Saturday, 30 June 2012

Allergies

My son's school has several kids who are allergic to peanuts, so we've talked to him about how serious these allergies are, and how he won't be allowed peanut butter in the morning, or anything with nuts in his lunch. He seems to get it and will say "allergies are not funny!" any time he hears the word mentioned.

I am rather severely allergic to latex. It's what is called a type 1 allergy - my airway swells up, and I need medical attention if I'm exposed for more than a few minutes. As a result, I'm also allergic to certain foods that contain similar compounds, like avocados (though kiwifruit and bananas are okay.)

Despite his seeming understanding of the seriousness of allergies, my son can't help but try to hand me an avocado every time we go to the grocery store. He's gotten quite tricky about it. He'll hold it out and say "mommy, can you pick up this apple?"

Sneaky bugger.

He is, himself, allergic to mosquitos. A lot of kids are, and they usually outgrow it. If he is bitten, the bite swells to about 4", gets hot to the touch, and is quite painful. It's been a while since he reacted, because I'm careful about prevention.

Yesterday, my husband took the kids to the woods and didn't put on bug spray. Today, my toddler looks like she lost a fight - her face is swollen, one eye almost swollen shut. My son's arms are covered in puffy, red, painful lumps.

Guess she's allergic, too.

I hate allergies.

Called to the principal's office

Whenever my son's school calls, I momentarily panic, so ingrained is my response to seeing 'School' on the caller ID.

Schools called my parents a lot. At least until I got very good with getting away with things.

With the start of school being only two months away, my son is as excited as I am. Despite his delays, he's quite academically advanced. He's reading at ~3rd grade level, doing grade 2 math workbooks, and has a really good grasp of the very basic introductory chemistry I've taught him. He's curious, and has a very analytical mind. His autism causes behavioural and social issues, but he is still really smart.

Can't help but wonder which of us will lose our enthusiasm for school first. I lasted to about grade four before I started hating public school because it felt restrictive. I'm sure my son will too. I wonder if I'll come to hate university too.

When I met with the school yesterday, they just wanted to get a better picture of him. What motivates him, how he copes with sensory stuff and frustration, skills, learning methods, etc. They asked about his comfort level with technology and I actually burst out laughing. I've never met a kid with such an intuitive grasp of computers. He could navigate to his favourite websites by 18 months.

Apparently, the resource teachers are going to be getting iPads for working with the ASD kids. I'm sure he'll be glad to help them set them up.

He may get a keyboard for use in class because his fine motor skills are quite delayed. We'll see how that goes.

Friday, 29 June 2012

I need to stop doing that

When meeting my new family doctor for the first time, I slipped up. She went to my top choice school, as indicated in their new patient handout. It has a particularly good reputation, and I said as much. Just trying to be friendly, make conversation.

But with the tired children running around the office, I was not so terribly eloquent with my point and instead of coming across as friendly and interested, I sounded a bit like I was gushing. She asked if I plan to apply to med (dammit, I was actually trying to avoid bringing that up! Doctors seem to hate premeds!) and so I said yes and she goes "Don't go into medicine. It's not like you think it is."

I don't doubt that, of course, but I still plan to go for it. Wouldn't be doing all this if I were so easily dissuaded. I like the attempts at discouragement, it makes me feel so much more sure about my decision. She made a few very good points, ones I have heard before. Yes, it is a mostly thankless job, there are far easier ways to make more money, and the debt load is ridiculous - this is stuff I can have an idea of even though I'm not there yet.

But, it is suited to my strengths, it is something I am passionate about, and I am not going into this for money (if I were, I certainly wouldn't be planning on going into FM, arguably one of the worst remunerated areas of medicine.) The people who go into medicine for money are typically ROAD gunners, it seems, at least that's what I'm noticing on premed boards.

Still, once we got to talking a bit, I really do like her. I look forward to having her as my family doctor.

Next time I see her though, no gushing. It's terribly unflattering. I'll leave the kids with my parents next time. That'll help, I'm sure.

Interviews

I'm having my interview appointment with my new doctor in about an hour, so of course because 'doctor' and 'interview' were on my mind, I dreamed about med school interviews last night.

