Monday, September 28, 2009

a colonoscopy is way more comfy than the symptoms of what it might detect

In all of my life, I have never actually seen someone die. However this afternoon, at about 1 p.m., I got hella close. A patient was gurgling and gasping for breath two feet in front of me. I cannot describe the exact color her face turned, but it was most definitely in the royal-blue family. All we could do was make her a little more comfortable and send for some licensed clinical help on the double. I won't go into details about the circumstances because of confidentiality, but I will share this: This patient wasn't much younger than my mom (read: too young for this kind of incident) but she hadn't seen a doctor in more than 35 years.

Take care of yourselves, folks. There are a lot of you out there (ahem, people who gave me my genetic material) who spout utter-crap statements like "nothing's going to happen to me" or "I'll just take this pill and lower my cholesterol" or "I've already lived my life" as excuses to avoid being inconvenienced for the sake of their health, and THOSE PEOPLE NEED TO BE FLOGGED. Seeing that woman today, barely hanging on through such misery, makes me shake my fist at all those who take their good health for granted until it's too late. 

BEING SERIOUSLY ILL IS AN AGONIZING EXPERIENCE. Would you like me to have my brother elaborate on the kind of time and pain it requires to recover from having your ribcage sawed through on multiple occasions with something with the horsepower of my dad's chainsaw? Why would you allow that to happen if you could avoid it? As much as I cherish cheeseburgers (and I love my cheeseburgers), even I can admit that at some point it's simply not worth it.

There are so many terrible things in this world you can't prevent; why not do something about the stuff you can? Your family will thank you.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

the big reveal

This is the story about how I met H, and how you might have known him all this time, too.

MAY, 2005
I started this web log on March 7, 2005, partly because I had been reading other people's work and was inspired, and partly because I needed an outlet to replace the four-hour conversations I was used to having every day (dungeon hours meant I was only available when my friends and family were either at work or asleep). And I didn't want anyone to forget about me.

Around that time, a popular blog written by An Intern In New York named Andy was featured as a Blog of Note. One of the links in his sidebar took me to Jazz...In Strange Places, and Jasmine's "100 things about me" post. I identified with a lot of her list, particularly her love for Nancy Drew novels. So at 2:42 a.m., I left her a comment about the girl detective, chocolate and cats.

Apparently another new blogger, Jon, found Jasmine's 100-things list simply by clicking the "Next Blog" button at the top of his screen, and at 3:41 a.m., he left a long comment lambasting the previous commenters as well as himself. Normally I would have gotten angry, but something about his self-deprecating tone made me hesitate to tear into him about how the Internet was supposed to be about supporting people, not bringing them down (funny how naive I was back then). I went over to his blog and made a case for old Nancy, who really was a pioneer for her time. He replied that he was glad I didn't take it the wrong way and that he was only trying to be funny, not a jerk.

JUNE 2005
After that, we all started commenting on each other's blog posts. Along with Jasmine, Jon and I, there were Omar, Syar, and several other bloggers who have come and gone in the last four and a half years. Soon, Jon wrote his own "100 things" post. My response to it was jon, honestly. i won't even try to explain just how much you scare me. So many things on that list could be said about me, too, except the part about his HATING being barefoot (I'd be barefoot all the time if it weren't for snow). I was impressed at how many of his priorities lined up with mine, what with all the love for siblings, loyalty to friends, mutual appreciation for tv, etc. There were also some bizarre things on the list, like the fact that we've both dreamt of being shot and how he drove from New York to California making only four stops. One of those stops? My hometown. To me, it was a sign.

The comments started adding up, however, and after a few months it was obvious that Jon and I were practically conversating with each other in the comments. One night in the dungeon, Blogger broke down and I realized just how much I missed hearing what Jon had to say. I emailed him, saying it had been nice of him to keep me company all those nights when I was convinced the one-eyed man was going to hack me to bits and stuff me into a utility closet.

I had met Jasmine in person that summer (it's important to note here that at this time it was still perceived as sort of creepy to meet people "from the Internet" so that was kind of a big deal). I tried to get information about what she thought of Jon, whom she had met in California, and she confirmed he's as cool as I suspected. In September I saw Jasmine again in New York when I went to visit Alexandra, and we went out to dinner and to a club.

