medical 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. 2)

And let me tell you, this may be the happiest of haps I have been in a while. Why? Neurology is over!*

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The shortest of months has also been one of my longest: I am getting exceedingly sick of winter. Alas, alack. On the bright side, I have a really wonderful fiancé and two very snuggly cats to make up for the slush and cold. And some really great pairs of long underpants, which I stole from David. They remind me of my Opa (a big fan of the momo hickeys, as he liked to call them), who passed away last fall, and wearing them reminds me of him and makes me happy. I also feel very cool in them and I am trying to get my cousins to help me start a fashion movement called Opacore. So far we don’t have very much momentum but with the colossal readership of this blog, I’m hoping things start to take off. In crafting news, I have been reaaaaally into making teeny tiny mochimochi lately. It’s a bit of an affliction, but at least I am putting these gnomes to work. On the other end of the crafting usefulness spectrum, I finally finished giving the bedroom a little facelift and I am slightly obsessed with it in a way that I have never been obsessed with a room. I will have real posts on both of these things soon!

*See the second-to-last photo? That’s what I’ve been studying for the past 4 weeks. My tepid enthusiasm for neurology might be better explained after that image. And the last photo? That’s my next eight weeks (internal medicine)! I’m just two months away from being done with the third year of medical school (:

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.

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Behold! This is pretty much the extent of my crafting over the past five weeks – putting gourds (grown by my parents!) in a basket on our coffee table. That shit looks so seasonal.

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As you can tell from my drastically reduced crafting, this surgery clerkship is kinda killing me, but in a way that I kinda actually enjoy. Waking up every morning between 4:20-4:45 is a bit of a drag, but once I get those first few minutes out of the way the day is pretty good. The people with whom I work are overwhelmingly kind and encouraging (okay, with maybe one or two exceptions, but hey, not everyone can be  Glinda the Good Witch), everyone is very interested in education, and the relationships that surgeons have with their patients are both incredibly special and interesting to observe. I have also seen some strange, cool, and sad stuff. Laparoscopic surgery itself is just a very fascinating thing, then I have seen some very traditionally “surgical” things, like poop coming out of man-made or natural orifices from which no poop should ever pass, more anuses than I could shake a stick at (SERIOUSLY! that is one of those things where when you decide to go to medical school, you acknowledge that you’ll see some stuff that’s depressing and difficult to process, but you don’t really stop to take into account how many anuses you’ll be looking at and putting your fingers into for your education/job (pro tip for all future med students possibly reading this blog – you will be reaching into lots of butts)), and some stuff that has been really really depressing. Like lie awake at night and simultaneously think about the 21 year-old that died right in front of you and the elderly man in the ICU hooked up to eight million tubes depressing. Sigh.

Okay, now I just waxed poetic for an absurdly long time about surgery, which is just really weird. Sorry everyone who reads this blog and mostly likes knitting and hates being reminded about poop and anuses. But does this mean I am going to be a surgeon? Nope. I think I still want to do pediatrics, but I do have to say that this rotation is actually inserting a little doubt into my steely rejection of surgery.  And I’ll still be very grateful when I get some knitting time back (:

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.

on coming a long (or even just some of the) way

Disclaimer: this is one of those terrible posts where I talk about my personal life and relate it to crafting and do all that awful navel gazing jazz. Hopefully I won’t sound incredibly miserable, which is how, at least to my untrained eye, the overwhelming majority of medical student blogs sound.

