Thursday, 31 May 2012

You've got to be kidding me

I've mentioned before that I have a very large family. As I happen to live less than an hour from where my family has lived for over two hundred years, I'm related to a significant portion of the population and have cousins of all sorts all over the place.

Good thing I imported my husband.

Today, I was talking to my mother and she asked if I remembered so-and-so. As I didn't recognize the person's name, I said no. She explained that he is a specialist in a competitive field, has scads of publications, and is the head of his department at one of the top hospitals in the country. As she described his work, it occurred to me that I have read a ton of his research.

He's also my cousin. First cousin once removed, to be precise; my dad's cousin. Apparently, he visits my parents occasionally.

W. T. F. How did I manage to not know that I have a cousin who heads a research department at one of the top hospitals in the country, and actually trains doctors?!

I told my mother that the next time he comes over, she absolutely has to invite me. I need to pick his brain.


The Next Generation

I like Star Trek. Yes, I am certifiably a Trekkie. Best part of it is that my son also likes Star Trek, and we can enjoy it together. He hopped in the car after preschool this morning and chirped "Beam me up, Mommy!"

Nerds, the lot of us.

Anyway, I was reading about this fascinating new device for delivering medications that uses a pressurized jet spray with a diametre equivalent to a mosquito's proboscis. It's different than previously developed ones because the pressure is variable, higher to pierce the skin, lower to deliver the needed dosage. Awesome stuff.

As I was rather enveloped in reading, my son came by and looked over my shoulder and asked me what it was. I explained briefly that it was a way to deliver medication without needles.

He thought for a second then said, "Like a hypospray?"

Score one for the next generation if nerddom!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Not everybody's dinner conversation

My sister is a nurse in a rather busy ER and as such, she keeps very up to date. She and I do not generally speak to one another, so news from her is relayed through my mother. As a result, we have some very interesting conversations.

Tonight, we were comparing the new STEMI protocol where my sister works to the one in our province.

Because we're nerds. I come by it honestly, at least.

She made numerous comments about how I'll 'get to know that in a few years anyway.' Happy glow. I told her the stats (~10,000 applicants for ~2900 spots) and that was better than she thought, so I think she realizes that I really do have a decent shot so long as I'm careful about my grades.

After the breakthrough with my kid, and in addition to speaking with my husband for a while, all that rolled together to make today not as hellish as I'd feared. It actually ended pretty well. Huh, go figure.

Bingo

Im doing a happy dance. Well, it's more like a delighted wiggle.

My son broke down, had a good cry, took a nap, and woke up in a much better mood and he is being much more compliant. I have asked him to do a few things he doesn't like to do, and refused some requests, without him breaking down or being rude and defiant. No further screaming matches. We may have hit the turning point, and I hope this means we can start building back up. He's really missing the Wii and his toys, but he understands he has to work to earn them back.

This all went much quicker than I was anticipating, so I'm still on guard, but I am hopeful that I can work with this.

Phew.

Anyway, back on to med-ish topics. I did the AAMC practice MCAT 3 a few weeks ago, just to see where I was at and to try to identify my weaknesses. I got 100% right - yes, really - on the biological sciences, so a 15. I got a 10 on Verbal Reasoning, and a 5 (33%) on physical sciences. Ouch. I actually really enjoy the physical sciences, but I don't think I thought through the questions well enough, obviously. I will be writing either next summer or the summer following, depending how ready I feel for it.

Given that I was able to pull a 30 (unbalanced, but a 30 nonetheless) on that one test, which for many students has been fairly predictive of their actual score, I think with enough preparation, I should be able to pull a very decent score. I'm not totally hopeless!

Today is hell

My son's psychiatrist (yes, he has one) explained to me once that when you are extinguishing undesired behaviour, it's rather like a pimple. Unpleasant, but it has to come to a head before it gets better.

My household needs some Proactiv.

Last night, during a disagreement about going to bed, my son hauled off and kicked me in the face. My eye is swollen almost closed today. For the first time in about a year, I had to restrain him to keep him from hurting me or the dog or his sister. He did manage to kick his sister in the chest and send her flying back before I could restrain him.

Now, he is a big kid for his age. Tall and very strong. I had to cross his arms over his chest, hold them down with my arms, and hold his legs down with mine. He still bit my arms and headbutted my face as much as he could. This restraint is a form of deep pressure that is useful for kids with autism. It looks pretty horrible, but it is necessary sometimes. I've checked into it with his pediatrician and psych and made sure I am not doing anything that could depress his respiration.

