August 29, 2010


Pt is a 22-year-old White female first-year medical student.  Pt has two lateral lacerations of the dorsal aspect of the fifth intermediate phalanx of the left hand.  Pt was crushing a garlic clove when the cutting board gave way and split in two, causing the knife to slip and cut the skin of the finger.  Cuts are 1/8 in. deep but were made superficially.  Lacerations were bleeding steadily for five minutes but bleeding abated with direct pressure.  Google search and a call to an EMT-friend determined that neither stitches nor a trip to the emergency room were required.  Pt will keep adhesive bandages and antibacterial ointment on lacerations until wound has healed.  Follow-up assessment and rebandaging recommended post-shower and in a.m.


Man, my pinkie hurts.

August 15, 2010

White Coat

We were in a performing arts center, in red velvet chairs lined up in continental seating.  Family members and friends were arrayed behind us and in the balcony.  I was separated at the last minute from my roommate and sat in the middle of one of the last rows of my class, with two people I hadn't met yet on either side.

There were speakers; the Dean and the President and several professors all gave welcoming words and admonishments as to the importance of what we were about to embark upon.  Yet somehow the ceremony did not seem quite real, quite as solemn as I had hoped.  I think I would have liked for us to recite a portion of the Hippocratic oath, or perhaps the Oath of Maimonides (one that was quoted, to great effect, in one professor's speech).  Even though we had only one role--file onstage in groups of thirteen, stand at attention and slip our arms backward into the stiff white sleeves--it was in listening to the Oath of Maimonides that I finally felt welling up within me an immense wellspring of emotion.  

The Oath of Maimonides
The eternal providence has appointed me to watch over the life and health of Thy creatures. May the love for my art actuate me at all time; may neither avarice nor miserliness, nor thirst for glory or for a great reputation engage my mind; for the enemies of truth and philanthropy could easily deceive me and make me forgetful of my lofty aim of doing good to Thy children.
May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain.
Grant me the strength, time and opportunity always to correct what I have acquired, always to extend its domain; for knowledge is immense and the spirit of man can extend indefinitely to enrich itself daily with new requirements.
Today he can discover his errors of yesterday and tomorrow he can obtain a new light on what he thinks himself sure of today. Oh, God, Thou has appointed me to watch over the life and death of Thy creatures; here am I ready for my vocation and now I turn unto my calling.

It is strange to put words to it, exactly: I was proud to be joining this profession; I was thrilled that my life's work could be this care and love for my fellow man; there was a hint of anxiety, lest I fail in my duties to my patients and my colleagues; but above all, what struck me was the expanding love I felt for my future patients.  In that moment, listening to an oath describing the feeling I had when I thought about becoming a doctor, I felt as if now, finally, I was different and ready, that I was prepared for the personal changes that are to come.

In a way, I feel now that my self has refracted: it is as if who I was before continues to exist, but bent away from its original path.  Instead, there are other parts of me that are bent even further, the parts which will be responsible for patients, and which will be responsible for being professional, and which will call upon the rest of me to step up and do what is necessary and what is right.  I have only felt this kind of shift maybe once or twice before--after my father's funeral, and last fall when I decided to become a vegetarian.  In both cases, I felt as if something inside had simply fallen into place, and a new course was set for how my life would be.  Here, too, I feel my old self shifting to fit around the strange corner into the new me, where I have simply no choice but to change, because my new life requires a completely different approach.

Classes start tomorrow.  I'm ready.

August 10, 2010

Bank of Everywhere Else


What?  This map is wrong.  Google must have messed up the search, or the scale.  

Why aren't there any banks in Wisconsin?

Why is the nearest Bank of America in Illinois?


Why is it called Bank of America if it isn't in every state?

August 9, 2010

I feel like a freshman, a little

It feels like gen chem.

We are two hundred and four strong, seated in a tiered, stadium seating-style lecture hall, and the chalkboards look menacingly small from where I sit.

It's different, though.  The round of introductions and welcoming remarks all begin with the same phrase: "Welcome to medical school!  Congratulations!"  Gradually, I feel a smile take over--I can't help it.  It is great to feel like yes! I have arrived here, at my destination.

Someone named Luke (Luc? who knows) doesn't pick up his name tag.  Everyone nervously looks at one another (where is he? doesn't the poor guy have a roommate, someone to call him if he overslept?  he'll lose his spot, won't he?  or does he just pay the $100 late registration fee?) but gradually, as he fails to appear, he becomes a running joke, a point for the speakers to refer to and something that already ties us together.

