Saturday, January 31, 2009

scalpel. masterson. SPOON.

I learned a few things in the OR recently.

Like how they call giant tweezers “pick ups”. Or how they call a giant hemostat a "Masterson."

Aside from the obvious, like “scalpel” and “forceps”, there are other funny words. Like “prom”, “graves”, “Kavorkian”, and “noves”. I’m not exactly sure what all of these mean—or who the heck named them. But I do know that in a dire situation where my help was needed finding a “Kavorkian”, I’d likely dial 4-1-1 & ask for the physicians number.

Being a surgeon is kind of a cushy job. You use fancy soap packaged in little plastic. You have special “under fingernail” cleaners that are waiting for you at any scrub station. And you waltz in the operating room like it’s the red carpet & start cutting on your patient within 30 seconds of your sterile dressing…forget the 45 minutes it took to prep the room and the extra 30 minutes it took to get the patient to a listless state of gas-induced dream land where they wouldn’t yank your eyeballs out when the scalpel sliced open their belly.

Too graphic? Sorry.

Anyways, as I was saying: being a surgeon is kind of like a luxury car ride wearing sterilized cotton blue outfits & a cardboard smelling mask on your face. So much for smelling the fresh air, huh?

So I digress...back to my story.

There are LOTS of instruments that are meticulously placed around the operating room when we (“we” as in the physician & myself) enter the O.R. They are all lined up on metal tables with blue towels as tablecloths. sort of like this:

Sharp instruments. Clamping instruments. Cutting instruments. Foreign-looking instruments. Instruments that look like they’d eat your head if there were alive…

So you can only imagine my surprise when I walked into the O.R. last week and saw, among the shiny sterilized instrument on one special blue tablecloth, a SPOON. That’s right. A real spoon—as if the nurse plopped it down on the table after she finished that scoop of post-lunch peanut butter. A real spoon—exactly like the one I’d just slurped my soup from in the hospital cafeteria.

And you can REALLY imagine my surprise when the physician stuck the spoon in the patient’s vaginal cavity during a D&C and scooped a sample of tissue into a specimen jar.

Needless to say, I’m using plastic spoons in the hospital from now on.

Friday, January 30, 2009

spring pillows.

well, here they are :) new bright green pillows to welcome in the spring season! it was a bit of a stretch for me & i surprised myself when i walked out of the store with green fabric...but i LOVE THEM :) {lighting is really bad...sorry!}

we invested in high quality pillow "fillers" at Pottery Barn right after we were married. now, each season (or month, depending on how ambitious i feel!) i either buy new covers on clearance or make them to fit the "fillers". we don't change anything else in the house (except around christmas time) so it is actually a wonderfully inexpensive way to decorate!
this fabric was, again, on sale & totalled about $30 :) i finished all of them in under 4 hours!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

deja vu.

i've been here before--this place, it's vaguely familiar. like the feeling of crispy autumn leaves or deja vu's from dreamland. part of me is comfortable here--and part of me desparately wants to move past it.

as i drove today, the short white stripes blurred into memories of white snow last year--almost exactly one year ago. in a different place. at a different time in my life. and yet, it is all still the same. same state. same studying. same stuff.

i wondered how i was feeling, how i was coping with life & all it brought.

when i realized that i've been here before.

the same feelings i so desparately wanted to move past last year have come to visit again. the same fears and apprehension, the same frustrations and anxiety-provoking questions...they are ALL coming back.

or maybe they never left.

our pastor gave a church sermon about how God uses our struggles to build us. to remind us that we need him fully, completely in order to truly move on. he said its too easy to get frustrated--to look around & realize that we've been here before. but all-too-easy to ignore that things really are different. like one of those "can you find the differences?" pictures where they photoshop a rose in the man's suit pocket & a pink collar on his dog.

i've been here before. in a different place. at a different time. under different circumstances. but those same feelings of dread--those same "what if's" fill my thoughts.

our pastor said that it's like a spiral--a spiral staircase, if you will. at some point in time we are bound to round the same corner & recognize the view. what's most important, though, is to realize we really are one step higher than before.

