Friday, December 31, 2010

To ATL and Back

Best Christmas Card Ever
Winning Run and I never got it together enough to send out holiday cards this year.  We aiming for a "Happy New Year" card.  That's our plan.  She did, however, give me a fantastic Christmas card that incorporated a photo of a snowman I made for her and recent events.  Photo and card below...

The rare 4-globe snowman.

Winning Run's hand-drawn card, for the win.

Southern Snowpacalypse 2010
Early on the 25th, Winning Run and I hopped a flight back to ATL.  Our original 6am departure had been canceled by Delta supposedly for the weather but, in my opinion, to consolidate less than full flights into ones more profitable.  The people watching on the flight was pretty good.  The "My Love" lady whose children sat across the aisle from us was priceless.  We overheard her say "Now I can't sit with you, my loves, because I have to sit with daddy.  You stay here and behave, my loves.  Mommy will check on you."  Then, she waddled four rows up and wedged herself into a middle seat with her husband, leaving her 8 and 4 year old kids alone to do as they chose.  To their credit, the kids were pretty good.  As a result, "My Love" lady visited only a few times during the flight but each visit was a precious Christmas gift to Winning Run and me.  At one point, she stood in the aisle bent over her brood, her ass inches from my face, and started doing hip stretches.  I managed to cry a single tear and whisper toward Winning Run: "God bless us all, every one."

When we touched down in ATL, snow was falling and, I'm certain, all the milk, bread, batteries, and kerosene in the city was in very short supply.  Thanks to the Duke's expert driving, we made it to Winning Run's family Christmas dinner and gift exchange extravaganza.  Their place was coated in about 3 inches or so of wet snow.  News outlets reported that it was the first White Christmas in Atlanta since the 1880s, I think.  The evening was great but traveling from SEA to ATL was quite tiring.  When I turned in to bed that night, I fumbled in the dark looking for the bedroom light switch.  When turning on the light, I was greeted by a doll lying on the bed, staring at me, peering deep into my soul.  Although it was my mother-in-law's dear childhood plaything, the damned thing scared me.  Even worse, I awoke during the night and it was on top of me, eyes glowing red, whispering a Latin incantation; I peed the bed, fought it off of me, and went outside to sleep the remainder of the night in the snow.

The SoulCatcher 5000

A few days later, we went to visit my parents and share some time with them.  While there, I did a bunch of OMM treatment on my mom and it seemed to help her out; guess I'm learning something.  :)  We even managed to catch up with a bunch of friends and share some beers at a local watering hole back home.  It was too brief visit but I'm glad we went.  Sometimes, just being around those people who really know you can be a great boost for the spirit.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winning Run's Fist vs. the Mouth of a Teenager with Braces*

*The following story has been invented to add intrigue to the details surrounding Winning Run's accident.  It is not true.  For the true story, you'll need to hear it from Winning Run herself.

The other night on the bus back from the Picasso exhibit, some rough looking teenager on the bus kept mouthing of at us.  Really harassing us.  We moved seats a few times to get away but the kid just kept it up.  After an eternity, we reached our stop.  As we were exiting the bus, the punk reached at Winning Run's bag.  Naturally, she jerked away and the punk started swinging at her.  She clocked the idiot in the mouth but the punk's braces cut her hand.

We made a quick to the ER and got her stitched up.  Meeting with a hand specialist later today to ensure that no tendon damage occurred.  Personally, I don't think it did.

And now, some action shots from the hospital...


 Irrigating the wound.
Post-stitches. Yum.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

3 Semesters In and All is Well

Late last week, I wrapped up my third semester of medical school.  In retrospect, it's pretty hard to believe that it's gone by so quickly.  Actually, some weeks last what feels like months, hours become says, fifteen minutes is enough time to accomplish so much.  Other weeks, however, fly by so quickly that I seem to move in slow motion while everything speeds by me.  So, there's that.  Time is elastic; it moves quickly and slowly but rarely constantly.

Next semester begins in January and brings with it a maddening push through remaining subject matter, toward the boards.  Then, in July, I'll begin rotations in the hospital.  Insane.

For now, however, I'm going to enjoy a few days under the same roof as my wife, studying less than I should.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's a Little Less Funny Today

In 1982, after each episode of "Police Squad" aired, I'd get on the phone and call my grandmother, "Bamba," to discuss it, relive it, and laugh about it even more.  At this point, I don't even remember all of the gags on the show but I'm not sure that it matters.  (They've been recycled time and again through all of the "Naked Gun" films, anyway.) I do remember the two of us in hysterics about the shootout between some miscellaneous hood and Frank Drebin, each taking cover behind trashcans no more than two feet apart. That scene really killed us; I mean it just brought us down, made us laugh until we cried.

So, I guess I owe those memories to a short-lived television show starring Leslie Nielsen.  The measly six episode run allowed a 9-year-old kid to get on the phone with his grams and to just laugh it up, to be fans, to be lovers of slapstick, goofy comedy.

Thanks, Mr. Nielsen. Rest in peace.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hands Off The Chic-Fil-A

As I was getting into bed some time after Winning Run had gone to sleep, she announced in a whispered voice "I just invented a game called 'Hands Off the Chic-Fil-A.'"
"That sounds pretty interesting," I told her.
"Yeah.  I'm not exactly sure of the rules, though," she replied.
"Well, I can think of two of them," I offered.
And, with that brief exchange, she was back off into her dream, a magical land full of games played with delicious Chic-Fil-A sandwiches.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

So Long To Pinky, Here Comes The Thumb.

...and it's nearly December.  Seriously, I cannot cannot cannot believe how quickly the time has flown since the semester started.  We've completed Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Renal, Hematology/Oncology, and looking to wrap up GI in the next few weeks. Here's a very, very brief recap of some of the goings-on since my crazy-assed neighbor decided to rappel from her balcony on Christmas lights...

I'm a Professional Twice Over
For Halloween, several of us decided to dress as the cast of Arrested Development.  The "costume contest" took place during a pot-luck luncheon at school prior to an interactive session.  I went as Tobias Funke.  Initially, I dressed in cords, a funky shirt, and Birkenstocks but quickly stripped down to "never nude" attire.

David Cross as Tobias Funke
from "Arrested Development"

After winning the costume contest, I attended class in costume.  I must say that being mostly naked in class (and being called on to stand and answer a question) was as near as I'll get to realizing the recurring nightmare of being in class naked.  My wife was so proud, she cried tears of "joy" as she tried to remove her wedding ring.

