Wednesday, March 17, 2004

match day

So tomorrow is the Match. In brief, it's the day that fourth year med students around the country find out which residency program they "matched" into. It's kind of a big deal. I can't believe it was only a year ago. A really long year ago.

Match Day is this very exciting day where, at least at my school, a million envelopes are piled neatly on a table in the faculty club in this special room off the main dining hall. There is someone whose job it is to lay out all these envelopes very precisely in alphabetical order by name. You can't go into the room until a certain time, preordained by, I don't know, God or someone. And when the gun is fired, everyone rushes into the room trampling everyone and everything in sight to get the envelope with their match results. Outta my way, grandma, I gotta see where I'll be working ridiculously long hours for slave wages! And I must know NOW! Or, if you're too cool for school, you saunter in in a very blase way after the crowd clears. (I was only moderately cool for school, moving in with the tail end of the hoard. And I strove for blase, though really, I probably just looked hung over.)

There are two schools of thought for finding out your match results. Most people open their envelopes right there, so they can start celebrating, hugging their friends, getting drunk on the free booze provided at the event. And others take the envelope and abscond, revealing their match results in a secret little hidey-hole because the pressure is too much and if they're disappointed with their match, they don't have to put on some big brave face in front of the entire class. I say whatever for the stress (though I acknowledge that most matches are more suspenseful than that for Peds), but I think this mass envelope run is vastly better than the Match Day tradition in the days of yore, where they would call people up to a podium, one by one, where they would open their envelopes and read it out the the assembled auditorium of their classmates. Or, they could chose not to read it out, but then you would be conspicuous. Or, if they didn't call your name at all, people would know that you didn't match at all. Ooh, burn! And another reason that the faculty club way is bettter because they provide food for the event. It's a buffet, but they cost-control by only putting out really tiny plates. Saucers, really.

You can see how this would be a big deal for fourth year med students. But apparently, it's a big deal for the programs too. Most days of the week, we have a didactic "noon conference," but on the schedule for tomorrow's noon conference is "Match Day." I don't know what exactly we'll be doing at this conference other than going over the list of who matched at our program--largely meaningless, since I don't know who the hell those people are (yet)--but maybe there will be cake. Maybe it's kind of a celebration. The year is almost over! The new interns are coming! Your relief crew is here!

I was really excited on Match Day last year. I was totally psyched to have matched to such a great program, and thrilled at the idea of being a doctor, working at the hospital, doing all the things that (I thought) I had gone to med school to do. Now I have something of a different attitude. Not cynical, so much, just less fuzzy-pink-cloud. I look at the fourth year med students, all nervous an excited for Match Day tomorrow, probably well on their way to getting totally obliterated with cheap booze tonight at the Supernight celebration, and think, just wait until you see what you're really getting into.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

call girl

I'm on call for cardiology tonight. I'm actually writing this while sitting in the Team Room on the 6th floor of the hospital. Things are quiet right now. Stay well, little heart transplant children! Also, can I tell you how much I love the fact that the one EKG machine on the floor is broken? The EKG machine on the cardiology ward? Ha! Oh, this life. How jolly and yet how terrifying.

So Friday night was fun. I'm always surprised by how close Williamsburg is to our house--who would have thought we lived a 2 stop train ride from Brooklyn? Every time I go to Williamsburg, I think how cool and edgy it is, and how cool and edgy I would be if I lived there. You can just see it, everyone getting on or off the train at Bedford Street is all, "We're not gonna paaaaa-ay, LAST YEAR'S REEEEENT!" And they have all those cute restaurants and shops and Ye Olde Brooklyn Pharmacy storefront that now sells used books or Tibetian artifacts or something equally bohemian. Also, there are internet cafes, like, every block. I passed by a big laundromat that actually had two pool tables, a cafe, a bank of old-school 80's videogames with two internet kiosks and thought, wow, that's a really awesome money-making scheme. Plus, trendy. But then you walk, like, 2 blocks over and it's like this totally cased out warehouse zone with trash billowing like tumbleweeks and scary bodegas selling crack pipes and then suddenly it doesn't seem like it would be so much fun to live there anymore.