Every day used to be like this. He could fly into rages that would last hours. The fact that it has been almost a year since it has been this bad is pretty good, actually. The fact that he's doing it now means I may have pushed him close to his breaking point, and I need to push him past it.

Today will be hell. But as Winston Churchill said, "If you're going through hell, keep going."

Absolutely nothing that university or med school adcoms can throw at me can take even a fraction of the strength and determination it takes to deal with this kid.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Shadows

Apparently, doctors in my province do not allow shadowing. I've asked three so far - I ask them generally if they know whether anyone does shadowing, not whether they do, as I don't want to make it awkward - and they have all said that no one does. With it being such a small place, most of the doctors know each other quite well.

I am of course going to continue asking every doctor I see. Particularly, I can't wait to see my son's rather amazing paediatrician, because I so admire how she is with patients. I don't think I'd like paeds (love kids. Not too fond of how sick kids bring out the worst in parents, though) but I do want to study under her. She has a rapier wit and a depth of knowledge that I am beyond amazed at. She seems to like me, too, so maybe, just maybe, I can wing a shadowing position out of her.

When I asked one doctor in particular, they were rather hostile to the idea of me going to med school at all. The physician said "Well, you have a lot on your plate. I wouldn't plan on going to med school if I were you."

Thank you for your completely unsolicited opinion on my potential, Doctor. I'll be sure to file that.

Honesty is the best policy

Let me preface this post by saying that I'm fat. Not a bit pudgy or 'husky' but indeed, fat. I've spent my whole life on steroids, am insulin resistant from PCOS, and have asthma that is triggered by physical stress. My weight hasn't been in the 'normal' range since I was a toddler. I'm not at the 'holy crap, how did she get that big?!' level, but to describe me as 'a bit overweight' would be an understatement. When one is poor, low quality food is what you eat, so until this last year I haven't been able to afford the types of food I need to lose weight with insulin resistance, and even then it is slow going (at least until I start Metformin tomorrow. This is me not being excited about starting Metformin, which I have dubbed "Drano.")

Anyway, despite the fact that I'm fat, I am actually quite active. It isn't optional when you have young kids and a hyper dog. We spend a lot of time outside, doing outside-y stuff. I live in my FiveFingers shoes because they really help with balance and with climbing, both of which I do a lot of. Much like black bears, I enjoy hauling my fluffy self up a tree. Provided there are no bees in it, which is where black bears and I differ in opinion.

Kid 2 and I were at WalMart buying some bird food, and while in line someone asked about my shoes. She asked if I use them for running.

I just gave her my 'are you serious?' look and said "Do I really look like someone who spends a lot of time running?"

She froze, trying not to smile, as though she wasn't sure whether to laugh or not. I grinned, and she burst out laughing.

A good start to the day. Some self-deprecating humour, and a good laugh.

The only time you will ever see me running is if there is a bee somewhere near me. In that case, I haul ass in the opposite direction, screaming all the way, and even an Olympic sprinter wouldn't be able to keep up. It is hilarious to watch.

Monday, 28 May 2012

The brain is a cruel thing

Last night, I dreamed at it was May 2015, and I was sitting in front of my computer clicking refresh over and over and over, but my accepted/rejected/waitlisted email wasn't coming in.

Easy to see where my brain got that, because I don't yet know if I'll be accepted in 2015. Of course I'm confident, I have to be or I'd convince myself that I'm an idiot for even thinking about this.

Well, really, I am a bit insane for thinking a 3.9 GPA with two kids at home and an absent husband is possible. Perhaps more than a bit.

But, well, I have to be crazy to actually pull it off. Sanity isn't that fun anyway, and I'm not well acquainted with it.

Boot Camp

This week, I'm taking a break. Not a relaxing break, but a break to regroup.

I've mentioned before that my son is a difficult kid. This is not solely due to his autism, but that certainly makes it harder.

Today, for the second time in less than a week, he was throwing rocks at people and refusing to listen to his teachers.

This time, though, instead of him being grounded for the evening, or losing privileges for a few days, I'm putting my kid in boot camp.

Mom's Boot Camp for Defiant Preschoolers is the working title.

He has lost every single toy he owns. The play room has been locked. The only toys he has any access to are the ones in his sister's room, and he isn't actually allowed in there. He does have a few books for recreation, and we will still go play outside, but no toys. No Wii. No computer time. No iPad time, no iPhone time, nothing.

Instead, he is cleaning. Obviously I'm not having him do anything dangerous or wildly inappropriate for his age, but it is tedious and demanding work for a five year old and far more than his usual chores.

