27 July 2010

The One with the Hypochondria

Cami-girl and I went for a little jog/walk tonight.
The jog turned into a walk solely because of the disgusting humidity that made me sweat through my shirt.
Not because I can't move my rear up the gigantic hills in the subdivision. That's not the reason at all.
Not because I've spent the past three months sitting on my butt in class and not exercising and have completely lost all endurance and muscle tone.
Nope. That's not the reason at all. It was completely the humidity. Yeah.
So as Cami and I trudged up the last hill towards home gasping and panting (me, not her) I saw a little girl pushing a stroller.
How cute, I thought. She must be pushing her baby doll.
As I got closer, I saw that, in fact, it wasn't.
It was even better.
This cute little girl was pushing her teeny little white fluffy dog down the street!
As I passed her, I told her that I liked her puppy and thought it was cute.
"She's my baby," the little girl replied. So. Cute.
It reminded me of when my sister and I were little, and we would dress up our kitty cats in doll clothes and push them up and down the sidewalk in front of the house.
Sure, our house was also the funeral home and people going in for a service would look at us like we were from another planet, but hey. Like I said, we grew up in a funeral home. We were used to weird looks.
Speaking of weird, I've self-diagnosed myself with about 29 bazillion different pathologies in class this week.
I just know that I have:
  • GERD (From all the caffeine I've been downing between classes. And in the morning. And before bed. And while I brush my teeth.)
  • Anxiety-related ulcers (Because I don't know if M is feeding the dogs properly while I'm gone during the week.)
  • Orthostatic hypotention (How else do you explain the dizziness and wanting to pass out after riding The Batman seven times in a row at Six Flags?)
  • Hypoglycemia (M just says I'm crabby because I'm tired or hungry or both.)
  • Schizophrenia (Which gives me nightmarish hallucinations of not answering entire pages of pathophysiology test questions)
  • Bipolar disorder (Why else would I have thought it was a good idea to quit a perfectly good job and go back to school full-time??)
See? I'm melting.
Mmmmm....melting. Ice cream. Preferably vanilla with those little chocolate sprinkles.
Today I love: Good friends who let me vent about classes and the tomato-pesto pasta with pine nuts (say that 10 times fast) that Gretchen made for dinner. That deserves another "mmmmm!!"