Anyway, we had a fun night. I think the restaurant was overrated (clearly a Zagat's 27 rating in Williamsburg is not the same as a Zagat's 27 in Manhattan) but it was fun, and we got drunky but funky on some overpriced sangria. It was a tapas place, and I ordered a really good appetizer and a really bad entree. (Does it count as an entree if everything on the menu is tapas? It was expensive like an entree, but it came in a really tiny dish.) As promised, Brendan and Narges were there, as were Guillem and Jenny. We talked and laughed and ate and laughed and drank and laughed and when we looked at the clock, it was suddenly quarter to one. Props to the restaurant for not pointedly bringing our check as we were lingering over desert or having them bring us basket after basket of bread to soak up every last drop of sauce from our various dishes. And props to Williamsburg for having restaurants that stay open that late.

I'm sad that Brendan and Narges are moving away. I want them to stay. Who lives in Phoenix anyway? Old people. And cactuses. But mainly old people. Maybe you have to get those special wraparound glaucoma sunglasses when you move there.

Friday, March 12, 2004

eyestrain

My eyes have been so tired lately. Maybe I should get them checked. Or maybe I need to stop looking at stuff.

We're heading out in a few minutes to Williamsburg to have dinner with lovely newlyweds Brendan and Narges, as well as with Guillem and Guillem's Famous Girlfriend. It only takes up probably 10 minutes to get to Williamsburg once we hop on the L train, but we still have to walk to the L train, which will take probably another 20 minutes. I don't really know where we're going. I hope Joe does.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

the e stands for "electronic"

My mom is a little behind the times, and she just recently started using e-mail. Only when she says "e-mail," she places a peculiar, slow emphasis on the word, like it's this new technology that not many people know about. I'm glad she's entered the 90's, but man, could she stop forwarding me all this junk? It's all like "Fw: FW: fw: Useful info!" and the text of the message will be some inscrutable "advice" or inspirational whatnot that I would delete immediately, except I feel bad, because it's from my mom. I don't know who's e-mailing the crap to her in the first place, but I would like to meet this person. And then I would like to kill them.

My favorite subject line from one of my mom's e-mails? "Subject: I just called to say I love you, in the words of Billy Joe." OK, so many things wrong with that right there. First of all, it's Billy JOEL, not Billy Joe. Secondly, it was Stevie Wonder who sang "I Just Called To Say I Love You." Third, she's not calling me, she's e-mailing me. Remember? E-mail? The bold new face of computer technology?

Now her new thing is that she's discovered how to change the font and color on AOL e-mail. Suddenly I'm getting e-mails in 14 point neon blue Comic Sans. Oh, the humanity.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

the babies, they are well

Another 4 weeks, another new block. I'm working in the Well-Baby Nursery now, which means that for the next month, what I do all day is examine newborns who just popped out from the womb (Day of Life #1) or are ready to go home (usually Day of Life #2 barring C-section or some other complication). Nobody's sick, or they wouldn't be in the Well Baby Nursery. All the babies are kind of alike. Sleeping, crying, peeing, pooping. Things I've gotten quite good at in my two days on the job so far:

* Changing diapers. Every diaper I open when I do my exam is another little present. When I got to my tenth dirty diaper I considered just quietly and sneakily closing it back up again and walking away whistling, hands in pockets (picture of pure innocence I would be!) but then I felt guilty. The worst is those meconium diapers. (Meconium is the first stool that the babies pass, hopefully after they're born, as opposed to taking a dump in the amniotic fluids, which can cause some problems.) That shit is like tar.