Those four days had been the longest I'd gone in six months without communicating with Jon, and it was killing me. A few weeks earlier, he had conveniently given me his phone number by sending me a photo from his phone. Alexandra and I had been bar-hopping, and obviously discussing the bizarre long-distance infatuation I had with him as well as the improbabilities of it going anywhere (again, dating someone you'd met "online" at that time mostly meant going through something like, which had a bad connotation because of a friend's bad experiences). With every drink, the urge to contact Jon was getting harder and harder to resist.
So I texted him: How screwed up is it that you can miss someone you're [sic] never even met?

He replied: Only slightly.
The texts kept coming, and I kept giggling in the corner, until Jasmine--who hadn't been aware of our email love affair--said, What are you laughing about so much, Cadiz? Is Jon the one text messaging you? I was so flabbergasted that she'd guessed* that I asked him what I should tell her.
His reply: That you and I are text messaging each other tonight...and that you are carrying my baby :)

What I said next: That's cool, as long as you understand one thing: The children will have Indian names.

Text messages led to phone calls, phone calls led to plane tickets, and Jon arrived at Chicago's Midway airport November 4. We went to my favorite all-night diner and then I dropped him off at his hotel. I went back to my parents' house, sad that I hadn't heard trumpets and birds singing when we first saw each other and the next morning I called cc in tears because I thought we didn't have a *connection* in real life. He had been shy and reticent; I was unsure and still processing how different he is from the guys I had always pictured myself dating (i.e. he's not an Indian boy). Both of us were acting really awkward. Jon and I had discussed the implications of this meeting and agreed that it had to happen, that we had to find out sooner or later. And if we didn't have chemistry we could always be good friends. So with that in mind, I picked him up and showed him the sights, starting with hot dogs at Portillo's and a trip to the then-named Sears Tower.

Somewhere after lunch and before we got to the top of the tower, the good old rapport surfaced through the nerves and the tension and we fell into our normal banter. I liked the sound of his voice and that I could actually see the expression on his face. I especially enjoyed hearing the exotic "o" sound he pronounced as in "honestly" (which I pronounce in the midwestern style, "haanestly"). As soon as I forgot about my expectations, things went right back to the lovely way they always had been.

There was a suspiciously short line on the way up to the Sears Tower, and surprisingly few people in the observation deck. It was so dark and clear, we could see lights all the way out to a couple of states. There were a few times I thought he was going to kiss me as we looked out over the glittering city, but I'm really glad he didn't--I would have lost all respect for the guy.

I brought him back to his room and stayed to watch the ten-minute film he had made in college on his laptop. He stars in it as well, and I think I fell in love with him even more after seeing how he looked in college, bright orange corduroys and all. We didn't feel like going to a bar or a club, so we sat through the only thing on tv: It was a Hitchcock film, his only screwball comedy, called Mr. and Mrs. Smith. We laughed about the ridiculous plot and how everything was magically resolved as Mrs. Smith crossed her skis at the end. If only life were that simple.

I went out to California a month later and he officially asked me to be his girlfriend. We've talked for several hours every night since, and have only gone one five-day stretch over the last four years without at least a text message back and forth. I must admit, we haven't yet run out of things to say. And I hope we never do, because today he asked me to spend the rest of my life talking to him, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Oh and if you haven't figured it out yet, H is Jon. And Jon is H. I love them both equally.

*Jasmine's response via twitter: @cadiz12 @jonmuller I knew it was Jon only because I know how funny he is. Also, your 1,000 questions about him were pretty transparent ;)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

i don't have enough fingers and toes to count all the patients who come in with strokes or chest pains every day

"I just don't understand it! How did my cholesterol get all the way up to 285?"

"Could it be because you are addicted to CANDY?!?"

"Aw, c'mon, I never smoked and I barely drink; a little something sweet now and then is my only vice!"

"Now and then? Can I remind you of the cookies in your lunch bag, the popsicles and ice cream after dinner, and don't get me started on your daily peanut butter and jelly sandwich--there's one teaspoon of peanut butter and four of jelly."

"I only use a little bit of jelly! Just a tiny bit!"

"Blood work does not lie. Unless someone stuck an IV full of sugar into your arm while you were sleeping..."

