Thursday, April 25, 2013

Oh Our Lives

The main comment going back and forth between my friend Gen and I these days is, "Our LIVES!" to basically summarize all the insanity going on. Finishing medical school and leaving Ireland continues to unravel in quirky and unexpected ways.

We are both trying to cope with all the aspects of tying up our lives here while suffering from brain asystole, attempting to cram more information into our grey matter which is already packed to the rafters with random facts.

Gen is trying to sell her car and found a potential buyer who is a physician at a hospital 90 mins from town. I offered to go with her to show it so we could study in the car. That way she wouldn't feel like the precious hours before exams start were wasted.

We pulled up to the ambulance bay and waited for the guy to come out. Finally he appeared as we talked our way through rheumatology questions. He wanted to take the car for a test drive so I hopped in the back seat, she sat up front. He took the wheel, told us he didn't have a drivers license, and proceeded to start pulling donuts. Then he began screeching around the ambulance bay, speeding up towards the cement dividers and slamming on the breaks. I hollered at him to stop the car and let me out--he apologized and then began whipping a second donut near the parked ambulance. I told him, "STOP THE CAR AND LET ME OUT!!! So he did.

He then proceeded to take Gen on a terrifying ride through nearby streets, not using the windshield wipers despite the rain, and accelerating towards the waiting cars at the traffic circles. Gen was convinced that she was saying goodbye to life over a 1000 Euro car.

Incidentally, I also posted my car online and so far have received random late-night texts from weird Irishmen and an offer from an "off shore worker" who wanted to pay by PayPal without coming to see the car.

Hmmm. Yeah. No.

So we retreated to the safe enclave of my kitchen where I then received emails of required documents and YET ANOTHER POLICE RECORD CHECK for my residency program. Both for Ireland and Canada. Really?? I am in medical school here. I wish I had the time to have enough fun to get arrested in Ireland. Today my mom asked me if I was going to quit medical school. I told her yeah, it was just one criminal record check too many.

Tomorrow exams start. Six hours of written papers. The books are now closed. Mostly because studying has taken a giddy and ridiculous turn.

Gen, tell me about the life cycle of malaria...

Well, it replicates in the mosquitoes liver...uhh....

Dude, I don't think mosquitoes have livers...

**Cue peals of laughter**

[You had to be there.]

Ok, next question...Pearl, an 89 year old nursing student suddenly develops intractable HOME resident...

Wait...woah...GO PEARL! 89 year old nursing student!

**Cue peals of laughter**

[You also had to be there].





Saturday, April 20, 2013

Where are the balloons?!

Yesterday was the last day of my surgery rotation, which also happened to be the last day I had to show up to the hospital as a lowly medical student. Of course it ended with me racing in for a 0730h ward round which didn't happen, giving me time to kill before surgical Grand Rounds. Afterwards our professor of surgery gave us a little pre-finals pep talk which included the well worn phrases:

-don't worry, these are the easiest exams you write in medical school
-know the basics
-you'll be fine
-try not to get too stressed
-know all the medical emergencies
-soon it will be over and you'll wonder what all the fuss was about

It was an uncharacteristically nice and reassuring discussion with him, though it did nothing for my chronic teeth grinding and constant gut-ache. After a few questions about exam specifics from the others I asked him if he was going to miss us. He said (sarcastically) yes, and I will especially miss your esoteric and obscure contributions to tutorial from the corner of the room.


(If I leave a legacy of esoteric obscurity behind then I feel I have succeeded as a student in surgery. In much the same way I felt I succeeded in internal medicine when I received an email from one of consultants telling me about a banjo competition this week. Reassuring to know that my true personality somehow shone through my crusted, exhausted exterior.)

We were dismissed after that and a cluster of us emerged into the morning sunlight, blinking and saying goodbyes and good-luck to one another. It was surreal. I was FINISHED my medical school rotations! Where was the fanfare? Where was the receiving line of dancing nurses and interns patting me on the back, handing me pizza, and popping Champagne corks?

I remembered a conversation I had this summer while I was on my pediatric emergency elective. One of the docs was telling me about his last night as a resident, at the end of his 5 year program. He was walking down the dim corridors, leaving after a night shift, "This was MY hospital, I kept these wards humming through the night for five years. I spent my LIFE in these halls...and when I walked through the automatic doors at the end of that shift I didn't get a handshake or a thank you or a good luck. It was just over and I was standing in the parking lot, in the rain, and it wasn't MY hospital anymore". 