Introductions aside, the day slides sideways into boredom via reality-driven sessions on financial aid, government loans, repayment plans, and computer systems.  Public safety talks to us about security and using our key cards. A terrible presenter stalls through a presentation that is supposed to give us study tips and strategies for this new, challenging volume of coursework that we will be doing.

After the day's assigned activities, the Dean holds a reception in a large room.  For some reason, the walls are lined with chairs, Regency ballroom-style, and the first few students in the door quickly fill up the seats.  The rest of us look around, unsure if we need to find a partner for the waltz or if we should just congregate awkwardly while clutching our free shoulder bags and plates full of cheese cubes and raw vegetables.  My roommate and I take refuge with a few others in the balcony of the room and watch the rest of our class mill around.

On the upside, meeting new people was not as scary as it felt it would be yesterday.  My class is 54% men.  And best of all, I ran into most of the people that I already know here: a girl I knew in Nice, the people from undergrad, and even better a few people from my interview day that live right down the street.

Who knew doing nothing could be so exhausting?

August 4, 2010

Spotted Cow is delicious

Yesterday, Ben wanted to get a nice seafood dinner since Milwaukee is on a Great Lake.  Since Mom said we could use the credit card, and because he was nice enough to come be free moving labor, we went out to eat.  The waitress recommended Spotted Cow as a local beer.  It was light and slightly fruity and wonderful--it reminded me of Blue Moon but I think I liked it even more.

When we got back to the apartment, we decided we wanted more of the beer so I ran out to get some.  It was 8:45pm when I left--and apparently, in Wisconsin they stop selling alcohol at 9pm.  Luckily, we live about three minutes from a grocery store.  I made it through the line with five minutes to spare.

Today, though, I made my first meals in my new home.

Breakfast: soft-boiled eggs and a tomato, sliced, all with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and washed down with a cup of tea.  One of the eggs cracked as I dropped it in the water and the white ballooned outside the shell.  Surprisingly, some of the yolk escaped, too, but the center was still slightly creamy--a bit more done than I like.  The other one was a little under done.  The microwave didn't have a timer that I could find!  Who ever heard of such a thing--a microwave without a timer?!

I took Ben to the airport so he could go home.  I went to two different grocery stores and Walgreens but I still forgot to get plain oatmeal.

I mixed up a batch of No-Knead bread.  I get to bake it tomorrow morning.

Dinner was whole wheat pasta with a quick ragout I made myself: mushrooms and zucchini sautéed in butter with garlic, salt and pepper.  At the last minute I decided I wanted something more and threw in a diced tomato, which cooked up deliciously.  I threw the pasta on top of the sauce in a bowl-plate and sprinkled on some parmesan cheese.

I would say the kitchen is now properly inaugurated!

Ten hours is a lot of driving

Saturday was packing day.  My family went out to breakfast with my uncle and his wife, and then we picked up the Uhaul truck afterward.  I had reserved a 10' truck to move all of my belongings to Wisconsin--bed, table and chairs, desk, clothes, worldly belongings, kitchen implements--and as of Saturday morning, I had not yet begun to pack.

We moved large items first (logical and necessary).  They took about an hour and a half of maneuvering, mainly because I was taking my brother's comfy, soft mattress and switching it out with the one I was sleeping on, a rock-solid lump that had been giving me a backache all summer.  The big items were actually the easiest to finish.  The rest of the afternoon was spent sorting clothes, sifting through the boxes of junk I had brought home from college, finding the useful items and tossing lots of odds and ends that should have been thrown away when I moved out of St. Louis.  I surprised myself by ending up with a mere two tubs of kitchen supplies.  By nightfall, I was exhausted but the truck was packed.  I would say it was packed to the gills but honestly, I could have stuffed more in there.  It wasn't particularly efficiently packed but it was packed enough.

That night, I couldn't sleep.  First, because I had no place to sleep, I shared a bed with Mom, something I hadn't done in years.  In sleepover fashion, we were talking even after we turned out the lights.  Before I even knew it, it was one o'clock and I was getting up at six to be on the road early.

Six came like a poke in the gut--not as harsh as a slap to the face but painful and leaving a tender spot behind.  There were toiletries to pack, my face to wash, coffee to gulp.  I gave my mom one last hug and it didn't even seem as poignant as it probably should have--at that point, I was ready to be on the road, anxious to get started, and exhausted still from the full day of packing.  Ben clambered into the Uhaul and we rolled away down the road.