24 July 2010

The One with the Last Day

Yesterday was my last day of OB/Maternity clinicals, and man, what a way to wrap it up.
6:00 am - we get to the hospital and wait for our assignment, which includes finding out what nurse we'll be with and who our patient for the day is.
6:30 am - I'm in the Level II nursery! I asked - since it was my last day - if I could be in there. Level II is one step down from NICU, and I wanted to experience what it would be like to care for the sicker babies. It was a little intimidating - some of those kiddos are itty bitty and have wires coming out everywhere.
I was assigned to a baby with a mild case of pneumonia who was just about the cutest thing ever. I got to feed him, change him and rock with him for a little bit. He fell asleep in my arms, perfectly content and peaceful. Then a little later in the day, his world came crashing down into a million pieces.
Yes. The doctor came in for the inevitable "C" word.
My job was to provide a pacifier dipped in sweet-ease and whisper promises to him like, "Hang in there little guy! This will be over soon! You're doing great!"
The doctor was quick and efficient, and explained the entire process to me as she worked. She even asked me if I had any questions, and didn't seem to think that I was dumb for asking things like, "So, what happens if parents elect not to have this done until the kid is 12 or something?"
Seriously. I've heard stories about that happening. Ouch.  
M. didn't want to hear the details.
In any case, it was an interesting procedure to watch - completely the opposite of what I thought it would look like. My little guy only seemed to be upset about being held down for the process - afterwards, he fell back asleep, completely exhausted from his rough morning. 
At 1:00, we left the floor to get our lunches and sit down for post-conference. I'm getting ready to take a bite of my lunch when my clinical instructor came in the room and said that there was going to be a c-section at 2:00, and would I be interested in watching? 
Um...do I even need to stop and think about it?
So instead of eating lunch, I found myself in the nurses' locker room scrubbing in and helping move the patient from triage into the OR. The patient and her husband were an AMAZING couple - very generous and more than happy to have students along. And the nurse I was with was also fantastic - she let me do more than I thought I would be able to do.
Aside from the basics like putting a blood pressure cuff and compression cuffs on the patient and making sure the fetal heart rate monitor was attached and working properly, I also got to hang an IV bag - which is NOT easy when you're barely 5' and the IV pole is a gazillion feet above your head. The patient started laughing and said, "Come on, Shortie!" Haha. Very funny. So glad I could take her mind off of her impending surgery with my congenital abnormalities.
Once in the OR, the nurse had me and my classmate Natalie do things like help count instruments and write them down, help make sure that everything was where it needed to be - and the most important part - helping calm the patient as she got her spinal. Natalie wanted to watch the spinal go in, which was fine with me. I got to do what I'm really interested in - standing in front of the patient, my hands on her shoulders helping her stay as relaxed as possible, talking to her and trying to keep her from freaking out about the needle going into her back. We had a great time talking about her little baby that was on it's way, her son that was waiting to meet his new little brother, and what her husband was probably thinking as he waited for us to call him back to the OR. What made me really feel like a real nurse was when the patient felt comfortable enough to lay her head on my shoulder while she was trying to relax. I absolutely loved being able to be a comfort to her. At least I hope she felt that way. :)  
Once the c-section was underway, Natalie and I took orders from the scrub nurse and got to actually be a part of the entire procedure. I thought, after talking to some of my classmates about their c-section clinical experience, that we'd only be able to stand back out of the way and watch. Holy cow, not in this case! When they told us to put on gloves and stand in closer, I was like, "Whoa. Seriously??" I mean, we didn't do anything major like stitch up the momma or pull out the baby, but we were handed instruments and sponges to either soak in sterile saline or put in the sponge counter (you don't want to leave any in the patient!). I made ice packs, helped with the erythromycin on the baby, calculated the Apgar score and charted the baby's vitals, put away instruments and helped wheel the patient's bed from the OR to her room on the Maternity floor. Once in the room, we re-hooked up her IV, hung more bags of LR (insert more short jokes here) and made sure the catheter wasn't twisted and hanging from the bed. So seriously, nothing major, but it still made me feel like an integral part of the process.
Oh, and at the request of the dad, I was handed his camera and asked to take pictures. It. Was. Awesome. Such a happy, healthy family! And such a great experience to cap off my last day of clinicals.
What made Natalie and I really giddy was that after everything was over, our clinical instructor came up to us and told us that the scrub nurse was really happy and complimentary about how we did during the whole thing. Yay! A for-real nurse thought we did great! That made me just about float down the hospital hallway. 
To summarize my entire OB clinical experience, I'm happy to say that I got to do a little of everything this past month:
1. Watch/assist with a vaginal birth
2. Watch/assist with a c-section
3. Take care of a post-partum vag mom
4. Take care of a post-partum c-sect mom
5. Watch a circumcision
6. Take care of Level II babies
7. Gave my FIRST INJECTION on Thursday!
First kisses, first day of school, first steps down the aisle and first injections. Highlights of any girl's life. :)
If only studying for my next Patho test could be as interesting...
Today I love: Diet Coke that allows me to stay halfway awake to study and the beauty that is indoor air conditioning.

PS: I'm back to renaming my posts via Friends episode titles. I just can't help it. I'm an addict.

18 July 2010

Variations on a Summer Salad

I've studied for Pathophysiology Test #2 for three days straight (with a small detour to the St. Louis Zoo when family was in town yesterday) and now I need a break.
So what do I do when I need a break? Play with food!
Several of you have emailed/facebooked me asking if I'm "still vegetarian" while going to school and how it's going. The answer is yes, and it's going well. The thought of eating animal flesh still makes me gag. Nothing's changed there just because I'm in school...just so you know. The only thing that's really changed is my intake of Sunchips and chocolate. Let's just say that after a full day of patho and maternity/lifespan lecture along with clinicals, it's necessary for survival.
And for anyone who cares, Pita King at Union Station in STL makes a wicked falafel.
Going veggie is fun and yummy, especially with recipes like this one. It's awesome for summer and is packed full of protein and healthy fats. The original recipe is from my friend Stephanie...I hope she doesn't mind my variation on her version. I just had to see what would happen if I added an avocado. :)
Summer Bean Salad
1 can black beans
1 can corn
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 avocado
green onions
2 T olive oil
2 pkts Splenda
Drain the cans of beans and corn, dump into a large bowl. Cut up your peppers and onion and mix everything gently so you don't squish the beans.
LOOK!! This is the first time I have ever attempted to cut an avocado! And good night, those things are weird.
My sister's advice was to watch a youtube video on how to cut one, but by then the damage was done. I don't know how in the world you're supposed to cut nice, even slices - all of my  avocado "cubes" look more like "geometrical shapes from another dimension."
Once everything is mixed together, drizzle the olive oil and sprinkle the Splenda over the whole thing. Gently mix and put in the fridge. It's awesome as a side dish or - as I'm going to use it - for a light lunch between classes. I thought the avocado would make it a little heartier so I don't get hungry right away 30 minutes later.
The best thing to do is to make this the day before you need it - the Splenda/oil dressing really helps mellow the onion and bring all the flavors together. 
I also picked up some cranberry applesauce and some watermelon at the store. This is gonna be a goooood week!
Now I feel guilty for taking a break from studying...back to the books. Fantastic. 
Today I love: learning new things like how to cut an avocado and the fact that Mosby's Pathophysiology Memory Cards is the best purchase I've ever made in my entire life.

