Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Brief Respite from the Daily Grind

This isn't what I'm likely to see in the delivery I'll witness, as the baby will be about six weeks early and is projected to weigh in at around five pounds at the time of  his birth.

This more closely resmbles what I am likely to observe.

Because I've done well on all the tests given thus far at my medical school and haven't yet missed a class session, and because the experience would be beneficial to my medical education, I have been granted permission from all my professors as well as from my dean to miss however many classes I must miss this week in order to be present for the surgical delivery of my pseudoant's child. If labor doesn't commence before Friday, the baby will be taken by c-section early Friday morning. Pseudoaunt's brother is being transported by charter flight to the city where the baby will be born. I'll tag along. 

If labor begins but progresses mildly with no distress to either the mother or the baby, the surgical team will hold off until we arrive before beginning the surgery. They don't actually care whether or not I make it on time, but pseudoaunt would like for her brother to be there when her baby is born.

My only requirement is that I write up a brief synopsis  -- more or less what the actual surgeon would dictate for the chart and for the insurance carrier. I can do that in five minutes. My only requirement as far as the medical team is concerned is that I stay out of the way and keep my mouth shut. If the baby is born in one of the surgical suites with a viewing area from above overlooking it, I'll be up there, as I do not need to take up space in the O.R. if I can observe from a distance.

Pseudoaunt's brother has time off for something like nine days, so I'll have to find alternative transportation back, but my mom said she will drive me.  I would like to take my kitty with me, but my brother says she should stay because she's not all that used to us yet, and transporting her to another home wwould confuse her. He just wants the cat there with him. His rationale is entirely bullshit. Regardless, I'll probably let him keep the kitty there with him.

   Whether the baby is born tomorrow morning or Friday morning, I'll return on Sunday. I haven't been home since August, but I'm not exactly dying to get there. I have the same W model of Westin bed in the condo that I have at home. My surroundings at the condo are quite comfortable. I'll bring textbooks with me, so I'll study regardless of where I am. I just want to see the baby. I'm not overly eager to see his birth; that's just my rationale for being allowed to leave. I just want to see the baby.

   I am to be his Godmother. I've never been a Godparent before. I'm not sure when his parents will have him baptized, but I'll have to be present for the ceremony.

   Incidentally, I scored 100% on my GI block exam. It helps that I've had almost everything possible go wrong with my own GI block at one time or another, which gave me considerable prior knowledge. My brother scored 90%, which was in the top third of the class, not that anyone is keeping track, as we have no official class rankings until 5th quarter.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I'm a fungus; you're a protozoa: 1st-quarter med school and studying

Beware the nannycam, which may be found in the moost innocuous of places.

I have a major exam this week. It's my GI block exam. I wouldn't say that I'm confident going into the exam, but I'm freaking out less than many of those around me. I've been overstudying -- certainly not in all courses, but in the tough ones at least -- since high school, so it's not a new concept to me. I've long since  mastered what some of my peers are just now starting to learn.

Because I don't actually have anything resembling a social life, I've taken up babysitting two nights a week. It doesn't go too late, as it's always either for a neighbor, professor, resident, or fellow med student. None of these people retain party animal status if they ever had it. I  only babysit Monday through Thursday, and I accept the first two jobs that are offered. I don't take money. The professors have a hard time with this, as they desire my services because I'm good, not because i'm free, but every time one of them insists on giving me money, I drop a receipt in the mail to show them they've donated it. They need the tax write-off for charitable contributions more than I do. I tell them just to make sure there is good food for me to eat, or, in one case, good juice for me to drink.

Last week when I was babysitting, my brother and his study group wanted to come over to the professor's house where I was sitting so that I could study with them. It was nice  that they wanted me even if only for my brain and not for my sparkling personality. They've figured out that I have a knack for predicting what will be on exams.  Regardless, I could not let them into anyone's house without permission from the owners even if the children were already asleep, and I would not bother the couple on their night out to seek permission. I compromised and skyped with them for forty-five minutes since the children didn't need anything except someone to listen in and ensure that they were OK. One reason I'm a highly-sought-after sitter  (my main attraction for med students and residents is that I don't charge, but that's not an issue for professors) is that I do everything by the book and don't break any rules.  Children are probably safer with me than they are with their own parents.