I got it when he told me this story but hadn't thought about it until I left the hospital yesterday. I had a very similar feeling as I drove out of the unbelievable chaos pit they call a parking lot. I cranked up the Mumford and Sons with a fitting song, and left a little mental trail of confetti, streamers, and balloons behind me...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Worth It

Things are picking up speed here in the final push to the finish. Suddenly a hundred things are pulling for my attention and I'm remembering the nit-pickiness involved in extricating oneself from one country and moving to another. Annoying things like transferring electrical bills to a different name, showing people the apartment, answering questions about my car to prospective buyers, pawning possessions, cancelling bank accounts and returning internet modems.  Time feels warped in that it seems like an eternity until I am back in Canada, yet there's not enough time to complete all the extracting tasks, study for finals, feed / clothe / wash myself, put petrol in the car from time to time, sleep, and possibly exercise when a window of time and weather presents itself.

Yesterday I was studying with some friends when I realized that we had spent the last 20 minutes discussing which brand of under-eye concealer hides dark circles the best (this may seem like normal conversation to some women but these particular ladies are *not* the make-up discussing types).  This was shortly after we screened each other for depression upon discovering that 'generalized anxiety disorder', 'panic disorder' and 'depression' criteria were starting to hit a little too close to home. We stopped studying psychiatry at that point and moved quickly to cardiology where we all felt slightly safer territory existed.

I woke up a few days ago with a burst blood vessel in my left eye which has definitely hitched up the haggard appearance a couple of notches. I am told that REM sleep can cause blood vessels to burst. Fantastic. This on the heels of 3 straight days of waking up not to an alarm but to the sound of my own teeth, grinding. On the upside I suppose that my face is getting exercise while I am sleeping

But it's not all cereal for dinner and fitful sleeps.

Today I received a card in the mail from one of my maternity patients. She had been one of those women who labored in such a way that I was in complete awe. I am pretty sure that if (and that is a big IF) I ever have a child I will be the craziest, drug-seeking, wild-eyed, foul-mouthed, sweaty, crying mess. She was this calm, focused, sweet, gracious lady throughout her (analgesic-free!) labor until complications resulted in an emergency c-section. For the duration of our long night together she used hypno-birthing and relaxation techniques to stay calm and work through the contractions. It was an amazing thing to see.

In her card she included the hypno-birthing CD along with a photo of her and her now 5 month old daughter, on holiday in Paris. It was a lovely gesture and a beautiful sentiment. My favorite line from the card being, "I will always have the most amazing memories of my labour...remembering yourself so close in my heart when I think of the wonderful team we had together on that night".

During a week (month? year?) when I have often asked myself if all of this is worth it, I receive this card. What a privileged and beautiful place to occupy in a strangers heart: the place that holds the memory of their child's birth.

Knowing something like that makes up for every single stressful hour. It makes up for being the person who breaks bad news, or the person who has to scavenge for food in the day ward after being in the hospital for 20 hours without a meal break. It really does.

It makes all of this worth it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


When I moved to Ireland I made a conscious decision to try and see it as my home for these four years. I did not want to be counting down the days until each trip back to Canada. It wasn't an easy transition and for the first year I was homesick a lot of the time.

Tobie got me through most of those rough patches. We used to go on Canadian fantasy dates where we would describe scenes to each other of where we'd like to go on a Friday night. Keep in mind that at the time we were both living in dorms with no vehicle, plastic furniture, and a varying caliber roommates (from 'good' to 'reality show awful').

Then last year I moved to Kerry and was living in country bliss, working in a fantastic hospital, surrounded by hilarious staff, beautiful beaches, and boggy mountains. Oh, and I finally became capable of understanding the Kerry accent (have a listen below).

Once I moved back to the city to start 4th year in July, things picked up to break-neck speed and I must admit that much of the last 8 months has been an absolute blur. Wasn't I just writing the MCCEE a few weeks ago? Wasn't I catching babies and listening to manic patients tell me about their new business deals just yesterday?

Now I have less than a month left in Ireland, a job in Canada, and a man who wants to get a dog with me. Now I am anxious to get home. The two weeks in surgery and the week of exams ahead seem like a cruel gauntlet to run through, especially because I feel more like crawling through. It is so hard to stay motivated to study, and to keep smiling and nodding enthusiastically during another clinic where I only get to watch other people doctoring.

Roll. On. Residency.

So I am starting to shift now between Ireland and Canada. It's strange, and very nostalgia inducing. When a bottle of fish sauce runs out I don't replace it because I doubt I'll get through another bottle in 6 weeks. My pantry is starting to look very bachelor-esque and barren. I've started using all my hotel shampoo's and soaps because I loathe the thought of buying more that I won't finish (why don't hotels also provide tiny laundry soaps?!) Friends are randomly given clothing, books, music when they come over as part of a pre-purge offloading. I look at all my belongings with a more discerning eye...hmm will I bring my yoga mat home or leave it with 'Enable Ireland'?

I'll tell you one thing, the silicone oven mitts and wine aerator are coming home with me!!!  Oh Ireland, it's been fun but I gotta make a move.