The Best Week of Medical School I've Experienced
As part of our clinical skills training, we worked an emergency case on a simulated patient or Sim Man.  The whole thing was pretty intense as, despite our efforts, it desaturated and was transported to the ICU after we intubated it.  Still, I walked away from it thrilled to be a medical student and anticipating the applied practice of medicine instead of the didactics.  Later that week, I passed my tests with flying colors.  Generally, I felt pretty good about myself and my performance as a student which, based on how the semester has gone thus far, has been a pretty fleeting feeling for most of my classmates.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Seattle to visit Winning Run and accompany her to a dinner party hosted by a coworker friend.  I applaud wonderful food and great conversation but, shit, dinner parties should be fun and not so damned serious or pretentious.  At first, I thought we wandered into some sort of liberalism pissing contest that delved in and out of "foodie-ism" which, by all accounts, can be equally pretentious.  Luckily, libations seemed to loosen everyone up, make the gang more approachable, and the conversation a little more organic and natural.

The next day, at Dick's Drive-In, Bill Gates pulled into the parking lot and stood in line behind us.  This is the absolute, honest truth.  We noticed him, confirmed that it was him, and decided to just let him have a little peace.  Plus, I was convinced that had I attempted to speak to him and shake his hand, a sniper would've taken me out on the spot.

Once again, I was reminded that I'm no longer in the southeast with my drive back from Seattle.  I had to go by chains for my car to get over the pass and had an amazingly terrifying drive (for me).  After getting over Snoqualmie Pass, the rest of my drive was spent in blinding snowfall with accumulation on the road.  In the silence of my car, I kept repeating part of a Samuel Jackson monologue from "Pulp Fiction," telling myself aloud that I was like a little Fonzie:  "And what's Fonzie like?" "He's cool?" "That's right, he's cool."
On successfully making it back, I noticed that my ass had been clinched so tight that I'd drawn up my seat into a permanent cone, an inverse vortex, a physical sign of my stress.

Winning Run made it in on Thanksgiving morning.  That afternoon, we had dinner with several classmates and their families.  In all, it was pretty fun and nice to be away from the books for a little bit.  Now, it's just a downhill slide to holiday break before the uphill climb to the work of next semester, boards, and rotations. Yippee.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Batshit Crazy McGillicutty Escapes A Wintry Grave*

*By a "wintry grave," of course, I mean that temps are expected to dip overnight into the mid-30s.

Preface: I now live in an old apartment with a crazy-assed landlord and, other than the two other medical students I have as neighbors, a motley assortment of peculiar tenants. My upstairs neighbor, who's name I cannot remember -- and never will because the rules of decorum dictate that far too much time has passed to ask her (a misdelivered parcel is my best hope for insight) -- anyway, whenever I see this neighbor, she always asks if she's making too much noise. I politely tell her not to worry because I'm not home too much, that I'm often on campus studying. We share a little polite, if awkward, laughter because, truthfully, she's exceptionally loud and she knows it and because I feel too bad about forgetting her name to be honest and tell her that I think she should practice her godforsaken Irish dance at a time later than 5:30am. After the awkward laughter that trails into an even more awkward silence, she'll ask a little bit about medical school, about Winning Run, about my dog. Wash, rinse, and repeat the exchange almost verbatim the next time we bump into one another which is typically about every two weeks. The last few times we've spoken, I think she's been especially sauced as she's been a little more emphatic than normal (and slurring her words a little) about being sorry for the noise. I've been a little shorter with her because, well, it's a charade with which I've grown tired. For the love of all things holy, you make noise; it's a crappy old apartment, it goes with the territory, so, when you see me, please just smile and say "hello" or nothing at all. In summary: she's kinda* crazy (by "kinda" I mean "without a doubt, full-on, batshit crazy"), a semi-cougar, a lush with a boyfriend, a live-in daughter, and sometimes a granddaughter, who does laundry every day, and loves, loves, loves Irish dancing or clogging or jumping jacks at all hours of the day.

So, with the back-story complete, let's step back in time to an hour ago...

I was in my office with my headphones on and the door shut trying to settle into a study groove for the evening. As the temp has been getting pretty brisk overnight, I'd been closing the doors and using a space heater to warm the rooms instead of turning on all the baseboard heaters. So, I was in the office doing my thing and hanging out with Dylan who's with me while Winning Run wraps a major deadline on her project. All of a sudden, Dylan freaked, got really agitated, paced, and kept staring from me to the door and back. When I took off my headphones, I heard someone pounding on my door. It wasn't the forceful pounding knock of an authority figure but something, I don't know, a little crazier but just as urgent.

On taking a few steps into the hall, I heard a voice pleading for help, for me to open the door. Naturally, my adrenaline went through the roof. Then, I realized that it was from my back door and not the front like I'd expected. It was a woman's voice; my upstairs neighbor, I thought. As I pulled back the vertical blinds, I was a little freaked out by what I might see. To my surprise, I saw my neighbor in her sock feet, jeans, a fleece standing there beating on my sliding door, still pleading for me to open it.

I cautiously opened the door a little.

"Oh thank God," she said. "I've been locked out on my deck for two hours. I'm freezing, I can't feel my feet."

"What? You've been locked on your balcony?," I asked. "How'd that happen?"

"I went outside without my phone or my keys and I got locked out. I've been out there for two hours. I'm so cold. I was yelling for help and throwing stuff down to get your attention."

"I've been in my office on the other side of the apartment, with my headphones on studying. I thought you were just moving furniture or something."

"I was throwing all sorts of stuff down and yelling for help."

"How'd you get down?," I asked.

"I through about throwing some concrete through my sliding glass door but I ended up using my Christmas lights to do a MacGyver and climb down."

"What?" I leaned forward to look past her and, sure enough, a single strand of Christmas lights hung there limply, a remnant of a seemingly festive escape. "You climbed down on that?"

"Yes. Oh my God, I'm so cold. I can't feel my feet. I think I have frostbite."

"I'm pretty sure that you're gonna be okay," I offered. "I think that, for frostbite, it's got to be pretty cold, like below freezing."


"Yeah, you'll probably make it," I assured her. "Now, how the hell did you get locked out by the sliding glass door? It's got a thumb latch on the inside."

"I don't know, it just locked me out. Can I use your phone to call someone to bring me my keys?"


I got my phone and let her make a couple of calls. Her lifeline tonight (other than the Christmas lights) was her recently (like a few hours ago) ex-boyfriend. I offered to make her some tea to help her warm back up but she declined.

"You must think I'm crazy. I mean, really, who does this?"

I pondered my response for a minute.  "Ahhhhh...well, I'm just happy you didn't hurt yourself when you climbed down." (Why, yes; yes, I do think you are a big bowl of crazy.)

"I'm sorry to interrupt you. Just go back and study and I'll just stay here until he comes with my keys."

"Thanks but I'm just gonna stay here with you until he comes."  There was absolutely no chance in hell that I was going to go in the other room and leave her unattended.  Who knows what I would've found when I returned?  Hell, she probably would've managed to get herself inextricably wedged in the over-sized chair in my living room or to simultaneously shatter all of my picture frames.  So, I stayed in the room, maintained a safe distance, and opened the front blinds so that we could see when her spare key arrived.

"So, what do you do?," she asked. "I notice that sometimes, you're dressed in medical clothes."

