Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thank You Notes

Did anyone else see Jimmy Fallon's thank you note skit on the Olympics with Bob Kostas a few nights ago?  I guess Jimmy Fallon always  writes his "thank you notes" for the week on his Friday night show- and he did them on the Olympics this week.  It got me thinking that I should catch up on my thank you notes, too.  So here goes:

Thank you, Hawaii tsunami, for reminding me of how gullible I am.  I watched MSNBC for 2 hours on Saturday, because those reporters kept telling me that you would arrive 'any moment'.    I naively believed them; just as I have believed politicians about healthcare reform.   Tsunami and healthcare reform- you have both bested me; which is not an easy task.  Well played.

Thank you, Olympians who are younger than me, for inspiring me to work my hardest in all endeavors.  Even though I have apparently passed my physical peak and have zero Olympic potential- your discipline and success continuously inspire me to grab another snack while I watch you on TV.

Thank you, man on the treadmill next to me yesterday, for acting like you didn't smell my fart.  It was incredibly disgusting; but you just kept running, albeit with less frequent breaths.  That was true sportsmanship.

Thank you, cashier at my favorite pizza place, for knowing me by name as soon as I walk in for my tri-weekly pizza slice.  I would prefer to be known by name at the gym, or at the library- but I'll take what I can get. Next time, could you cue up the Cheers theme song when I walk in?  Thanks.

Leave a comment with a thank you note of your own.  They are really fun to write!!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Six Words To Sum Me Up

I found a book at a bookstore called "Six Word Memoirs", which is a collection of six word phrases/sentences that people submitted which they considered their memoir. Some were funny, some were sad.  I'm guessing it was based on/inspired by the story of Ernest Hemingway's six word short story: "For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn."  So I'm trying to come up with my six word memoirs/manifesto, here are a few that I've come up with.

All work, no play, makes Laura.

Tried my hardest, then got lucky.

I make it all look easy.

I've run out of self control. 

That last one specifically applies to Jelly Belly jelly beans, around which I express zero self control and have been known to each entire bags in one sitting; often while being paradoxically simultaneously VERY self-controlled in terms of studying, running, etc.   Because making up those manifestos was so much fun- I made a few six word manifestos for some of my favorite people!!  Leave me a comment with one of your own!!

Danny (boyfriend)
Laid back until negative consequences intefere.
Optimism Defined: environmentalist and Cubs fan.

Ala (roommate)
Rules were made to be followed.
          Loves pregnant women ALOT. Husbands beware.

Measure twice, cut once, avoid regrets.
All my jokes are very punny.

I look younger as I age.
Numbers are simple, people are complicated.

Rachel (sister)
Born to run, destined to blog.
I could Fourier transform your face.

Finley (nephew)
Cutest baby ever. Without even trying.

Dan (brother)
I'll get around to it.  Eventually.

Ben (brother)
 FINALLY an only child.  About time!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mondays With Mom: Refrigerator Doors

So my sister and I both have blogs, and my mom felt like she didn't have quite enough material to justify her own blog but still liked the idea of sharing her thoughts with the world.  So Rachel and I invited her to be a "Guest Blogger" on each of our sites once a month.  So here's her first post on Running With Scalpels!

By way of introduction, I am the proud mom of four talented and cute kids – (Laura is #2). I run in the corporate rat race in Greenville, SC during the week and spend the weekends hanging out with my hubby and boys in Owasso, OK. As a result, I have enough frequent flier miles to circle the globe and spend lots of time on planes pondering life.

I considered several topics for today –but settled on the following:

A tribute to the refrigerator door... The refrigerator door (RD) reveals the personalities and peculiarities of the inhabitants of the home. Snippets of life are memorialized on the RD. It is an ever -changing scrapbook that never completely changes. See picture below of our refrigerator. It currently displays 37 magnets, 19 pictures, 10 expired coupons, an magnetized oven mitt??, a 2006 award certificate for Daniel ( no one remembers what for), Ben’s solution to a complex math problem, the wrestling schedule (although wrestling season is over) and an essay Rachel wrote in 1997.