01.28.09 a day in the life

i guess you could call it writers block--i've been experiencing (experiencing?) a bit of trouble writing writers river is all dried up :) so instead, i'm resorting to pictures until the flood gates open & i'm once again inspired...

i thought it might be fun to share little snippets of a "typical" day on this rotation....the description below runs from left to right beginning at the top row.... 1) lunch packed? check. have purse? check. ready to walk out the door? check.
2) on the drive to work--what a metropolis i live in!!
3) arrive @ work & am greeted by the office door reminding me that this rotation is all about babies, boobs, & crotches ;)
4) step into the "patient education room", which i have since officially dubbed the "study room"--since it is where i sit ALL DAY studying.
5) this is where my bottom side rests most of the day...see how organized my preceptor is? (sarcasm, people, sarcasm)
6) my slew of bags waiting to be opened: book bag, purse, lunch box
7) books ready to be studied...i make quite a mess by the end of the day with all my pens & books, etc.--you'll see :)
8) if my preceptor is late (& he usually is), i get to watch Good Morning America & all the semi-ridiculousnes the show brings. today however, the show was frequently interrupted by a "Winter Weather Warning" for HIGH WINDS--as if a hurricane was going to come get us in the mountains...
9) in the time i was waiting for my preceptor, i watched Good Morning America, was scared to the high heavens about that horrid wind warning (not!), organized my study materials, & thumbed through a cross-cultural "baby book" where i found this hilarious photo :) i think i'm making one of these for our kids when they finally least they can't go anywhere!!
10) the studying begins...
11) a few patients later & we get a call from the hospital informing us that one of our patients is 6cm the the labor & delivery floor!
12) waiting for the baby to come (lots of watiting on this rotation)...i read a magazine all about list making & had one foot in heaven ;)
13) baby still wasn't there, so i was dismissed for a quick 10 minute lunch. ran down to the cafeteria where they have a microwave & slurped my soup...
14) still waiting....entered my daily food intake into my fancy calorie counter...
15) yay!! baby came! it was an adorable little girl....and i might have gotten a bit teary eyed...or not. i'm not telling. the photo is the 'evidence' from the delivery, since i wasn't allowed to bring my camera in the room
16) hand washing can review the stages of cervical dilation if you'd like on that fancy blue+white tray behind the sink! how thoughtful, huh?
17) self portrait.
18) back to the office. 5 more physicals. writing notes on patient charts...
19) ready to go. still more patients to see.
20) found a book from 1899....
21) ...learned how to make a "nursing bra", in case anyone is interested....
22) finally! walking to my car
23) after 5:30...yup, definitely time to ditch that popcicle stand ;)
24) drive home from work. it was raining :)
25) dinner & email checking
26) change clothes for the gym
27) inside the classroom @ the gym--BodyPump on Wednesday nights...
28) post-gym facebook check
29) post-workout snack
30) at 10pm i drank a cup of green chai tea...& conveniently forgot about the HIGH caffeine content....i finally fell asleep after midnight :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

southern drawwlllll.....

The new patient had written "retard" on the patient information form. As tactfully as possible, I asked for clarification. He rolled his eyes at my obtuseness, but explained with great patience in his class [West Virginian]* drawl, "You know, I don't work anymore...I'm RETIRED."

*I read this story & thought it proper to substitute West Virginia for the Oklahoma, the original state featured in this short Medical Blooper.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

hello, weekend.

...nice to see you again...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

ooey gooey red stuff.

I heard that Grey’s Anatomy uses pig hearts & fake organs & red ketchup-like substances for blood. Because using real human organs would be inhumane, not to mention gross.

And so, I’m often left standing over a sterile abdomen underneath the operating room lights trying to convince myself that what I’m about to see really isn’t human; that instead it really is just pig hearts & fake organs & red ketchup-like substances that the nurses squirted on the patient during that 1/100th second it took me to blink.

