Sometimes when I write things, I get attached to the way I wrote it the first time. When I go back to edit, I more or less keep the structure and just maybe change out some word choices or try to add in a new idea in a way that doesn’t require me to completely rewrite it in an efficient way. Maybe it’s laziness, or maybe arrogance, or maybe there’s just a particular way that I like things to sound, at least in my head. In any case, here’s to letting go of holding on.
I feel like I say this kinda a lot. Half as a joke, but also partially in genuine awe of the things we are able to do as conscious beings that happen to be alive during this time period. Today I was back in Sequoia National Park for the second time in the span of 1 week. As we were driving up the winding road up to the top for what in the moment felt like a long time, I couldn’t help but think about how crazy it is that we are able to just go up to this beautiful forest for a day and then come back home. I imagine people way back when taking days or weeks to get up to see the Sequoias, if they even knew they existed. And the trip probably was not all that pleasant. Beyond that we are able to fly across the countries and oceans to see all these amazing parts of the world that were largely unknown to most people anywhere. Of course, embedded in this is also the privilege to be able to do so which should not be taken for granted. Our planet is truly an amazing place.
Didactics in the morning, yaaay. Ok today wasn’t so bad. We covered some really important topics around ethics, culture, and biases. Partway through I got a text from my attending saying there would be a C-section right at the time that our Zoom lectures were supposed to end. I told him I would be there. I switched my Zoom presence from my desktop to my phone and made my way to the hospital. Luckily the last lecture ended a little early, so I did have to miss any content.
When I got to the hospital I rushed to the C-sec room. I put on a bouffant cap (not a beard cover like last time) on my head and went into the lobby of the operating area. No sign of the doc. I looked around, probably with a look of panic, to see the surgical techs chillin by the desk. I asked if he had come by yet. Of course not. So I went over to Labor & Delivery, where he most likely was. Just as I entered the unit I saw him fast walking in his Mr. Bean-esque way down the hallway and I hurried after him. I caught him just before we entered the room of the patient about to have the surgery. After a quick check-in we Bean-ed our way back to the main area of L&D to work on some of his notes until it was time for the surgery. He gave me his excuse for why he didn’t call me yesterday for the C-section, saying it was emergent and the patient had to be rushed to the OR, which made me feel a bit better (selfishly).
Once he got called for the surgery, we headed back to the C-section operating room. This was my now my 3rd time actually scrubbing in and I was determined to get to the patient’s side without a hitch. I did pretty good. I knew what I was doing, even if they felt like they had to walk me through it, but it was good on their part cause of course I’m by no means an expert at this point. I felt a little more comfortable in the sterile operating area, but still was more of an observer. This one was a little more complicated than the first one I saw, but more or less went very smoothly. It’s still crazy how something so intense and amazing is so casual and normal for the people involved. We literally cut open this lady’s belly and pulled out baby, and then sewed her back up in less than 30 minutes. Oh and she was awake and conscious the whole time.
Anyway, afterward we headed back out to the clinic and finished up the day.
After clinic I met up with my roommate and we hit up a couple breweries and spots I’ve been wanting to try. We got into this decently interesting conversation with the owner of one of the bars about the area and his plans for the some of the other downtown properties that he has.
Overall was a good, eventful day. I’m just excited to go to bed.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s a test. Today after clinic we went to the hospital to check on a patient in labor. Looked like it was going to be while, so my attending suggested I go home and he’ll call me when it’s time to deliver. I agree and then hours later nothing. Then I find out the delivery is over. This isn’t the first time this has happened as you may know if you’ve been reading these. So I wonder sometimes if he’s testing me to see if I would stick around to wait for the delivery. I’m pretty sure he went to the gym or something after he sent me home, so maybe it’s all in my head. Or other stuff happens where I’m like maybe I’m supposed to assert myself more. Anyways when I left the hospital, I emphasized with him to call me or at least text because I really wanted to be there. Nada. Next time for sure though I’m just going to hang around and wait ’cause that’s probably the only way I’ll get to see more stuff. Or maybe he doesn’t have confidence in me and doesn’t want me to be there. That’s also a concern that crosses my mind.
Whatever the case, I won’t let it stop me, just gotta keep on pushing to get more experience, and maybe try to spend a bit more of my downtime preparing for the big stuff.
Today for dinner I had some adobo that Mom brought when they visited last weekend. It was very good and a much-needed taste of home.
The days really feel like they just go by so fast. Part of it could be that the days are relatively short/ flexible compared to other jobs I’ve had, but only by maybe 2 or 3 hours on the shortest days. The days I spent in the hospital shadowing on the other hand at times felt much longer. And then even on the days where I spent hours after clinic in the hospital it never felt like I was doing busy work or tedious work.