* Swaddling the babies. Or, as I call it, making a baby burrito. Wrapping them up in the blankets all crunched up and tight-tight-tight with only their little fat heads poking out to replicate that calming "I'm back in the womb" feeling. The first day I was a swaddling dunce. Every baby I would swaddle would end up busting out of his bundle and crying his damn little head off, limbs flailing and clawing at the air. But I think I found a good technique now:

HOW TO MAKE A BABY BURRITO by Michelle Au

1.) Lay the baby blanket diagonal, so it looks like a diamond
2.) Fold down the top corner about 8 inches. That's where the head goes.
3.) Put down baby into the blanket, feet pointing down towards the bottom corner
4.) Left corner (your left) up and over the baby's left shoulder. Be sure you pin those little arms down by the chest or it will be all for naught.
5.) Bottom corner up and also behind the baby's left shoulder. Pull up all the slack. If the baby's legs get all crunched up, that's good. They like it like that.
6.) Right corner (your right) up and around the baby's back, approaching from the baby's right shoulder and side.
7.) Garnish with some salsa and sour cream. Serve immediately.

* Getting peed on. I'm excellent at getting peed on. Some might say I'm gifted.

Honestly, the babies are cute and all, but I wouldn't want to work in the Well-Baby Nursery for too long. Even one month is pushing it. It's kind of boring in there. I considered bringing a Walkman, so I could listen to an Audiobook or something similar, but I realized that might not be quite professional.

In other news, Joe and I had quite a nice weekend. We both had the weekend free, so we took off Friday night and headed up to this B&B up in New Jersey called The Woolverton Inn. It was one of the nicest B&Bs I've ever stayed it (well, it's only the third one I've ever tried, I guess) and our room was amazing. Very rrrrrrrrrrrromantic. (Imagine me saying that like Ricardo Montalban. "Drebin!")

Funny how getting out of the city for even a day and a half can make such a huge difference. We stayed for two nights and one full day and it felt completely refreshing and restorative. Also, I think that a day an a half is more than enough for Quaintsville, New Jersey. After your obligatory visit to an outlet mall and tooling around the cute little antique-y knick-knack shops around town (there was actually a store in nearby Peddler's Village called "Knobs and Knockers" that sold...knobs and knockers. Some discussion ensued if the shopkeeps knew how funny they name of their store was or if they were oblivious to the double meaning. I tended towards oblivious. You should have seen this town, it was all like, "Ye Olde Cheese Cuttery" and "The Enchanted Footstool") there wasn't really that much to do. We ate out Friday and Saturday nights and I had steak both times. So now I feel restored and I'm guiac positive. Good weekend. We just may go back one of these days.

Joe's in the kitchen now making dinner. Either that, or he's just moving pots and pans around for no reason at all. I don't have to be at work until 8am tomorrow. I'm post-call today, and not on call again until Sunday. I just started a new book, The Fasting Girl. We're going out with Brendan to celebrate his birthday on Friday. I just got paid. Sometimes, life is just good.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

waiter = intern

I have this theory that I've been cultivating, and the theory is this. Being an intern on the wards is a lot like being a waiter. Consider:

* Many different customers/patients, all of whom think that they are your one and only duty in life. They want what they want and they want it now. Other tables to wait on/patients to take care of? Who? Wha? (Actually, from the medical standpoint, this probably holds more for the attendings and fellows that need to enlist your scut more than the patients themselves.)

* A thousand different things to keep track of at once. You definitely need a pad. And a system. You're on your way to do one thing for one table/patient, and you get summoned to do something else. "Could you bring us some more bread?"/"I think little Jimmy is bleeding from his ostomy site, could you come take a look?" Yeah, I'll be right with you. Wait, what was it that I was on my way to do again? Shit. Should have written it down.

* Pressure from above to clear tables/discharge patients. The intern version of bringing the check to the table before the customer asks for it is getting all the discharge papers ready the night before the patient is actually ready to go. We gotta move them out or the boss/chief will strangle me. The maitre d's list of parties waiting for a table is equivalent to the list in the ER of patients waiting for beds.

* Patients who are frequent fliers are the medical version of regular restauraunt customer who comes in and says, "I'll have the usual." Line infection again? I'll get the vanc for you, sir.