Luckily, her near-fatal frostbite prevented her from seeing the look of disbelief on my face as this was a topic that we'd covered many, many times before. I had a sneaking suspicion what was on the horizon but I chose to play along.

"I'm a student at the medical school here," I told her.

"What are you studying to be?," she asked and she didn't mean what specialty.

"A doctor," I said.

"Oh, that's great."

"Yeah," I replied.

"I hope I don't make too much noise upstairs," she said.

"It's okay," I lied.

My goal was to get her the hell out of my apartment as fast as I could. Luckily, after ten or fifteen minutes of this, her newly "former" boyfriend arrived with her key. As I was going to open the front door for her, I turned to see her yell thanks and bolt right back out my sliding door, stumbling and nearly falling on her way out.

"What the hell just happened?," I asked the newly silent room.

And that, my friends, is why you should not do drugs or drink.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Stress Stress Stress Burnout Burnout Burnout

A blink of an eye and November is nearly upon us. Among other things, med school has been great for really making time elastic: in some cases you can do a world of things in fifteen minutes; in others, months rush past unnoticed. So it is. I'm closer to the end of this semester than I am to the beginning of it.

Honestly, I have no idea where the time went. Quite literally, I feel like my face has been shoved in a book since the semester started, frantically trying to coax the words from the page and into my memory. Anyway, it's now October. Post-season baseball. College football. Crisp, cool mornings with amazing amber light that makes you miss your grandparents, miss being a kid.

Tomorrow, I'll take the last test in our renal system and, in doing so, try to illustrate that I know a little bit about renal tumors, treating hypertension, acid-base disorders, identifying stones, proteinuria, and maneuvering the choppy waters of anti-hypertensive medications. (These among other things.)

I feel like a stranger to myself, to my family, and my close friends. This weekend, I'll head to Seattle to see Winning Run and try to be a normal cat for a few days. Perhaps in jest, a classmate sent the warning signs of burnout to the class. Rather than run down the litany of signs, it should have a single requirement: second-year medical student. Seems about right.

Back to the grind...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

You're Talking About a Song?

In a brief respite from studying for my upcoming Renal exam, some friends and I went to hear one of our classmates perform a local venue.  We grabbed some drinks and a spot and listened to her set with a ton of students from the 1st year class.  We were chatting with one of the 1st year students when, randomly, he asked if we liked masturbation.
"Sure, man, I'm all for it," I said. My friend SJ piped up that she was also a fan.
"Yeah, it's a pretty good song," he replied.
"Oh, you're talking about a song..."
"Yeah, 'Masturbation' is one of her songs," he offered.
"Don't know it," I admitted. "Never heard it."
He looked a little perplexed but said, "You'll know it's the song when you hear something really uptempo."
"And you'll know it's the other if my hand is in my pants," I said.
He looked like he was about to say something else before he thought better of it and just turned around.  Conversation over.  What can I say, I'm a winner.

Aside from that comedic gem, nothing else is happening or has happened other than a ton of studying.  Tomorrow is my first exam covering the renal system.  I have tons of stuff to get through in advance of the test.  As I didn't see Winning Run over the weekend, one of the little bits of joy has been getting Hipstamatic for my phone.  Here are a few shots:

 The view from my desk.

A car hit the house across the street in the middle of the night.

Hops field at sunset.

Sunset from my apartment.  Mt. Adams is in the distance.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Congrats, You Aren't Having a Heart Attack

Just walked out of a practical exam in which we are handed a clinical vignette and must tell our attending physician what treatment approach we'd pursue and, afterward, demonstrate a manual medicine technique on our partner.  The scope included cardiopulmonary cases with specific treatments aimed at helping to alleviate a hypersensitive parasympathetic or sympathetic influence on the heart, edema, and cough.

On my second case, I was reading the vignette and avoiding the piercing stare of my attending.  During practicals, he's completely stoic and poker-faced and, frankly, I get a little flustered.  After what seemed like an eternity, I decided that my 14-year-old fictitious patient had a viral infection and had an inhalation dysfunction of the ribs that was impeding the biomechanical aspects of getting full excursion on inspiration.  I stammered my way through my rational about why I thought the patient was medically stable in order to proceed with my course of treatment of the ribs to assist breathing.  I listed a few reasons for why I didn't think he was having a heart attack.  At the end of my list, the attending says "...and he's fourteen." This, of course, is in addition the fact that nothing in the vignette remotely suggested MI.

I turned to my partner and said, "Congratulations, you aren't having a heart attack."

Next stop, big test block tomorrow which marks the end of the respiratory / pulmonary system.  Gonna spend a ton of the night and tomorrow trying to get cancer presentation, genetics, staging, treatment, and microscopic identification into my brain.  (In addition to pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, occupational pneumoconosis, pharmacological treatment of asthma, various other "bugs and drugs.")  Woo hoo. 

Monday, September 20, 2010


I'm so much luckier than anyone has a right to be.

"Like melted gold."

Thanks, Winning Run, for taking this crazy ride with me and being the pillar that holds me up.  I absolutely, positively could not do this without your support.  I'm thrilled to be part of the pack.  

Thanks for seven amazing years; I look forward to many more on our adventure together.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's the New Normal

A couple of weeks ago, as I drove to Seattle to see Winning Run, I phoned a college roommate to catch up with him.  Some years back, he moved away from Atlanta and started a family and pursued his career.  Unsurprisingly, time, distance, and the general pull of life's direction prevented us from talking as much as we should've.  Over the past year, Drewbie has phoned me numerous times and just left voicemails to say something like "Hey buddy, I'm thinking of you.  I know you're working hard; keep it up."  What's uncanny about it, is that he'd always call exactly when I needed most to hear a familiar voice, to get a brief pep talk, to have some unsolicited, unconditional support.  I can't tell you how much these little nudges worked to get me over each hump.

During our conversation, he was telling me about what's been going on in his life with some familial health scares.  As much as I'm overwhelmed by school, in the grand scheme of things, I have absolutely nothing about which to complain; things are pretty much OK with me. 

As we closed our conversation, I told him that I wished we could talk more frequently and that the frequency of our conversations don't reflect my affection for him.  To which he replied something like, "Hey man, I get it: you're in your 'new normal.'  You don't have the time to call.  Your normal is that you don't have time.  That's okay, I get it.  I'm just happy to talk to when we can. When I call, it's just to let you know I'm thinking about you."

Here's to the "new normal" and the practice of deferred gratification.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Sometimes You're a 1998 Mercury Sable ...

... and sometimes you're the fresh hood ornament.  Here's to being the Mercury Sable.

It would've looked better on a Thunderbird.

Tomorrow morning's test quickly approaches.  So far this week, I've managed to maintain my streak of being called on in each interactive session.  The week began with being first out of the gate in a pharmacology session.  You always want to be the first because the first question is typically easier than the subsequent ones and you get to relax for the remainder of the session.  Luckily, I answered the question correctly and proceeded to enjoy the hell out of the remaining hour and fifty-nine minutes of the session while some of my peers anxiously sweated it out.  Today culminated with my incorrect (or, rather, "non-indicated") answer of avoiding spicy and tomato-based foods as the most appropriate follow-up therapy for a particular patient with GERD.  Nice but no cigar.  Well, at the very least, I was thinking of a friend back home and using her to form an empirical plan of action.