I've found that doctors have bizarre quirks when it comes to their children. One doctor won't let his children eat anything while thep parents are not home. They can drink, but he's paranoid about choking. He has his wife feed the kids dinner before they leave, and then tells everyone that no one is to eat. He doesn't even want me eating. The wife leaves all sorts of things for the children and me to drink, but no one eats anything. One time the older child got really hungry. I gave her milk because that was the best I could do for her. When her parents got home, she immediately got out of bed and begged for food, which they let her have because they were home. The child is in half-day kindergarten this year, but  she'll go to all-day school next year unless they decide to homeschool. I wonder how they will cope with the idea of their child eating solid food out of their presence. Perhaps they'll send her to school with an all-liquid lunch.

A resident doctor for whom I babysat would't allow me to use any heat source in her absence. She had dinner prepared for me and for the two-year-old when I got there, but told me not to heat up anything for the child or even for myself while she was gone. She wouldn't even allow me to use the microwave in her absence. She popped my popcorn for me before se left. She had plenty of snacks that didn't need heating, but absolutely nothing could be heated. I'm not sure if she thought the child or I might get burned, or if she was worried that I would, in my incompetence, torch the place.

This one's slightly less weird, but the wife of another doctor put butcher paper over windows where the blinds don't quite meet the edges of the windows in the living room and kitchen  so that no prospective intruder would peek through any cracks and see that the child was alone with a teenaged babysitter. They live in a gated community in an otherwise nice neighborhood, and their house is alarmed. They say they've never had an intruder before. I suppose they're just paranoid. The professor offered to pay my brother if he would come with me. If I sit for them again, I'll ask Matthew if he wants to come along and make a few bucks by being a bodyguard while he studies. They have really good food for sitters, so Matthew will probably accept. I think it's a bit of overkill, but to each his own.

I operate under the assumption that every house in which I sit has a nanny cam and conduct myself accordingly. So far I've been asked back at pretty much every place I've sat (again, it's a slightly low threshold since I charge nothing), so they must not be unhappy with what they've seen in their nanny cams. One mother wanted to fire her child's piano teacher and hire me to teach the child. I have a degree in piano performance, but I had to draw the line no matter who the lady's husband is. I can part with a few hours a week for babysitting but I cannot cammit to a regular weekly  piano-teaching gig. If I needed the money, I might feel different, but I don't need the money.

One of my professors offered me a 4-week paying gig for next summer. It doesn't pay all that well, but it's job experience that i could probably use.  He works for one month as a summer camp physician, and he's allowed to bring his own assistant. the camp is on the east coast. The camp will pay for my flights. I'll  ave a private room when I'm not on call overnight with sick campers. The main benfit is the "job experience" and the future reference that I'll be able to use. Face it: the job itself sucks, but one must suck certain things up in order to ensure a secure future. It's in June.. I'll have three weeks off before and seven weeks afterward, so I'll have sufficient time to be a vegetable. My primary reservation to accepting the position is that, because it's in a summer camp setting, the kids will probably be forced to sing that godawful song about "I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills, boom de ada," etc.  I hate that song with a vengeance,. Just thinking about it practically causes me to break out in hives.

the world's worst camp song

Monday, October 6, 2014

I Dream of Mitt

In this picture, Mitt looks psychotic enough to actually perpetrate the actions that took place in my dream.

I went to sleep at 11:15 last night, which is unusually early for me. Unfortunately, a long night of sleep was not to be. I woke up a few minutes ago from a strange dream about Mitt Romney. In the dreaam, Mitt came to my medical school for some undisclosed reason. He ended up holding the entire cohort of Quarter 1 students hostage with a syringe full of what he said was blood saturated with the ebola virus.

Mitt told the students that he could inject everyone, or that the group could select a single candidate to be the recipient of the entire syringe full of ebola-contaminated blood. Anyone who has read more than one or two of my blogs is very likely aware of my rather intense persecution complex. Of course my classmates unanimously elected me to be injected with the ebola-drenched blood in my dream.