Sometimes the mind games work. Sometimes I pretend that the giant blob of skin-looking stuff that’s glaring underneath the surgery lights is really a giant present from the aliens with lots of moving, gooey, red stuff inside. And other times I pretend that I really don’t know how babies are made & that they magically appear inside that giant blob of skin-looking stuff inside a nicely packaged thing that slightly resembles a picture of a uterus I saw just that one time when I was passively glancing through my anatomy book.

Playing stupid isn’t always a bad idea.

Because the truth is that I’ve quickly come to find that my body--& my hormonally driven emotions—don’t really care about the sterile field. Nor do they care about the REAL LIVE PERSON that is lying under those blue drapes. Nor do they care about the bustling staff that scurries about the OR making sure we don’t leave gauze or forceps or sponges inside that REAL LIVE PERSON that is lying under those blue drapes.

No, in fact, my body & my hormones only care about thrill.

And on Tuesday, it was thrill they got.

They also got a surprise trip to the cold concrete floor of the OR when I almost passed out during a C-section---{err, I mean a baby removal from that nicely packaged thing that slightly resembles a picture of a uterus I saw just that one time when I was passively glancing through my anatomy book}

Make the incision on that giant blob of skin-looking stuff.
I was fine.

That red-ketchup looking stuff started coming out.
I was fine.

More incisions with scalpels & scissors & hemostats.
I was fine.

Jlyn, please hold the retractor so you can look into this gaping slice we just made & see what kind of presents are inside.
I was fine.

Look! Do you see the babies head?
I was fine.

Dad was in the room & got all excited.
I was fine.

Baby came out—big chunky 8 pound boy.
I was fine.

Admiring the baby while hold the retractor & wondering how much that little guys back must hurt from being crammed in that tiny mommy’s belly.
I was fine.

A little less fine…

Look! Do you see her colon!
Nope, not so fine…

Here we are, pretending to practice our cross-stitch on her uterus!
Definitely not fine…feeling quite warm by now….

Give me that big staple gun so I can punch her incision like I would a stack of paperwork!!!
Oh man….sweaty palms…sick stomach….

And the next thing I knew, the scrub nurse was stripping all my unnecessary clothes off—the sterile gloves, the gown, the extra hair net, the wet-apron….

What? We just delivered a baby?

Oh…cool. No thanks…I’ll just watch from the floor—the view is just fine from here. Thanks anyways—I’ll practice my cross-stitch on the next patient.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

modern-day lepor.

It seemed a bit misfit for a Christmas Eve sermon; talking about lepors & their strange deformities with images of sweet baby Jesus & shining angels dressed in white embedded in my thoughts. And perhaps it was a bit misfit for Christmas Eve—but it was true…starkly, glaringly, effortlessly TRUE.

After all, the subject of the sermon was lepors—the greatest of all misfits in that Jewish vs. Gentile society. Cast aside. Covered in black spots, sometimes found with missing ears or hairs or digits. Accusatory glances from passerby, mothers bringing their children in closer, old men huddling against a stone-cold buildings while they passed—all part of the daily rhythm of seeing sunlight, finding food, & seeking JESUS.

Leprosy is still around, you know. Even in the United States. But there are drugs for it now. And treatment facilities. And incubation rooms. And other options. While it still exists & plagues many around the world, it’s a rarity these days to see a digit-less person missing patches of hair & half an ear frequenting the street corners. And while its bacteria still is isolated, grown, and treated in controlled facilities, there is another brand of misfits being bred at an alarmingly high rate…

Do you even know what she has??!

I heard the nurses whispering.

I can’t believe he is taking that risk—I don’t think I’d do it.

They were hushed, obviously trying to avert my intent listening ears.

Yeah, the one with the yellow scrub top said, he is one of the only ones in town that takes such dangerous cases….I just hope I don’t have to stick her.

And then they dispersed. Busying themselves with clipboards & pill cups & ice chips.

I walked over to the metal cart that held the aqua colored charts. My finger moved over the labels until I came to the thick binder bearing the patients name in question. I glanced at the red tab labeled “LABS” and flipped it open, like I’ve done a thousand times this year.



