Archive for September, 2007

The Adventure

September 25, 2007

And my last of the ‘dug out of the archives’ series:

The Adventure, Posted September 25th, 2007

Well, it’s been about three or four months since my last post just before leaving Seattle.  Three months can be a long time . . . or it can feel like it’s whizzed by so fast.  June, July, August and now September have been ridiculous months filled with all manner of crazy stuff.  Since that post in June, I have worked at Camp Mather, broke my thumb, had my thumb rebroken/had surgery, slept under the stars, and learned to drive a stick.  I’ve matriculated into medical school, met 110 new amazing people and studied from sunrise to sunset with some of them.  I’ve improved my ping pong game and play a lot of ultimate frisbee.  I’ve volunteered in clinics, moved into my apartment, stabbed patients with needles and drew my first blood sample.  I’ve learned how to use a stethoscope, how to find a hernia and the proper technique for rectal examination (on a live person!!).  I’ve cut open a body and held a human heart in my hand.

I suppose where I am going with all of this is a lot has happened in the last few months, and some of it not trivial, lightweight things.  It’s no lie when I say this medical school stuff has been a bit of a mind trip.  I mean, I’ve poked people, REAL people (patients!) with a needle and they let me do it!  No one jumped up and said, “Hey, what the heck are you doing?  Weren’t you just an average Joe-off-the-street four weeks ago?”  Instead, I’ve gotten to sit down with patients and ask them questions, and bring my meager clinical knowledge to bear on these people’s back aches and toe fungi (under the supervision of a real doctor of course), draw blood tests and recommend drug treatments.  If this isn’t the craziest crap in the world, I don’t know what is.

This whole thing is one huge blend of terror, excitement, self-doubt, self-confidence and overall amazement.  Today we learned how to do rectal exams.  How does one learn to do rectal exams you might ask?  Well, I read about it this morning (only this morning because I had been studying for a quiz last night), attended the lecture, and showed up in the exam room.  Once there, we review the technique for the genital and rectal exam with my Doctoring Group teammates, met the models we would be practicing on, and off we go to putting lube on your finger and sticking it up someone else’s butt.  Everyone (except the model, who was probably more amused than anything else) was terrified, but we did it, and now we know what a prostate feels like.

The same with my first successful blood draw.  My first week at the clinic I got blood out of a courageous second year medical student,  and went off to try my hand on two patients, from whom I failed miserably to extract a single drop of blood.  So then the second year medical student helping me stepped in and got blood on the first try.  (The fact in and of itself that because of me and my fumbling these patients left the clinic with more holes in their arms than was strictly necessary is a somewhat troubling thought that bears more consideration in a later post).  But one must learn how to draw blood, so in my next clinic visit I tried again, this time under the simultaneous instruction of a third year medical student and the patient via interpereter(who herself had been a pleobotomist in Mexico).  But this time low and behold, I actually got blood out of the patient!  And that is how things seem to go in medical school.

Right now we are studying our butts off learning physiology, anatomy and the like.  But all the same, we’re “student doctors” and with that title a plethora of doors open up.  People in the clinics let you poke them with needles and ask them awkward questions, while models are paid so we can learn how to do rectal exams.  I suppose really where I am going with all of this is that medical school so far has been everything I’d dreamed it might be.  I get to do stuff here that I would never ever had the chance to do anywhere else.  And I’m learning so much; at random moments, the stuff they say in ER actually makes some mild sense!

I dunno guys; I don’t want to sound conceited or braggy.  It’s just that I’ve wanted this for so long, it’s so amazing now that I can be here and live the dream.  During a particularly nasty period of studying, I was complaining about our work load.  One of my classmates looked up and said to me,”But really, is there anything else you would rather be doing right now?” and the fact of the matter is, the answer is no.  Things at [school] might get scary or difficult, but there is nowhere else I would rather be, and nothing else I would rather be doing.  Maybe things will change with time and routine, but for now, this is exactly where I want to be.

“I wanna have the same last dream again
The one where I wake up and I’m alive,
Just as the four walls close me within
My eyes are opened up with pure sunlight
I’m the first to know
My dearest friends,
Even if you hope has burned with time
Anything that is dead shall be re-grown
And your viscious pain, your warning sign,
You will be fine . . .”
-Angels and Airwaves