"Don't exaggerate. Look, I'll just get this prescription the doctor gave me and you'll see how fast I bring my cholesterol back down to under 200."

"You can't just take a pill, you have to CHANGE YOUR HABITS. Peanut butter only every other day, just one cup of tea, stop eating so much bread, don't eat cashews by the can while you watch tv, and for God's sake stop with the candy. I've been telling you this stuff for the last ten years! Oh, and you're gonna start eating Cheerios every day."

"CHEERIOS? How about a cereal with a little more sugar?'

Monday, September 14, 2009

27--that's three nine year olds

Oh brother, of course the year I fail to post on your actual birthday is the year you decide to check in on my blog. But it was Saturday night, man! I have a life, you know. H and I were busy partying with mom and dad at a church-basement birthday bash for an 88-year-old. Yep, that's the kind of stuff you can look forward to in a few years. Live it up while you can.

I'm just kidding, the party was really nice. I was awestruck that my godmother, EB and 200 members of their clan all dressed in their grandmother's favorite color, teal (boys wore ties, girls Indian outfits), put together a slide show and gave heartfelt speeches about how phenomenal the guest of honor has been to them all their lives. During the festivities, mom turned to me and said, "When I'm 88, there will only be three of you." Any chance you can come home and take the heat off me for like five minutes?

It was odd for all of us to be together at Not Your Birthday party on your actual birthday. And because everyone was speaking in Gujarati, I had no idea what was being said. So I had about three hours with my own thoughts. 

Yes, I'm wearing your old scrubs every day (and if you still think I'm going to pay you by the hour for using them, you can keep waiting for it). Even though you never worked in my department, people keep asking how you are and it's funny for me to be known as your sister instead of the other way around for once. One of the girls training me even said she was trained by you. I can't imagine you training anyone on anything other than obscure football regulations and video-game cheats (Up, Down, Up, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, A, B, A, B, Select, Start). But when I think about it, you've taught me a lot: about living life for the moment, not caring so much about what people think and not tripping over myself by trying to do *the right thing* all the time. I just haven't been a very good student. Oh well, we all have our roles. 

Another thing mom said at the birthday party was how it was so nice that the 88-year-old got to hear how much her family respects and loves her. Those kinds of speeches are often only made at funerals and who knows if the person ever knew how much people cared while she/he was alive. You're too cool for school and all, but it means a lot to me that you're not too cool to say you love me back when I say it before hanging up. Because the biggest  thing I've learned from having you as a brother is that time is precious, people grow up and go far away and that I shouldn't waste a single opportunity to tell the ones I love how much they mean to me. 

Happy birthday, you big dork.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

aw snap, the Auntie Patrol is locked and loaded

So this morning at like 6am, A and I were up on one of the floors of the hospital to see a nurse about a patient, and I spotted one of the members of the Auntie Patrol sitting at a nurse's unit with her nose buried in a chart.

The good little Indian girl that I am (You MUST "time-wish" anyone who is more than ten years older than you after church, no exceptions), I went up to her and gave her a hug. But while she was stunned I took off for the other end of the ward, realizing that if I weren't so well-trained I could have walked right past her and she never even would have noticed me. Damn internal programming.

I called my mom during break and warned her about the run-in so she could prepare. "Oh no," was all she had to say.

A understood the implications of what went down and shook her head about the "way 'the community' works." It's only a matter of time before the rumor mill starts churning and my mom has to deflect talk about about what a shame, with my degree from that live-away-from-home university, it is that I am doing something that has nothing to do with said degree. I reminded her that I am still freelancing in my field and that I plan on more school as soon as I figure out what, and hello, BENEFITS? We don't have to make excuses to anyone. But I hate to have put her in a position where my parents will likely be judged. Because a) they didn't create this craptasticular economy b) letting me follow my own path actually made them better parents c) shit happens.

There's a chance the Auntie Patrol will exercise some discretion and refrain from slinging backhanded compliments about how getting into the medical field is such a great idea, even if it's so late, or casually mentioning that kids I used to babysit are already two years into medical school. But there surely will be commentary out of earshot. Who knows, maybe that's a good thing; it'll take their minds off wondering if my sexual orientation is the X factor keeping me from being married already.