My initial thought mirrored that of the nurses—I just hope I don’t have to stick her…or examine her…or assist in her c-section. But then I caught my breath…

Accusatory glances from passerby, mothers bringing their children in closer, old men huddling against a stone-cold buildling while they passed….two pairs of layered latex-free sterile gloves, hesitation at that needle stick, tension-filled silence in the operating room (OR) when the first incision is made….

What if God used two layers of gloves when he worked on my heart? What if heaven went quiet when I prayed—waiting in silent tension to see if the grimy contagiousness of my sin would spread & infect even the most holy of holy's? What if sterile masks & extra paper gowns & special shoe covers were used when God deals with my dirt?

When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. –Matthew 8:1-3

Am I willing? Am I willing to be touched by God? To be healed by the hand—the naked, gloveless, scarred hand of Jesus? Am I willing to be outcast because of my infections? To be segregated because of my stubbornness? Will passer-by huddle in corners & turn their faces from me because of the grimy layers of humanity evident on my freshly made-up face & name-brand clothes?

Perhaps more importantly, am I willing to go under the knife—to kneel down before my Lord and ask for the Ultimate Healing once again? For the ump-teenth time since I last saw him…for the billionth sin I’ve commited...

And will He heal me yet again?

Your cleansed and grateful life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done. –Matthew 8:4

Friday, January 16, 2009


Wednesday, January 14, 2009


We’ve been on the road a lot over the past three weeks. In the car. On the plane. In the car again. Sitting by the fire or the kitchen table or the Christmas tree. And I’m fairly certain it was the silence, the presence of Jon next to me (a rarity these days), and the crackles of the fireplace that inspired me to think more than I normally do. Most days, aside from a few more active (typically more freezing) afternoons, I sat cozied on a couch or chair or bed and let my mind run (because my hind end certainly wasn't up exercising). One of the great things (there truly are few great things on my list these days) about medical school is that it has quenched my thirst for reading for the next twenty years. The read-8-books-each-summer bookworm I used to be is a thing of the past…I’m not holding my breath waiting for her return, either. I’d much rather listen. Or just sit (something which, had I been asked two years ago, I would have found horribly boring & overwhelming elderly). And while I used to lose myself in a book & let my imagination run wild, I find myself lost in thought more times than not these days—typically resulting in my future-prone mind inducing a slight anxiety attack resolved only by a nap or cup of chai (the latter of which hasn’t done any good for my pant size).

I’m not sure what 2009 will bring. My anxiety level—and my innate & extremely annoying tendency toward controlled planning—is already about an 8 on my 10-point-scale…which is not boding well for the rest of the year. BUT I’m trying my best to get over the slump of faith and JUST TRUST that things will once again, as they always have, just work out.

There are many rotations to schedule, a large number of which have limited spots with restricted application periods on a first-come-first-served basis. There are residency applications to complete, personal statements to write, tests to take, patients to see & *hopefully* learn from, books to read (textbooks, mind you), letters to write, farewells to prepare for, and snuggles to be had.

I’m looking forward to the last one the most.

Anyhow…with all this thinking time, I’ve come up with a brief list of goals for the duration of this year. Many are personal & won’t be shared on this public space…but for the more practical (& probably attainable) ones, my public declaration of listing will hopefully inspire their completion.

- Learn to make jam.
- Learn to make homemade applesauce.
- Make at least 2 quilts.
- Abort the all-or-nothing approach to Bible reading & at least make an attempt each day.
- Become a morning person—up with the sun.
- Write one letter/email/note each week.
- Keep writing. Journaling. Documenting.
- Make some attempt at working out at least three times weekly.
- Grow a vegetable garden.
- Keep at least one indoor plant alive…& remember to water it each week.
- Embrace fulfillment with the material possessions I’ve been given.
- Go at least three months without buying any clothing item.
- Take at least one long walk per week (unless I’m still in WV in which case it might be a danger to my well-being).
- Learn to love the practice & study of medicine again.
- Subscribe to one magazine while Jon is gone.
- Keep a prayer journal.
- Make an advent calendar.
- Get more sleep.

