Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The art of medicine is the ability to rebound.

I put in my first chest tube all by myself today.  I started off by dropping the kelly on the floor, which is probably the single most important instrument in the whole process.  I rebounded though- I looked at what I had left and made do.  And I placed a BEAUTIFUL chest tube.

Yesterday, while rounding in the morning, we visited a patient who was suddenly gasping for breath.  He had to be urgently intubated in order to keep breathing.  It was fast and furious for 15 mintues while we crash intubated him.  It was exciting, exhilarting and terrifying.  And then I had to go talk to a whiny lady about her poop.  Not my favorite kind of rebound, but it was a rebound nonetheless.

A few weeks ago, I was brought to tears by a nurse who yelled at me for walking into the hospital with wet hair.  She insisted that I was irresponsible and unprofessional for not leaving enough time to prepare myself for work.  I bit my tongue as I looked out the window behind her- at the DOWNPOUR of rain that I had just run threw to get to the hopsital.  That's why my hair was wet, jerkface.  I walked away and cried in the bathroom for exaclty 60 seconds (yes, I timed it because I'm that weird).  And then I rebounded. A few hours later I was on a flight to harvest a lung for transplant.

This morning, my attending made me feel incredible inept and useless by critisizing every single move that I made with the video camera in his surgery.   Twenty minutes later, my resident was talking about his favorite chewy candy and insisted that it was called "Mike & Dyke's".  That kept me smiling pretty much all day.  Rebound.

It's probably all of medicine, but especially in surgery- I think the ability to rebound is KEY.  Key for my sanity, as well as my ability to do my job.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Home Sick

I miss Danny.  It's only been two weeks since I saw him last, but I miss him a lot.  It's all the little things that make me miss him-  it's a lazy Saturday afternoon after a long, stressful week and all I want to do is lay in bed and watch a movie.  But it's just not the same without someone to laugh with, without someone to cuddle up to.  Talking on the phone is NOT the same.  I can't see his face.  It makes me miss him more to hear him without seeing him. 

It doesn't help that we are in the process of making big life decisions about what programs I'm applying to, and we're trying to do it all over the phone.  Sometimes you just need to look each other in the eyes.

The month away has been wonderful in so many ways, but I really glad that I get to go home in a week. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Meet My Other Family

I have two families.  You may have already met my real family, but here's my fake family.

That beauty in the middle is my BFF, Shelli.  People ask me if she's my friend from college or medical school, and the honest answer is that she's my friend from elementary school.  Not many people have elementary school friends, but we do. :-)   We were inseparable from kindergarten to 5th grade, and then I moved away for middle school and high school.  We both ended up in Chicago for undergrad and became friends again.

Her sister, Erica, is good friends with my sister.  Her mom is good friends with my mom.  And her dad (who didn't want a mani/pedi. weird) is friends with my dad.  We are family friends in the real sense that our entire families are close friends.

Growing up, I called Mrs B my 'fake mom', because I spent about half my time and ate half my meals at her house.  I LOVE my fake family and it was awesome to see them this weekend.  After the spa treatment, we went out on the town for Shelli's bachelorrette party.  It was AWESOME.  Unfortunatly, in this age of future employeers/residency programs being keen on googling people like us on the internet/facebook- there will be no internet sharing of the photographic evidence of the bachlorette party shenanigans.   Back to the stone age of only seeing pictures of the event when you come over to my house and visit me.  I know, it's tough.  I think you'll survive though. :-)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Traveling Alone

Thanks God for my little checklist post that I made a while ago.  I just sat down and thought, "I feel like blogging, what can I write about?" and lucky for me, I'd already come up with a list!!  I may make the blog checklist a regular event.

My whole family went to Grand Cayman- but I was the only one who traveled alone.  My sister, brother-in-law and nephew came together; and my parents and brothers came together.  I traveled alone. I think I might've been the only person on my entire flight from Atlanta to Grand Cayman who was traveling alone.  When we arrived and had to go through customs, I looked around and realized that everyone around me was in a group.   Who goes to Grand Cayman alone?  No one.  And now I'm in Chicago on my away rotation- alone. My closest (best-est) friend is a solid hour L ride away.