Twenty minutes into our trip, we stopped at a McDonald's to meet with an old family friend of my roommate.  He had been in town to visit family and was hitching a ride with us toward the Great White North.  It was surprisingly easy company--not as fun as the When Harry Met Sally scenario I had envisioned, but that was probably because he was my mother's age and not mine.  Ben caught a break when we stopped in Des Moines, because the man drove the truck for a while and Ben got to nap in my car.

The trip was fairly uneventful.  There was a bit of a toll problem: it was one of those bucket tolls, a pull-off-here-and-throw-in-change-til-it-says-go kind of toll.  Ben had no change, so after I went through I then had to back up to give him coins.  Finally we were on our way again, having stopped up the entire line of traffic down the exit ramp.

Entering Milwaukee was like swallowing something delicious that starts writhing in your stomach.  I was excited but nervous, too.  When I saw the sign for my exit, I could hardly stand it--and right off the ramp was the med school campus.  I almost cried as I passed it--I felt this rush of pride and a sudden knowledge that I was going to be a part of that complex, that this would be my world.

The apartment was easy to find.  Having Google-toured my own neighborhood, I knew it on sight as I pulled up to the corner.  The truck was unloaded pretty quickly--in an hour and a half we were sweaty and tired but the truck was empty.  Dinner was Noodles & Co and then it was time to settle in and do domestic things, like make my bed and put my clothes in my closet and take a shower.

By nine, I was ready to fall fast asleep.  Bed never felt so good as when I peeled back my new quilt lovingly centered over my bed and slid in between the sheets before turning out the light.  I slept for hours upon hours.

August 2, 2010

Summer camp

It almost wouldn't feel like summer if I didn't make the trek three hours south to work at the same summer camp I attended as a middle schooler.  For the seventh year, I packed too many things and moved into a dorm room for two and a half weeks.  Note that four of those years, I was there to participate, not supervise.  There is something in the air around camp that makes it feel like home to me: walking up the sidewalk toward the late-sixties yellow brick dorm, with its capital-I shape and three stories, I feel the way I did when I walked up the very first time.  I'm nervous, excited, with mice in my stomach; but it also feels the way it did the second time, and the third, and the fourth: tingly, warm, nostalgia mixed with anticipation so strong it could be as thick as the humidity in the southern Missouri air.

As a counselor, camp is maybe even more fun.  It sounds strange, contradictory even, but some of the best parts of camp are the planning times while the kids are at their classes during the day.  We get to decide what the events will be like: what the Messy Olympics tasks will be, what the trivia questions are, what the theme for camp is and how it will all play out in the ultimate team challenge we plan for later in the week (appropriately, Midnight Madness is sheer Madness to plan; inappropriately, it starts after dinner, like all the other activities).  Probably the best part is coming up with a back story for the Madness event: always, the camp is to be rallied toward a common goal--saving the camp from intruders or dictatorial interests, uniting to train their latent super powers, fighting another camp faction for gold and glory--all with a final challenge for the winning group.  The back story is a creative work that I definitely relish.  It's a bit like the exquisite corpse prompts we used in fiction class: use one each of all these different elements, tie them together, and make them convincing and enthralling (and filmable).  Then, too--being a counselor is also about getting to play dress-up almost every day, for no reason at all except to amuse the campers, and getting paid for it!

Despite all the crazy things that happened this year, I think it was my favorite year so far with my actual campers.  The air conditioning didn't work, we had a flood (literally a flood, Noah would've been inside his ark at the sight of it) in one of the suites, and we had impromptu location changes to avoid the sweltering heat inside the dorm.  But in spite of that, my house group was wonderful--fourteen girls going into eighth or ninth grade, all of them sweet and sassy in their particular way, all of them fabulous to talk to at the end of the day when I'd ask how their days turned out.  Among the other campers, it seemed like there were more gems than usual.  One boy wore an explorer's safari hat everywhere.  When we asked if he was in the geocaching class, he startled us when he replied, "Nope!  I'm in both of the movie classes!"  Another was so absolutely soft-spoken, it was astonishing to see him come out of his shell and play a pivotal role in his group's skit--a creature half pterodactyl, half robot.

I think a lot of it has to do with how much difference previous experience can make.  Having two years under my belt already meant that most challenges we had seen before (or a variation on that theme); it had become second nature to give positive directions ("Walk!") instead of negative ones ("Don't run!"); and instead of worrying about whether I was doing my job, I could just sit back and enjoy the quirkiness of all the campers all around me.

Ah, camp--heaven!