med school

the happy haps (no. 3)

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A much delayed, but also very happy, communication of the most recent happenings in my life! When I last chitchatted at you, I had just finished neurology (hurrah) and I was on to the most medical school-esque (and probably the most difficult) of clerkships: internal medicine. It proved to be a doozy and really did a number on the past two months of my life (evidence: total lack of posting, total lack of crafting, total lack of many things). I feel like I have to confess that for the first two weeks of the clerkship, I had a literal temper tantrum every morning before I had to go to work. It was not pretty in the slightest. After having a completely undignified emotional breakdown in front of my attending one weekend, I managed to turn my ‘tude around. I don’t actually think it got any easier, but I eventually got into a groove.

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The medicine clerkship, as I previously bemoaned, was really tough, but I also learned a lot. I can manage things like GI bleeds, and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state, and serious infections. I know how to talk to difficult, angry patients (hoo boy, did I get a lot of experience doing that). I can dose insulin and opioids with reasonable certainty (but don’t ask me for any drugs, har har). I have seen people who are sick, who are dying, and who deal with these things in incredibly different ways. I have spent hours trying to get venous access on a patient, and hours (and hours and hours and hours and hours) with medical records from other hospitals trying to get them to fax me pieces of paper that no one will ever read. I spent so much time with my team that it no longer feels weird or fake to call us a team, because that’s the only way to describe it. People taught me, supported me, and inspired me day in and day out, from 6:30 AM to 11:00 PM. And I have worked with some pretty phenomenal, inspiring women. Most of my many attendings over the past eight weeks were women, and fairly young ones at that. With a rotating cast of mostly female residents, it was really two months of #girlbossing around in the best way.

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Regardless of what the past eight weeks of work were like, the past eight weeks at home were phenomenal. David was an excellent force of goodness and magnificence and did such a great job taking care of me by doing anything from listening to my miserable ranting to prepping my lunches and dinners to getting up at 5:30 AM just to talk to me while I got ready for work. The guy is a champ. I did get to have SOME fun over the past two months, too. (Mostly thanks to David.) That fun mostly involved eating (I am a slug) or lying on top of my cats (again, I am a slug). But there were definitely bright sunny moments. My post-clerkship celebration involved a makeover at Sephora (see below, in my first-ever selfie sans cat) and visiting my excellent human of a younger sister at U of I.

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ANYWAY. This long vague introspective post about me finishing my last third-year clerkship also means something: I AM A FOURTH YEAR MEDICAL STUDENT! If it wasn’t totally obvious, I couldn’t be more excited about this. I have the month of May “off” to study and take another part of my boards (it never stops), and then I dive right back into a summer of pediatrics: PICU, my sub-internship, and electives in cards and heme-onc. But first up – some crafting!

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the happy haps (no. 1)

Hi there! Now that I have two cats* (double the fun, double the photos, and quadruple the mischief), a smartphone, and I spend a lot of my time doing other non-knitting/sewing things, I thought I’d just do a non-crafty blog post every now and then to keep my loyal readers (aka, David and my mom, who already get excruciatingly detailed breakdowns of my daily activities) up to date. These posts can be broken down into a few categories: things I petted, things I did, things I made.

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I just wrapped up a month-long elective in pathology (hence the microscope picture). I loved some parts that I thought I would hate and I was kind of traumatized by some parts that I thought I would find interesting (autopsy pathology, I’m looking at you. That was rougher than I anticipated). I was inspired to do the rotation partly because of my first real career ambition (besides that of Barbie house designer) – a county medical examiner. God bless my parents for loving and supporting me even though I was basically a miniatures-loving Wednesday Addams. But anyway, the whole month was really fun even if I couldn’t ever talk about it at the dinner table (not that I’m ever allowed to talk about work at the dinner table). If peds ends up not being the place for me, then I think pathology is where I’ll end up. I missed interacting with patients, which is why it’s not my first choice, but the beauty of the human body and the constant pursuit of knowledge is very appealing to me. Also, pathologists are awesome. I loved absolutely everyone I worked with. Yay!

*Yes, you read that right. We have two cats now. We have had Bess for about a month now. We had actually been talking about getting a second cat for a while, and with a lighter month of work for me in January (coupled with David having some time off in February), it seemed like now was as good a time as any to accrue another cat.  This time our furry little friend came from Tree House Cats, which is a seriously amazing no-kill no-cage shelter on the north side. I forgot that younger cats (she’s 9mo) are cute forces of wanton destruction – Bess is SO mischievous (as in, we come home to the bathroom garbage strewn all over the bathroom, lamps knocked over, etc etc) but is also very adorable! And she and CeeCee are getting along quite well.

 

hey hi hello hola

One of my least favorite things about blogging is reading a post in which the content is only a half-assed apology about not posting more/explanation for the blogger’s radio silence, and a promise to do write more frequently. Yawn. But after two months I’ve gotta start somewhere.