I'm not doing this all because I hate cleaning but because I'm trying to use hard work to get it through his head that he has to listen to me, and by extension his teachers, even if he doesn't feel like it (his usual explanation for disobedience.) He will gradually earn back toys and privileges after this week, but for now, he's on a short leash.

Yes, he has autism, but his language and cognitive skills are at a point where he can understand that throwing rocks at people is wrong. It doesn't matter whether he understands why it is wrong or whether he only understands that wrong = don't do it. He knows he isn't supposed to do it, period. He can and does understand that he is supposed to listen as well, he just chooses not to. Having autism is not an excuse for behaviour that is inappropriate to his developmental level (note, I don't say age. He is not developmentally five. More like four-ish.)

This is going to be a rough week. I am far more stubborn than he is, though, so I know I'll eventually get this through his head.

Kind of how my approach to med school adcoms will be. I know they want me as a part of their program, I just have to convince them that they do. Adcoms can't be any harder than a defiant five year old, now can they?

Sunday, 27 May 2012

People let you down

I'd had a whole long post planned, relaying the story of how I came to leave university the first time. Suffice to say I was screwed over and it still stings.

I'm rather depressed this evening, as I'm reflecting on the last few years. While there have been many moments of utter joy, and happy days and weeks with my incredible husband and kids, we have struggled a lot. Until last year, we were very poor. I mean, standing at the pharmacy, crying because I had to choose which kid's antibiotics to buy poor. Tomato soup spaghetti leftovers for three days poor.

That era is ending, fortunately, but I find myself reflecting on it nonetheless, and a lot of the anger at our circumstances is coming back to me.

I just have to funnel that into making the most of this chance I have. This is my one shot.

Oh, five year olds

I made a favourite dish from my childhood for lunch, and told my kids that I ate it a lot when I was a kid.

My son asked where he was when I was a kid, so I explained that he didn't exist yet.

Turns out, this is a very difficult concept for a kid to grasp, that they didn't exist. At least I managed to steer the conversation away from how he came to exist.

Not quite ready for that one.

When those questions do come up, I'll hopefully be a bit prepared. Thanks to Dan Savage, I know about an awesome site called BirdsandBeesandKids.com. If you're grappling with how to explain the process of creating life to your kids without completely screwing it up, go to that site.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

It's not that I dont like people...

There's a video put out by the Queen's University Medical School class of 2015.





At 14:55 into the video, there's a section called Sh*t Premeds Say.

One girl says in an interview "I know it's cliché, but I really do want to help people." Pretty much everyone who wants to pursue medicine says that.

Honestly, that isn't my motivation for doing this. Neither is money. Or prestige. Or autonomy.

I like medical science. A lot. I have learned a great deal of it, to be honest, just learning on my own. I'm an autodidact, it's what I do. It isn't that I'm particularly smart, it's that this is where my passion is.

But that is a small part of what makes a doctor. I could spend years studying fingering charts, memorizing the most beautiful orchestral pieces from the sheet music, but if I had never picked up flute, I would not be able to play like a master. Similarly, right now, I could tell you how the books say to do a cricothyrotomy. I know the steps. But would you want me performing one on you, when I have never once touched a scalpel to human skin?

I know the theory, now I need to learn how to apply it. It is the natural next step of my training. It is clinical skills, not book smarts, that make a doctor. That is why only two years of a physician's training is class-based.

It isn't the people that make me want to do this, though. No matter how much I study, I will never know what it is to actually practice medicine unless I actually practice medicine. And I want to take all these things I have learned and put them to use. The fact that this happens to help people is secondary to the fact that it is something that every part of my being screams to do.

If I wanted to help people, I'd become a social worker. If I wanted to make hospital stays easier on patients, I'd become a nurse. But I want to practice medicine. So I will become a physician.

Bird Courses

I'm caving. Many premeds take 'bird' courses to increase their GPA. I'd planned to choose my electives strategically, to maximize my chances of getting summer research positions, and was thinking of minoring in psych to that end.

The only bird course I intended to take was ornithology.

But I give up. I will expand my horizons by taking Spanish.

The fact that I happen to have a parent who is conversant in Spanish plays no part in that decision, I swear.

And hey, bilingual is boring. All the cool kids are trilingual.

I'm Not Supermom

My therapist once told me "You aren't depressed. You just have a very stressful life. Anyone would have trouble with that."

While my son is high functioning, his autism does cause issues. To people who aren't me, he seems like an incredibly difficult child, and he is if I look at it as objectively as I can. Doing anything with him takes considerably more effort than with a typical child. But, I have never had a typical five year old. I have only ever had him. This is my normal.