There are more. And then again, that list is rather long. I’m not holding myself to these goals in a do-or-perish fashion—I’m simply throwing them out there so that people (eehhheemmm MOM) can hold me to them & well, teach me how so I can cross at least four of them off my list.

Happy 2009…here’s to a long, challenging year of changes ahead.

And here’s to the Walk of Faith that will get me through it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

dish soap with a side of tissues.

They came with the dish soap today; the Dawn Simple Pleasures Water Lily & Jasmine dish soap—the same dish soap that sits on our sink ledge at home. They came, they were nonrelenting & soaking, dripping on the counter in the silence of my apartment.

And it was silent. Because once again, for the first time in five weeks, I was alone. And for the first time in five weeks, I didn’t feel like a wife today. And for the first time in five weeks, those feelings of dread & nomadic living came back with full force.

And I didn’t like it.

In fact, I still don’t like it. And although I’m well aware that my complaining & teardrops won’t get me anywhere but further into by celebratory self-pity party, sometimes its just good to have a cry.

If you knew me prior to this whole endeavor, you’d never know I’m referring to the same person. Because the past-me didn’t cry. The past-me didn’t worry about trivial things like dish soap—and certainly didn’t cry over them. The past-me trusted that things would work out. And the past-me was at least remotely optimistic. The truth is that I’ve changed. Drastically.

Love does that to people, you know. And so does distance. And trial. And tragedy. And situations beyond our control.

One of my goals in 2009 is to remain more faithfully optimistic. Because optimism, as you might have noticed, is one of the things in my life that has slowly been leaking, dripping slowly so that it is just now that the “Happiness Gauge” is registering EMPTY.

So to be totally honest, I’ve just about had enough—and so have my slightly-swollen eyelids. I’m tired of living apart from my husband—and completely, totally, utterly imtimidated by the 18 months we have ahead of us apart. I’m tired of moving, of packing up all my belongings in cars & boxes & Tupperware containers and moving every year. I moved every year in college & twice since then—that is 6 times in 7 years if the mental tally hadn’t computed quickly enough. I’m tired of this state, tired of studying, tired of being away from the people (mostly person) I love. I’m tired of sleeping in a smelly apartment with noisy neighbors in a run-down town. I’m tired of paying thousands of dollars each semester & being blind to the fruition from the profits of my tuition. I’m tired of teaching myself the medicine I’m supposed to be taught. I’m tired of the complacency I’ve let take over my exercise habits, eating, and devotional time. I’m tired of the all-or-nothing attitude I’ve flashed at studying, Bible reading, and relationship building.

I’m just tired. Emotionally exhausted. Mentally run-down. Spiritually dry.

At this point, I’m bold enough to make these lofty goals…to boast that I’m on the “upward swing”. When the truth is that at this point I feel like I’ve jumped off that swing and am just flying through the air, hoping to land on something other than a giant slab of concrete. Life isn’t easy right now. My faith isn’t strong. My trust isn’t there. My optimism is, well, EMPTY. And although I’d like to think that I have the power to turn my attitude around, I darn-well-know that I am not that strong.

Above all, though, I think my biggest fear lies in my yearning for something better. There have been so many nights over boxes of tissues that I’ve convinced myself that “if only” we could move home, then things would be better. “If only” we didn’t live apart, then things would be easier. “If only” I didn’t have to stay in this state, then I’d be happier. And while there is some truth to my thoughts of idealism, the bulk of that truth is that they are ideals: the best of the best situation(s) that may be just as disappointing or difficult or trying as the ones I’m in the midst of right now.

There really wasn’t a point to my writing this. Unlike most of my posts, I don’t have a happy ending. I don’t have a magic wand to wave & exclaim that God will save the day (although the annoying peppy voice in my ear is cheering that He will). I don’t have easy answers. And I certainly don’t feel like I have much left in me to give.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me & you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me & work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me & you’ll learn to live freely & lightly.”
–Matt. 11: 28, The Message

Thursday, January 01, 2009

eskimo land

i'll be out in the Alaskan wilderness with family until Jan. 7th...then back to NC on Jan. 8th...

updates will be back on Jan. 9th :)


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