Monday, June 30, 2014

I'm a doctor.

Tomorrow is my last day of residency. My last day to work at Truman Medical Center, Lakewood.

I have done a lot of strenuous, difficult things in my life. Things that require not only dedication, but perseverance. I think these last 3 years were the hardest.

I keep a smile on my face. I don't complain. I do my work. Put in orders as I'm told. I act as though it's just life. As though working horrid, long, draining hours taking care of patients who mostly don't care about their own health, let alone what I have to say, and then checking out my every thought and plan to attendings who always add their "two cents" doesn't even bother me in the slightest.

Well, it sucked. I aged A LOT in 3 years. You can see it in my photographs. I showed a co-worker a photo of myself delivering Curtis; she remarked "Look how young you were!" Curtis was 3.25 years old at the time. I've aged. A lot. In 3 years.

The hours. The patients. The attendings. It's all so very necessary in the process to become a good physician.  Trust me. You DO NOT want a doctor who thought residency was "easy". You just don't.

Residency, for me, has been like most of my pregnancies. I know the end result will be awesome. I know it's a right of passage. Something I must do. And as such, just because I am suffering, I will not force those I live with, work with, play with to suffer my misery. Then, at the bitter end, I just can't hold it together any longer. The gig is up. I am done. I see my freedom. As a soon to be private practice doctor. My own boss. I can't pretend anymore. I feel nothing but happiness and excitement to be moving on.

For three years, I pretended to be modest. The constant, "I don't know how you do it" comments, that I brushed off, as if to say, "Oh, it's nothing." Yeah, your damn right you don't know. You have no clue. It was {f-bomb} insane. I was literally on the edge of sanity for 1,095 days. I have a saint for a husband. A saint for a mom. A saint for a Mother-in-law. Father. Father-in-law. Sister. Sister. Brother. Friend. Child. Cousin. You don't know how I did it, because even I don't know! No clue. How I got to where I am, right now, with one day left, is a blur. I just know, I will never, ever repeat it, and recommend the process to no one.

At any given moment, if I truly fell over that edge, I was prepared to give up my career, drown in student loans, and do whatever necessary for the betterment of my family. One might think having 4 children, and actually birthing 2 during residency was a contributing factor to the near-debilitating stress of the pathway to becoming a physician. It wasn't. My family was my refuge. My love. My getaway. No matter how miserable work became, I arrived home to my favorite people. 5 of them. Every. Single. Night. (Except, of course, the nights I didn't actually get to come home.) Those boys are why I remain happy, every day of every week of every year.

A fellow resident once described being the weekend day person on the medicine service as "going to war". He was entirely accurate. There were weekends I lost 7 pounds in the course of 48 hours. Patients "need" your services. Which means nurses "need" your services. And these come from the ER docs who, also, "need" your services. My responsibilities as "mom" to 4 toddlers don't got nuthin' on my responsibilities as "med RIC". We answered page after page, read X-rays, ordered meds, ran codes, delivered babies, restrained belligerent, or insane, or both, patients, listened to endless hearts, lungs, bellies, gave narcotics, withheld narcotics. We pronounced people dead. We SAVED PEOPLE'S LIVES.

The paperwork. Evaluations. Quizzes. Tests. Journals. Lectures. We didn't even get to eat lunch in peace. Just a nice 30 minute break in the middle of the day. To hang out with peers. Nope. Not allowed. You. Must. Work. At all times. Or at least be learning something.

My peers. Truly, the only wonderful thing about the last 3 years. I graduated last Friday with some of my favorite people in the world. Amazing individuals. People who, like me, sucked it up and survived 3 years, with {mostly} a smile on their face. The connection you make with people, when you have all been through the same, traumatic, experience is unbreakable. Like my IU swimming girls, we are bonded, for life. I will miss them terribly. So much so, I nearly cry as write this. We never felt sorry for one another. There was no empathy for our colleague on their 11th admission over night, or the unsuccessful code, or that nurse that won't leave you alone. We'd all had that experience, too. So what? Yet, we all respected one another. We laughed. A lot. Used each other as a sounding board, a resource, an understanding ear, and at times, the only source of encouragement and validation left in our lives. My mom will always tell me, "it's going to be ok". That's what mom's do. But, for the past 3 years, unless I heard it from my fellow resident, I couldn't be sure it was true.