10 July 2010


You all know how I am with babies.
They freak me out. I don't know what to do with them. They're needy, hungry and slobbery, they have absolutely no muscle control so I'm constantly afraid their head will fall off and they look at me with a face that says "I know I scare you to death, so therefore I will pee on your arm. Deal with that, lady." 
So it's no wonder that my very first clinical experience ever just happens to be in OB/Maternity. God has a wonderful sense of humor. 
I'm at St. Clare hospital in Fenton, which is stinking awesome. The hospital is just over a year old, state-of-the-art and just plain fancy. All of the rooms in the Family Birthplace are private, and you could fit about four of my bedrooms inside each one. Each room has a giant flat-screen TV, DVD player, walk-in shower, pull-out couches so the husband/significant other can spend the night the ENTIRE TIME that mom is in there, floor-to-ceiling picture windows and hospital beds that have actual oak headboards. Oh, and round-the-clock room service with a full menu. The hospitality area on the floor has a place where families (and nurses!) can get free coffee, tea and...wait for it...slushes! Since pregnant women are usually put on a liquids-only diet before delivery (in case they have to have an unexpected C-section...you don't want to go into surgery with a full tummy!) it's an understatement that they are thrilled with the prospect of a yummy slush vs. the usual ice chips.
The nursery is really cute. The floor and ceiling are decorated to match the walls, and all of the bassinets look like little oak dressers that roll up and down the hallways. It was fun to walk in and see about ten babies just lying there all rolled up in their blankets like little baby burritos.
So anyway, our first day was Thursday. I will admit it was a little boring (ok, a LOT boring)...paperwork, meetings, more paperwork, tours of the hospital, lunch, then more meetings. We didn't really get to do anything, so it was kind of blah. One great part of the day was when some people I know from my hometown of Sullivan walked into the cafeteria while I was there eating lunch. It was pretty sweet to see some familiar faces on my first day to help calm me down. :)  
Friday was a different story.
Let me start out by saying that we're doing 10-hour rotations. We have to be at the hospital by 6am (which means I get up at 4:30 and am on the road by 5:15) and in the nursery scrubbed out by 6:15 to get our assignments from our clinical instructor. Once we find the nurse we'll be shadowing for the day, we get hear the night shift give report to the morning shift around 6:30. After that, we're on the floor.
For real.
I was thinking that since Friday was our first "real" day on the floor, it would be more like a stay-out-of-the-way-and-observe-and-try-not-to-knock-anything-over sort of experience.
So, so not what happened.
The patient I was assigned to just happened to be dilated to a 4 by 6:30am. The nurse I was following was pretty cool and pretty much told me everything that was going on...and showed me everything that was going on. And told me things I could do while everything was going on. She had me take vitals on the mom every hour, get pillows, sheets, ice, and everything else that a mom-to-be would happen to need. We checked the fundus during and after contractions, set up IV meds and met with anesthesia about the mom-to-be's epidural. At 10am the doctor showed up to check the patient, and said she was complete, which I quickly figured out meant that she was now dilated to a 10. Then the doctor left and told us to call him when it was time.
HOLY COW. The baby was on it's way! The nurse showed me how to read the monitor that shows contractions, and I was told that every time a contraction came to grab a leg (the husband had the other one) and to help the mom breathe and count while she pushed. It was AMAZING to help this woman through the birth! The nurse pretty much did everything, which surprised me...I thought the doctor had to be in the room for all of the things like checking the position of the baby, help the mom push, etc. - but the nurse did it all until the baby's head was crowning. Then the doctor came in and took over. He looked at me and asked me to raise the bed a little...and I froze. I mean seriously - how hard is it? You push a button. But this is REAL. It's not playing "little nurse" in the simulation lab - this is a REAL doctor asking me to do something REAL in a REAL situation.
But I did it and came through with flying colors.
Yes. I raised a bed. Tomorrow I will conquer world peace.
But seriously, it was a fabulous experience. When the baby came out, I teared up a little. I mean, really. Let's put this into perspective. I'm just a little student nurse who was graciously allowed in the room during this incredible experience that someone I didn't even know was going through. Little old me who knows how to do little more than put in an IV and change a bedpan got to help a little LIFE come into the world.
My first thought: how could anyone not believe in God after seeing that? Such a cool little miracle.
Afterwards, we got the baby cleaned up and the nurse let me do the newborn assessment.
Fact: babies do NOT like getting their temperature taken. 
Another fact: babies love the blankets that come out of the warmer. And so do I. A blanket warmer is now on my Christmas list of absolute necessities.
To date: best day ever.
Today I love: unforgettable experiences and lots of coffee (with Splenda...I'm officially - and unapologetically - back off the wagon with that one.)