In my mind, it went very well. For some reason, the panel included Sauron, though, so I couldn't get a feel for whether they liked me or not because he was just a giant flaming eye.

Then for some reason I was dropped into an MMI that was boot camp style. Had to climb a wall with questions taped to it, crawl through mud made from the tears of rejected premeds, and so on.

It was bizarre.

At least when I eventually do interview, there will not be any Sauron or rope bridges, so that's a plus.

There is a school on the other side of the country that accepts premeds with stellar applications out of their second year of undergrad. Depending how my first year goes, I am debating applying there. It is in a city I have previously lived, and I hated it there, so the school isn't exactly high on my list of preferred institutions. But, I could get in a year earlier there, thus cutting a year off of my overall education. Unlikely, but possible. I will probably apply anyway. Just for the experience of it. It would be rather cool if I ended up getting an interview.

I'm sure interview dreams will get considerably worse the closer I get to having a real med school interview.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

"Time saving" EMR, not so much here, apparently!

Today was a bit busy as both kids had shots this afternoon. Due to a mixup in his medical records and some rather annoying bureaucracy, my son hadn't had any vaccines since he was 12 months old, so we're finally bringing him up to date. My daughter needed her 18 month series.

Tomorrow, we meet with our new family doctor in the morning. Where we live, there's quite the shortage of family physicians. Our last one left the country last year in a bit of a huff (though I do side with him, jerk that he was.) The provincial health authority was supposed to have it all sorted months ago, when we got two new physicians, they have been slow as cold molasses going uphill in January about getting the records to the new doctors.

These are electronic medical records that were given to them on a hard drive from the last office, going to another office that uses EMR. There is absolutely no reason for them to have taken EIGHT MONTHS to send these files. They were sending them 5-10 at a time,with up to six weeks between batches.

The only reason we got in was because my mother happened to be in the office today and heard the receptionist speaking to a patient on the phone. The receptionist mentioned that they were taking on a few more of Dr. Jerk's former patients. So I called, we are finally on the list, and we got in for tomorrow.

While I'm not usually terribly fond of them, today I am so thankful for loud-voiced receptionists!

After that, I have to meet with some people at my son's soon-to-be-school. I have no idea why, but am feeling rather like a child called up to the principal's office for an unknown infraction. Please, someone give me a sticker.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

That's over with

My husband and I talked about it last night, and we're both at peace with retiring the idea of any future children for at least a decade. We'll probably consider adopting an older child at that point.

So today, I sorted through the bins and boxes of baby clothes I'd been hanging on to. My daughter's bedroom floor is covered, at the moment, in piles of clothing. One bin - just one small bin - is for special items I am saving for them for when they grow up. The dress I bought when we were TTC my daughter (fortunately we ended up with a girl!), the sweaters I knit them, the tiny socks I made while pregnant, first Halloween costumes I sewed, the blanket my mother knit my son, the blanket my son picked out for his baby sister.

The best items will be donated to the family resource centre, others sent to Value Village. The exersaucer and swing, I'll probably just post free online. Most of my kids' baby stuff was gifts to us, it feels wrong to profit from them.

I'm turning the page on this part of my life, on being a mother to infants. It's bittersweet.

But the future is so very bright. I look forward to what the next chapter holds.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Sweet respite


Last night, my parents kept both kids overnight. My husband and I make a point of having a 'date' every time he is home, so we splurged and went to see a movie. 

This morning, we slept in until 9. It's a sign of the stage in our lives we are at that 9am is considered sleeping in. My teenage self would laugh at me for that. 

As lovely as that brief respite from parenthood was, I'm now back to preparing the house. If my husband goes back on the 6th as planned, he won't be back until the first week of September. As such, I'm readying the house. Cleaning out closets, reviewing organizational methods (okay, implementing organizational methods. 'Organized' is not typically the first adjective that comes to mind when describing my home) and doing a purge of things we should have donated/thrown out/burned months or years ago. I may have put off my spring cleaning a little.

As we're not intending to have any more children in the foreseeable future, that means purging the baby stuff. 

I'm not horribly superstitious, but getting rid of baby stuff seems to be the quickest route to pregnancy amongst my friends...