* Occasional free food.

Ways in which being a waiter is not like being an intern:

* Tips.

* Probably don't hear this too often: "Yeah, I'm working as an intern now, but what I really am is an actor."

* I doubt very many waiters go home and stay up all night worrying that they brought the customer the wrong kind of salad dressing, thereby killing the customer. (Or do they?)
finished!

I finished my sweater! It is the most normal sweater I ever knitted, meaning that it looks like something I might actually wear someday. But look! Look at the pictures! I am feeling more than a little bit awesome for knitting up this mighty pile of yarn into something useful. This must be why people go into carpentry and things of that nature. At the end of the day you have something to show for your work, other than a pile of charts and some vague notion that you "helped people," whatever that means. Honestly, so much of outpatient pediatrics is telling parents that, in fact, they don't need us at all. Go home. Hydrate. Tylenol. Your kid's going to live. You want a prescription? Refuse to leave the office without a prescription for something? OK, nasal saline drops it is.

Anyway, tomorrow's the last day of my outpatient month. It was a good few weeks while it lasted. What a difference it makes to work a regular nine to five day. I actually feel somewhat well-adjusted and sane on this schedule. People who have real jobs don't know how good they have it.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

shaken parent syndrome

You would be shocked (SHOCKED) to find out how often I have this exact conversation:


PARENT OF PATIENT
Yeah, he be taking some medicine at home.

MICHELLE
What medicine, exactly?

PARENT OF PATIENT
I don't know.

MICHELLE
OK. What is the medicine for?

PARENT OF PATIENT
I don't know. They just give it to me.

MICHELLE
Who's "they?"

PARENT OF PATIENT
(Vaguely)
The people at the place.

MICHELLE
Ah. Them. How many times a day are you giving it?

PARENT OF PATIENT
I don't know. It says on the bottle.

MICHELLE
Do you have the bottle with you?

PARENT OF PATIENT
No.

MICHELLE
And you don't remember, even though you've been giving him the medication yourself.

PARENT OF PATIENT
(A little annoyed)
No.

MICHELLE
What does the medicine look like? Is it a pink liquid? Clear? What color is the bottle? The cap?

PARENT OF PATIENT
I don't know. I don't look at it..

MICHELLE
OK. Let me just sum this up. You're at home, giving a medication to your child that you don't know the name of, don't know what symptoms its treating, how often you're giving it, don't know who gave it to you or what the actual medication looks like.

PARENT OF PATIENT
Yeah.

(Silence.)

I ran out of the medicine, though, could you write me for a refill?

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

hobbit love

So even though it took me an hour and a half to get there, I was pleasantly surprised to see Riverdale, which is this surprisingly upscale suburban neighborhood tucked up all the way in the Bronx. It was all cobblestones and houses up on high with slate shingles and ivy crawling all over the place. Funny thing is, isn't Riverdale where Archie and Jughead lived?

So Joe and I were talking over dinner (Tibetian food) and we have decided that Sam and Frodo are gay.


MICHELLE
I think they were in love. Why are they always together?

JOE
(Frodo voice)
"We will see the Shire again!"

MICHELLE
And what about those other two hobbits? Maybe they were gay too. What were their names? Winky and Blinky?

JOE
(Continuing Frodo voice)
"Do it Sam! Do it!"

MICHELLE
Seriously, I bet if you did a Google search on "Frodo Sam gay love" you'd have, like a hundred sites pop up with all this fan fiction about Frodo and Sam rolling in the hay.

JOE
(Sam voice)
"Mister Frodo, did you bring your Bilbo?"

MICHELLE
Heh. "Put your Bilbo in my Baggins."

JOE
(Frodo voice, cracking with emotion)
"Saaaaaam!"

MICHELLE
I would totally test this fanfic theory, only I don't want all those popup ads on my computer.

JOE
(Sam voice)
"Mister Frodo, let me hold the ring...with my cock."

MICHELLE
OK, stop doing the hobbit voices now, it's getting scary.