Random fact ….The average refrigerator/freezer is opened 58 times a day. It makes sense that we would load up this most visited location with the stuff that makes us happy – the smiling faces of family/ friends and silly memorabilia from our adventures. When we move (and we often do) – the refrigerator door treasures are loaded into a Ziploc bag and are among the first items to be unpacked and placed on their new home. Once the refrigerator door is loaded, the house starts feeling like home.

When Grandpa Grimmer was sick with cancer, we took a picture of the refrigerator door and made it into a puzzle for him. He delighted in seeing all the treasured pictures when he was unable to walk to the kitchen for a personal viewing. See below for the picture of completed puzzle.

When I visit my parents, I always spend a few minutes reviewing the RD. It is the fastest way to catch up on what is going on and I always smile remembering the times that my art work held the place of honor on the RD. See fuzzy picture below.

A refrigerator provides for the feed and caring of the body by keeping our milk unspoiled and our produce fresh but thankfully, it also provides for sustenance for our spirits – by reminding us 58 times a day of the joy in our lives. Or more succinctly said by my husband (when I asked for his thoughts for a conclusion)…..”the important stuff is on the outside".

Friday, February 19, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On Death

This is a serious post.  Consider yourself warned.

You can't be in medicine for very long before you start running into death.  I made it 2 weeks into my surgery rotation before I saw a patient die.  I was on overnight call, and one of the patient who we'd operated on a few day earlier was moved to the ICU because of a failing heart.  The night resident and I hung around the ICU for 3 or 4 hours, adjusting her meds and calling consultations.  We were sitting outside of room when she 'coded', and immediatly the ICU staff lept into her room and started CPR.  As I medical student, my job is to stand quietly in the corner and do absolutly anything I'm told.  I was told to find out where her family was staying (they were from out of town, and had been at a hotel), call her hotel and tell the them to come in immediately.  At this point it's about 3am, so her daughter must've known exactly what I was going to say as soon as the phone rang.  But I still had to say it.

I know how devastaing, heart-breaking and terribly sad death is.  The thing that I didn't know about death until that night, is that it is very awkward.  There is the awkard moment when the doctor decides to stop CPR, and everyone who had been frantically running around and pounding on her chest just stops.  The awkard moment when you see a mostly naked body left connected to a million machines; but none of them are beeping or flashing anymore.  The awkward conversations as everyone leaves the room; and leaves her alone, naked, and dead.  No one knows what to say to each other, they all just hover outside the room, mostly quiet, and saying awkward things like 'At least she died in peace'- although it looked to me like she died somewhere in the frantic mess of CPR, injections and doctors and nurses shouting back and forth. All of it was so awkward- as though I'd walked on in something that I wasn't supposed to see, or was easedropping on a deeply private coversation.  This was her death; and it was messy and strange; and I just stood and watched.  Death had never seemed like a personal and private event until that night; but I felt as though I had violated her privacy by watching such an intimate moment.

It seemed so awkward to watch everyone returning to working on whatever they were doing before the code- checking on other patients, filling out paper work, checking their email, have a snack. I watched one nurse sit down and finish her sandwich. I guess I didn't expect her to throw it away, just because a patient died, but it was still odd to see her go back to business-as-usual. It seems strange to be a part of a death, and then get back to work once its finished- but it's what has to happen unless you want to be part of another death. When it's someone you know who passes away, there is so much mourning and grief. But the doctors and nurses didn't know this patient- she was already unresponsive by the time she was transferred to their ICU. To them, this was the death was of a body- not a person; at least not of any person that any of us really knew. So the death wasn't a loss to them, it was an event- a discrete event that was properly managed, and then they all needed to move onto whatever event needed to be dealt with next.  (Of course, the staff was all so warm and sympathetic when the family arrived, and I feel like they provided them great comfort.  But until the family arrived- it was back to work)  Part of the awkwardness must've stemmed from attending the event called "Her Death" with a group of strangers, but feeling that this event was so distinctly separate and unrelated to the events of mourning and grief that would follow. Death and grief are so intertwined that I never imagined witnessing one without the other. Like watching a sitcom without the laugh track- the pauses that should be filled with laughter just hang there; and these moments that should've been grief-filled were so glaringly empty. There were absolutly reverent moments following her death, but definitly not sad moments.  And it was awkward not to feel sad.  Awkward to make a cup of coffee as the family contacted funeral homes. Awkward to go to my on-call room afterward and try to go sleep for an hour before starting the next day of surgeries. It felt like I was breaking the rules of 'death' by moving on; but I hadn't lost anything, I had nothing to grieve.  All I had were lessons to learn- what went wrong (if anything), what could've been done differently, how would I have run the code, how to comfort a devastated family.  

