Thursday, June 28, 2012


He had a little turban of gauze wrapped around his shaggy blonde head. Perfect rows of white teeth and blue eyes. I imagined that when Jack Johnson was 4 years old he probably looked like him; brightly colored board shorts, a mini ROXY hoodie, and lime green flip flops.  Despite the bloody gash (thanks to a fall on his grandparents fireplace) he was chatty and informed me he loved visiting Canada because he could play in the snow, his middle name meant "wave" in Hawaiian, and that he'd rather have an apple juice than a spider man sticker thankyouverymuch. 

After I unwound the gauze and inspected his scalp, I had to irrigate the wound with some saline to clean up the bloody tangle of hair before stapling it. He brought his hand up just above his head and hunched his shoulders down while I cleaned it, but didn't cry or pull away.

I was dropping the used bandages and gauze into the bin and untangling the situation when he cocked his head in my direction, studying my face while I scrubbed.

I really like your earrings.

Aw, that is so sweet of you, thank you!

You're welcome.  

Can't think of the last time an adult complimented my jewelery while I was repairing their head wound. Mind you, adults in that situation are usually fallen down drunk and mildly abusive.

I almost feel like most of my patients in the ED have been part of an elaborate ruse to woo me into pediatrics. It's working people, it is working!!

Friday, June 22, 2012

My Face Is My Fortune...

...that's why I'm totally broke!

I had a feisty 8 y.o girl come in tonight. Her long blonde hair was pulled back in a messy pony tail, an oversized black Karate hoodie hung low over her leggings. I saw she had the beginnings of two black eyes, a bit of a swollen nose, and a bump sitting on the bridge. She excitedly told me about how she got accidentally head-butted yesterday in karate just before winning her competition. She then mock-kissed her biceps.

So what brings you in today? Are you worried your nose is broken?

Yeah, we need to check it out....this [said while circling her face with her index finger] is my money maker.

And that was when an 8 y.o girl became my hero. I mean, she had me at the bicep kissing, but that line cinched it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Paging Doctor Blackbear

So the last week at work involved a couple of milestones. I am so sleep deprived right now that I can only think of one (thanks to two 6am shifts starts, Ryan's recent surprise 40th birthday keg party, and 11h of driving in the last 4 days).

My attending asked me to page the neuro team for one of our patients and I mentally froze. Lowly medical students do not consult with other teams in Ireland. What amount of detail should I go into? How much history do they want? Is it like a geriatric consult where you have to mention how many pets they have and if they can still drive themselves to get groceries? Or is it like a surgical consult where you say there is a fracture, please fix it?

I told the unit clerk my name (Albino) and asked her to page the neuro team for me. 

A few minutes later I was assessing another patient when "Dr. Blackbear please pick up line 70770 for neurology, Doctor Blackbear" came over the PA . At first I was reflexively tuning out the sound of the announcement as it crackled into the room. Then I realized the call was for me! Yes, the title wasn't accurate but I have to admit it briefly made my stomach flutter with excitement. I know it sounds cheesy but I've been ignoring that interruption while in hospital for the last 12 years. It hit me that sooner rather than later I would actually be Doctor Blackbear! It is quite an exciting (and frightening) prospect.

Most days this journey feels so long that I almost forget that at some point the tuition payments end, the paychecks and different responsibilities begin, and new goals appear on the horizon. Hearing my name paged overhead was a jolt of reality: in a year from now I won't be able to ignore those calls and the next chapter will be beginning.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Success / Fail


When you correctly diagnose an appendicitis in a child who no one thought had appendicitis.

When you think you heard coarse lung sounds in the right middle lobe and (lo!) the x-ray shows a RML pneumonia.

When you finally get a kid who has clamped his teeth down on your tongue depressor to actually open his mouth wide enough to see tonsils. 

When part of your work day involves witnessing a 4 y.o perform a convincing and prolonged air-drum solo on his dinner tray with 2 brightly colored straws.

When you finally get a sample of liquid gold urine from a child with tummy pain and a fever.


When you are taking a history and ask about immunization status and the parent states, "Immunizations are not based on science". 

When you ask a parent to keep their kid from eating any food until their nausea / vomiting / abdominal pain are sorted out and you go back in the room to find the child eating bright blue cotton candy (or is that a success because the child is clearly feeling better?)

Peds Say the Darndest Things....

I had a patient who came in with a very itchy rash over her entire body. It was a busy day and she waited with her dad for about 3 hours before being seen. She readily jumped up on the bed and pulled up her dress to show me the angry red bumps on her belly, then kicked off her black boots to show me the bottom of her feet, which had been spared.

Her little thighs were raw with scratching and I felt terrible for her long wait. I said to her, "I am so sorry that you had to wait so long to see a doctor, especially on this lovely day".

She shrugged and said, "It's okay, I know you have lots of other patients to see too!"

She was six years old.

In five years of emergency nursing and three years of medical school I've never had an adult respond with the same selfless and realistic view of the situation.

Adults of the world, take note. Children of the world, stay awesome.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Peds? Really?

First of all, I love pediatrics!