I was not going to be Mitt's willing victim, however, and a chase ensued, initially between just mitt and me, but eventually involving the entire cohort. I hid inside a refrigerated drawer in the anatomy lab, keeping thee drawer open just enough so that i wouldn't suffocate. it was my hope that mitt wouldn't notice that the drawer was open ever so slightly. He didn't notice at first. He opened numerous drawers in the lab, revealing numerous cadavers, i could see him through the opening as he knjected each cadaver he saw.

I couldn't deduce why he was injecting bodies that were already dead, but eventually it occurred to me that whern Mitt finally found and injected me, the syringe would not only contain the ebola virus but the germs of almost every cadaver in the lab. I knew I must act.

When Mitt stepped near a walk-in freezer opening, I sprang from my drawer, opened the walk-in freezer door, and pushed Mitt inside. He couldn't get out. Then my classmates  found me in the anatomy lab. I smiled at them and asked that someone call the authorities. My classmates had no interest in doing so. They wanted to deliver me to Mitt.

I tried to explain to the dullards that Mitt was no longer a threat, and that their earlier vote to sacrifice me for their own well being was moot since Mitt was, in essence, captured, but no one saw any logic in their reasoning.  Another chase pursued. I locked myself into an empty office and was in the process of  climbing out an upstairs window into a tree when I woke up. At least i wasn't acting out my dream this time and did not wake up to find myself actually crawling out a window of the condominium.

I tried going back to sleep, but any additional sleep beyond the two-and-one-half hours I already got seems to be a lost cause.  At least my cat was kind enough to ask to be let out of my brother's room, where she has taken to spending her nights, so that I do not have to sit out  the remainder of this night alone.

He doesn't look all that stable in this pic, either.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Are we alone in the universe? Probably not.

It seems to me that most of the people I've ever known ior have seen or heard on TV who claim to have witnessed extraterrestrial visitations to the Earth are not on exactly the same wavelength as most of the rest of us. A relative of a relative of a relative is heavily involved in the organization MUFON, which stands for "Mutual UFO Network."  The guy who shares mutual familial links with me is highly educated and intelligent, but he's not a person with whom I have enough commonality for the two of us even to carry on a comfortable five-minute conversation or to share a cab without awkwardness. I've only gotten his take on the matter third-hand, but the word is that  he seriously believes that the aliens are among us everywhere, posing as Earthlings until they're poised to make a move.

My skepticism concerning most UFO sightings notwithstanding, I  doubt that we, the occupants of Earth, are the only planet-inhabiting beings in the universe.  I have nothing on which to base my suspicions other than conventional logic. With all the uncharted galaxies out there, what are the sheer odds of Earth being the only significantly life-supporting planet?

As to the nature of the inhabitants of other planets, I haven't a clue. If we're all created by the same God, chances are that we would be somewhat similar, but if we're created by different forces. who knows what the beings might be like?  The fact that they apparently  haven't shown up and made their presence clearly known and haven't yet conquered us would lend credence to the idea that they're not leaps and bounds beyond us, but that, too, is highly speculative. Maybe they've seen the disgusting mess we've made of our planet and want no part of us. Then again, perhaps they're just waiting for a time we're distracted -- Super Bowl Sunday or World War III, maybe -- to pounce upon us and claim our planet as their own and to turn us into prisoners or slaves. Or maybe a few of these other ciclizations are so busy fighting it out between eaach other that they haven't even noticed earth yet.

Even if we're all created by the same God, perhaps there are noticeable differences. Maybe we Earthlings are not as perfect in design as we think. We might possibly have been one of God's earlier experimentations. Mormons have backed away from it, but they used to teach, "As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become."  Before Gordon W. Hinckley uttered his famous "I don't know that we teach that" disclaimer about the previously quoted tenet in a nationally televised interview, I believe the oft-quoted maxim was essentially considered doctrine. 

One of my LDS uncles by marriage who is an MD (not Uncle Michael; he's my biological uncle, but he's also much lower-key about his religion than are the other practicing Mormons in the family) used to say that if he ever achieved godhood, he was going to place the nose above the mouth of the bodies he created so that people were less likely to have food fall back into their tracheas and consequently choke. It's conceivable, however unlikely,  that God could have thought of the same thing as my uncle, and a younger planet might be populated by a horde of beings with their mouths right in the middles of their faces. Leave it to one of my relatives to think he has a better plan for how to make people than God does. 

