Sunday, March 27, 2016

Block 3 Week 9: Life is pain, Highness

I was really hoping to be able to reflect on the past week and say we got through it and we are back home and on the road to recovery. That's not the case yet. HB is still in the hospital with some complications from pancreatitis. There is some hope that he will be released on Sunday (Easter) or Monday (not Easter), so I'm trying to be hopeful without allowing so much hopeful that I crash and burn if it doesn't work out. That's the thing about throwing all your energy into being hopeful. People advise you to not lose hope, but not hope so much that you get disappointed. That's not really something you can help, is it? I mean, you try to balance hope and expectation in this delicate fashion so that if it works out -- YAY! -- but if it doesn't, you aren't terribly disappointed. I'm of the opinion that you can't avoid hope just to avoid disappointment. I'm throwing all my energy into the hoping, and if disappointment is what I get instead, I'm just going to allow myself to feel that and crash and burn temporarily.

A fellow class member told me on Friday that I was so strong, and that they don't know how I'm doing it. I don't feel like I'm doing much of anything, except being dragged along rather unwillingly while trying to look like everything is fine and my hair isn't a mess. I told her that I'm faking the heck out of keeping it together, and once HB is out of the woods (or hospital as it were) and home safe, I'll fall apart for a matter of days. I think she thought I was joking. I'm completely serious. I'm really good at keeping it all together for the most part while everything is falling off a cliff, but once everyone gets up and brushes off and is OK, I will lose it. For a while.

I have to say that just about every night I wake up at about 3am and decide that a career in medicine is not for me. That's about the time that HB wakes up needing pain meds. It's a good thing I don't listen to 3am me very much, except for that one time I was pregnant and my water broke and it was time to have a baby -- but that's another story. I am not at my best for making life decisions at 3am, and I have over 40 years of experience to back that up, so no worries about my career decisions. The thing I worry about at 3am is having to exist in this limbo that is hospital life indefinitely. This is a vast improvement over about a week ago, when all I could think about is whether we were going to get out of this with both of us still kicking. One of the things that makes 3am worry sessions a little easier to manage is that most of the things I've worried about at 3am in the past have not happened. I wish that would eradicate these sessions altogether, but maybe in another 40 years...

Since school has started, I've been pretty dependent on HB and our extended family/friend network. Since he's been sick, I've been even more dependent. I'm not fond of being in this place of need, and I struggle with letting people step in and help out. But there's no way I could drop everything and stay up here with HB during this if I didn't depend on everyone a little more. I'm amazed at how many of my friends and family have stepped up to help out. Our refrigerator is overflowing with yummy food. People just call and say, hey I'm going to do this thing so that life will be moderately easier for you, and they do it. My classmates show up with bagels and coffee.  Or they mention what's going on with us to people that they know at the hospital, and the CEO of EAMC shows up in our room to check in. We are so overwhelmed with how much people love HB and want to help. I feel like I have a list a mile long of thank you notes to write. I hope that I can be this awesome to my tribe if they ever need me. Because, wow.

If you've made it through this 3am-worry-session-turned-blog-post, you should give yourself a good pat on the back and maybe buy yourself a coke. I'm sure I'll read this tomorrow and feel a little sheepish, but as it stands, I'm about to hit publish. My idea of a medical school blog didn't really involve outlining how to deal with life threatening illness in your spouse while not dropping out, but as I've said before, I can only write where I live. And for now, this is home. I can only hope it helps someone out there who has to go through the same thing. That will make it almost worth it.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Block 3, Week 8: I make it a rule never to get involved with possessed people.

So this week totally started off with a bang. I had quite the list of movie quotes to accompany this post, but I decided to go with an old favorite. My sweet HB got really really sick on Saturday night. I was sitting in our room watching a Grimm episode on my computer when I heard what sounded like someone murdering a Wookiee coming from the bathroom. It was some next level Exorcist-sounding stuff going on in there. The bad thing is that the relief that usually comes from expelling all that was within to the outside didn't come. He was in extreme pain, and was glad to jump in the car to go to the urgent care. This is the second sign of possession, because he does NOT like to go to the doctor. After a wrong diagnosis at the urgent care, we ended up coming back up to the ER, and he has been admitted to the hospital since Sunday with pancreatitis. He doesn't drink, and there doesn't appear to be any gallstones, so we are still here on Friday wondering what started it all.

I guess if there was a good week to go into the hospital, this would be it. We didn't have any exams scheduled for this week. I missed a LOT of classes, so there will be catch-up to do, and I have two exams next week. I'm hoping I'll be able to catch up and finish out the block without too much trouble.