So since we’ve last talked (or I talked at you, to be more correct), lots has happened on the personal and academic fronts. I finished the surgery, primary care and psychiatry clerkships. A few shocking things have happened: I loved surgery* **, and I did not love psychiatry. When second year ended, I was pretty sure that psych would be my destination, career-wise. I love talking to patients and spending time understanding them, but psychiatry involves so many medicines, and talking about mechanisms and side effects of different drugs is basically a fast-track to my brain entering an alternate orbit.
Speaking of my brain being in alternate orbit, another thing that happened has been…
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Yup. Almost a month ago, actually. I totally did not see it coming (even though David and I have been dating for over five and a half years), but of course I said yes (: Focusing has been difficult lately. I alternate between daydreaming about sewing my own wedding dress and freaking the eff out over the idea of having to plan a wedding.
Crafting-wise, I’ve been in a bit of a dry spell. I have finished (or almost finished) quite a few knitting projects, but because they’re ***seekrit*** Christmas gifts I don’t want to post about them here (just yet). Spoiler alert, though: I am obsessed with gloves. So tedious and nitpicky!! My favorite kind of project.
Oh! Also. I finally joined the world of modern technology and left my trusty 4.5 year old “dumb phone” by the wayside. This means that I now have an Instagram account, which is 50% crafts and 50% my cat. So check it out and we can ogle each other’s yarnstagrams.
* Definitely not going into surgery, though. I love to eat, urinate, and occasionally sit: these are luxuries not often afforded to surgeons. Also, waking up at 4:15 AM for the indefinite future is not a sustainable habit conducive to happiness of any kind.
** The last case of my surgery clerkship brought with it probably my most favorite memory of medical school thus far, and possibly one of the high points of my life. as I brought the patient into the OR for their hemithyroidectomy, my attending, who had mocked me so much for the whole month, turned to me and said “Ellie, I chose the music for this case especially for you.” He then proceeded to play the entirety of the soundtrack from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. He also called me Hermione for the duration of the case. Needless to say, I was floating about four inches off the ground the entire time.

surgerizin’

Hi blogging party people.  Last Tuesday I started my surgery clerkship! This mostly means that I now work a LOT. By a lot I mean I start at 5:30 in the morning. It is, um, grueling. Grueling is a good word. At the same time, I feel very lucky to have the schedule that I do have and to be working with some truly nice, inspiring folks. While getting to see inside real, living human beings while the capable folks next to me fix their problems is an absolute privilege, I unfortunately don’t have a lot (read: almost any) time for crafting. This part is a bit hard, as I spent a lot of time over the past two years striving to be someone with a lot of hobbies and an excellent work-life balance. But hey! It’s only eight weeks, and I am trying to console myself with thinking of ways that surgery and crafting are similar. Here’s what I have so far.

  • You know how sometimes when you’re crafting you lose track of time, then startle yourself into awareness and realize that it is some ungodly hour and it’s been like ten hours since you last ate, drank or peed? That’s surgery.
  • Accidentally doing your work in such an un-ergonomic position that you later find yourself in a secluded hallway, subtly trying to massage your own back on a doorframe.
  • And duh. The sewing. One is sewing clothes, and the other one is closing skin incisions. The biggest difference is probably the fact that when I’m sewing Lady Skaters, my knees aren’t literally knocking together with fear.

whoops.

I don’t share many medical school stories on this blog, for many reasons – HIPAA, they’re depressing or too gross to put on the internet, might jeopardize future employment, and most commonly, my life is actually too boring to discuss. But this one involves nothing humiliating for anyone but myself, and isn’t too gross, so I thought I’d share.

Today, we learned how to do the pelvic exam. Our “patients” were specially trained actors who also taught us how to do the exam. Regardless, I still felt pretty nervous. One of the key elements of the learning the exam is “talk before touch,” which is exactly what it sounds like. As I was going through this process, I very calmly informed the standardized patient that I would be inserting “two fingers into my vagina.”

I feel pretty confident in saying that when it comes to embarrassing myself in front of half-naked patients, I may have peaked early. But since my second favorite thing to do (after humiliating myself) is proving myself wrong, stay tuned.

squishing, doodling, learning

I feel like my crafting has been MIA of late, partially because of what’s happening in school right now.  Normally I have a near-superhuman willpower to ignore the call to go do homework and work on my hobbies instead, but not with this unit, unfortunately.  We’re working on the musculoskeletal unit.  This means lots of memorization of things that have way too similar of names (there should not be a muscle in the leg also called the biceps, it is patently unfair) and also lots of time spent in anatomy lab.  It also means lots of time for study-doodling (a practice in which I convince myself that spending an absurd amount of time drawing the muscles of the thigh is an efficient study technique)!

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chapstick: the most essential part of any learning process

Anatomy lab is a strange part of medical school.  When I’m amongst my classmates and teachers, dissecting a dead body, holding a human heart, etc. seem like totally normal things to do.  Then, sometimes I realize (mostly with the help of my boyfriend) that what my classmates and I have been doing every day this week is totally bizarre.  I’m still not so sure how I feel about anatomy lab.  I kind of expected it to be a hugely transformative experience (a la Body of Work by Christine Montross) but really I just spend a lot of time stressed out that I can’t find the stupid nerve I’m looking for, or that one of the professors just tricked me into thinking a tendon was a nerve.  But as foul and confusing as it can be, when I reflect back on the time spent in lab I do feel so grateful that Gerold (our cadaver – we are provided with their name, age and cause of death) donated his body to science and I get to see what everything is really like outside of a comparatively very dry (literally and figuratively) textbook.

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Also – as gross as I realize it is, I think I have discovered my favorite part about dissection: separating large arteries and veins that are encased in sheaths of connective tissue.  My lab partners quickly get very frustrated with the endeavor because the vessels are often very firmly stuck together in their protective covering, but I am happy to lean over the tank for half an hour at a time separating a stretch of femoral artery and vein.  I blame this entirely on my freakish zen-like patience when it comes to untangling yarn. Thanks, knitting.