If such is the case and there is another planet filled with people whose mouths are above their noses, I hope they don't invade Earth.  I can't imagine the nightmares I would have after seeing them. I'm not much of an artist, but just for the hell of it, I drew the most realistic face I could render with its nose below its mouth. I really should have left well enough alone, as I'm having trouble getting the image out of my head. I wish I had never drawn it. I'm afraid to google the concept because a more realistic portrayal might genuinely traumatize me. Who knows if the more evolved species' eyes would even retain the same location as they occupy in humans as we know them to be, although it would seem that having the eyes located near the highest point of a body would be a survival advantage? Perhaps God figured this out as well and eliminated foreheads for the inhabitants of one of his later planet projects. I'm giving myself a serious case of the willies.

Will we find them first, or will they find us first? Conventioal logic would dictate that the more advanced civilzation will travel to  discover the less advanced populace. What are the chances of the inhabitants of Earth being the most advanced cilizartion anywhere? Not all that great, the answer would seem to be. I suppose we can hope that there are other more exciting planets far closer to the most advanced civilzations, so that we can escape notice for now.

If the inhabitants of another planet present themselves here, I'm not at all optimistic about the outcome. We have so much difficulty getting along with each other as it is even with just one species running things here. How could we possibly get along with extraterrestrial visitors even if they didn't have their faces all  screwed up by a God who thought as my uncle does and decided to make improvements upon the human face?  The only consolation for me is that I'm not going to live forever. I can always hope that no one shows up from some exotic location in the universe until I've made my final exit.

Why would I even automatically assume that extraterrestrials would have two eyes? 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Cat Owner

a cat that is not my new cat

I have a cat. She's a gray kitty who has apparently been hanging around a couple of the buildings at my school, though I saw her for the first time today. She's quite friendly, and students have reportedly been feeding her bits of their lunches, but she still has an underfed look about her.

One of my professors was petting her. He felt her stomach and said that she was pregnant. I called a vet and made a late afternoon appointment, then put her in a cat carrier that I purchased when I first arrived here in anticipation of finding a kitty. (I also had cat food, kitty litter, a litter box, and a few toys stored away in my condo for the inevitable cat adoption.)

The veterinarian checked her for a microchip and but didn't find one. I really don't want to steal someone else's cat. I checked Craig's List  and other sources. I'll probably even post a picture of her on Craig's List and on the message board for medical students, but I highly doubt anyone will claim her. She has apparently been around for a couple of weeks. I don't know how I missed seeing her before. Even my brother says he's seen her. My brother likes her, by the way, even though he says he hates cats.

Tomorrow she's going to be spayed, which means, obviously, that she will not be allowed to give birth to her litter of kittens. The veterinarian says she's pretty far along in her pregnancy, but he has no issue with spaying her aand terminating her pregnancy in one fell swoop. He says she's so thin that she probably hasn't had enough to eat, and that poor nutrition, combined with her being very young (the vet thinks she's maybe ten months or so, and it's presumably her first litter) probably would have given her unhealthy babies. Even if they were healthy and I found homes for them, I would essentially be depriving existing cats of those new homes. There are too many unwanted cats around, anyway. I hope my kitty doesn't know what's going on in terms of being pregnant and isn't saddened by the loss of her babies, but regardless, it's something that needs to happen.

I have no clue what my parents will say when I show up for vacation with a cat, but I don't really care all that much. They'll probably be less than thrilled that I'm keeping a cat in the condo, but they never said specifically that we couldn't have any pets in here. They like animals, and I'm sure they'll eventually like her. They're out of the country now, and are in occasional email contact, but I don't feel like spoiling their vacation by bothering them with the cat dilemma. That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking with it.  My dog, who lives with my parents when they're not traveling, has no major issue with cats.

I would post an actual picture of her, but I'm trying to maintain some degree of anonymity here, and little things like posting a picture of the actual cat right after I adopt her would chip away at my anonymity. It would be a fluke for one of my fellow students or one of the professors to happen upon the site, but it could happen. Were my cover to be blown, it wouldn't be the end of the world as I know it, since I'm not using the blog to tell the world about a life of crime or even promiscuity that I'm leading or a cheating ring off of which I' profiting. It's simply a matter of having the luxury of using this space as a place to vent or rant on occasion. I know I'm taking my chances, but I try to exercise moderate caution in what I say so it won't likely pop up in google searches that  professors or other school officials run.