JOE
"Saaaam!"


In other news, I finished the pieces of my grey split-neck sweater! I almost wish I had picked a different color, because it may end up looking exactly like a sweatshirt from afar, but what are you going to do? I'll sew the pieces together tomorrow, and show the finished product here.
lactation

As part of my outpatient rotation this month, this morning I'm scheduled to go to the Riverdale Lactation Center in the Bronx. I've never even taken the subway up that far--the instructions tell me to get on the 1/9 train and take it aaaaaaaallllll (...) the way down to the end of the line, Van Cortland Parkway. And there's a good deal of walking after that. This had better be the most lactiferous center ever, or I want my money back. Or at least my morning.

Monday, March 01, 2004

burn, baby, burn, knitting inferno!

Worked another 12 hour ER shift Sunday, getting home in time to catch the tail end of the Oscars. Yes, I watched the Oscars. What? WHAT? That's why they're on TV. Because people want to watch! Dammit, but I guess it means that I'll have to watch "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" after all. Just to know what the hell people are talking about. Frodo who in the what now? And does he die in the end or what? Well, maybe I can avoid seeing it, actually. They showed enough clips before each award segment that I think I could pretty much piece together the whole movie.

So not to change the subject from the all enthralling subject of Elijah Wood, the human leprachaun, but I want everyone to know that I am an awesome knitter now. OK, maybe not awesome. But decent. I have progressed beyond scarves and other square, flat things. I made a hat! And sweaters! Yes, sweaterS, plural. I even wore one of my sweaters to work once, so you know it can't be too busted-looking.

OK, the first sweater I made was a little funky. And by funky I mean "crappy". I guess in making sweaters, like pancakes, you just have to resign yourself to ruining the first one. I used a really thick yarn to save time, so it was really quite bulky, and I didn't knit the body long enough. So think of a really boxy belly-tee, except in turtleneck sweater form. Yeah. So that'll be staying in the closet.

The second sweater I made was actually the one I wore to work. It's a V-neck sweater with ribbed bottom and cuffs, and it looks pretty normal, shape-wise. The only thing is that the yarn I picked for it was this self-striping yarn, all rainbow and gorgeous, but it doesn't really match the rest of my wardrobe. I may have to get a pet ferret and a bong to wear that sweater. Either that, or I could pass it off as a gay pride thing. It's very over the rainbow. But it looks good.

The third sweater is a blue and white slubby cardigan which looks pretty decent from afar (if somewhat like Cookie Monster), but whose fatal flaw will reveal itself the second you don it. I knitted the armholes too small. I mean, I can get my arms into it, but it's a little tight under the arms, is all, and one side is tighter than the other. And my arms aren't even that big (I know, you're shocked) so you can imagine, the armholes must be, like, the diameter of a baseball. The worst is that as I was stitching together the sleeves to the shoulder, I knew I was committing a fatal error, because I had overlapped a piece of the armhole thus making it too small, but I so desperately wanted to finish this sweater (which I started on a Saturday and finished that Sunday) that I just went ahead and did it anyway.

The fourth sweater, which I'm still working on but almost finised with, is a grey split-neck sweater. Only I kind of improvised the design instead of following a pattern exactly, so we'll have to see how it all looks when I stitch it together and put it on. Stay tuned here for the latest in my knitting escapades!

And before you start thinking, "Christ, she's an old woman," don't knock it until you've tried it. Then, please, knock away. I may be old, but I'm warm, dammit!

Saturday, February 28, 2004

party, pizza party

Do you remember that board game from the 80s? The object was to fill up your slice of pizza with fillings. The jingle continues, "You could lose if you have to switch, so you'd better be sharp, you'd better be swift!" Even then, I realized that Pizza Party truly was a game for morons. Hungry Hungry Hippos, though...