I'm not terribly upset about this, because it's better than having one of them come in as my patient and see that I'm still working out the kinks on my stretcher-parking. Again, I know I don't have to explain myself to anybody. But seriously, what are the odds?

*"Time wish"= saying "Good [morning/evening]/Happy [Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year/Easter], Generic term for relation such as [Uncle/Auntie/Big Sister/Big Brother]." Those kids who did not act accordingly back in the day were perceived as snotty little brats who were not raised properly.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

home is where i'm at

Whenever I'm living outside my parents' home, I have a confusion about what to call it. If I tell my mom I'm coming to her house, she snaps Oh, so all of a sudden this isn't your home? And then when I call the condo "The Condo," H is like so this isn't your home? So I've decided that wherever I'm headed is Home, like the concept behind Air Force One.

The first week at the hospital is over. I was so exhausted that I spent the majority of my time back at the condo sleeping, which I'm sure was awesome for H, whom I barely got any time to talk to all week. We're heading to my parents' house today for barbecue and maybe even some baking, but I didn't roll out of bed until noon so my mother is annoyed. She wanted us to come over early. H wants us to stay here longer so he could spend time with me when my eyes are actually open. I just wanted to clear out 600-some unread posts on my google reader (I've now got it down to 11, thankyouverymuch).

One thing I did catch with my eyes open was the pilot of Glee. Then we went back and watched the Director's Cut version (which explains weird comments like "you changed out of your uniform?" when there weren't any), and I better understood the premise. Cc told me that the show would make me feel happy inside, and darn tootin, she was right. I even spotted Lauren from So You Think You Can Dance in the "Rehab" number. I think this show is going to be very entertaining. And sad as it sounds, few things make me feel happy inside like really well-done television.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

shuteye does a body good

Sorry about the whinefest yesterday, and thanks for your comment, Supacoo. I got to sleep around 10:30 last night and it made an enormous difference in my outlook. And I'm starting to pick up on little things here and there (as they said I would), so that was nice. Today we were less slammed, so there was more time for chit chat; people do care to know what I'm about, after all. Though they don't readily seem to understand why my industry has become so bad that I'm willing to start this completely different job from scratch. I'm guessing it's been quite some time since they've been without steady work and/or healthcare benefits. Which is probably a good example of the job security.

I'm going to start taking advantage of my free hospital fitness center as soon as they can process the paperwork. Living in suburbia means no more booking it from one place to another on foot because I'm late, so I'll need the scheduled exercise. At 1:30 (when I get off these days), the place will be mostly empty!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

here i am, back again

The way I'm feeling today is due to sleep deficiency (it's not easy to make yourself fall asleep by 9 p.m.) and fatigue from two days of feeling like a deer caught in headlights. On roller skates.

There are so many this-is-an-exception-to-the-rule-don't-write-this-part-down moments in the job I'm trying to learn that people say it takes a minimum of 90 days to get it all straight. Of course I assumed that amount of time did not apply to me; I expect myself to master things on the first or second attempt and not picking things up right away sends me into a shame spiral. This has happened at every job, and yet it catches me by surprise every time.

But this time I feel a sadness on top of the disappointment and confusion. I got smacked in the face by just how totally out of my element I am. During break someone was reading a gossip mag that mentioned something pertaining to my old career she thought was surprising. I saw an opportunity to show I'm not totally brainless (despite the number of times I ask people to re-explain certain things), so I shared some behind-the-scenes knowledge from my old job. The person um-hmmmed. I started to elaborate, but she cut me off with a comment about Heidi Pratt's boob job.

At that moment it was clear nobody in this new arena is going to give a blob of zebra poop about my old career or how good I had been in it. It's the feeling I'd get at Indian parties when some Uncle asked what I studied and when he heard that it wasn't medicine or law or engineering, he'd put on the death-in-the-family expression, say "that's nice beta" and start talking to somebody else as if I had wasted his time. As much as it really shouldn't matter, that shit makes me think of myself as a zero for a long time.

I realize that's silly and this is an adjustment. I'm sure I'll go through some kind of mourning period, too. But reality is nipping at my ankles. It's like I got caught in a loop right back to when I started this blog in 2005: living at my parents' house while barely covering a fat mortgage on someplace else, and working hours that designate the tv as my main extra-curricular companion. My conversations with H don't even benefit from a time-zone difference. But at least I'll get to see him on the weekends.