My cat's a little hungry because she wasn't allowed to eat after 7:00 p.m. tonight. I'll take her to the vet early tomorrow morning before class, and the vet has agreed to keep someone in the office a bit later than usual so that I may pick her up after class. He seems appreciative both for the business and that I'm helping to keep the stray cat population down.

The kitty does not yet have a name. I'm in no rush to name her. When I think of the perfect name, I'll give it to her. Matthew wants  to name her Antarctica Meringue after our cousin, but unlike my free-spirited aunt and uncle, I'm reluctant to saddle even a cat with such a ridiculous name.  If her owners respond to any adds I post, I'll hand her over, but it's unlikely. I don't really care if they're upset about her being spayed. It's something whoever owned her in the first place should have done, and the original owner would be lucky that I had undertaken it at my own expense. I really don't think, however, that anyone will claim her. I hope no one does. She's a sweet cat.

another cat that is not my cat

Monday, September 29, 2014


This is basically what you may be facing if you visit an E.R. at a teaching hospital in the upcoming months. Stay healthy!

I'm putting everyone here on notice. In the immediate future, my colleagues and I are taking a few hours' worth of workshops on vital signs, after which they (the ubiquitous superpower THEY, never to be identified) are sending my colleagues and me into the emergency room of a hospital somewhere in the northern half of California. The same thing is probably happening in teaching hospitals all over the nation. If you know what is good for you, I would advise you to stay the hell away from teaching hospitals in general and mine in particular if you're feeling not quite up to par and think you may be in need of medical treatment at an emergency room. 

I'm not quite so much worried about myself.  I've watched enough House, MD episodes that I could basically diagnose anyone. I've been doing it for years (much to my father's chagrin) with remarkable accuracy. ( Rule #1: It's NOT lupus.) It's my less-enlightened colleagues for whom I fear. Most of them could not differentiate a case of full-term labor from the measles. 

We won't be actually responsible for your treatment, although our beady eyes will be on you the entire time you receive said treatment.  We will process your intake. If we really screw up a blood pressure or pulse reading, the odds  are that someone will catch it.  Sometimes things don't happen in the manner that is statistically probable, though. Perhaps you will be the one in ten who will NOT be caught by someone smarter and more capable than we are.

Again, it is not I about whom  you really need to be worried. I've been able to take a blood pressure reading with a sphygmomanometer and stethoscope (I even know how to spell them correctly and have known how since elementary school, unlike more than half of my colleagues) since I was nine years old. I won't kill you off before you even see a real doctor.  I cannot, however, make the same guarantee in regard to many if not most of my peers. 

Just to be on the safe side, if you fail to heed my admonition and do find yourself in a northern California E.R. in the next month or two, and you find that your intake is being processed by a medical student who looks greener than Ireland in the month of June, ask for Alexis. It may not be my hospital, and even if it is, I may not be on duty, but it's probably still in your best interests to at least ask. Maybe they'll page me.

P.S. In a real pinch, ask for Matthew. I know that you must be reluctant to do so after some of the stories that I've shared about him, but he does at least know how to take an accurate blood pressure and pulse. I know this because I taught him personally.

P.S.S. I'm praying for the continued good health of readers everywhere, but particularly for those of you who wander through the northern half of California. From what I hear of southern California's medical students, they're even stupider as a group than we are, so you might want to be very careful if you're spending any time there.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Great Stupidifier - Medical School

For anyone out there with masochistic tendencies who really wants to feel stupid, I recommend medical school.  It's not that my peers, classmates, competitors -- or whatever I would call them -- are doing much or any better than I am. It's just that there's nothing like meeting up with subject matter not available at any of my previous stations in academia or in life.  It highlights just how much I don't know when I study for twelve hours and feel as though I've barely made a dent in the material I  must commit to memory forever or at least for the duration of my professional career.

With academic work I've done in the past, I've known that much of it was not tremendously pertinent to my life. I could learn what I needed to learn to ace a course, and then choose to remember it if it was in anyway useful or interesting, or to forget it if it wasn't. It may be that someday I'll decide that in the grand scheme of things,  something that I'm learning right now really doesn't have much to do with my field of medicine or is otherwise cluttering my brain, and will have the freedom to forget it.