04 July 2010

Fast & Furious Update

Last week we had finals and started our next round of summer classes. Exact. Same. Week. That was fun.
Actually, it is fun. Seriously. Why haven't I done this before? I always told myself that I was more into the arts than the sciences, but now when I hear things like "molecular genetics" it makes me want to do that. And forensics. And oncology. And neurology. And anything else that might require a Ph.D.
Neurology is near and dear to me, for obvious reasons. Maybe now my sister will let me give her her shots.
Probably not.
Have I ever mentioned how gorgeous the SLU medical campus is? I particularly like the fountain with the rubber duckies in it. It helps put things in perspective.
My cousins surprised me with a giant cookie-cake the week of finals. Icing. Giant cookie. Giant cookie with chocolate in it. Do they know me or what? And I especially love the band-aid. Very cute.
I have lost all concept of time. For instance, if it's Thursday and I have to think about something that happened the day before, it feels like it happened three weeks ago. SLU crams a LOT into each day.
So pretty much, if I forget your birthday or plans we made or how to spell my own name, that's the reason why.
Clinicals start this week. I happily found out that I'm at the hospital I really wanted - St. Clare in Fenton. It's a gorgeous new hospital in the suburbs, which means I won't have to drive into the inner-city on Thursdays and Fridays. I'm just a little nervous about the five-page clinical document that outlines everything we'll be doing (or aren't allowed to do)...I still feel like I'm dressing up for Halloween every time I put my scrubs on.
M and I are at the Lake this weekend for a much-needed break. Me from studying and him from his nuts-o baseball/basketball schedule. So far we've slept, gone down to the pool and slept, watched a movie, slept, went out to dinner and slept some more. Today is overcast and rainy - which means it's the perfect napping day. Rock on.
Yes. We're that boring. And we're perfectly ok with that.
Goal #2 for this weekend was accomplished. I got my tan in before the clouds came.
Goal #1 was my three mile Lake run. Goal #3 involves some sort of frozen dairy concoction with M&Ms and/or Snickers. I'm not choosy.
In a dream world, we wouldn't have to work and we could sit out on the back deck with coffee and watch the sun rise over the lake very morning.
"We" being "me." M doesn't wake up until the sun is very high in the sky. Very.
Speaking of running, I still want to do the Lewis & Clark half again this fall. I have some friends coming out to run it, and if anything the L&C has the BEST long-sleeve tech race shirts and medals.
My longest run this summer has been only 3.55 miles. I need to get a move on.
Running has been my sanity. I can easily be a stress-eater or stress runner, and running is definitely the better option. Plus it doesn't make you feel guilty the next morning.
There is an awesome running/cycling trail in Washington, as long as the river doesn't flood. It came close last week.
I need to finish my portion of our pathophysiology study guide today. I feel absolutely no motivation to do so right now. I'm very much the procrastinator.
It's time for more coffee.