So SPEAKING of Hungry Hungry Hippos, we just had a party at our place. People just left a little while ago after I started pointedly cleaning stuff up. These medicine party animals. They wear lampshades on their heads, they do. The genius of our party is that it was potluck, so now we have wine, cheese and cracker contributions enough to feed us into the next century. Also, some beer and day old donuts. (Some dastardly partygoers already ate all the choice selections with chocolate and/or sprinkles, though. There is a high density of crullers in what remains.) Beer and donuts: our house is a frat boy's dream! But, from the wine and cheese perspective, we are also a pretentious bacchanal's dream! Except maybe not so pretentious--some of the wine is in box form. Have you ever opened up the box of box wine? There's, like, a plastic wine udder in there. A wine bladder. Isn't that what people used to carry around their wine in during biblical times? Do you think if I went to see that new "The Gory Death of Jesus" movie, they would feature wines in sheep bladders?

I'm not even drunk, I swear.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

viral badness

After working both Saturday and Sunday in the ER, seeing seemingly hundreds and hundreds of children all with the same chief complaint (I was like that old Johnny Carson act, where he puts the envelope up to his forehead: "Fever, vomiting, diarrhea...") I had picked up a touch of the stomach uglies myself and spend much of Monday stumbling around, my face a kind of interesting chartreuse color. Have you tried Thera-Flu? That stuff is good! And not as nasty tasting as you might think, if you drink it very hot. Kinda like lemonade. Lemonade with little Motrins, Sudafeds and Benadryls dissolved in it. The ultimate party drink!

And now I'm back to normal. As illnesses go, not too bad. I don't know how I avoided getting sick up until now, and how I managed to get off with just a micro-illness this time around. Working in the ER during flu season, on the wards during bronchiolitis season and a rotavirus outbreak, even just generally being around kids 24/7. Walking germ factories, they are. My immune system must be working overtime.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

score!

ATA has caved and conceded, in addition to refunding the cost of our (cancelled) flight, two round trip tickets to anywhere they fly. I figure the way for us to get the most bang for our buck is to go to Hawaii. I mean, we have to at least approach a $500 round-trip ticket in order to approximate compensation, so I figure we best use them for the farthest/most expensive possible destination. (ATA doesn't fly to Europe or Asia, apparently. Cheap bastards.) So I guess it all worked out in the end. All we had to do is threaten them with a letter from our legal representation.

Now if only we had some vacation time to use our free tickets.
phone triage

Nothing beats a slice of cold pizza for breakfast. Nothing except eating that slice of pizza at 8:30 in the morning because you missed Chief of Service Rounds this morning secondary to an alarm clock misfire, and are now able to enjoy an unprescedented site: sunshine through my window. Honestly, probably the worst thing about intern year (or residency in general, I guess) is never getting to see the sun. Dark when you leave for work, dark when you get home. Sure, there are windows in the hospital, big ones even, but they're all in the patient's rooms. And who ever goes in there? (Ha. I kid. I kid because I love. Love KIDS, that is.)

Yesterday night I was on phone triage for my clinic. What this means is that any calls from anxious parents in the middle of the night would get forwarded from the clinic answering service to my home phone. I was on pins and needles all night, clutching my pager in one hand and phone in the other, waiting for these horrible calls. "My kid is having seizures!" "My kid is turning blue!" "My kid just impaled her sister with an ice pick!" Well, actually, I guess those would be easy ones--I could just tell them to call an ambulance and see them in the hospital in the morning. But it's the subtle ones that I was worried about. How should I decide if a kid's vomiting and dehydration sounded bad enough to send them to the hospital, versus telling them to stay home and follow up in clinic tomorrow? How could I tell the bad kids from the OK-for-tonight kids if I couldn't see them? What if I told them that their kid would be fine until morning and they weren't? I mean, I know people in Washington Heights seem to have a low threshold for bringing their kids to the ER ("Papercut? Call an ambulance!") but watch me get that one parent who actually listened to me to have the kid stay home, and then watch me be wrong.

Anyway, I didn't get any calls at all last night. So either my pager was broken, no kids were sick, or all the sick kids went into the ER straight away without bothering to call. I hope for the latter two scenarios.