Yet when I come home there’s still so much to do, a lot of which feels like tedium. Whether it be studying or doing research or whatever. These things are important for me to be able to actually be able to be a doctor at some point, but it’s all just so unrewarding in the moment.
Today I got to see a lot of patients who I’ve seen in the past sometime from the first week to last week. It’s nice to be there for the follow-up and a little heart-warming when they say they remember me, though it’s probably not hard to forget the awkward med student from just the other week, or they are just saying so.
As I go a long in my medical career, I hope I don’t develop the cynicism that I often see in medicine. It’s easy for healthcare providers to recognize patterns among their patients and which creates certain expectations as far as outcomes, patient adherence, patient perspectives, and attitudes. It’s natural. It’s what we do as humans. We recognize patterns and think and act accordingly.
I’m speaking very generally, but I’m just saying, when it comes to helping patients reach their health and life goals, I can approach each individual situation with a genuine optimism for success.
I’m strangely starting to feel a bit of sadness with the realization that this rotation is getting close to its conclusion. I have this week and then one more. I’m going to have to say goodbye to the people I’ve met here and likely not see them again. It’s weird how life it like that sometimes. People who play such huge roles in isolated point of our life all of a sudden disappear. I realize it’s perhaps weird that I am getting sentimental over this, but that’s just the way I am I guess.
Today I finally asserted myself to see some patients on my own. It went pretty well I thought. My attending would go off to see a one patient and I would see another, and then he would come in at some point. When he came in, he basically would just do the whole encounter over again and it was reassuring in that it meant what I talked about with the patient was pretty comprehensive. There would be things I would miss here and there, but all things to keep in mind for next time. It did seem like the EMR problems persisted and we ended up getting a bit behind, so I held off a bit as not to be a further source of anxiety with the record keeping complications. We’ll shoot for some more tomorrow.
Also getting more comfortable with the flow and process of Nexplanon insertions and removals. I feel confident that I could do either on my own, except I would just be very nervous with the patient there or being watched while doing it.
For food still making my way through leftovers, though now I’m down to all home-cooked stuff. We’ll see if it makes it to the end of the week.
Yesterday I sent a reminder to my attending that I was scheduled to be at the hospital all day and so would not be at in clinic. He told me that he would be performing a Cesarean section the next morning (today) if I could make it. It was schedule for an hour before my “shift” at the hospital. I’ve never been to a see section before, so I had no idea how long it would take. The doctor said I should make it in time for my shift, but I wanted to go early to check-in the nurse I was going to be shadowing to see if she would be ok with me coming in a little late if the surgery went long. Which meant I would have to get up a little earlier with no guarantee that she would say yes and no idea if she would even be there at the time I was planning on going.
Long story short I got her approval and got to go the surgery. It was more bizarre than anything I’ve experienced during this rotation so far. After I was scrubbed in, with less snafus than the first time, I realized we were slicing open this lady’s belly while she was fully awake. She couldn’t feel a thing of course and I couldn’t see her face during the surgery, but occasionally there would be evidence of her the position of her upper body or moving her arms that made the situation a bit uncanny.
It was cool to watch as he cut through all the different layers of the belly and being able to follow along as he did so, identifying at what point we reached the uterus and then the amniotic sac.
Once the baby was out, which as an amazing thing in a totally different way from vaginal delivery, the cord was cut and baby was given to mom and dad and we started the process of closing her up. This was were when the consciousness-open belly juxtaposition was most apparent because mom was talking and moving and laughing and there we were on the other side of a cloth barrier using a needle and a bunch of clamps to sew her back together.
This was a procedure my attending seemed very comfortable with (perhaps obviously) based on the speed with which he was throwing sutures and tying knots. It’s always inspiring to watch someone engage in a skill that they have spent a long-time mastering.
I got to be involved in a few small ways. I got to hold some of the tools in place and I got to use the cautery tool to stop some bleeding vessels. Thankfully I wasn’t asked to do any suturing, still not comfortable doing it myself on the live person, but after watching once I think I would be ok to do at least a few bites worth if asked.
The rest of the day was spent with the nurse taking care of post-partum mothers. Similar to all my other days in the hospital, it was informative and interesting to see this side of patient care, and again it gave me a stronger appreciation for what goes on in the physicians’ absence. Looking forward to being back in the clinic again though.
For lunch I ran back home to eat some leftovers from the weekend. My family came to visit and so I got to check out of few more food spots that have been on my list. Dinner, more leftovers. I have enough food right now to probably last me until the end of the week without needing to buy or cook food.
If you don’t have anything to say, reasonably you shouldn’t force saying something. Yet most of the time, when we’re in the presence of others, silence compels us to make small talk or ask a decisive question to break the ice.
On the other hand, when I’m alone with my thoughts a lot goes through my head, but when it comes to writing sometimes, I draw a blank if there’s no prompt.