Somehow I doubt that such will be the case. I think the professors are probably speaking the truth when they tell us that learning about how cells form tissues and learning the early principles of molecular biology  and med school anatomy (not to be confused with the most advanced undergrad anatomy course available anywhere, which everyone in the class has taken) lay the foundations for everything we'll ever learn about the scientific aspects of healing.  I think what I'm learning now will have to remain in my brain for the foreseeable future, at least in some dormant form.

Very soon, I will undergo a few hours of clinical instruction regarding the basics of vital signs of the human body. This will enable me to process the basic intake of E.R. patients for just a very small amount of time each week.  It used to be, back in the dinosaur days when my dad went to medical school, that a med school students wouldn't get within shouting distance of a patient until Year # 3 of medical school. All that has changed. I'm not sure precisely why, as it seemed like a pretty good system to me. Perhaps it's because anyone willing to put in the time and effort can learn what's in a book, but for me and for most of the opposition (I don't love to think of those who are studying with me as such, but that's the way it is now if I'm to be honest), what will allow us to succeed or cause us to fail miserably in the field of medicine will be the ability [or inability] to synthesize what we've learned and somehow make sense of it and make use of it in the real world.

I can't speak for the experience of anyone else in the program, but for me, it's like building a bridge. Right now, I'm on one side of a body of water and building out across the water to another piece of land. I've built my bridge maybe a total of three feet into the roughly 10 miles of water I'll need to build it across in order to reach land again. In roughly two weeks, I'm going to take a helicopter or row a little boat or somehow get all the way across to that other section of land and start building the bridge from that side. I'll build on that side for maybe five minutes, then fly or row back to the other side to build again from the original side. I know what's on the very beginning of this side, and I'll know what's on the very start of the bridge on the other side very soon, but my two ends of the bridge are in no way even remotely close to being connected, and I have no clue just what it is that will one day connect them. I don't really know for certain that the ends of the bridge will ever connect.

I'm taking it on faith that all the people who have ever done this before me are not co-conspirators in some ginormously perpetrated hoax and that this is not some bizarre hazing ritual designed to cull the weak, ignorant, and insufficiently dedicated among us.  The anatomy part I get. Yes, a doctor has to know the bones and everything there is to know about each and every one of them.  Most of us knew all the bones before we ever set foot on campus for medical school interviews. Now we get the fun of actually finding them on a real [used-to-be] live human body. (Yes, I did throw up in my first anatomy lab, but I wasn't the only one to do so.)  It's the more abstract learning of cellular and molecular biology that is perplexing me. How what I'm learning in classrooms could ever have anything to do with removing someone's appendix, ridding someone's body of a kidney stone, or even stitching up some child's boo boo, is still very much a mystery to me.

I could take the easy way out.  I could do the job I plan ultimately to do with a mere PhD in biochemistry or even microbiology.  I chose this more difficult path, and now I'm really wondering into what sort of quagmire I've gotten myself.  And, at the end of the day when my head is just short of imploding and they let us out until morning, now I don't even have Judge Alex episodes with which to distract myself. (Curse you, Fox! And you have the audacity to call yourself a real network!)

If it sounds as though I'm treading water and just barely keeping my head above the surface, that's probably not a wholly inaccurate description of my current state.  The only thing really keeping me sane and here is that, while some are better at faking it than I, they're in every bit as much trouble as I am.  The ones who are the least stressed are the few who don't really belong here with the rest of us and haven't yet figured it out. Some of them believe that pass/fail grading means basically everyone passes. Everyone doesn't pass.

I will pass. It seems grim now, but I'll get through it. And I'll do the pre-clerkship portion of medical school in two years, not the three years that the administration is so heavily pushing us to extend it to. I know if it's difficult for me, it's even more difficult for some others.  I can see it in their eyes even if they pretend to be having the time of their lives.  Nobody here is both having fun and passing. It's interesting, but it's not fun. Any one of us who thinks he or she is having fun is going to be out of here after December.

It's accurate except for "What my family thinks." Too many people in my family have been to med school for anyone to believe this.