Tonight, my plan is to get to bed at a decent hour (11pm? midnight?) and be back on campus at 6am for a final push into the test.  Then, after 70-seconds per question for about 140 questions, I'll be able to relax and do more studying.

La vida pura!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Well, Doctor, If You Must

In light of my less than stellar performance on last week's pharmacology exam, I dropped by to visit my professor to review my study habits and seek guidance.  Not only is he one of the most intelligent people that I've ever encountered (read: freakishly genius) but he's also got an amazingly dry sense of humor that he quickly and deftly displays. 

During our discussion, I told him how I'm studying with others, discussing the mechanism of action of the drugs, picking a prototypical drug in a particular class to learn, and, then, comparing the prototype's half-life, adverse effects, and contraindications with others.  Then, I mentioned that I'm striving to find other materials that would help me to quickly assimilate the information.  Like many other times, the gulf between what I aimed to say and what I said was wide, my friends.  Here's how the exchange occurred:
"So, Dr. _____, I'm really trying to quickly inseminate the information," I say confidently.
[Awkward pause.]
"Well, Doctor, if you must," he says with a half-concealed grin.
"I think I'll just try to learn the material, sir."
Once again, victorious in the ways of oration.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Well ..

Cardiovascular system exam is over.  Based on my previous pharm scores, I was thinking that I'd be able to prescribe Skittles.  Today, I am certain that if I tried to do that, someone would swat the damned things out of my hand and give me a stern look.  So, I'll be limited to making poultices, probably with mustard or eucalyptus. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"That Sonofabitch Just Might Make It"

It's the week leading up to our second exam and everyone around me is equally haggard.  Last night, I got four hours of sleep and (actually overslept until 5:45).  Tonight, it'll probably be the same.  As I've intimated previously, I think the pace is pretty ridiculous and that the amount of info that's washing over us at any given hour is incomprehensible.  That being said (again), it's effing amazing what actually makes it into your brain, what you can actually learn when pushed.  It has, of course, been a week of peaks and valleys but, thus far, the peaks have been pretty cool.

Last night around midnight, my buddy and I were on campus almost ready to wrap up for the day.  We were reflecting back on a case study exercise that we'd done earlier.  (As a group, you and your peers are given info about a patient and must interview the patient for relevant info to complete a history, determine what lab values and physical exam findings are pertinent, identify areas for further assessment or diagnostic exams, and formulate a plan of action.  Then, you have between 60 and 120 seconds to provide an oral presentation of this information to the attending physician.)  Essentially, these studies are an integration of academic material, clinical scenarios, and the skills of speaking aloud to your peers aka preparation for 3rd year rotations.

So, last night we start talking the day's case.  A while later, we realized that, without any provocation, we'd been thinking and speaking like practicing physicians.  It was pretty cool; a step along the path to reforming my self-image into that of a doctor.

Go Suck It, Digoxin-Induced Hypokalemia.
Two interactive sessions today, both on Heart Failure.  This afternoon, I seemed to do much better on the questions: my rationale seemed to be based on some sort of reality and grasp of key concepts instead of how a third-grader might approach pharmacology.  When I was called on, I stood and correctly answered a question regarding hypokalemia as induced by a drug-regimen.  I went with my gut, stuck to my guns, and didn't look like as much of a clueless dick in front of my peers.
The Scholar: 1, Pharmacology: 248K.
I'm hoping this was my Dave Roberts moment. The crowd goes wild.  (By "crowd," I mean me.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On To The Next One

" ... Don't be mad 'cause it's all about progression.
Loiterers should be arrested."
'On to the Next One' from Jay-Z's "The Blueprint 3"

Another week, another trove of insurmountable tasks to complete.  I wouldn't quite call them Sisyphean but it definitely feels vaguely similar.  After the last week of doing nothing more than studying, it should come as no surprise that this week is yielding more of the same.  As will next week.  And the week after.  For the foreseeable future.  [Sigh.]  It is, however, pretty damned cool.

Brush That Dirt Off Your Shoulder
One of the major learning experiences of second year, thus far, has been the attempt to become comfortable with standing before your peers and attempting to respond to questions.  You know, a whole "stand and deliver" routine.  In addition to learning the course content, we're being given the opportunity to become more comfortable with failing spectacularly in front of our peers.  This is a task for which I just might earn honors.  What can I say?  Everyone excels at something, right?

We've been given little remote controls called iClickers (the hottest technology of 1999) that we use to respond to questions during class for real-time tallying.  Prior to seeing how your peers respond, though, a student is randomly called to answer the question and, if you're really, really lucky, some follow-ups in front of your peers.  Luckily, I was called on during a Pharmacology session to answer a question involving the selectivity of a Beta-antagonist.  Being the exemplary pharmacology whiz that I am, I punted and guessed something that stuck in my head.  Wrong.  I looked to my peers who whispered the correct answer and called it out.  Wrong again.  I looked to other peers for more choices and tried to follow the prof's coaching. Wrong again.  After what seemed like an hour, I stumbled on the designated response and was allowed to return, licking my wounds to the anonymity of being a less-active participant in the lecture.

I am never going to earn a prescription pad.  Mark my words, I will be forced to "prescribe" Skittles to my patients.  If those don't work, we'll move to either M&Ms or Reese's Pieces.  The options are pretty much unlimited.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

This Is War

Not that I'm finished collecting my thoughts about my first year or anything, mind you, but it's day 4 of the 2nd year and I'm feeling like I've been in the trenches for months.  All that bullshit "pie-in-the-sky" thinking that I'd be able to sneak off to see Winning Run in Seattle are teetering on the edge of the sinkhole that is being a med student. 

Seriously.  Day 4.  Monday.  Tuesday.  Wednesday.  Today.

In other news, I feel like I've learned a bunch in these four days.  It is stunning what you can learn when terrified / trying / overwhelmed / sleep-deprived / enjoying it.

More from the front lines, soon.  I promise.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Phound Photos

I finally looked at my SD card from Hawaii and the cross-country drive and stumbled across a few other shots that I like. 

Moon-rise over Manua Kea.

Some photos from the cross-country drive:
Dylan looking at corn fields, 80mph.

Sunset in Nebraska.

Dylan at scenic overlook.

Picking burrs off of Dylan's face after he hunted field mice.

How To Fail at Business (Without Really Trying)

A few days ago, we were in the park with Dylan and happened to meet some other dogs for an impromptu dog congress.  Turns out that one of the people there with a dog had a dog walking business.  It also turns out that we're looking for a dog walker to let Dylan out during the day and get him a little exercise.

