Friday, December 23, 2011

The Real Reason, On CBC Today

When I am asked the reason I chose medicine, I almost never tell the truth. I feel a little protective of the real reason and how it might be perceived by others, so I usually reveal some of my less sentimental and more cerebral motivations for becoming a doctor.

But, when given the opportunity to create a small radio piece about my grandad and how he continues to medically inspire me, I happily got to work.

I know it is Christmas Eve, but if you need a half hour break from the chaos, have a listen to a story that is very close to my heart.  Tune into CBC's national radio show, White Coat, Black Art today, or go to the website and stream it at your leisure.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful start to their holiday!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays.  Stay safe, keep warm.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Circular Conversations at Customs

There happened to be a good friend from school on my flight from Newark to Ottawa yesterday. We didn't plan it that way but we were pleased to have some catch-up time throughout the cab-rides and layovers. Naturally we were chatting while waiting in the customs line, until I approached the weedy French Canadian with a friendly, "good afternoon". His blonde hair was shaved to the nub, and he had an expression on his face that said I'd rather be wearing mirrored aviators...

He responded to my greeting with, "who is that you are traveling with?"

Uh, I am traveling alone.


Yes, alone.

Who was that guy you were talking to then?

Um, a friend, but we aren't traveling together. [What are you, a jealous boyfriend??]

You are on a flight together but not traveling together, hey?

Yes, I bought my ticket separately, we live in different know him from some classes we took together.  [Confused and now flustered at this strange line of questioning, I think I probably sound like a drug smuggler].

Where do you live then?

I live in Small Town Ireland.

And where do you go to school?

At University in Ireland.

And what are these classes? [Smirking like I am about to say, 'nude sculpting']

Um...medicine classes? [Am I a complete imbecile? When have I ever described my education as 'medicine classes??'] 

What are you studying at University of Ireland?

Oh right, medicine, I am studying medicine. I am a medical student. [The lady doth say 'medicine' too much, methinks...]

And you are in Canada for just 25 days then?

Yes. [Hello, I am a Canadian citizen I can be in Canada for as MANY BLOODY DAYS AS I WANT!!!]

He tosses my passport onto the desk and motions to next person in line. I collect my luggage and walk through gate to see Tobie's smiling face. Until we reach the safe confines of his car my head continues to dart around waiting for customs to taser me or demand a bag / body search.

What is it with these uniformed misanthropists? Is it that their job is so bad that they feel the need to be acrimonious power-trippers? Are they actually not allowed to smile, or be polite, engage in socially acceptable forms of communication? I was so annoyed, wishing I could delete the whole welcome home to Canada experience.

The great part is I am home. Sorta. At least I am in the motherland, where the "hot" and "cold" tap are one, my 'accent' doesn't attract attention, and soy milk comes in more than one brand / flavor.

Oh, complete me. [Sighs]

Monday, December 12, 2011

Palm Reading

I love looking at people’s hands.

My fascination with hands started when I learned how to I.V cannulate.  I found myself subconsciously evaluating the potential ease or difficulty an I.V start would be, even absentmindedly tapping along the length of a vein (usually creeping out the boyfriend or family member).

Now that I’ve been learning so much about how many clues the hands and nails can reveal regarding systemic pathology, I’m becoming borderline obsessive about looking at the hands of people around me…hoping to see some obscure clue to illness.

Last night I came across a quote in my favorite textbook, “Hamilton Bailey’s Demonstrations of Physical Signs in Clinical Surgery” which I thought encapsulated my rekindled curiosity,

“Regarding the hands, ‘one does not need the mysteries of palmistry to read in them something of the past, a great deal of the present, and even a little of the future. In them is written the record of age and sex; of occupation and habits; of skill or ineptitude; of hard work or indolence’ (Cutler)."

The Apples Do Not Fall...

In a complete blog non-sequitar I'd like to present a post by one of my good friends, Ryan. It's like cute overload if you're into children and skiing.

It made me laugh at least.

Oh how I miss Revelstoke, and the great people there (and killer skiing)!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Where Am I Going Again?

As I mentioned on twitter this afternoon, when I pack I am sort of like a dog circling a spot before lying down. Only my ritual seems to involve spinning around for hours. Packing has the tendency to flare up an attention deficit problem and I find myself vacuuming, baking, cleaning my hard drive, flossing, and online shopping while stuffing random articles into my suitcases.