That's why it isn't crazy for me to be taking on school in addition to my rather tumultuous home life. "Very stressful" by other peoples' definitions is my baseline. I cope with it just fine. Sure, my house is never pristine, and my kids will probably get to watch more TV than I'd like sometimes, but I do not hold myself to some unattainable measure of motherhood. I do not expect myself to be supermom. I just have to be me. Part of me is being a mom, but that isn't everything, and so many women lose sight of that.

To me, going back to school with kids is no different than working sixty hours a week with kids. I've done that. It sucked, but I did it because I had to. This, though, is something I actually want to do. A friend was telling me how I will have no 'me' time once school starts. What she didn't understand is that school is my 'me' time. In the years since I became a mother, studying has been what I do for myself, to feel like me again, to not allow motherhood to completely consume my identity.

Being away from my kids, doing something I so enjoy, that will make me an even better mom, because I'll finally have to put myself and my pursuits on the priorities list.

Friday, 25 May 2012

How do single moms do it?!

I have spent the past few weeks trying to find child care.

One of my labs will go until 5:30 every other week.

Every single daycare I have been able to talk to (many are taking weeks to return my calls) is full. After school programs are full.

Not a single daycare or after school program in the geographic area I need is able to take either of my kids. I'm branching out into unlicensed home cares, and I cannot find any.

Beyond that, they all close at 5:30! Given that the city doesn't just shut down at 5, I assume there are people who work later than that and need child care. Where are they putting their kids? There is no epidemic of unattended young children, so I assume they are kept somewhere appropriate.

This is intensely frustrating.

Coming Home

As I've mentioned in the past, my husband works away from home and does not get to come back very often. While this has its perks (income is quadruple what he used to make, gets ~1 month off in the spring) it is overall a rather crappy thing to have to do. A year ago, before he got this job, we were selling our possessions to pay rent, so it has been a life changing experience especially because it means I do not have to take out student loans.

That said, our focus has always been to get him home as soon as possible. It is a big part of why I am returning to school. You see, I actually like my husband. I know this isn't terribly common past the first couple of years, but as we near our sixth anniversary, I am probably more crazy about him than I was when we married. I like spending time with him, laughing about stupid jokes, chasing the kids around. He also handles bumps in the night - I do not leave my room for odd sounds. I send the dog.

Anyway, we've agreed that once I get into med school, he comes home. He will get a day job and be the primary caregiver for the kids so that I can pour my energy into med school.

So, if I can manage to get in on my first application cycle, he'll be home for good in three years.

What more encouragement could I need than that?

1am

It's 1am. I'm attending a convention this evening and Saturday. For the first time ever, someone else is going to take care of my kids for 24 hours straight.

I'm a bit nervous about this, so I'm borrowing from my stress reduction strategies and reading snippets on UpToDate.com. There's a vast wealth of information available there, even if you don't subscribe. THe What's New sections have very interesting tidbits updated regularly. For the aspiring med student, I recommend it.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Say 'Hi!'

My intent was originally to keep this blog somewhat anonymous and generic, so that if anyone who knew me stumbled across it, they wouldn't recognize me in my words. Well, I seem to suck at that. Anyone who knows me even peripherally will recognize me in this blog.

So, I thought I'd say hi face to face.



Hi.

I really do like spiders

My parents are out of town, so I am at their house, feeding their needy but adorable little dogs and surprisingly intelligent fish. Those fish know when they are supposed to be fed, and just swim in place, almost like they are demanding I thaw their little cubes of brine shrimp immediately.

As my kids ate lunch (chicken, not brine shrimp), I sat watching SB the hummingbird get some lunch. SB stands for Short Bus. He is not the brightest example of his species and it was to everyone's amazement that he actually found a female who would raise chicks with him.

Anyway, I got a bit caught up in watching SB and so when I saw Beloved Family Dog running across the highway, ran out the front door.

Directly into the massive web some industrious orb weaver had just build across the porch.

Now, I am not squeamish at all. With the notable exception of bees (phobias are horrible things) I actually really like insects and arachnids, and have been known to pick up spiders and let them weave webs between my fingers.

Having a 1" long, fat, female orb weaver on my forehead, however, did not elicit my usual response to creepy crawlies.

Pretty sure my scream is still echoing around the Northumberland Strait.

So, as beautiful and incredible as life may be, surprises can still occasionally smack you in the face. Sometimes literally.

I'll have to remember that one.