We met the other dog owners and got a business card from the dog walker.  She seemed nice enough: sort of a hippie-type with plenty of wrist tattoos and unkempt hair.  About two minutes had passed after she gave us her card when we heard her suddenly exclaim:  "Where's my dog?  Have you guys seen my dog?  She was right here a minute ago..."

Everyone around started looking around for her dog and calling for it.

"She's across the street!," the dog-walker announced.  She instructed everyone to refrain from calling her dog.  As she ran across the road to her pooch, she kept telling it to stay there.

Winning Run and I made eye contact and pantomimed our disbelief.  We agreed to promptly lose her card.  She wouldn't be getting our business.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Manifest Destination

Last Thursday, we made it to Seattle after a fun four-day cross-country drive.  If you're ever driving cross-country with a pet, you'll be happy to know that all Motel 6 locations are pet-friendly.  You can, of course, find other places that are nicer and more expensive but it's comforting to know that this ubiquitous chain is there and will take you in for a modest little price.  Depending on where you stop, you might have to contend with their progressive, hard-hitting "No Smoking" campaign designed to stop anyone from even thinking of lighting up in the room.

What deters smoking more than an overturned ashtray with a sticker on the bottom?
Hard to say ... an in-room lighter, maybe?

Mostly, we drove 12-hours a day with exception of the 3rd day when we drove a leisurely 7 hours into Salt Lake to visit Big Mike, my college buddy, and his lady. We took in an outdoor concert, had a great time catching up with the two of them, and enjoyed the break from the highway. The next day, we woke, had breakfast, and pressed on from SLC into Washington.  Along the way, we stopped at a great overlook near Pendleton to drink in the horizon and let Dylan harass some field mice.

After a brief stay at my apartment near campus, Winning Run and I headed to Seattle to prepare for moving her into the apartment.  I knew that she'd like the place but it's pretty cool, if tiny.  A few blocks away is a great park on the shores of Lake Union with great views of downtown, loads of people flying kites, and plenty of seaplane watching.  Compared with the weather we left in Atlanta (100 degrees, 1000% humidity), the climate here is amazing (early morning temp in the 50s, afternoon high in the mid-80s).  Dylan loves it.

More pics:
 A windswept rest area in Wyoming.

Overlook near Pendleton, WA.

Dylan in the morning.

Dylan in the afternoon.

Cool kite at sunset.

All in all, it's pretty nice to be in a big city again.  I love the energy of it and the people in it.  After a year with my wife and dog on the opposite side of the country, I can tell you that having them in the same time zone feels like I've pulled off a coup.  It's freaking amazing.

Next, I'm off to move into my apartment and to hear about Winning Run's first day at hear new job.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Good Morning, America, How Are Ya?

In the immediate aftermath of finishing summer semester and passing my finals, I had little time to revel in the joy of officially becoming a second-year student.  Instead, I had to pack my things, move them out of my apartment, and get them into storage before I left for vacation.  As I abhor moving, it was only natural that I'd be spending the majority of my summer break moving myself into a new apartment, then going home and moving my wife across the country to Seattle. 

After an endless week, I managed to shove the last bits of my things (mostly the remaining 300 rolls of toilet paper from a Costco pack) into the storage bin and get the hell to Seattle onto a plane to Hawaii for a week of R&R with my wife's family.  I cannot explain how amazing it was to actually be in the same place as my wife for more than 48 hours.  Good stuff, indeed.  Two vacation shots:
Moon rise from the Joint Astronomy Center at Mauna Kea.

Waterfall at our lodging near Hilo.  
Swimming was great but the water was frigid.

After the vacation, I returned to ATL to help empty our house and, once more, drive across the country.  In case you didn't know, the housing market sucks for sellers and we were beginning to really freak out at the prospect of having an empty unsold house.  A few days before we left, however, we found some tenants for our place...big sigh of relief.  The rest of the time, we spent on the "Winning Run 2010 Farewell Tour" seeing friends, visiting family, and eating and drinking too much. 

We began our drive on the 11 JUL with our dog and hope to be in Seattle by the 15th.  Yesterday, we drove 700 miles and have stopped in central Missouri.

 Gateway to the West.

I gotta say that it's pretty damned strange and a little unnerving to be in a motel with your dog.  In good guard dog fashion, he's barked occasionally at strange noises which is followed by pleading cries of "Shh!!!! No bark!!!!" by the two of us.  Guess it's not like the first night in any hotel is ever restful, I suppose.

Friday, June 11, 2010

If You Look Too Far Ahead, You'll Trip Over What's Right Before You

On a short study break but thought I'd recount today's hilarity (so far):

Today, I have three finals:  Genetics, Medical Spanish, and a big ol' Path exam.  I rocked the Genetics one.  For the record, I have a degree in Spanish which makes me feel pretty good about my proficiency. My hubris has been increased by the fact that an overwhelming majority of my classmates are beginning speakers.  I quickly completed my Spanish exam, handed it in, and triumphantly strutted from the room to join my peers in the lobby in post-exam bliss. 
"Congrats on being done," I offered.
"Thanks, man.  You too."
"How'd it go?," I asked.
"Pretty well. I thought that one matching section was a little tough."
"What matching section?," I asked.
"The one right before the anatomy terms."
"Come again?," I asked.
"The anatomy terms," he repeated.
"How many versions of the test were there?"
"Just one," he said.
"How many questions were on it?"
More silence.
"I only did 30; I gotta go," I said as I literally dropped all of my stuff and walked away.
I tore back into the room, quickly explained the depths of my idiocy to the proctor, and did the remaining portion of my exam in five minutes.

Here's hoping that I'm more careful on the keystone exam of the day.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Worth a Thousand Words...

Three days left in the semester and, after, a little freedom* for a few weeks.  Meanwhile, I found another great visual metaphor for med school.

It never gets old.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It Takes an Ocean Not to Break

So, the afterglow of finals was ridiculously short-lived.  A few celebratory drinks were hoisted.  Then, it was off to the races to get to Valdosta, GA for Crazy Greg's (and, by marriage, "Crazy" Meg's) wedding.  Road construction had me miss the red-eye out on Friday night.  After taking the first-flight out on Saturday, I landed in ATL, dove into the car Winning Run had waiting, and sped toward south Georgia.  I arrived with enough time to put on my tux and rush to join the wedding party.  Seattle to Valdosta, GA with thirteen minutes to spare.  That's cutting it too close for comfort.

After the wedding, we hauled back to ATL.  I slept in my bed with my wife for a few hours before hopping a plane back to WA to begin the summer semester.  Now, I'm thoroughly embedded in the work of a few new classes and some remediation work for a few of the old ones.  And, for some reason, I thought that this semester might be a little more relaxing.  Evidently not.

To top off it all off, I came down with a horrible stomach flu shortly after arriving: up at 3am with projectile emissions from both ends for a few days.  Ah, what could be better?