This trip home is exciting and a little unsettling at the same time. I haven't been back to Canada for Christmas since 2008 so naturally I am looking forward to watching some crisp moonlight snowfalls with the Nana Mouskouri Christmas album playing in the background. I can't wait to see my mom, Tobie, his family, my good friend Liz...the Arab grocery store in Montréal that I love.

The unsettling part is that I don't know how long I am going for, and where I'll be for January. It is a little difficult to pack when you don't know if you'll be spending a month in Arizona or Nunavut, a GP office or an O.R. We're talking a lot of variety here. Heels? Hikers? Nylons? Blouses? Scrubs? Sneaks? Not to mention which books I'd bring based on the place / rotation. I am still trying to arrange something but my most recent lead is looking unlikely now as well. I found out this week that I also didn't get any electives at the University of Ottawa for the summer. Have I mentioned that I am tired of feeling like a medical pariah an outcast? Is this blog post turning into a pity party? Maybe...

So now, instead of coming back to Ireland at the end of January it looks like I might be flying straight back after New Years. Sigh. I just want an opportunity to learn, and to get some hands-on experience.  It is really disheartening to constantly feel doors close in my face when I am working hard and putting myself out there. It is true that at every turn medicine asks, how badly do you want this??

OK. That is enough whining. 

On a happier note...the ginger cake that I made today turned out beautifully. I may be turning a corner in this whole baking thing. Yes, yesterday my kitchen did look like I'd had a seizure in it while holding a bag of baking soda and I probably ate 4000 calories of "broken" brownies oh I can't bring the broken ones to the Christmas party...but with each event the baking part gets a little easier and the results get a little more edible. Maybe I should try to get an elective at a pasty school...hmmm...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Luck Be A Placement

"I never come to work with a heavy heart, I am always whistling on my way in. Sometimes, at the end of the day I have a heavy heart, but never at the beginning". 

This was said to me today by my new preceptor, a man who has been a family physician since opening his clinic thirty five years ago. At that moment I said a silent prayer that I will someday be able to say the same thing about my career.

J. A is easy to laugh, and a very straight talker.  A shock of white hair rings his bald head yet he carries himself like a much younger man. I was fairly certain we'd get along well right from the beginning based on the fact that his expression seems to carry the right combination of mirth and sincerity. But he sealed the deal today on our way to a home visit when, as we walked out to his car dressed in our long winter coats, he suddenly turned to me and said, "Oh dear, I've just remembered...I've got a lot of game in the trunk of my'm really sorry...I was hunting on the weekend and...well...the car smells quite bad!"

Yes, I think we're going to get along just fine. How could he have known he was dealing with an Alberta girl, raised in a family of hunters? One of my earliest memories is going to my Dad's shop, and opening the door to the horrifying sight of a moose head on the cement floor, then lifting my eyes to an even more gruesome view, the skinned body hanging from a large winch.  I just smiled and reassured him he didn't have to worry, the smell would not offend my delicate sensibilities.

To be paired with a physician who--still whistles on his way to work, is genuinely keen to learn about current best practices in medicine, and is quirky enough to have animal hides in his car makes me think I've probably hit the jackpot for the next 5 months. Woot!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Last Day

Tomorrow is my last day in the hospital. I cannot believe that I am halfway done third year already.

Does life always move this fast? Everyone said it would, but I didn't believe them.

I am really going to miss the hospital. I've only just figured out the best shortcuts through the wards, the codes to all the change rooms, where the best coffee is served, the names of the nurses, the passwords for the diagnostic reports, lab results. Not to mention I'll miss some of the lovely working relationships I've made and friendships that have formed.

Now I will be in GP land until May. A new set of people, codes, computer systems. Another adventure.

I was hoping to go to Dalhousie for a 3 week elective in January, but unfortunately it fell through just recently. Now I am trying to figure out what I should do with that time. I need as many weeks of electives back in North America as I can get. So many schools don't even take international students, and the ones that do want you to apply 9 months in advance. I don't know where or what I am going to do now. (And no, a holiday isn't an option. With international medical graduates the competition is so fierce I am going to have to basically invent my own specialty and write a textbook on it by next fall if I want to study in Canada once I graduate!)

I shouldn't be thinking of all this now, it is so late, and I'll never sleep. Reflecting instead on the past 18 weeks...

Have you learned the lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed passage with you?
-Walt Whitman

Indeed, Mr. Whitman, some great lessons...