Archive for tag: family

Holding Space and Learning What I Am Not (Yet!)

What roles do we play; what shoes do we fill for our patients? I just spent the weekend holding a wide, firmly calm swath of space for my mom, her siblings, and my grandparents (their parents) as everyone prepared for a move from Michigan to Massachusetts.

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Family time, my grandmother and her kids, visiting her father's resting place

My grandparents are in their mid-80s and have lived in Michigan their whole lives. My grandmother has always lived in Kalamazoo, and it seems that the entire city knows her. The reasons for their move are simple and complex all at once. Not only is it easier to bring food down the road than to have it delivered by a stranger, but standing in the same room softens the frustration of repeated instructions or stories.

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Visiting the war memorial in Kalamazoo, my great-grandfather, Arthur D. Bush

This past weekend I was a space-holder, a hugger, a cheerleader, and a diffuser of tension. It's an exhausting task but I'm proud to say I think I'm getting rather good at it. It took less than 24 hours for my auntie to tell me she was glad to have me there. I tempered anxieties, I held my grandmother's hand, I hugged my grandpa and delivered him snacks. I think I tactfully cut some sharp remarks short and replaced them with gentler words. I believe even my kindergarten report card said I was a quiet problem-solver, the voice of reason, or something more suited to a 5-year-old, but to that same effect.

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With my brave, supportive grandparents who told me, "There's no point
in procreating unless you improve on what came before... It worked!"

Now I'm riding on a swaying train, headed back to Chicago an hour late, rocketing into the setting sun. The train is full but I'm alone in my head, a welcome respite after 2 days of definitely having a presence. 

All of my medical school peers play different roles in our NUHS family. There are the out-spoken ones, the dissatisfied ones that cry for and produce change. There are the quiet ones that follow really well and help turn those tides. There are the ethereal ones who view the world as if through a smoky crystal ball, predicting the future, intuiting things to my amazement, sometimes struggling to see the point of the this-here-learn-it-now. There are the people who wisely listen and nod when you bitch, and there are the ones who reply quickly, ready with advice.

There are the doctors to whom patients turn for strict rules, for holding them to their word. There are doctors to whom patients turn to alleviate their suffering, sometimes only with a pill, sometimes with an ear, a hug, and an unconditional presence.

There are patients who look to their doctors for their willingness to be held on a pedestal and consulted as the wise sage. There are patients who look for the doctor that allows them to talk, and talk, and talk. Some doctors are best for the realism, their ability to break bad news in the most frank and comforting way. There are other doctors who act as cheerleader to the patients that seek them, and readily share their big hearts.

There are doctors who are sought for their acknowledgement of all the possibilities, others for their specialty. There are yet more doctors whose strength is their positivity and their smile. And there are many doctors who fill many of these roles, perhaps all of them.

I go to school with all of these types of people and I am learning what kind of doctor I am becoming. I am learning why people seek me out, and why they don't. The hardest thing for me to own is that there is a population of people out there that won't want me for their doctor because I can't be who they seek, whether it be due to lack of prescriptive rights, the way I look, my liberal morals, or that infuriating way I explain their condition. 

I am learning about being present for each patient, which means putting aside all of my "stuff" so that I can arrive and be ready for that person alone. I don't need to parade my morals ahead of me; I can just sit and be open, accepting, and ask questions in order to better understand. Until writing this, I thought I should just exist and see which patients showed up to receive my care. Now, I'm realizing there are holes in that theory. As an intern and soon-to-be baby doc, I should strive to make myself available and appealing to everyone, and so I should maybe seek out those patients who might not come knocking of their own volition. Alas, my sit back and let the world unfold attitude will have to change, at least a little bit. How will I learn if I don't make an effort to attract the education?

Under the Gun - Ebola for Dinner

And we're back! We're really back, full-on, cramming for boards, prepping for patients and all. I'll admit it, the experience of preparing for boards has taken some wind out of my sails. Last trimester I was feeling ready to be a doctor. Spending time in the clinic made me feel ready to see patients and puzzle through the hard cases. More recently, I've been laboring with my 500-page board review book and feeling inadequate.

Thankfully, I can see that the deflation of my confidence comes in direct response to my anxiety about taking board exams. And I guess I am feeling slightly more capable after finishing the Cardio section yesterday and color-coding my weekly schedule this morning. Wrapping my head around a new schedule always takes at least a week, and getting it all organized definitely helps calm my mind.

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Yeah, my color-coded schedule for Tri 7

Seeing as we celebrated Martin Luther King Day this week with Monday off (thank goodness, any extra study time is treasured!), I am inspired by this piece of wisdom he wrote:

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."

In preparing for boards, it doesn't do much good to mix negativity with those dark, foreboding clouds floating around February 3rdon my mental calendar.... I'm trying hard to stay positive while I study and am thankful for the encouraging text messages I've been getting from my ND friends who are in the same boat.