Between all of the running around and stress and loose ends that I'm trying to tie, I've not had a true chance to reflect on the goings on from the year.  When the dust settles, if the dust settles, I share my thoughts.  Until then, some good news:  Winning Run was offered (and accepted) a job at her top choice of Seattle firms.  I'm really proud of her, my rock.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Yep, that's about right.

Now, for some celebratory libations and sleep before hopping a plane to GA for Crazy Greg's nuptials.

Well, That's a First....

Three finals left this morning and they're the biggies:
Gross Anatomy

Last night, got to bed around 1am.  Up at 4 to shower and make the final push. 

So effing stressed about these tests that, five minutes ago, I ran to the bathroom to wretch in the toilet.  WTF?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Living on Coffee and Flowers

Finals are in full effect.  So far this week, I've spent roughly 15 total hours at my apartment.  Rising around 5am, hitting the rack somewhere between 1am and 2am, and spending the hours between buried in books is taxing at the very least.  It sucks.  I'm exhausted.  I've miles to go before tomorrow's exams (and the remaining ones this afternoon).  This shit is medical school, is the best.

From "Conversation 16" by The National:
I think the kids are in trouble
Do not know what all the troubles are for
Give them ice for their fevers
You're the only thing I ever want anymore
Live on coffee and flowers
Try not to wonder what the weather will be
I figured out what we're missing
Tell you miserable things after you are asleep

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Another day, I’ll sleep in a lonely, empty bed.  I won’t hear anyone breathing next to me, won’t move the covers to escape their body heat.  In the morning, I’ll wake at a ridiculous hour and will lumber unsteadily into the shower and let the warm water rouse me.  Standing in the kitchen alone, I’ll drink black coffee and eat eggs on toast.  The only sounds I’ll make will be the rattle of the dish in the metal sink, the resonance of the fork skipping around.  Before turning toward my desk, I'll take another long look out the kitchen window at the gray, wintry sky.  Perfectly, it displays how I feel: vast, uniformly barren, cold.

Still, I’ll take another sip of coffee, shrug my shoulders and sigh to slough off the loneliness, and bear down on another difficult day.  I do this for me.  I do this for us.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Green Team!

This past Tuesday, my plans to organize everyone on my side of the room to wear green paid off.  Like the last few weeks, my buddy and I wore the same thing.  This time, however, everyone surrounding us wore green shirts also.  It was pretty cool.
Then, people started commenting on how cool it was that I'd duped everyone into wearing green on 4/20, the holiest of stoner holidays.  I got a pit in my stomach and constantly tried to reassure everyone that, really, that wasn't the plan.  Hell, since January, I've not really been aware of the date more than once or twice.  I know what "day" it is by what classes I have.  Dates, not so important to me at the moment. 
In one lecture, our prof took a moment to eye us and ask about the occasion for our unity before making a 420 reference. So, in addition to struggling academically with some of my classes, I'm sure the faculty are aware that I was the one who inadvertently organized a dress-up day for 420.  Great.  Perfect.  Grand.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fashion Police

Guess I realized today that I've been mailing it in when, for the third Tuesday in a row, I've worn the exact same thing as the guy who sits next to me.  Keep in mind that these aren't scrubs that I'm talking about, these are our civilian clothes that we wear once a week.  Khakis and an olive button-up shirt.  Guess we're not reaching too far back in the closet for something different.  Based on how wrinkled we looked, I'd say that each time we get home, the clothes go right onto a hanger until the next Tuesday. 

I've attempted to organize everyone who sits nearby to wear the same damned thing as us next week.  That way, my idiocy can spread.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

London Calling

During my break, Keytar Rob's email account was hacked.  Everyone in his contact list got a message begging for immediate wiring of funds.  Naturally, I created a dummy account and goofed around with the scammers a bit.  I was, after all, on break.

Subject: Stuck
From: Not Keytar Rob
Thu, March 18, 2010 11:09:25 AM

How are you? Honestly I'm doing pretty awful. I'm visiting London for vacation and so far a lot of crap has been spewing.I got robbed by a gang of Lebanese at the train station last night,the
cold,wet,darkness didn't help things and everything I had on me including my wallet,passport and cell phone got stolen.It was a traumatic experience for me and you can't imagine how scared I was when it happened.I'm completely paranoid and all garbled in my mind right now and am just waiting for a miracle to happen.I've just been to the Consulate and luckily after standing in line for what seemed like hours,I got to a customs agent and she said they can issue a replacement passport so I don't have to be stuck here for weeks.I'm tight up here and need to clear my hotel bills so that my luggage can be released by the hotel management.I'm just wondering if you can help out by loaning me some money so that I can sort things out on time and catch a flight back home today,I promise to refund you as soon as I arrive home.
Pls get back to me Asap.

Not Keytar Rob

Subject: Re: Stuck‏
From: Jean Deaux
To: Not Keytar Rob
Sent: Thu 3/18/10 12:49 PM


Just got off the phone with the gang and heard that you'd been mugged on vacation.  Sorry that this is going to put the damper on the amazing party that we'd scheduled for Saturday but if you feel like you can't hang around, I totally understand.  We're about to head out to the airport to make it to Skinny's for the par-tay but wanted to know if we could swing by your apartment to take care of anything (CC cancellation numbers or anything).  I'm happy to help, let me know what I can do, brah.

-- jd


Subject: RE: Stuck‏
From: Not Keytar Rob
To: Jean Deaux
Sent: Thu 3/18/10 12:55 PM

I'm having such a hard time here and I'm just about to get into a line up at the consulate in order to get my replacement passport stamped.It's been so embarrassing for me but I guess it's just this post-9/11 world we live in and the government lines that suck.I just need you to loan me 870 British pounds,that's equivalent to $1270.00,you can send it by going with cash to any Western Union location close to you or sending it online via the western union website.

Here is my information you need.

Name: Not Keytar Rob
Location: 27 Leicester Square, London. England
Zipcode is WC2H 7LA

I will need the pickup number which is also called the MTCN number to receive it here,and also let me know how much they charge in sending fees.I will refund you the full amount as soon as I arrive home.

I really appreciate it.

Not Keytar Rob

From: Jean Deaux
To: Not Keytar Rob
Subject: RE: Stuck
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 2010 13:01:53 -0700

No shit?  Hey, so that I can make this fly with the 'rents, can you give me more of an itemized breakdown for the $1300?  It'll be a tough sell unless I can let them know more specifically what it's going toward, you know?  By the way, they're pretty sorry that you got mugged.

So, other than getting mugged, how has the trip been?  I trust that you met up with that bird you'd been emailing.  Tell me you shagged her, brah.

When you get me an itemized list, I'll talk with the folks and get back to you ASAP.  Hold tight, Robbie, help is on the way.

-- jd


From: Jean Deaux
To: Not Keytar Rob
Subject: RE: Stuck
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 2010 13:17:50 -0700


Just spoke with the parents again since I've not heard back from you.  Hope all is OK.  I think they're game to send the money just wanted to know specifically what it's for.  They'd been on the phone with their bank transferring some stuff around, getting it ready to send over.  So, when you can, get back to me and we can probably have you home by the Sunday.