What is this? It’s a princess seam. It’s a princess seam on an inside-out bodice of a dress that isn’t even finished and the insides aren’t even that pretty.  So why am I showing it to you? Because 2 years ago, when I sewed the exact same princess seam using that same pattern, it took me about 6 tries to do each side. That thing was an abomination. I cried, I swore, it took me two weeks to finish the bodice because I kept putting it down out of frustration, it made me want to quit sewing when I had just barely started. I kept going though, and was rewarded with two princess seams that only had a noticable-ish pucker or two. So when I chose to sew this particular pattern, I approached the princess seam with that baggage in my mind. But you know what? It didn’t suck. I had gotten better at sewing, which is hard to notice when you try so many different patterns that require different things (and you also just don’t have the free time to sew a lot). It only took me one try to do each seam, and dang, they looked pretty darn good if I do say so myself. They looked so good that I went ahead and decided to just self-line the bodice rather than do those godawful facings. Every now and then it’s good to have a win to make challenging yourself worth your while.

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Maybe you know, maybe you don’t know, but my third year of medical school has been under way for about three months now.  I just started a research month, which means there will be lots more time for posts and crafts (woo!) but I still feel like I’ve done a lot. (And enjoyed a lot, which is surprising.) I’ve done my pediatrics rotation, and while it may be calling it early, I really liked it a lot and that may be what I do for forever. Eeep. I also just finished obstetrics & gynecology on Friday! Will I go into OB/GYN? No, but I have had some pretty cool experiences. I pulled a baby out of the place where babies come from and I didn’t drop it, I saw some seriously rare stuff, I have seen some seriously sad stuff, and you can bet your britches that I have seen a lot of vaginas (and not once have I told a patient that I was about to put my fingers into my vagina, so let’s count that as a major improvement from a mere six months ago). I’ve also really bulked up my Spanish vocabulary, but it’s all words about urinary incontinence and vaginal discharge (flujo vaginal, if you’re feeling nasty, Senora Jackson).

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cloth sewing + sewing humans = two spheres of my life collide in a very strange way

The first two years of medical school were miserable. Mentally, emotionally, physically, everything-ally. I did work I wasn’t proud of, I constantly felt stressed about my future and even more stressed about burdening those around me with those feelings, I became very socially anxious, and I spent more time than I’d like to remember in bed with a migraine. Needless to say, I questioned why I was in medical school in the first place. For a long time, I was convinced I had made the wrong choice (am I now convinced that I made the right one? nope, but I’m still here, so I’d like to think that counts for something) and I spent a long time looking at other grad programs, job options, and just daydreaming about what my life could be like free from the miserable future I melodramatically believed that I had boxed myself into. In case you’re curious: my imaginary dropout scenes were approximately as dramatic and fabulous as that of the Weasley twins’, but instead of opening a joke shop I would go on to become an international craft-gymnastics-cat blogging sensation. Hey. Crazier things have happened.

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the most “medical” thing i’ve ever done – work the night shift, wear scrubs, and eat takeout from a plastic hospital dish that was definitely meant for something other than chicken pad thai. cue the scrubs theme, everyone.

But I kept going. Not sure why, but it probably had a lot to do with my amazing boyfriend and the other people who cheered me on even when I didn’t deserve it. And now I’m here, and you know what? It doesn’t suck. Sometimes it’s even fun. I can feel myself getting better and learning, which is a very cool, strange feeling, possibly the only thing stranger would be feeling my hair or fingernails grow. In the end, will medicine have been the one and only career for me? Probably no, but I’m okay with sticking around and helping people out.

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embarrassing bathroom selfie (no worries, hands were clean). it is cruel irony that someone who cares so much about sewing should have to wear the most shapeless, wrinkly clothes on a daily basis. not one single dart!!! NOT ONE.

TL;Dr. (see what I did there?) – I am finally coming out from that dark hole that consumed me for a very long time. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re getting better, and that is my message to everyone who might be in a similar boat. It’s good to be reminded that you’re not wasting your time, that you can improve, and that things can get better without you noticing it until all of a sudden boom! You’re kind of excited about the next day.

Do I worry that saying these things will bar my entry into the residency program of my choice? Yes, but then again, if my top choice residency program doesn’t acknowledge that burnout exists and physicians sometimes end up in dark places needing to care for themselves, then I maybe shouldn’t have made that my top choice program.