Pep talk

To those who would try to talk me out of this, who would try to convince me that I can't do it, that it's too much on my plate.

My brain did not atrophy when I had kids, though it did rather feel like it during the last months of pregnancy.

Just because I am not a university grad at 25 does not mean I am incapable of being a student. My bank account status in 2005, which was the reason for my withdrawing, says absolutely nothing about my academic ability.

My husband is working his butt off to make my return to university a reality. Daycare alone will cost almost double my tuition, so this is an expensive prospect. I absolutely cannot and will not fail myself or my family.

So while you go think of ways to prove you are better than me, I will be studying. Because I am not doing this to prove anything to anyone. I won't rub it in your face when I get in, probably won't even tell you. But the day I graduate, I will send you a letter thanking you for the encouragement, signed sincerely, Dr. K.




Hello everyone!

As of about a minute ago, I hit 300 page views. Colour me shocked. I'm getting traffic from sites I have not visited, so it seems people may actually be sharing this.

Hello people who are reading this. I'm surprised you're here, but glad to see you.

I've only ever written for my own enjoyment, so to know it's being read (or skimmed, then rapidly exited, at least) is a novelty.

Incidentally, I also had a letter published in the paper today, so apparently more than a few people are consuming my ramblings today!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Studying

Because I've been out of school so long, I'm reading through my books before I begin classes.

Whoever wrote Cambell Biology should be punished. Ideally, by being forced to read the damn thing once a week.

And to think, I am going to have a prof who tests primarily on minute details from this book. Oh joy.

Schools

I have, of course, read about every Canadian medical school at this point. There are seventeen, so it isn't a great deal of reading.

As it stands, I have two top choices. If you haven't checked my profile, I'm from the maritimes. While I grew up all over the country, I was born here and I will die here. It is my home.

But, I really do like Ottawa - the city, not just the school. It has Ikea! Dear gods, I miss those greasy Swedish meatballs and oddly named flat packed furnishings.

Dal and MUN both have spots - ten between them - reserved for people from my province. As only about 50 people from my province apply for those ten spots annually, it actually means I'd have a pretty decent shot. Certainly better than an Ontario school, anyway. But schools in southern Ontario simply have more resources, more opportunities to explore my options.

All of this is irrelevant, though. While it does happen, most applicants do not receive multiple offers. Weighing the pros and cons of various schools is rather futile, because it assumes I will have a choice. All seventeen schools will offer a very good medical education, and I will jump at the chance to attend any of them.

But, if both Queen's and Ottawa wanted me, all I'm saying is it would be a tough choice, because I really, really like Ikea.

Scooped

Currently, treatment for aneurysms is done in one of three ways. Endovascular coiling (tiny titanium slinkies put into the aneurysm to block it), clipping (just what it sounds like) and bypass.

I was trying to come up with an idea for something I could research during my undergrad years - because that will look great to an admissions committee - and a thought came to me. My sister had recently had a patient in her ER with a rectal foreign body (item up butt. Many people 'slip while naked and fall on' items every day. It's a common ER visit. Darn those slippery bathroom floors.) Patient had inserted a can of spray foam insulation. So, with this recent medically related tidbit on my mind, it occurred to me that no one had devised spray foam for aneurysms. If we can insert titanium coils, surely we can insert some sort of compound to occlude them, right?

Turns out, someone had the same thought - probably without being inspired by rectal spray foam - a couple years ago, and there is a substance that does precisely this. It isn't in widespread use just yet because it is so new, but it is very promising for people with wide-necked or thin walled aneurysms in areas that are unsuitable for open procedures.

It was a good idea, though. Now to find a different problem to research.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Infectious Zebras

I do mean it when I say that I am going to med school. As I've mentioned previously, however, my mother tends towards being an ego checker, but that's part of her job description. Can't go becoming one of those adorably obnoxious premed sorts, now can I? I feel like actual med students just want to either pat premeds on the head and give them cookies, or lock them in a crate bound for somewhere in the jungles of South America. Rather like my feelings about chihuahuas. The temperament seems to vary considerably day to day.

Anyway, due to the fact that my mother is one of those oft-lamented zebras - how many people actually lose track of how many times they have been published as a case study? - I have grown up immersed in medical issues. My mother is an extraordinarily well-informed and intelligent patient, and that has gone a long way to solidifying my interest in medicine.

Regardless of the fact that I grew up with a greater than usual understanding of medical science and have continued to study out of interest, she has been certain to make sure that as I haven't gotten in yet, I should not be putting the cart before the horse. Or zebra, as it were. She is right of course, but self-confidence is such a new thing for me, let me bask for at least a short while.