-- jd


RE: Stuck‏
From: Jean Deaux
To: Not Keytar Rob
Sent: Thu 3/18/10 2:05 PM


Know you're probably swamped at the consulate but when you wrap up, get back to me ASAP.  Mom and Dad are heading out and wanted to stop by the Western Union prior to their show.

-- jd


From: Not Keytar Rob
To: Jean Deaux
Subject: RE: Stuck
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 2010 18:02:49 -0400

Ohk...I just got back from the Consulate and it was a big drag.Anyway, I'm still hoping to make
tonight's fight.How soon can I get the money? write me back asap.

RE: Stuck‏
From: Jean Deaux
To: Not Keytar Rob
Sent: Thu 3/18/10 4:06 PM

Mom and dad were going to go ahead and book the return flight in your name; that way they can redeem some frequent customer miles for you.  And with Mom's connections at the airline, you'll likely be in first class.  How's that for big pimping, huh?  Now that you've got your replacement passport, it shouldn't be a problem for you to check in and board.

Also, which airline were you thinking so I can let them know?  (I'm assuming that you were planning on returning to JFK.)  I'm not sure when the last flight departs but it's probably rapidly approaching. 

So, unless we can get something worked out, you'll likely be overnighting it.  If you're staying at 27 Leicester Square, we can send a car for you in the morning.  Does this work?  It seems a little less complicated but, if necessary, we can still wire you the money; just wanted to get your thoughts.

Let me know what you're thinking or give me a call.



From: Not Keytar Rob
To: Jean Deaux
Subject: RE: Stuck
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 2010 19:10:13 -0400

Yikes. I've been holding up here waiting for the details to pick up the money.I've just been to the
health center t get some drugs,i also need to clear the hotel bill,can you get the money to my in the next 30 mins?

Subject: RE: Stuck‏
From: Jean Deaux
To: Not Keytar Rob
Sent: Thu 3/18/10 4:27 PM

Sorry, man!  Guess that the shops are all closing; doesn't look like we'll get the money to you
tonight.  In the morning, though, perhaps we could send it to:

33 Coventry Street
London,  W1D 6BS

Also, you'll need to send me new total.  How much is it that you need?  840USD?


From: Not Keytar Rob
To: Jean Deaux
Subject: RE: Stuck
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 2010 19:42:59 -0400

Bummer!!! The problem now is that i don't have a hotel room for tonight and to make things even worse i got into misunderstanding with the hotel manager and he called the police on me and i got to know that Brits are vile animals.I'm going through hell here and am starting to feel sick- of writing back and forth,can you just try to send it online via the Western Union website.
I can pick the money at any Western Union location here by presenting my id,i'm really counting on you now,all I need is 870 pounds.

Subject: RE: Stuck‏
From: Jean Deaux
To: Not Keytar Rob
Sent: Thu 3/18/10 4:53 PM

Sorry, brah.  Try to stay positive and think of being back in my loving arms.

Did you mention to the consulate that you were having these problems?  If not, I'll contact them;
they're able to step in and offer some diplomatic assistance in situations like these.  Also, if you
get thrown in jail, try not to make too many friends or too much money!  You know how it turned out when you got pinched for public drunkenness last year.  Shit, how many numbers, did you get?  Am I right?  Am I right?

Dad's on the phone with the gang at his law firm and is contacting the London office.  Let me know where you're at and he'll have a rep over there shortly to bail you out and take care of everything.  At the very least, they'll take a look at you to be sure you're not being roughed up or anything.  Also, I think that he's been talking to the hometown paper (Joey's aunt works there) and they're working on a story about the ordeal you're having.

Stay strong.  Send me your whereabouts.

-- jd


Subject: RE: Stuck‏
From: Not Keytar Rob
To: Jean Deaux
Sent: Fri 3/19/10 4:45 AM

Do you understand that I'm stuck and stranded here, try to get the money to me in the Morning.

Subject: RE: Stuck‏
From: Jean Deaux
To: Not Keytar Rob
Sent: Fri 3/19/10 6:50 AM

Sweet mother of all things holy!  Robbie, everyone has been worried sick about you.  Where are you?  Are you in jail?  Did you work things out with the hotel?  What color knickers are you wearing?  Sorry, you know it's our inside joke.  Thought it might cheer you up a bit.

By the way, I'm sure that you're just tired and cranky but your grammar and punctuation has gone to hell; you must be really stressed!

Also, and I know this is the last thing on your mind, but did you get a chance to see Mr. Robert
Pattinson at the premier?  Does his skin sparkle in real life?  Does he smell of lilacs like we
discussed in the hot tub?

Get back to me, quick, and we'll send the car for you.



Subject: RE: Stuck‏
From: Not Keytar Rob
To: Jean Deaux
Sent: Fri 3/19/10 6:59 AM

Oy! I don't understand what is going on now.I'm getting really pissed with this whole thing.Just go to a WU agent and send me some money now.I don't need a car sent to me now.


Subject: RE: Stuck‏
From: Jean Deaux
To: Not Keytar Rob
Sent: Fri 3/19/10 7:19 AM

I can understand you're pissed!  Sorry about your frustration.  Try to imagine yourself on Team Edward and you should calm down a little.  Here's your mantra: sparkles and lilac, sparkles and lilac, sparkles and lilac.  Say it a few times and you're sure to calm down.

You'll never believe what's happened!  We just got invited to go to a birthday party at the kids next door!  They've got a moonwalk and ponies!  Should be amazing!  I'm taking all five of our cats with me!  It'll be purrrrfect!  LOL!

Sorry about the confusion.  Airline ticket is booked and car is headed to L Square.  Dad was saying that Walmart is probably cheaper and more convenient for transfers.  Plus, you know how he's against unions.  Can you get to a Walmart?



Subject: RE: Stuck‏
From: Not Keytar Rob
To: Jean Deaux
Sent: Fri 3/19/10 8:06 AM

Alright, that's fine. Go ahead and send via Moneygram,Walmart.I'm not trying to pass blame or guilt to clear my mind it's just that I'm really frantic and nervous and am starting to feel a bit "out of sorts".I'll really appreciate it if you can reply with the Reference # I need to pick up money at the Walmart desk here.



Subject: RE: Stuck‏
From: Jean Deaux
To: Not Keytar Rob
Sent: Fri 3/19/10 8:32 AM

Well, this is just classic!  Dad just came in while I was emailing you and found all those old pictures of us on my computer!  Thought he was going to kill me!  I told him that it wasn't what it seemed like but he was sooo angry!  He started yelling and throwing stuff around.  He ripped apart that giant stuffed bear that you won for me at the fair and my signed "Jersey Shore" poster that you got for me.  I could punch him for that.  I'm crying so much that I can hardly see the keybrdoa.  My cats won't even come to me.  What should I do, Robbie?