It has been awfully nice to have the support and prayers of our friends and family while all this is going on. People have brought food, driven the kids to practices, and stayed at the house with the kids so I don't have to leave HB here alone. Because let me tell you, every time I leave they do something bad to him it seems. I've had to be a big girl and take care of myself this week, and it hasn't been too bad. Of course, I've had a whole team helping out, so I guess it's not really me doing it after all. Funny thing is how many people it takes to replace a single dude. I think HB needs a raise.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Block 3 Week 7: Hold Onto Your Butts

Ooh guys, what a WEEK! We've had so many exams over the last two to three weeks that I have no idea what to do with myself this weekend since I don't have an exam on Monday. I haven't had a free weekend in ages! So I decided that I would clean up my bedroom, change my sheets, knock out my laundry and clean my bathroom. It's one of those things that nags at me when I'm busy, so I figured I'd give myself a little treat by knocking that out. I don't have any exams this upcoming week, but we do have three neuroscience labs. That will be quite exhausting, and I will be thanking myself for making everything clean and shiny in advance. I totally ran out of pants last week and had to rock dresses and skirts just about every day.

My plan is to use this week to get ready for the pathology and clinical medicine finals that are coming in week 9. Also, I need to really kick butt on neuro lab because I did rather poorly on the first lab practical. I can't believe we are only four weeks from the end of block three. Our next block is cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. I keep hoping we'll hit a subject that I'm just really really good at, but so far they've all been a whole lot of work. I guess none of them are going to be easy. But I won't borrow trouble from the next block. I've got enough here in good old neuro.

So for the rest of this weekend I plan to have a nice brain break and get back to serious study on Monday. I might even pick up my knitting or finish a book I started a few weeks back. I think it's important to have some time where I'm not obsessing about medical school. It has become such a huge part of my life that it's the only thing that identifies me. So for this weekend, I'm just Val and I have cleaned my house and hung out with my kids and HB, and I'm going to spend the rest of it just being as normal as I possibly can. Oh, and springing forward. That will be exhausting. UGH. Until next week!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Block 3 Week 6: Well, they taste sweet, but really they're just humiliated grapes.

I want to talk about love. But I'll start with a story first. I was in the checkout at Walmart not too long ago, and after the cashier handed me the receipt and thanked me, I responded with, "Love you!" Oops. So I walked out of the store mortified that I had just declared my love to a cashier. But why? Why should I be embarrassed to tell someone who probably needs to hear it that I love them? It has become a bit of a problem in our society to declare love. You can LOVE donuts, you can LOVE your car, and you can LOVE your dog. But a cashier? Um, no. Oh, if I tell someone I love them, they are going to expect something out of me. Like what? Compassion? Basic decency? Uhhhhgggghhh not that! A donut can't expect anything, so it's OK to love a donut. All my car needs is gas and maintenance, so I can love my car. My dog is a little more complicated. He needs food, water, a nice back yard to relieve himself, and he does expect the occasional GOOD BOY! But even when I trip over him and step on his ears, he seems to think it is his fault and he acts all pathetic until I tell him he is once again a good boy.

People like to wait a really long time before they declare their love to a person. They have to date and text and talk on the phone and be good and sure before they can say they love them. Because they have to be willing to fulfill whatever expectations come as a result of being the object of one's love. People treat love like it is on the endangered list, like there's a limited supply of it. But what if I told you that you can love everyone in an unlimited amount, and you won't run out? Is that just too shocking? I just think that if we let ourselves access that place in our souls that craves to love and be loved, and allow the entire human race to experience that vulnerability that comes when you share love, there would be a whole heck of a lot less of all the bad stuff that lurks around the edges of life waiting to devour us.

Why am I harping on love suddenly? I just read a book called Physician Suicide Letters Answered by Pamela Wible, MD. I'm not going to tell you all about it, because you should read it. DO it. But it's pretty much just what the title describes. It is a gut-wrenching wake up call about the unsupportive atmosphere surrounding medical students, interns, and physicians with depression and/or mental illness. If everyone would just stop trying to cover their own butt and create an environment where medical professionals feel safe sharing their struggles, maybe we wouldn't lose professionals in numbers that equal the enrollment at a medical school every year. The answer is love. Doctors are afraid of love because it makes them feel vulnerable. They are bullied into burying their capacity to love so that they can get through the rigors of medical school and residency, and are often unable to access that place even when they want to. But it is that very capacity that leads us to medicine in the beginning!

"We need a medical culture that supports our emotional health, that normalizes our need for comfort and non-punitive help when we’re in pain. Until then, please reach out to each other. Maybe a buddy system. Don’t allow doctors to isolate."
Wible MD, Pamela (2016-02-10). Physician Suicide Letters Answered (p. 166). Pamela Wible, M.D., Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I used to think that the attitude that I got from doctors when they found out that I was going to medical school was just because they were old and tired. I'm beginning to understand that they didn't want to see me go through what they did that turned them into what they are. It is repeated in this book over and over that these suicidal physicians wish they had never gone into medicine, and they can't see any way out because of the weight of paying back their student loans. This hopelessness drives record numbers to take their lives because they don't see a future with a solution.

So I choose love. I love donuts, I love my car, and I love my dog. I also love my HB, my kids, and my family. I love my church, and I love my fellow students. I love the faculty, the staff, and the cleaning crew. I love the Walmart cashier. I choose to show my love by allowing those around me to say, hey I'm having a rough go of it. And when they say it, I'm going to do my level best to help them get better. I'm not going to act uncomfortable or get all fidgety and tell them to suck it up. I have access to a bottomless supply of love, and I'm going to share it. So if you need love, and you know you do, come find me. I got it.