I'm having a hard time concentrating on my new module so I thought I'd blog a bit.
First, my car is not totaled. :hyper: However, we haven't found time to take it to the Allstate place to get it fixed. (We've got check in hand for $2K.) Eh. We'll find the time eventually.
Let's see... neuroanatomy. This module wasn't as organized as biochem and genetics were, so it took me quite a bit longer than anticipated to "get it." That being said, after procrastinating my exam for, all told, about a week, I did the best I've ever done. I told myself it'd be better to bail and take the exam later, rather than having a fuzzier understanding of the anatomy, which I'd be using, oh, say, now, in neurophysiology. (Hint to all pre-meds: if you find yourself in a poorly organized class take the time to find the order yourself. You will be rewarded.)
So, I think that the very best thing about my school's independent study is the community of it all. Sure, the lecture folks sit together in that big lecture hall for hours on end every day. Sure, they're all taking the tests on the same day. But with us, we've got 30-40 people per class who do things independently, but are all shooting for the same goal. We've got a lounge area connected to our study library, so there's a natural study break area. The second year people are really friendly and I think we get a better notion of the "big picture" of the first two years because of their presence. It does feel like a big, friendly, nerdy family.
In the "fun" stuff for school: we're learning about taking patient histories now. I'll be practicing for the first "official" time next Tuesday. White coat and everything, recorded encounter with standardized patients. And we're doing our BLS certification course. Pretty fun, pretty basic. All of this to set up for a preceptorship later this spring. That's something I'm really looking forward to.
I've turned in my proposal for summer research funding - 3 weeks early. Woo hoo! Now I just have to get accepted. And sometime soon I'll be working with my last-year's research group to submit an abstract for a poster for the spring medical center research day. There are some interesting, interesting findings.
Now, let's see, in my "real life..." One son is really bummed that he didn't get a real rocket that would take him to space for Christmas. He's also kind of disappointed that I don't come to school with him and study my stuff in his classroom. We're also working through getting them to understand that the last of the sippy cups will be thrown away on their birthday next month. (We only do sippy cups for their twice-a-day soy milk, and we've already introduced the replacements.) And we're tossing all the old, nasty training potties, and just leaving a little snap-on thing for the big toilet. They're much cooler with that, now that I've fixed the toilet seat.
Oh, and speaking of home repairs - my husband and I installed a bathroom sink about a week and a half ago. It was a Lowe's sink-in-a-box (all parts included, easy to install, super cheap) to replace our old, leaky, drippy, un-cleanable original cast iron sink that's as old as the house (1920s). It only took 8 hours.
Okay, I'd really better get back to studying. It's always so hard to begin to dig into things. Especially since our text for this module is Kandel's Principles of Neuroscience (1400 extremely heavy pages), our module packet is 90 pages of questions, and our suggested number of study days is 16. Pretty daunting, but I just keep telling myself that after this is cardiovascular physiology and respiratory physiology (2 modules, 1 exam), which *I* think should be interesting, at least.
So, one reason I blog is to have a written record of the priceless things my kids say. Here is tonight's.
The kids and I are finally, after a long evening, heading up to bed.
Him: I need tape, I need tape. (Grabs his Scotch Tape.)
Me: What on earth do you need tape for? It's bedtime. Are you going to tape your bed or something?
Him: No, I am going to tape myself to my bed.
(And off he continues upstairs to bed.)
It was really the best of all possible scenarios, all things considered. She lived alone, perfectly capable of taking care of herself, in the same town as two of her sons, with a mitral valve that was giving out. She collapsed suddenly at my uncle's house (my dad's older brother, her oldest son), and died instantaneously. Any pain she suffered was short, and she was with those she loved when she died, in a familiar place.
She was hospitalized briefly last fall for her valve. This concerned the family, so all 5 sons, and all of my cousins but two, made it to her house for Christmas. They got a family pictures. My sons, who are pretty dicey about showing affection to most relatives, gave her hugs and kisses when we left. Everyone had a chance to say goodbye in a full-of-life sort of way.
She had a stroke when I was a toddler, and triple bypass surgery in 1981. Her health had been pretty much stable ever since. She ate what she wanted, as long as it didn't cause her indigestion (so foods slowly left her diet over the years). In fact, she really was exactly the same as she was when I was a little girl, just with more wrinkles and gray hair. She shoveled her own snow last winter.
She was not a warm woman; she never liked my mother. She was insistent about doing things the way they'd always been done. It was difficult to understand her, partially because of the damage done by her stroke, partially because her uncle had cut off the tip of her tongue when she was a child because of some lesion on the tongue. But her hospitality exceeded that of anyone else I know, and she was my grandmother. The world is emptier without her.