I think that I'm going to be grounded for a long, long time.  Now, they're saying that they're going to cancel the flight for you!  What can I tell them, Robbie?  What can I tell them?  You know my Dad, how can I get him to change his mind?  He said that after seeing that picture of you and the muffler, he's not going to Walmart until he knows what's going on with us.  Tell me what to tell him.  I need you back here sooo badly.

I'm sooooo upset.  I knew I shouldn't have taken pictures of us snorkeling.  What's wrong with me?  My heart is breaking.

-- jd
End of transmission.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Spent a great week at home in my city, in my bed, with my wife.  I slept late, didn't do a damned thing, and failed to turn in any productive study time.  As a result, my return to school has been fraught with the same depression and panic as every other time that I go home and then return.  Five tests to go this week.  Yippee.

By the way, I love this car that's always parked by a gas station back home.  Homemade vanity plate made from mailbox stickers from your local hardware store.  Yep, that's keeping it real;  ATL style. 


Friday, March 12, 2010

Once Again, Anatomy Lab is the Coolest

(Or "Just Go Ahead and Stop Reading If You're Queasy")

So, we've finally made it to the "Head and Neck" unit of our anatomy course.  A couple of weeks ago, we wrapped up the "Lower Limb" section and moved up to the head.  By the end of lab that day, I'd scalped a person, removed the skin from the face, and examined facial muscles, nerves, and vessels.  Again, it's pretty damned amazing how our bodies are put together.  You'd be awed by what simply surrounds the eye and allows you to blink or squint.

This week, however, entailed cleaning up the dissection table and moving everything we'd previously dissected to the collection bin, and yielded a work station with only a head and neck and a few tools.
For the record, it isn't the easiest thing (either psychologically or physically) to use a hacksaw to remove a head and neck from the thorax.  To add to that, I'll  say that if you're the one holding the head while members of your dissection team clean the workstation, your forearms will get a little sore and fatigued after about fifteen minutes.  For the next few days, this soreness will be a macabre reminder that you have racked up experiences that few others have.

The part of the semester is the beginning of the point where Gross Anatomy and Neuroscience converge.  As we ready for our brain dissections, we harvested the brains from a few of the cadavers.  During lunch hour, several of us hustled to the lab and removed a few.  All I can say is that this was an unbelievably amazing experience. 

One starts by putting a rubber band around the skull as a guide, making a scalpel cut through the soft tissue down to the bone, and using a cast saw to make a cut around the circumference. If you've been to the dentist and had a filling, you probably remember the smell that goes along with having a tooth drilled; it is the same odor that accompanies sawing through a skull.  During spin class several hours later, I discovered that it is, quite literally, a scent that stays with you; all I could smell was the familiar burning bone smell.  No amount of blowing my nose or flushing it made it go away. It was, for a day or so, part of me.

After the saw cut is complete, you pry off the skull cap which is a hell of a lot harder than you'd think.  The dura that covers the brain and spinal cord is far more resilient than I imagined.  After pulling and prying and cutting and praying and pleading, the cap just sort of pulls off and you're staring at the top of the brain.  Then, you take an especially long scalpel, make several cuts including some relatively blind ones at the brainstem, and sort of roll the brain out of the skull and into your hands.

And shortly thereafter, you realize that, in your hands, in your very own hands, you are holding a human brain: the epicenter of motion, of bodily control, of emotion, of knowledge, of memory.  And, you realize that words fail to capture what an awesome and emotional experience it is to have just done what you've done, to hold what you're holding, to be so intimately connected with a perfect stranger who made you the recipient of the gift of their body.  Time stops and you go inward to your own history and your own unwritten future.  Could you be so selfless?  Could you be such a teacher?  Where do we go when this machine shuts down?  In the blink of an eye, you're back in the present and you turn to a fellow awe-struck student and carefully, tenderly place the brain in their hands.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Just a Little More...

Spring break is about 48 hours away and I can taste it, can feel it tearing me away from my books, can feel it softly whispering "Screw it, leave it alone" into my ear.  Two nights from now, I'll have my ass on a plane back to ATL.  Let me tell you: I cannot wait; I cannot wait have my feet on the red Georgia clay, to wake in the same bed with my wife, to lay on a couch with my dog.  Bliss, here I come.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Never Look to Chocolate For Help

Ask a Dove chocolate a question and, when you unwrap it, you just might have an answer!  Granted, that answer will be dialogue from a LifeTime Original movie but it will be inspirational in some bizarro world where chocolate is a therapist.  Regardless, here is a conversation I had with candy, in the form of an advice column.

Dear Dove Chocolate,
I'm really getting my ass handed to me by my studies.  Is there anything that I can do to improve?
-- Sincerely, The Scholar

Dear Dove Chocolate,
Thanks, but I'm not sure that you understand the writing style of my texts or my lack of time for pleasure reading.  Anyway, I guess I feel like I'm just not retaining things like I used to.  I'd appreciate any suggestions.
-- The Scholar 

Dear Dove Chocolate,
 I don't know; I definitely feel like I'm having to scrap for every little bit of knowledge that I'm gaining these days.  I'm just feeling burned out and like my self-confidence is really shaken.  Do you think what I'm doing is worth it?
-- The Scholar

Dear Dove Chocolate,
 Really?  I am?
-- The Scholar
Dear Dove Chocolate,
Okay, I feel pretty now; thanks.  But really, though, I'm getting thrashed by my courses.  Any strategies or other test-taking advice for me?
-- The Scholar

Dear Dove Chocolate,
Good one, Dove Chocolate.  Hope you're being funny because, clearly, "trusting my instincts" isn't working out so hot for me.  I've done precisely that and have crashed and burned.  Spectacularly, I should add.  Seriously, I should just go full Costanza and do the exact opposite of my instincts and see how that works out.  I could probably look like a freaking genius.  What'cha think about that?
-- The Scholar

Dear Dove Chocolate,
Really?  What's with the "good enough" bullshit all of a sudden?  You know that, at this point, I'd kill for passing grades, right?  Not superlative grades, just passing grades.  Got me? I am failing. I'm dying here.
-- The Scholar

Dear Dove Chocolate,
Now you're just screwing with me, right?  It's so dark, I can't see shit.  I'm in a cave that's wrapped up in a blanket that's been put in a box and buried.  It is dark, dark, dark.  You read me?  You get it, chocolate wrapper?
--The Scholar

Dear Dove Chocolate,
 What are you talking about?  Who said anything about singing?  Are you screwing with me?  Have you been listening to me sing?  Should I sing my answers during my exam?  WTF?
--The Scholar

Dear Dove Chocolate,
Are you referencing Lee Ann Womack lyrics now?  I'm starting to feel like you're nothing more than random quotes jotted down by members of Ellen's studio audience and slapped inside chocolate wrappers.  Hell, fortune cookies make more sense that you and they suck.  You know what, Dove Chocolate?  Screw you; we're done.  It's only 9a.m. but I'm gonna start drinking.  Thanks for nothing, prick.
--The Scholar