Children are such completely different animals. My experience so far with pediatrics has been fairly limited to the odd asthma, RSV, gastro, or rash that presents to general emergency. But working exclusively in a pediatric emergency department has been a completely different reality. I have really been enjoying the challenge of trying to connect with children, like figuring out ways to make clinical exams tolerable to them or jazzing up the neuro exam to make it like a game. I get to be kind of silly and fun, disguising the seriousness of it all. It's a treat, especially when you can get on the level with a kid. Most of them seem to lack the hang-ups that adults have around illness and disease. They are stoic but not in the look how stoic I am being, so stoic that I am actually not providing accurate information to my health care providers way that adults are. There is a different kind of job satisfaction that comes with helping to name a new teddy bear (Mr. Fall off the Wall) or getting an energetic high-five from a kid who was burying himself in his mother's skirt for most of the history. 

Plus, I always thought that (because I am really not that great with kids in the real world) I'd dislike pediatrics. And then there is the crazy parents, who also frighten me. But it seems that crazy parents are not as common as I'd imagined. Or maybe I am just not noticing them because my interaction time with parents is more limited, compared to when I was nursing.

The hospital is beautiful, brand new, and completely child-centered. T.V in every room, popsicle fridges at every corner. The staff seem to really love their work. I'm so impressed at how they are able to balance between the focused intensity of acute care while making it fun and minimally scary for the wee patients. Everyone is just so nice. Maybe it is harder to be a curmudgeonly pediatrician or crotchety nurse, I don't know.

It's been a great learning experience also, being put in with the residents for all of their teaching sessions and tutorials. Their simulation training has a dedicated faux trauma bay in the department, complete with all the drugs, pumps, and machines that go bing! We did a session on Thursday with mannequins that are very realistic (heart, breath, bowel sounds, as well as pulses, intubatable throats, seizure capability, etc.). All the mock codes were run in real time, that is, you wouldn't just say, "I would start an IV and give ceftriaxone", you actually assign the task of IV start to one of the team, they put in a line, someone draws up the actual drug and sets up the infusion. The enthusiasm to teach and job satisfaction of the attendings is contagious and I must admit I look forward to every shift.

It is strange though, being in a new city. I feel like I am regressing as an adult. No phone, no car, no idea how the city is laid out. I walked for over an hour in the hopes of buying a new burner only to  find they were sold out. The saleswoman kindly advised me to call ahead next time. I gently pointed out that I didn't have a phone, hence why I was trying to purchase one! Sigh.

And so, getting settled in. Trying to enjoy each day for what it offers. I have already managed to locate and join a yoga studio for the month, so at least some physical activity will take place. Did I mention there is also a very decent wine store down the street allowing me to finally taste my favorite American grapes again (in Ireland you're lucky to find Ernest & Julio). It's Friday night, I'm post hot-yoga and ready for a glass of red and my new book.

Back to work tomorrow, the adventure continues.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I Guess I am a Final Med?!

Today was my first day in the Tiny People Only emergency department.

I arrived to town last night, still feeling jet lagged and disorientated from the packing and moving. The chaos of the last few days had me finding my toothbrush wrapped up in an ipod USB cable and a stethoscope stuffed into a running shoe.

Falling asleep last night I realised that I needed to be up at 0630h and had no alarm clock. I listened through different selections on my "Deep Sleep" app for my ipod and tried to choose the most annoying piece to set for an alarm in the morning. Word of advice: do not choose music from an app designed for sleep, if what you want is to be woken up.

So I picked one of the chanting/meditation ones, hoping the incessant gong ringing would rouse me. Instead I found myself in a deep sleep, dreaming that I was walking along a lake shore in Nepal.

Nepal. Something isn't right. Sighhhh. Listen to that nice chanting. Monks. Hmmm. Chanting. Wait. Ringing, why is ringing bad, why? Ohhhhhh nooooooo! 

So I didn't sleep in too much, but long enough to be in a panic. First squarely hitting my shin on the corner of the wooden bed frame while leaping into nylons at record speed. I believe the entire bowl of oatmeal fell down my throat with one gulp, followed by two gasps of lukewarm coffee.

This really was not how I wanted to start my first day as a final med.

I scurried down the streets trying to locate my bus stop. Lost and convinced I'd missed the bus, I felt my shoulders drop, realizing that things were going from bad to worse when the bus appeared and took me where I wanted to go.

It was a long and busy day. It felt strange to tell people I was a final year student. A little daunting to step into the role of Canadian medical student where you are expected to immediately hit the ground running, perform assessments, establish diagnoses, elucidate care plans, and order tests. Plus these aren't the patients I am used to dealing with, they are all so little. The little humans. Don't get me wrong, I like it! But it is very different to the medical student role in an Irish hospital, to be sure.

For now, I am not going to worry too much about all of it. I am just going to sleep. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Back in the Fold

I believe when you're a 10 y.o girl shopping at "Claire's" = Nirvana
Touched down in Canada yesterday. Into the bosom of my family, greeted at the airport with hugs and a packed lunch of roasted vegetables and broiled salmon. Had been bumped to business class on the long haul part of the flight but still managed to catch no sleep. Leaving Kerry was punctuated by a pathetically slow packing effort on my part. But that is a whole other story.

Yesterday my niece Rachel and I found ourselves at the Farmer's Market, though it was late in the afternoon so only a skeleton of stalls remained. We dined on mini-doughnuts and then went to the mall where we were sucked into a vortex of hot pink or shiny made-in-China trinkets. I think maybe we enjoyed ourselves a little too much in the sunglasses section. The sugar high must have gone to my head because I did nearly buy a faux diamond tiara and rainbow leg warmers.

Justin Beiber said whaaaaaat?