The first role model I ever had ran into my life in the Summer Olympics of 1984. For those of you who aren't old as dirt like I am (and even for those who are that don't follow these things) 1984 was the first time women could participate in the marathon. The winner was an American elite runner, Joan Benoit. I was so inspired that I went out and ran a mile, as my dad estimated it, around the cul-de-sac where I lived. (16 laps around) That started a 12 year running career, where I firmly believed that if I just worked harder, that could be me. Mind you, I'm a short girl with stubby legs. But I was captain of my high school track team and ran in college.
I've got a ton of heroes now. Starting medical school just shy of your 30th birthday will do that for a woman.
I don't really have heroes for parenting. I'm pretty confident in my abilities there. My youngest aunt is a hero in terms of household and family management, but I really don't want her life, and I like my style of parenting better than anyone else's I've ever met. That just struck me today, and I realized how unusual that is, given the rest of my track record, and the fact that I will be watching said aunt carefully to see how well she and her husband do with their two littlest ones (2.5 and infant) that they had in their early 40s. (You know, because I may not be done having kids yet.)
My grandmother, whom I mentioned in my previous post, isn't really a hero to me. But my two aunts, the wives of my dad's next-older and next-younger brothers, are. They had their own lives. But they took care of and visited my grandmother all the time. They got to know her really well, and in doing so, I learned more from them than I ever learned from my mom, about my grandmother. My mother could never rise above my grandmother's dislike of her and harsh manner to do good for her. My aunts did, and it makes me sad how "out of the loop" I was as a consequence. In the coming years, I'll be having the opportunity to make the same choice regarding my mother-in-law, who's in pretty bad health. Do I rise above the insanity that surrounds this woman to make sure that she is taken care of, or do I respond like my mom, and stay far, far away from the toxic behavior? I think I'd better be like my aunts in this respect.
But as far as career goes, well, that's another story.
My two biggest heroes have got to be two neonatology fellows in the lab group where I was last summer. (Their research is in the cardiovascular group, rather than the perinatal group. Go figure. It got me a chance to meet them, and it's a really cool group, so whatever.) Both of these women started medical school at about 29-30-ish, just like me. Both had kids, just like me. The 3rd year fellow had two kids and an active-duty Air Force husband. And one of her kids was a baby. I figure if she could do it with that going, I've got no excuse. The other one, a first year, I met when she was finishing residency. She had "just" one kid when she started school and had her second during residency. These are some pretty great women, and show me that my career aspirations are totally doable "at my age."
Another hero is my former PI. She's mid-50's, and probably one of the most confident people I know. She does amazing, useful research, and isn't afraid to do what's right. She detests bureaucracy and PC-ness in medicine ("it's all about professionalism" she says - treat the patient and family professionally and the rest will fall into place), and will do what it takes to make sure that her patients receive the best care, and her research is good, meaningful work that benefits people. She's been more than happy to offer me advice even once I was no longer her employee. If I can be the sort of person in my career as she can, I'll be a happy individual.
My small group facilitator is a minor hero. She's only about a year older than me; in fact, she went to medical school with some people I knew from undergrad. :yikes: (I hung out with the class ahead of me, but not because my husband was in that class.) She's a family physician, only a few years out of residency. But she not only *knows* so much stuff (someone in our second year class made the comment about her "Most family physicians are jacks-of-all-trades, master of none, she's a jack-of-all-trades, master of all trades), she exemplifies what it means to be a compassionate physician. She's got a similar parenting philosophy to mine, which is really refreshing to hear in medicine.
Another couple of minor heroes are those that I discovered online. (What a dope I am.) I started reading Drey's blog here a little over a year ago, when I started spending way too much time here on MomMD, and discovered she went to the school that was right in town here, where I was interviewing. (My interview was just a touch over a year ago.) Then I got to meet her last spring. Super nice, fun to be around, great perspective. She didn't really turn into a hero, though, till she gave birth to her daughter, and LESS THAN A MONTH LATER was teaching my class ultrasound during anatomy. Hardcore that Drey is. I like to tell myself that if only one child had popped out of me, I could've been that hardcore. We'll see.
