things that I think is important.  Plus I spend most of my life at work.

I’m a junior doctor in a very busy hospital.  I’m first year out.  On my second day as a doctor this year, someone asked me how long I’d been one for.  How do you answer that?  Moreover, how do you answer that when you’re about to do a procedure on them? Two days, but I swear I’ve done this tons in medical school!  I’m not very good at being evasive.

After being a student for far far too long, I’m now getting paid and I can’t tell you how empowering it is to earn your own money, to spend your own money, and to support yourself.  No, I don’t earn squillions and drive a porsche.  I earn less than a registered nurse and I drive a hatchback.  Very very few people in medicine make a lot of money, often at great personal sacrifice.  The rest of us just love our job and are quite content.

As well as my forays into the world of fashion and consumerism, I thought I’d share some work-based anecdotes from time-to-time, some heartbreaking, some funny, sometimes both.  I’m saving them up for you, promise.