This isn't a pity-me post.  This is a post about how much I love traveling alone.  I love when I have no one to check in with.  I love that I am 100% in charge of myself and my situation. I love that I'm not responsible for anyone else, and that I don't have to consider anyone else's opinions.  I can go when I want, to where I want, how I want.  No one else chimes in on which airport resturant to go to, or how early we should get to the airport, or whether or not there's time to do something before the flight starts boarding. It's whatever I want, 100% of the time (I'm really not as selfish as that makes me sound).

I'm enjoying being in Chicago alone too.  When I'm at home, I constantly check in with people.  When will my boyfriend want to eat dinner?  So when should I run so that we can eat together? When does so-and-so want to see that movie?  Oh, someone else wants a different movie? And they can't go until tomorrow?   Maybe I'm more of an introvert than I recoginze, but that stuff drains the hell out of me.  Traveling alone and being in Chicago alone is an incredible energy boost for me, because it lets me re-establish that warm, wonderful feeling of having control over aspect of my life.  I've ingrained so deeply traveling alone = relaxation that I feel relaxed when I even just go on an airline's website.  That's probably weird.

And a picture from Grand Cayman, because I have 7GB of them and no one reads a blog without picutres. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Meet My Family

I have to say that I am amazed by the number of people who commented on my last blog post.  I'm so glad that my experience resonated with so many different people and that they were willing to share their thoughts with me.  So THANK YOU!!!  It's nice to know that there is someone out there listening to the words that I spew into internet-land.

Onto my next post-  Meet My Family!!  I have a crazy family, and I love them a lot.  I espeically love them when we are all in the Carribean together.  So let me introduce you to them!

First up, my "Papa"-razzi.  He took 7 GB of pictures in 7 days.  That's commitment.  I guess it's easy when all your children are as good-looking as we are.  (I have to give credit where credit is due- my sister made up the name Papa-razzi.  But I posted it first on the internet, so HA.)

Next up, my Momma.  If everyone in my family had a super power, hers would be reverse aging.  When I flip through my scrapbook of pcitures of my whole life, she looks younger and younger in every picture (and I definitely look older).  I don't know how she does it- but one day we're going to go into a restuarant together and someone is going to mistake me for her mother.

Next, my sister.  Her super power is artistic-picture-taking.  She's perfected the cut-off-part-of-your-subjects-face  trick and the turn-the-camera-sideways trick  (see the Paparazzi and Sol/Finley pics for examples)

Here's my sister's husband and their cute little boy.  Their superpowers are putting-up-with-the-Grimmers.  They do it very well.

And last but not least, my little brothers.  Now that they are both 6 foot tall, I guess they aren't so little.  I think they both went through some technology withdrawal on our trip to Grand Cayman.  They couldn't use their cell phones there, so they resorted to using tennis shoes and conch shells (get it? It's a shell-phone!!) 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Surgeon's Life For Me

At 5pm yesterday, I got a call.  So did a patient who'd been waiting for months for a lung transplant; and who had only months to live without it.  A few hours later, I boarded a small jet to fly 700 miles to accompany our surgeon who would harvest the lung from the donor patient. 

On the plane ride down, the surgeon handed me the donor's medical file to review.  It was sad- the donor was young and healthy, just unlucky.  Reading the "social history" was difficult, finding out what they did for work, their recent travel, who they lived with.  This was a real person whose lung we were going to take.  I reasoned that the donor's death is inevitable and heart-breaking, but the fact that we are able to bring some good to other people from a death is incredible.  I'd rather be inspired by what we can do for the recipient in this situation than depressed by all the things that we couldn't do for the donor.

I also read the recipient file on the way down.  It was another sad, unlucky story but hopefully one with a happier ending. 

I'd never even heard of a "procurement" before yesterday- that's what we call it when all the teams fly in from around the country to take their organ of interest from the donor.  I like how Wikipedia defines procurement in the business sense.  A bunch of people trying to be as fair as possible about an extremely scarce resource.  Very accurate.