But I think her confidence in me is growing. She emailed me a link to surgical management guidelines of unruptured intracranial aneurysms and said "you'll need to know this." This was after recommending a rather fascinating collection of case studies used as an educational aid on zebra-spotting.

Applications are only 26 months away, and I hope by that time she will be solidly in my corner rooting for me, like my cheerleader of a husband.

But until then, I suppose I may need my overlarge head deflated occasionally, or I may find myself bound for Brazil alongside a small, annoying dog.

Deep Thoughts

"Mommy, I have pathogens in my youtubes."
- Kid 1, complaining of an ear infection. I might need to tone down the biology lessons.

"Pretty nekkiss!" (necklace)
- Kid 2, stealing my red stethoscope. I have asthma, so being able to listen to my lungs is useful.

"Mommy, I'm going to be a doctor too. You can fix the grown ups, I'll fix the kids."

"Mommy's going to be a doctor like you, Dr. B, but you don't put me in time out."
- To his paediatrician

"But if you turn into a doctor I won't have a mommy!"
"I can be both a doctor and your mommy."
"Can I be a doctor and a kid?"

"Do mommies like cleaning poopy bums?"


His speech therapist once told me that when I beg her to make him stop talking, her job is done. Mission accomplished, I'd say.

Monday, 21 May 2012

On free time and autistic communication

I update in bursts because I write posts in my notes app after the kids are asleep and post them when I have a few minutes. Usually while cooking, or if I have downtime while doing something else. My iPad tends to follow me around throughout the day. I set it to a radio station and listen as I clean or cook, and surf a little during my unoccupied moments.

At the moment, my kids are curled up in the recliner, and my son is reading a Spider-man comic to his sister which is giving me a few minutes to write. He's been reading since he was two and a half, and is currently reading at about a fourth grade level. He couldn't speak meaningfully and struggled with receptive language, still does, but he could understand what he read so we communicated with him by writing things. It's turned out to be very useful for me, because I can get him to quiet down by handing him a book. "Shh, I'm reading" is a sentence that comes from him as much as me.

Bookworm genes run true, it seems.

Interestingly, using reading and writing to communicate with nonverbal autistic children is a concept that is gaining considerable traction. Carly Fleischmann is a young woman who is nonverbal, but writes very well using an iPad. Something about spoken language is difficult for many autistic children, but written language does not seem to have the same barriers on the whole. I wonder whether it has to do with the sound of voices being too much sensory input. Maybe I'll study that.

Allow me to indulge my theatrical side for a moment


Why do I want to be a physician?

Primarily, the science. It is an incredible thing that we, as a species, could put people on the moon over forty years ago, but yet cannot build a pump to replace our own hearts to this day. The Jarvik heart was, of course, a massive stride in medical science, but it is certainly not able to perform adequately in the long term. A pump, a simple concept that our own biology has turned into an intricate mechanism that we can barely begin to completely and thoroughly understand, let alone replicate.

The fact that medical science evolves at such a rapid pace draws me to it. In my own lifetime, I have seen the management of my own disease modified as our knowledge grew. This is an amazing thing, that within medicine, when we know better we do better. What was true yesterday may be shattered by the knowledge of tomorrow, and that fascinates me.

Drawing from the knowledge we have amassed surrounding the subject of this beautiful biological machine of the human body, using our understanding of the interconnectedness of the systems within us, we can fix so many of the defects that afflict us. Is it not amazing that it is possible to remove the heart from the chest of a dead person, literally hold it in one's hand, and put it in the chest of another person and that it actually works? Is that not an incredible stride in the understanding of our species, that we are able to actually replace defective systems? Not yet synthetically, but by using our own machinery.

To be a person who uses their understanding of these systems to restore health, that most precious of states, to people within my own community, that is an honour I have dreamed of since the day a physician handed his stethoscope to me as a child, and asked if I wanted to hear my uncooperative lungs. I am still that seven year old, wide-eyed with wonder at the world within me. While my understanding has deepened, and will broaden as a medical student, that amazement at what we are and what we can do will underscore every moment on this journey of learning, which will last the rest of my life. I have no desire but to learn and to apply what I know toward helping other people, helping them as the complex beings they are, not just a collection of pathologies but as people with intelligence, emotions, hopes, dreams, and families. Not simply as humans, but as parts of humanity, this species that has done such wonders.