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JohnnyD instructing me in the fine art of shooting a pistol

As it turns out, even a 4-week break can't provide enough time to study as much as planned. I do have a few good excuses though.... My boyfriend Hanzi and I spent a week around Christmas in Northern Michigan with his family; we skied, caught up with some of Hanzi's old friends, and I learned how to shoot a pistol! (Hanzi's Dad is the manager of a local shooting club.)

After returning from Michigan we had a few days before we headed out to Boston to visit with my family. Our week in Boston was our first visit to my parents' new house (I wrote about their move in this post), and included pond hockey, dinner with college friends, and some quality girl time for me with one of my oldest friends. I was also lucky to spend a day working with my Mom at her Integrative Dermatology practice where she incorporates diet and lifestyle in the treatment of her patients. I had an absolute blast interviewing patients and prepping them for their visit with the doctor, though I found the electronic medical records a huge pain to navigate... things to look forward to I suppose....

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Ebola dinner lecture, my view from my seat by the fire

In addition to working in her office, my Mom took me as her guest to an informational Ebola dinner (appetizing, huh?) hosted by the local chapter of the Massachusetts Medical Society. I ate yummy salad, roast beast, soup, and chocolate cake while learning about Ebola. The lecture compared the first known epidemic in the 1970s with the disease picture of today's outbreak. I met one semi-retired female doctor who practiced general surgery who seemed wholly uninterested in naturopathic medicine, and another practicing female GP who asked me to send her an email with information about what we naturopathic doctors do. How cool!

After spending time immersed in the conventional medical world, I am happy to be back at NUHS, working on becoming a confident doctor who can hold her own in the company of skeptical, old medical doctors. If that isn't inspiration to crush these board exams, I don't know what is! Back to the books now.... Welcome back everyone!

Mountain Time

And we're back! August break was absolutely fabulous! For me, at least...I know that many of my DC student friends were busy studying for their board exams coming up at the end of this week.... Good luck to you all! 

But I went exploring. To celebrate my Dad's 60th birthday, we ventured into the White Mountains in New Hampshire for a 4-day, 3-night hut trip. Staying in the AMC Huts is a total treat; they cook breakfast and dinner for you, and you sleep in a real bed! (Albeit, in a bunkroom with approximately 11 other people....) It makes backpacking with your family a whole lot easier when you only have to carry your lunch and there's no worry about tents and stoves.

Unfortunately for me, I sprained my ankle early in the trip, but we taped it up and I continued on for another 14 miles over the next few days. I am quite thankful that I can go to the clinic here on campus to have a student intern help nurse my ankle back to health! It needs it.

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All 6 of us (Mom, Dad, my brother Arthur, my Uncle Nate, Hanzi, and Me) on the summit of Mount Madison! Day 1 of 4.

After a few breathtaking bluebird days in the New Hampshire mountains, I continued on my high altitude journey to visit with some of my best college girlfriends in the Adirondacks in New York. In addition to spending time sunbathing and catching up on the lakeshore, we visited the Sugarhouse Creamery, a dairy farm owned by some other college friends who gave us a tour of the cheese-making process! After our tour we bought up almost all the cheese in their farm store to take home and share with our families. Yum!

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Here's a photo of us in the cheese cave (underground!), and another of the cows at milking time with barn cat Soup posing in the foreground (In Memoriam: Soup disappeared a few days later; a coyote had been afoot.)

After nearly two weeks of tromping all over New England visiting with faraway family and friends, I came home to the Boston area. There, I checked in on the progress of the construction at my parents' new home and saw our old house for the first time since my parents' move. It is now happily full of a family of six and I feel good about that. I spent my last full day on the East Coast drinking morning coffee and talking wedding plans with my oldest childhood friend, followed by shadowing my Mom while she saw her afternoon patients. It was the perfect way to ease back into medical school mode after my vacation.

I arrived back in Chicago in time to organize my schedule and have some school friends over to celebrate Labor Day. The first week back at school was a short one, but whew, it was big. I have started the massage program, which means I am on campus two nights per week after my ND classes end for the day. It's exhausting because I have to mentally prepare and pack both a lunch AND a dinner, but it is also extremely rewarding because I get to spend time learning with and from a different type of healer.

Highlights from the first week include practicing phlebotomy on bananas (before we "stab" each other this week!), and my first clinic observation shift. I got to wear my white coat and see a patient! It should be noted that when I say, "see" a patient, I literally mean just that. As observers, we are not allowed to talk to or give any input while in the room with the patient; we just watch and absorb. No complaints here though. I learned so much by observing everything that went into one blood draw appointment.

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We watch as Dr. Aikenhead demonstrates proper technique in Stab Lab, and one of my classmates brings his banana to life!