My final, super-minor hero is really just likely because I love her blog, and hope that I can be that successful one day. If you don't read The Underwear Drawer - theunderweardrawer.blogspot.com - you really ought to. She's about my age, she's got a little guy about 18 months younger than my kids, and she's in my very favorite city. She also has some really great comics. Perhaps I'm just obsessed with her city. But I'm an urbanite at heart, languishing in the midwest (though I really, truly believe it's great for me to be here right now so that I can concentrate better on studying), doing the best I can. That, and I prefer $6K preschool tuition over $20+K preschool tuition. Otherwise, there's something totally appealing about not needing to use the car to get everywhere. (I hate driving with a passion that rivals little else.) Someday, if everything works out, I hope to move there, and if I don't, I'll have a good reason why not.
I think that's it for now on my heroes. For a while, I wanted to be a knitting superstar like Alice Starmore or Lily Chin (I'm in one of Lily Chin's books), but now I just want to knit pretty things and not think about what I'm knitting. So I knit socks. Just plain ole socks. (Oh, I think as a knitter going into medicine, I have to view Perri Klass as a hero since she's a knitwear designer-physician, but I dunno. She's okay, I guess. I think it would be hard to make a meaningful contribution to both.)
So, to sum up - I have heroes. Heroes help me to be bigger than myself. Heroes push me to my limits and drive me toward excellence. Whatever your time in life, in medicine, may you, too, find heroes that can do the same for you.
(Anyone who says that the stretch marks go away eventually is mistaken. I still hold out hope, but you can definitely tell I used to have two humans living inside me.)
My husband and I went in today for the birthday celebration at the kids' circle time - a wooden sun was placed in the middle of the circle with the months and seasons on it, and a lit candle in the middle. The kids each had a globe (they wanted to go together) and then they went around the sun once for each year, and talked about things they did at each age, then shared photos from each year. Then the class counted to 4 in lots of different languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Korean, Japanese. Pretty special. We'll also be bringing in a cake at lunch. (We're really close to their school.)
However, in light of that, I did choose to postpone my exam till tomorrow morning. I don't want to be rushing back from cake at the kids' school to neurophysiology. Tomorrow will be fine.
I definitely haven't spent enough time studying for this; I'm really getting burned out on the brain. So I'll cut my losses and take what I get on this, rather than dragging it out any farther. (I was barely passing my practice exam yesterday, so one more day of getting the details down will bring me up to my goal area.)
I'll also take this time to give a couple of book reviews, now that my sojourn in neuro is nearly at its close.
FitGerald's Clinical Neuroanatomy and Neuroscience - beautiful pictures, incomprehensible text.
Netter's Concise Neuroanatomy - perfect for getting the anatomy part of neuro - I attribute my success to that book! (This was not required or recommended by my program, but some other guys had it, so I got it; my best investment ever!)
Haines' Neuroanatomy Atlas - worse than useless; lack of colors made it more confusing than anything else (This was recommended; it was terrible.)
Kandel's Principles of Neural Science - enormous (HEAVY!!), intimidating book full of wonderful text and extremely helpful (if ugly) illustrations and explanations. Honestly, I think that the illustrations on this thing are ideal - they convey concepts so well that it doesn't matter that they're poorly colored and not remotely glossy. This book totally rocks. I'd recommend it to anyone.
Q: When is the worst possible time for two little boys with histories of febrile tonic-clonic seizures to spike 102 degree fevers?
A: Right before my neurophysiology exam. For two reasons!
1) Totally scared of seizures. Yes, they are four. The first febrile seizure for both was at age 3, and the most recent one lasted 3 minutes. (Yes, I timed it. With my watch.) Doesn't help that now I *know* what happens, that they're hereditary (I had at least 6 by the time I stopped at age 6.) and that, according to Kandel, multiple seizures can damage the CA1 area of the hippocampus. (Somebody please PM me and tell me that Kandel's not referring to febrile seizures. Or something. I mean, I guess I think my hippocampus is working out just fine...) Anyway, part of me wants to watch them every minute to make sure they don't start seizing. (They've always caught everyone by surprise.)
2) I'm not getting enough sleep with the night-waking, and I've got the guilt complex over my husband taking off of his school stuff for them. (We both decided for me to not push back my exam, since I'd just have to make up the time later, and I won't do any better later this week.)
Anyway, I'm not usually a paranoid, overprotective parent. But seizures are really scary, even when you know that they're generally benign, and calm enough to time them. So fevers will probably continue to scare me till my kids grow out of this.
So - part 2 of 2 for neurophys tomorrow afternoon. I did part 1 this morning, and, well, yeah, it was pretty obvious that I had sick kids. It was not my most shining moment, but I still didn't do terribly. And it was only 4 1/2% of my year 1 grade, so it didn't hurt me too badly.