I think there are 2 distinct deaths that occur at the end of our life: there is Death- as the marker of the end of earthly life- which is emotionally devastating, full of mourning and grief for the surviviors; but then there is Death- the actual event- which is a strange, awkward and deeply intimate drama, played out in front of a room of strangers and medical students who will soon return to their sandwichs and textbooks.

I've had a few brushes with death since then- but I don't think you ever forget the first time.  Death is ultimately the enemy that every physician is battling; and it'll probably always surprise me what an ugly enemy it really is.  I'm amazed and inspired by my near-death patients who have come to peace with death and dying- because the whole process still makes me feel very awkward, uncomfortable and unsettled.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Doctor Doodles: The Stages of Studying

PS- I'm still struggling with getting my blog to post things as big as I want them.  Sorry the writing is hard to read on the comic, but I think if you click it then it should open the full size image which is much easier to read.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Attempt at Humor and Art (watch out, world!!)

So I LOVE this website:  that has funny math/science comic strips.  I decided to try my hand at a similar medicine comic. Leave me a comment to tell me if you like the comic.  Maybe I'll start doing more if people like them.  Disclaimer: I have NEVER been known for my artistic ability, but here goes nothing. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What I've Learned About Running

  • It takes a lot of time.  Especially when you're as slow as me. According to my Nike shoe chip; I've already spent over 16 hours running. That doesn't even include the time it takes to go to and from the gym, stretch or do abs. 
  • I have no idea where I get the time to do it.  And yet somehow I feel like I have more free time on the days that I run than on the ones that I don't.  If you asked me to find 3 hours per week to do some new activity- I would tell you that you're crazy! But somehow there is always time to run.  Maybe my Nike shoe chip has some secret flux-capacitor capabilities?
  • It's not a great way to lose weight.  Running 15 miles a week burns less than half a pound a week, and that's assuming that I don't succumb to my post-run cravings.  I have lost a little weight since starting running- but it's 99% due to watching what I eat, and 1% to the calories I burn running.
  • It makes me better at EVERYTHING else I do.  I pay more attention in lectures, I have more energy and concetration during rounds, and I have more time and energy to give to my patients.  I can tell whether or not I ran the day before based on my mood at 11am the next day.
  • It's not even worth trying to run after an overnight shift at the hopsital.  Waste. Of. Time

Monday, February 8, 2010


My friend Heidi's two kittens + a miniature football = so much more entertaining than watching the SuperBowl!!
These kittens are really the best kittens I've ever met. Unless you are allergic to cats- which brings me to my favorite picture ever taken of my two very allergic roommates.  That's Ala in the foreground, mid-sneeze, and Monica in the background, mid-snot.Enjoy!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My Brown Thumb

Keeping plants alive has never been my strength.  Most of the plants in my house growing up were fake ficus trees- so I blame my mother for making me believe that plants required zero maintenece to look green year round.  Danny likes to tell me that I have to keep a plant alive for a year before I'm allowed to have a pet.  And I REALLY want a kitten. I mean puppy.  I mean pony. Let's see how it's going so far:

My newest plant is one week old- I bought it on Danny's birthday to be part of the centerpiece for his birthday dinner.  I'm not sure if it's actually possible to kill a plant in less than a week, but if it is- then I probably would've done it.  So I count this one as an early, tentative success.  The flowers are still pink, the leaves are still green- so that means I've succeeded.  Laura: 1, Death: 0.