This first blog of my 6th trimester will serve as a reminder that the time for adventures and spending time with friends and family will come again.... Until then, it's back to the grind -- reading, writing, analyzing, thinking, puzzling, and occasionally complaining about it all as we jump back into it for fall. Here goes!

Go Us! Almost There!

Whoa, here we are! It's already my last post for the trimester, a sure sign we have only a handful of days left until we're done! Week 14 signals the beginning of exams with all the lab practicals taking place this week. My E&M Extremities practical on Monday has required me to learn and understand about 60 different types of orthopedic tests and 44 different types of mobilizations/manipulations/adjustments. Let's just say this is prime evidence of how medical school is like drinking from a fire hose.

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This trimester has been a significant one for me. I started the Clinical Sciences portion of my degree, made a decision on when to take boards, followed my intuition and decided to do a dual degree in massage, and learned so much from my sim-patients about what the real experience will be like. It was also the first trimester that I haven't had any classes with any of my best buddies with whom I started the program. This is a blessing and a curse because I miss their company terribly, but I have also made new friends who I value just as much. During this tri, I traveled to see some of my favorite people make the promise to spend their lives together, my best and oldest friend got engaged (I never told you this, ah!), I wrote a blog post here that elicited tears from an exceptional friend (the first time my written words have ever inspired such emotion), and my parents sold my childhood home. All this, and it still feels that these summer months have absolutely flown by!

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If you're not here at NUHS yet, you'll soon learn the value of our brief breaks between the trimesters. This time I will head east, and go on a 4-day backpacking/hut trip adventure in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with my family and Hanzi to celebrate my Dad's 60th birthday (wish us happy trails, we might need it!). After that, I plan to visit with some of my best college girlfriends; one of them just bought a house -- OMG -- grown-up things! Hopefully, I'll find a day to shadow my Mom at her Integrative Dermatology practice, and will crack my Boards study guide at some point (we'll see about that last one). I hope the rest of my peers also have something fun, and especially something relaxing, planned for break!

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But before we can totally engage with our time off, we have to give that last major push through finals. WE CAN DO IT! Remember, it's OK for life to be totally, completely unbeautiful right now. Also, the world is a whole lot bigger than NUHS finals week.

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Throughout my post is a series of photos I took around campus on the Friday before Week 14. I asked students to show me how the impending last 2 weeks of the tri makes them feel; this is what I saw. General consensus says we're all a little crazed, a little worn out, and a little hungry for the sweet stuff...so don't worry, here's the evidence that if this is how you feel, you're not alone!

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Lastly, a little blessing for us all; may our professors ask us the questions to which we have all the answers! Good luck, friends!

On Community (and Chocolates for Breakfast!)

I went home. I flew in and out of Boston on my way to and from a wedding in the Adirondack Park in northern New York. My parents have 2 more weeks to pack before they move out of my childhood home, a place they have lived for the past 30 years. While the home itself is large and lovely, it is really the neighbors that make that place home.

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On Sunday night we had our neighborhood grandmother, Mrs. Chris, over for apple pie to celebrate her 80-something birthday. She brought the remainder of a box of chocolates to share and when I asked if she had eaten the others for lunch, she giggled and replied, "Breakfast!"

The Hartnetts, our other neighbors, also came over to sing happy birthday and share dessert. You have to understand that all of this transpired over the course of about 15 minutes; my parents realized they had a pie to eat, Mrs. Chris popped her head in the door on her evening walk, I called my best friend Annie (living momentarily with her parents next door while she and her boyfriend wait for their new apartment to be ready), and within 5 minutes she and her family had walked the 100 yards from their front door to ours. And we had a little party!

After pie, Annie's boyfriend Drew helped my brother with his statistics homework, while Annie and I tried to come up with the perfect caption for the photo of Mrs. Chris and the birthday sparkler in her piece of pie.

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This is the community I come from. It explains the high expectations I have for Home, wherever that place turns out to be. I know that Chicago is not my true Home, but while I am here, the NUHS community is serving and supporting me better than I ever imagined it would. I chat with my professors in the hallway and I see them at our botanical garden, on the train, and walking around campus. There is an online community too, on Facebook pages, where my fellow students and our professors post links to relevant articles and information about upcoming seminars, workshops, presentations and club meetings.

The recent improvements on campus at the library and the ongoing work in Janse are providing us with more places to congregate during downtime and create community on campus. You might think that 28 credits and all the work that goes into keeping current in all those classes would leave us little time to engage with our community, but it seems that all that work actually brings us together. We commiserate, we struggle together, and we experience success together. We are a small community of hard workers with similar goals and morals when it comes to healthcare. Some of us come from different states, some of us love Chicagoland, and some of us feel lost in this expansive city, but no matter your perspective on this place as Home, the NUHS community certainly offers a supportive community if you are willing to engage.