When we arrived in the OR of the donor, there were already 5 other surgeons at the table working.  Liver, pancreas, kidneys, intestines, heart, lung- every organ had a dedicated surgeon (or two) working side by side to mobilize it and prepare to remove the organ.  Surgeons aren't known for their patience or ability to share well, but I have never seen surgeons who were as patient, helpful and kind to one another as these guys.  There were 6 surgeons sharing one scrub tech (the assistant who hands all of them instruments), which is pretty crazy.  The operating table was packed, so the anesthesiologist let me stand on a step up by the patients head to look over the whole operating field easier.  It was the most fascinating thing I have ever seen.  For some reason, I felt very compelled to look down at the patient's face again and again even though it was shielded from the surgeons below.   I felt like I somehow owed it to the donor to remember their face.   And every time I looked at a surgeon, I could sense that each of them was thinking of their recipient's face.  They weren't harvesting organs for some random, anonymous person- each of them was getting their organ for someone who they'd known and and worked with for months/years.  They were all eager, in a very genuine and pure way.

The surgery was incredible to watch.  Every organ was mobilized while the anesthesiologist keeps the patient's heart and lung going just like any other patient.  When everyone was ready, the heart and lungs were stopped.  At that moment, every surgeons' clock began ticking.  Every organ has a certain "shelf life" ranging from 4-24 hours of the amount of time from when the donor's heart stop pumping blood through it until the recipient's heart needs to be pumping blood through it again.  Otherwise the organ dies, and there's nothing you can do.  So the moment that the heart stopped, at 1:13am, every surgeon grabbed their organ, prepped it however they needed to and began the mad rush to the airport with their respective Igloo ice chests.  We had a 4-6 hour window to get the lung to the airport, back to our hospital, and into our patient.

To be part of the transplant from beginning to end was amazing.  AMAZING.  To see the lung when we first opened the donor's chest, and then to see it take its first breath in its new home was awe-inspiring.  It was so beautiful and meaningful that I almost (almost) didn't notice that I'd been up for 30 hours.  Hopefully I'll write more about this later, but I wanted to get the experience down on paper internet before I started to forget.  I'm 100% certain now- it's a surgeons's life for me.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Craziest Thing I've Ever Done

I'm getting on a plane in a few hours. 
To get a lung. 
And bring it back.
And put it in another person.

Did I accidentally fall into an epsiode of Grey's Anatomy or something?  My life is never this interesting!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Blogging Checklist

I have a lot to blog.  Like more than I've ever had to blog before.  It's starting to stress me out.  So I'm going to do the same thing that I do whenever I get stressed out about anything else: turn it into a checklist/outline.  This way, I'll stop being stressed because I will have started the process of catch-up-blogging, and you'll havea  sneak peak at what's coming up on Running With Scalpels!!  Everybody wins!
  • Meet My Family
    • This will be a picture oreinted post introducing you my whole crazy family and all the crazy pictures we took on vacation
    • To Do: Sort through 7 GB(!!!) of vacation pictures to find the 10 pics that make the cut
  • Traveling Alone
    • A post about my thoughts on traveling alone; both on my recent vacation and on my current exile to the oasis of the South Side of Chicago
    • To Do: Walk around my new neighborhood and take pretty pretty pictures (it's a pretty pretty neighborhood!!)
  • Things I Shouldn't See
    • Another picture oreinted post about all of the things that I see that are not particularlly natural for humans to see- including SCUBA diving, airplane rides, and people's insides
    • To Do: Find a funny picture of someone's insides
  • History of Hyde Park (according to Laura)
    • A post about my experiences in Hyde Park Chicago prior to this point in my life (have I peaked your interest?)
  • The Story I've Been Waiting Four Years To Tell
    • You'll have to come back to find out what this one's about!!
It's absurd how much less stressed I am.  List are magical.

Now, here's a funny picture of me very impressively completely missing a volleyball (Notice how my brother-in-law is running really fast to try to save it?  Notice how there's no little sand-poofs by my feet, showing that I didn't really even try to move to get it?  But who cares when the ocean is that pretty?)