My actual family medicine residency program? The best you can ask for. I had 2 kids. I graduated on time. They made sure of this. They educated us, lectured us, tested our knowledge, forced us to think on our own. There were multiple caring, involved, intelligent attendings, pouring their heart, soul and lives into training new doctors. The program provided us as much "personal time" as a residency can while still responsibly training future physicians. It's not their fault. Residency sucks.

I feel like I should be really proud of my accomplishments. Ecstatic to be finishing. Singing nothing but praises about my last 8 years of training. Afterall, I am finally, a doctor. It's my longest lifetime goal. Don't get me wrong, I cannot wait to build my practice, help educate people about their health, get them well and keep them healthy. I have no regrets, not one, with the path I have chosen in life. I hope to be involved in the lives of many wonderful families. I hope people will come to see me and leave motivated, invigorated and more knowledgable about their well-being. But like any, huge goal, when it's achieved, it's over, and for a brief moment you feel lost. Until, on to the next big thing...the rest of my life. My career. I'm a doctor.

I truly enjoy this vocation. I am thankful for my brain and personality. People ask me all the time, why I became a doctor. In my head, the best, most honest, answer I have? Because I could.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Buying in Bulk

Things I never, ever, imagined I would buy in bulk:
  • KETCHUP.  I could live without this condiment for the rest of my life. I use it when necessary, like on a hot dog, if tomatoes, onion an pickles are unavailable. Or on dry/tasteless fries. My children? Well, it's required for them to eat any meat. Because, besides hotdogs, we tell them that everything else is "chicken". And chicken needs ketchup. Duh. Curtis will dip his fingers in the ketchup and lick his plate clean. George will even dip his carrots in ketchup. It's really, quite gross.
  • RANCH DRESSING. If ketchup doesn't work, there is always ranch. Carrots, fish sticks, chicken nuggets, pizza; you name it. Kids will eat just about anything if they have dip available.
  •  HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE SYRUP. Same story as above, only with milk. It's a lot cheaper and more versatile to turn white milk into chocolate milk with syrup. And, sometimes you just gotta have chocolate milk. Once you go chocolate, you never go back...that doesn't quite sound right?
  • TOOTHBRUSHES. I haven't done this yet, but that is only because I keep forgetting to grab a pack when I am at Costco. A SomeEcard had a saying that went something like this, "If your toddler has been in the bathroom, unattended for more than 2 minutes, you might as well throw away your toothbrush." Truth. George!!!!! If he escapes upstairs, the first place to check is the bathroom, and he always can be found with a toothbrush in his mouth. Guess it's better than a hand in the toilet. I had an overnight call, was gone one, single night, and when I got home in the morning, gone. I didn't even have to throw it away, my toothbrush had simply disappeared. I am currently using a disposable one that I stole from a hotel, probably sometime in college. It's lasted 6 nights. That's a record.
  • CHICKEN BREAST. I have no good reason. I just never imagined it. I used to be against freezing meat. I don't mind it anymore. 
  • SHOES. Oh wait, this isn't the "Things I wish I could buy in bulk" column!? 
  • Strawberries, Gogurt, Apple sauce, eggs.
  •  GUMMY VITAMINS. I mean, I never thought I would be purchasing Vitamins at all, let alone Gummy ones. But since I have them...
I guess when you have children in bulk, you start purchasing foods for them in bulk. So, in hind sight, I should have seen this coming. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

IU Girls Gone Wild: Destin.