Back in my sophomore year of high school, my chemistry teacher (definitely one of my favorite teachers of all time) had us write “letters” to ourselves that he would mail out to us in 10 years. They were more like forms that we filled out with questions about our life at the time and with introspective prompts.
It’s been interesting reading through it and seeing what was going on 16-year-old Niko’s head. There’s definitely a lot of things that I remember writing or perspectives I remember I having that are captured in the letter, but there’s also a lot in it that I had forgotten about.
At this point, I guess I was thinking of going into academia and being a college professor. I remembered being a bit jaded at the time and plagued by feelings of inadequacy, but I wasn’t expecting the extent to which it would be reflected in this letter.
When prompted to describe myself, the first sentence I wrote was, “I have short brown hair and am always tired,” followed by some normal stuff about my hobbies and things that I apparently hated. And I end the paragraph with, “Honestly, I could be making 10x smarter decisions then I do.”
For the section that asked, What things are you good at? The only thing written down was, “Procrastinating.”
What is your biggest fear right now?
“Failure, rejection, not being good enough, living in fear”
Reading all this kind of made my sad for my teenage self, and I do remember what it was like for me back then and some of the feelings and experiences I had through high school that really prompted a lot of that. A lot of the things I wrote actually still apply; the difference is now I have grown to be more compassionate towards myself and have developed practices for dealing with though feeling and fears. Also, perhaps paradoxically, I am less tired these days than I was then.
There were some rays of hope for young Niko in the letter; signs that I wasn’t just a puddle of self-doubt and pity.
What kind of person have you dreamed of becoming?
“I want to be a person who is just like the person my dog thinks I am.” Pretty sure I stole that from somewhere. “I want to be able to look back on these 10 years (and hopefully future years) [yes, I apparently loved obnoxiously using paratheses back then too] knowing I loved unbridled by fear, but also within my morals and the ideals of my family.”
What is the best advice you could give yourself in ten years from now?
“Do what you love. Play music, have fun, smile… Don’t lose your character and appreciate everything, small and large (you/ I need to work on that now). Be awesome.”
I also put a $10 bill in with the letter, probably in hopes that there would be some sort of cataclysmic economic crisis and that this bill would be worth millions in the 10 years that it was stored away. Though I think the reason I put it in there was so that the present me would have a nice surprise, except I never fully forgot that I wrote this thing and the fact that I put $10 in it was one of the things that I knew I could expect for sure, and I would think about it every time I thought about the letter.
All in all, it’s been fun to read through and a good chance to reflect on who I was and who I’ve become. My life is pretty different from what I probably envisioned at the time (I know I for sure did not want to be a doctor back then), but I think that if 16-year-old me could see where he would be mentally and situationally in 10 years it would put him at ease, at least just a little bit. We’re gettin there.
I was able to leave the virtual symposium a little early today to join my attending for the surgery. Some of the research topics were kinda interesting though. The first was a guest speaker who was talking about essentially how to improve the teacher student feedback dynamic. I was itching to have my first operating room experience, so it was kinda hard to stay focused with the others.
Fast forward to being at the hospital. I had some difficulty finding the main operating room, which is where I was supposed to meet him. Luckily a nice doctor was able to guide me. Got there a little early, he was still coming from clinic, so just was standing around in front of the entrance and people kept asking me if I knew where I was going. He eventually showed up and we went in to check-in with the patient before the surgery. Then we went to the physician lounge for some lunch where I finally got to try the clam chowder which was reportedly pretty good. We finished up and went back to the OR.
This was my first time scrubbing in and it showed very hard. Washing my hands I was fine. Back when I volunteered in the NICU I used to have to wash my hands for 3 whole minutes before starting my shift with the scrubby sponges. I realized my attending didn’t dry his hands so followed his lead and entered the OR behind them. Immediately we told not to put my arms down, even though they already were, so I had to go back out and re-wash. Damn I knew that one too. I received a few other urgent warnings about different stuff until I was just standing off a bit to the side trying to stay sterile until we were ready to start. It was embarrassing, but luckily everyone was pretty nice and patient with me.
During the surgery itself I slowly eased into the rules and what was and wasn’t allowed. I got to help out at different points in what little ways I could, holding things in place, cleaning ports, controlling the camera. The whole procedure was fascinating and it was cool seeing in person what I had previously only seen on YouTube. The machine that was used to cut and cauterize made noises reminiscent of a casino or arcade which I thought was kinda funny. It was often easy to forget that there was a whole life human being on the table in front of us.
The hour plus we spent in the OR went by pretty quick and soon my first surgical experience was done. It was far from smooth, at least on my part, but I learned a lot and went 1 for 2 on pimping questions. Looking forward to the next one.