Next we have my "money tree".  I don't know why it's called that, but I bought it in July 2009 when we moved into our new apartment.  It had a rough patch a couple of weeks ago, when I forgot to water it, but it's pulled through quite nicely.  I'm proud of this guy- and I'll ignore the fact that I was told that its nearly impossoble to kill when I bought it.  Laura: 2, Death: 0.

Now here's the one that I'm most concerned about.  My mom sent it to me when I took the boards, in April 2009.  That means we are REALLY close to hitting the one year mark with him.  I put this plant on my desk, thinking "I study at my desk EVERY DAY- how could I possible neglect something that I see EVERY DAY?!"  It was a good thought- until I started 'studying' in bed.  Drat. This little guy probably went a solid 3 weeks without water.  I'm desperately trying to nurse him back to health, but those yellow/brown leaves at the bottom just seem to be getting deader every day.  This guy could go either way. Laura: 2, Death: 0, Purgatory: 1.

If you ever come and visit me, you might see a few other plants around the house that look like my handiwork.   Such as these two.  I am proud to annouce that I wasn't directly responsible for either of these sticks' plants' deaths  These belong to my generally nurturing and attentive roommate, Ala.  But this is what third year of medical school will do to you.  So we won't hold it against her.  But it does raise the final score to Laura: 2, Death: 2, Purgatory: 1.  Let's hope that the final plant is a tie-breaker!!  I think keeping paper flowers alive counts. Right?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Walled Off

My sister left a comment on my last post, implying that my wood panel walls were something less than totally awesome.  As I walked around my house, reveling in the beauty of wood paneling, I realized that my house contains no less than 5 different types of wood paneling!!  Let's take a tour!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Where Did I Go Wrong?!

I've been trying to study for my medicine shelf exam, which is Friday, but something's holding me back. What do you think, is the problem:
  • that my bedroom is the warmest room in my house, so I try to 'study' in bed?
  • that I can't open my computer without visiting at least 3 useless sites?
  • that I haven't had my GINORMOUS cup of coffee yet?
Well, now I'm sitting at my desk with the World's Warmest Sweater, I've turned off the wireless on my laptop (after posting this, OF COURSE) and I'm halfways through the World's Largest Cup of Coffee.  Time to rock this test!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Talkin' The Talk

A blog that I read sometimes ( had a post a while ago from a couple physicians describing what they would have done differently in medical school if they could go back.  I think I've done some things right so far in med school (with the exception of locking my keys in my car twice in the last 6 months)- and one of my best pieces of advice to any upcoming med student would be to live with other medical students for as long as possible.  Here's one reason why:

Medical professionals have their own words for everything- which are generally no more specific or useful than the patients words.  The patient says 'bruise', we say 'ecchymosis'.  They say 'short of breath', we say 'dyspnea'. They say 'tomato', we say 'You put a tomato, WHERE?!'.

As a med student, talkin' the talk lets people around you know that you're worth being taken seriously, and it also covers your butt when you have no idea what's going on.   If I have NO CLUE why my patient's kindeys aren't working, it sounds a lot better to say, "At this point, I can't define the pathogenesis of his renal insufficieny" than "His kidneys won't work, and I don't know why".  The big words are like the castle at Disney World-  if you get someone to look at the castle, there's a decent chance they won't notice the puke by Magic Moutain.
But it's not just a new language- it's learning to be fluently bilingual depending on your audience.  There's nothing worse than a patient who misses half of what you say, ends up taking their meds wrong and also thinks you're a pompous jerk.  But it's just as bad than having an attending who thinks you can't speak Medical-ese, and stops listening to you.

My advice to anyone, in any field where they have to learn a new language, is to LIVE WITH OTHER STUDENTS!  My roommates and I speak 'doctor talk' constantly to one another (which has consequently made our boyfriends very good at Wii) and I don't know how else I would make it at the hospitals. There's no Rosetta stone for Medical-ese. Medic-lish?

Also, there are some words that patients just don't like to hear (see cartoon)!!