I am also looped back to where I was back in 2000, the place where I spent four years as a volunteer and another four years as a seasonal employee trying to convince myself that a career in medicine could be viable for me. I decided it couldn't and bucked my parents' expectations to go in my own direction. For years I busted my behind for peanuts, crap hours and no vacation time, hoping it'd eventually feel rewarding. In return, I got laid off three times in three years and had to vie against the best as well as the least expensive competition in my industry.

This time around, medicine seems more viable--what with all the real-world experience I have now--and at least I secured a steady part-time position. I had my shot at what I thought I wanted to be when I grew up, and it wasn't a cakewalk, either. I guess I have to throw the sense of entitlement I built up from working hard all that time into the trunk, lock it up and suck it up. It's nice that mom and dad have held back from saying they'd told me so.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

desk jobs + unemployment + dvr = i'm soft, y'all

Yes, so my first full day of hospital work kicked my ass.

Obscure back and leg muscles I didn't know I had are already whining, and I've barely passed the 13-hour mark on the start of my day. Seriously, I probably sat down for a total of an hour (including lunch, during which my trainer, A, and I went for a walk outside).

I didn't have much of an idea of what I'd be doing, save for the fact that I'd shadow A and that a lot of people there think she's irreplaceable (she's switching to part-time so she can go back to school). A happens to have been my P.S. II (high school freshman science) lab partner. So we both knew the other wasn't a dummy, but not much else. However we had similar upbringings (she's Indian and Filipina) and as soon as she made sure I wasn't one of the freaks who've never seen Labryinth, we got along great.

Here's some stuff I learned today, which A says she still does*, even after nine years in the biz:

1) I don't have much clinical experience, as I've been a Manager of Reports all these years, not a licensed medical anything. So I really need an anatomy/physiology refresher and take an excavation trip into the recesses of my brain where I chucked all that medical terminology I learned at my old hospital job at the Breast Center, which was almost a decade ago. But you all can rest assured that everything I write will be spelled correctly. (Nurses don't have a dictionary handy, nor do they really have time for that nonsense.)

2) Things were moving and shaking so fast that I abandoned my tall skinny reporter's notebook somewhere during hour Two. God knows who walked off with the pen, anyway. I think I'm just going to observe for a week and then contemplate writing anything down.

3) I stopped counting the number of pairs of surgical gloves (for my own protection whenever I dealt with a patient) I put on and took off today somewhere around 38. That was before lunch. Every time you take them off you're supposed to wash your hands. Are you guys aware that you're should wash your hands with soap for 15 to 20 seconds? Have you ever timed yourselves? IT IS LONGER THAN YOU THINK. And speeding through the A-B-C song constitutes cheating.

4) I used to bitch about how taxing my old desk jobs were, being shackled to a desk for six hours at a time with knots in my back and aches in my head. It's an entirely different round-robin tourney when your body has to work nearly as hard as your brain and they both have to work TOGETHER. Plus, with a desk job you can at least check twitter.

5) Oh and those reports we slaved over day and night all the time? Nobody was going to maybe even die if we made the wrong call or were late or forgot something. Why the hell did everyone get so effing bent out of shape about that stuff? Oh, the ulcers I got started on back then...

Lastly, let me say that I have ABSOFRIGGINGLOUTELY NO IDEA how my mother, at her I-should-be-a-grandmother-by-now age, manages to put in 16 hours a day on four hours of sleep. I was on my feet for eight hours and practically collapsed upon entering the house. I didn't exactly want to make dinner, but felt like a jerk for even thinking about sticking my mom with it after such a day, which she faces more often than she should. For cheeseburgers' sake, woman, have I thanked you today?

As if on cue, as I typed that last bit, my mother called from her office to tell me to go to bed. It has become clear that A knows her stuff and I want to learn from the best, so I requested to work whenever she works--which is the 5 a.m to 1:30 p.m. shift. So guess who's setting her alarm for 3:30 right after she irons her scrubs?

I promise to catch up on the blogs this weekend when I'm back in the city with broadband access. Dialup refuses to acknowledge my Google Reader.

*Today we learned about trismus, after the obvious clarification that it wasn't a Christmas-related disease.