The longest amount of time I spent, side by side, with any of these girls, is 3 years {because I was a freshman, and they are all older}. Three measly years. Three out of the four years of the most intense physical, emotional and mental training of our lives. We were swimmers at a Division 1, top 10 NCAA program. Unique to swimming, specifically women's swimming, are the sheer number of hours spent training. We swam in the morning for 2 hours - or, if you were sprint group, played "follow the leader" skipping around the pool deck. We ate. Went to school {napped}. Came back for more training, consisting of running, dry land, weights, jump rope, or other such plyometrics. Then 2-3 hours in the pool. Again. Then, Training Tables at the Stadium for dinner, with all the football players, basketball players and other athletes, probably consuming no less than 2,500 calories in one buffet meal, per night. Wednesdays we slept "in". Sundays we got "off". We got a week or two off of training in the Spring, and again in the late Summer. I would still run a bit, because after a month long taper, and a few days out of the pool, I would begin to get "out of shape". Ha!!!!!! I thought I was getting 'out of shape' after a few days of less than 6 hours of working out! For 12 years of my life, I didn't go more than 10 days without swimming. Ever. Now, after years of medical training, I am flabbergasted than none of us were hospitalized with Rhabdomyolysis. And, I'm not sure that I didn't have a mild case after an hour of box jumps, then a night of dancing to 17th Floor. I literally could not use my calf muscles to walk, let alone push off the wall for flip turns. These ladies went through the same; were the same.

We spent endless hours at the pool together, in the weight room, in the locker room, on buses, a private jet even, the dinner table, the Village Deli, Bloomington Bagel, Nick's, Kilroy's, running through campus in our swim suits. Gross. We didn't even think it was weird. We knew what items each person kept in their locker, how long they had been there. We knew each others favorite foods, TV shows, music, clothes. We weathered more break ups, scandals, love, hate, joy, fear, desire, disappointment, success, and exhaustion in those 3 {4} years, then most people will in a lifetime. Despite a 10 year time lapse since we last spent every waking, and sleeping hour together, we reverted to our 21 year-old selves. Only with a midnight-ish curfew.

Anne and I quickly settled into our comedy routine, where we make things funny by simply repeating them 60-75 times in a slightly different manner each time. Though, Susan makes it pretty easy to laugh, when she excuses herself from our romp in the ocean to "go jump off the sand dune." Anne wades over to me and says, "Ummm, Smitty? Do you see any sand dunes from which you might be able to jump into the ocean?" I scan the area, "no". Anne replies, "Oh. Ok. Because Susan has just informed me that she is going to go jump off the sand dune." I look again, "Nope, unless she means..." I am about to finish my sentence with "...the slight ledge of sand that is the bank, and has more sand below it" but I couldn't, because I see Susan backing up to, indeed, jump off the embankment. Anne and I watched silently as she runs, then jumps with the biggest of smiles, lands, and disappears {aka, falls}. I am still coughing due to the salt water I aspirated from laughing so, so, so incredibly hard. Anne and I cannot even speak for minutes, as we watch the other girls jump to their feet. I can only imagine the view from the lounge chairs, Susan must have seemingly disappeared off a ledge to them! Not to mention that she still swam out to meet Anne and I in the ocean, actively bleeding from her sand burn abrasion...sharks can smell that stuff!  We are all lucky to have survived. Anne and I will laugh about this, regularly, and every time we see Susan, for the rest of our lives. We just will.

Though we immediately reverted back to our college days, and we all seemingly have maintained the same personalities, outlook, demeanor, our lives have changed drastically. The seven of us have experienced so many things in the past 10 years. There are 2 doctors, a PhD, 2 coaches, a big name in USA Swimming, 9 boys - 6 & under, one on the way. Marriages, surgeries, babies, losses, moves, break ups. Truly, as we all sat and talked of where we had landed, we remarked how the saying "if we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours right back" remains true. We have only kept in touch via infrequent email, text, social media and even rarer, actual phone call. We reunite about once a year, nearly every year, with a couple years missed in between. So hearing about our lives, in person, was refreshing, eye-opening, and shocking, even, at times.

There is such a large part of me that only these girls understand. Often, and especially now, during my search for a job, I think to myself, you have no idea what kind of person with which you are speaking. You will never find a more committed, devoted, hard-working, loyal, persistent, driven, or happy human, mom, employee, friend, wife, sister, daughter, co-worker. But the IU ladies? They know. We all know. No matter what life hands any one of us, where it takes us, what we may look like to the outside world, in our hearts, we know that not only every single one of us is AMAZING, but that someone else knows it too. And that, feels wonderful.