A month ago

A month ago, I had no idea what an OMSAS GPA was. I didn't know what MCAT scores were considered good or excellent. Had absolutely no inkling of what was involved in applying to med school. Had never even heard of an MMI. I just knew I wanted to apply.

But, then I joined an online premed community, and now I find myself devouring stats and raw data, dissecting my chances of getting into med school with the utmost care. I am even curious what colour next year's med backpacks will be. Personally, I'm thinking orange.

I'm decoding the alphabet soup of premed obsessions with the help of faceless peers scattered across the country and continent. If I am rejected in any particular application cycle, they will write words of comfort and hope, while secretly rejoicing in the elimination of a competitor from the applicant pool. A bit cutthroat, but I wouldn't have it any other way. To survive this process will take a certain degree of ruthlessness, I suppose.

A nap is the most valuable resource

My toddler has been waking up every night lately. Teething. Horrible things, those teeth, turning my sweet toddler into a raging fury at 1am. As a result, it has been over three weeks since I have had more than four hours or sleep at a time, and I've gone completely without sleep more than once. Today, I gave up, drove to my parents' house, handed over the kids then passed out on their couch until lunchtime.

Oh, sweet sleep. I feel so much better. A single nap is worth a dozen interrupted nights.

I'm thinking that residency will have nothing on this. At least after a 28 hour shift, a resident can go home and crash for twelve hours. I'm wistfully gazing in the direction of the hospital, wishing I could get as much sleep as the on-call ER physicians.

Once these molars come in, maybe.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Reality Check

My mother, with whom I talk daily, has been taking care to keep me grounded and to remind me not to put the cart before the horse with this crazy goal of mine. She's my mother, and I know she doesn't want me to get my hopes up before I've overcome the hardest obstacles. Still, it always hurts a little to have one's ego bubble burst. I've been wondering if she is just trying to spare me the hurt, or if she actually doesn't think I can do this.

I have a very, very large family. With the exception of a handful, we all live relatively close geographically and so family events tend to have a wide variety of dynamics represented. It is to be noted that my family has produced so many RNs that get-togethers are starting to sound like nursing conventions.

There was a community event today for a family member, and afterwards as we stood around chattering, one family member asked me if I was starting in nursing this fall. The assumption being that when a woman in our family starts university, it must naturally be for nursing. I told her that no, I'm going into life sciences. She then asked what I intend to do with that.

My mother smirked and said "Med school."

In one fell swoop, my mother established that she thinks I can do it, and also managed to put my by times gossipy-but-well-intentioned aunt in her place.

It was a good day.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Not soon enough...

I will go entire days without discussing Thomas the Tank Engine and his myriad friends. At least until 5:30.

I won't have to refer to my peers as 'grown ups' for the majority of the day.

Monday to Friday: only four hours of the day during which diapers will be my duty. Not that I encouraged my daughter's bowels to perform at 11am on cue, but the fact that this will occur during the time where she is in the caring hands of a childcare professional is a small joy.

It isn't that I'm eager to be away from my kids or that I don't enjoy them. It's that I am looking forward to having time during the day where I can explore the side of me that isn't Mom. The atrophied academic portion of my brain that has lain in wait these past years, steepling its fingers and going 'soon...'

Motherhood vs Medicine

I hear people talk about how difficult medical school is. While I've no doubt it is challenging, I think to some degree being a mom first has done well to prepare me for it. Consider:

- In med school, you actually get to wear gloves while handling other peoples' output. I've spent five years cleaning butts already. Poop doesn't scare me. Blood, pus, vomit, sputum, mucous, eye goop, if it sounds gross, I've probably had it on me, or have had to handle it with my bare hands or at most toilet paper at some point. Med students get gloves. Pfft. Wimps.
- I had a mirror during my first delivery. I can confidently say that after seeing parts of my own body looking like that, the idea of watching surgeries doesn't scare me.
- Residents complain of sleepless nights and long shifts. Hahahahahaha. Try colic or an infant with an ear infection for the third time that month. Sleep deprivation is the mother's perpetual state.
- I am used to having my orders completely ignored. While I unfortunately won't be able to send patients to time out for noncompliance, the 'I told you so' look may get used.
- I will never, never be surprised by the fact that humans seem to feel the need to insert objects into their bodies for no particular reason. While I'm sure that ears and nostrils aren't the typical orifices of choice of the more delicate cases to come through ERs, I don't think I will be surprised. Curiosity is a physician's best friend and a patient's worst enemy, it seems.

All in all, I think mothers will probably make the best med students. We're used to juggling everything and having the lives and futures of other people on our shoulders. It's messy, difficult, tiring and usually thankless work. But it's worth it. And so, I'm sure, is medicine.

Oops

My mother and I are fairly close. Particularly since I had my own children. I was an unbearable brat as a child, so the fact that I have a difficult child of my own seems to give her an unholy joy.

Anyway, yesterday the Beloved Family Dog saw aliens or something of the sort and went insane. She looked terrified and was following my every step. I haven't had another being so stuck to me since my last pregnancy.

Jokingly, I told my mother that she should give me a call in the morning to make sure I hadn't had a stroke or something, since dogs apparently can sense dangerous health events. So says the reliable anecdotes of urban legendry, anyway.

But, it was a joke.

This morning, the kids and I went out to get some groceries. Minutes after getting home, my panicked mother came knocking at the door and said "You weren't answering your phones!" I had left my cellphone home charging.

My poor mother had driven a half hour from her house just to check on me, just in case.

It was then that I realized making a joke about a stroke probably wasn't the best plan, considering my mother has a brain aneurysm.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

I'm a big fan of Gray's Anatomy


The book.

After my truncated university career, I never did stop studying. When one is spending a great deal of time on one's arse in a chair with a nursing infant, reading is a natural pastime. So that is what I did. 

I enjoy learning for learning's sake. This universe is an incredible place. There is so much to know, so many amazing facts to be absorbed. I enjoy it. 

Conversely, I was a horrible student in high school. I spent so much time studying other subjects that I had no desire to do the busywork I was assigned. That, I think, will prove my biggest challenge. I have already read all of my first year books (only halfway through Campbell Biology at the time of this writing, though) and as it is all material I covered years ago, I feel my classes and assignments may be dreadfully boring. 

But a big part of this journey is buckling down and doing the work no matter how I feel about it. Fortunately, motherhood is good for removing the chip from one's shoulder. 

It's rather hard to feel particularly scholarly, after all, when one is wiping applesauce from the ceiling. Again. 

Why is the son up already?

Funny enough, my son and I are both starting school on the same day. I will be putting him on the school bus, teary-eyed as any other mom, then frantically rushing off to class,  dropping off my daughter at the campus daycare along the way. 

This will prove a challenge. My morning routine currently looks a bit like this:
- Wake up to a disgustingly cheerful five year old poking my shoulder, wanting breakfast. At 5:30am.
- Shush him so he doesn't wake his sister. Put on treehouse, fitfully doze off halfway in the chair for an hour. 
- Blearily pour an unmeasured amount of coffee grounds into my most beloved household appliance. Wait.
- Get coffee, sit down, hear the baby wake up. Abandon coffee. 
- Stumble through breakfast somehow. We eat a lot of oatmeal not because it is healthy but because water + oats is enough like coffee for me to remember first thing in the morning.
- Attempt to get the five year old to dress himself while stopping the toddler from undressing herself. Naked time is fine. Not at 8am. 
- Strap kids - hopefully dressed - into the car, drop kid 1 off at preschool.
- Tim Hortons, because I deserve that coffee, dammit. 

Now, this fall, I will add to that getting myself dressed (preschool drop off Is okay in pajamas), preparing lunches, locating backpacks which will surely be misplaced, and getting a diaper bag ready for daycare. 

But earlier. 

Why am I doing this again?
Hello!

I'm Kay, mom of two, wife of an amazing man, and now also a premed.

Briefly, I left university in my first semester due to financial difficulties. Met my husband, got married, had a couple of kids, got a dog, and then decided that my life was far too easy and wonderful, so I decided to add some spice to the mix by going back to university.

In September, I will be starting in a life sciences program and following my second year, will be applying to medical schools for entry following my third year. As is my wont, I have completely thrown myself into this. As thoroughly as I have dedicated myself to being a mom, I am diverting some of that energy into preparing to be a physician.

My path isn't going to be easy. My son, five, has autism and thus has higher needs than the typical child his age. My daughter is a toddler. Beyond all this, my loving, supportive, incredible husband works thousands of kilometers away and can only return home every six weeks or so for a week at a time.

Hopefully, I can get to know some other mothers on this journey. It isn't an easy one, but it will be worth it.

In a job I had a while back, they talked about the necessity of 'painting the picture' - talking about the future in certain terms, not as a possibility, so here we have it.

One year from today, I will have a 4.0 GPA.
Two years from today, I will begin intensive studying for the MCAT.
Three years from today, I will be holding an acceptance to at least one Canadian medical school.
Seven years from now, I will introduce myself with the title 'Doctor' because I will be able to.

Love and light,

Kay