My daughter really doesn't need the exersaucer or the swing anymore. She's rapidly nearing her second birthday. In fact, she just got her first hair cut and looks like such a little girl now that it makes me a bit sad that all her baby stuff is going to be gone soon.

On that note, an excuse to share photos of my little girl. I never did state her name here, but everyone calls her Charlie. 

Here she is getting her hair cut, not terribly sure about it. 



And the results. Yes, I do realize she isn't supposed to stand up in the high chair. I made her sit down immediately following the picture. 

Study Space

So far, most of my pre-studying has been done from the comfort of my recliner. This is an awesome chair, it is so comfortable, but come school time, will be impractical.

Somewhat conveniently, I have space in the master bedroom for a desk. As we do not have a TV in that room, having a desk will be rather nice, I think, to have an office space for myself. I fully intend to buy a red Swingline stapler to complete it.

Having my desk out of the main family space will avoid the issue of my kids getting into my school stuff. Despite my son's tendency to come into my room at ungodly hours of the morning (usually to wake me up against my will), it is fairly easy to keep them out of there during the day.

My study time is scheduled for 8-11pm daily. The kids go to bed at 8, I go to bed at 11. Currently that time is used for Facebook (*ahem* 'downtime'), laundry, and reading, but going to school will require some sacrifices.

I only have 22-26 hours a week of class/lab time - one lab is biweekly. My kids will be at school or daycare/after school program for 40 hours a week. That other 14-18 hours a week is for me to study at school.

I'll procrastinate less if I'm out of my own environment, I think. When studying some subjects, I'm sure, mopping the kitchen floor will seem far more interesting. So, having some dedicated out-of-the-house study time will be for those subjects.

With 35+ potential study hours per week, I figure that gives me the flexibility necessary if something comes up. To be prepared in case of kid illnesses or me illnesses or watching a favourite prime time show once a week or something.

We'll see how well this plan holds up.

For now, I just want to design my study space. Maybe I'll hang my stethoscopes on hooks on my desk, as a reminder of why I'm doing all this.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Did it

I have a bit of a discomfort with debt. I hate going into debt, and I seek to pay it off as quickly as possible.

Early in our relationship and marriage, my husband and I made some very poor financial decisions that resulted in us accumulating about a year's income worth of debt in the span of 18 months. Yes, that bad. We spent the next few years paying off every cent of it, and using no credit at all. Nothing compares to the feeling of being debt free after scraping for years to make it happen. It freed up about 30% of our income that had previously gone towards debt, which we promptly used to move into a larger place.

After spending those years sans credit, we decided that I would not go to school until we could pay for it ourselves, which is why I waited until now.

As circumstances have turned out, I have to apply for student loans anyway. So, I just did. I'm about to go send off the last few forms that I can't submit online.

It makes me very uncomfortable to be even considering this. The entire idea of avoiding student debt was because with a BSc. bio, I won't exactly be raking in the job offers if I do not get into med school on my first or second attempts. We don't want to be in the position of having $25,000 in student debt, and few job prospects.

A med school LOC makes me considerably less uncomfortable, because 1) I intend to pursue family medicine, which means pretty much guaranteed match and 2) Pretty much guaranteed employment anywhere I want to go.

So, I'm uncomfortable with this, and I don't like it. But, of the available options, it is better than several others.

If it will get me where I need to go, I'll do it. After I am turned down (which I will be) I will appeal to get the loan I wish I didn't need.

Another one of those 'cleaning toilets' situations.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Break time!

My wonderful husband is home. His flight was delayed this morning, but all is well and he is here safely.

I already talked the poor man's ear off with my thoughts on med school pplications, hich are still two years away for me, best case scenario. I love that he's so supportive of my goals, as I am of his. He isn't very career-driven, he's a work-to-live kind of guy, but even if he doesn't fully 'get' why I am preparing to put so much of myself into this, he wants to see me succeed and is doing everything he can to make it possible.

He really is an incredible guy. Our sixth anniversary is in August, and I adore him more by the day. Statistically, us lasting even this long - which isn't that long in the grand scheme of things - was not terribly likely. Not only were we very young when we married (me 19, him 25) I was pregnant with a child who later turned out to have special needs. The divorce rate amongst young couples is high, as well as people who have a baby in the first year of marriage, and the rate for parents of special needs kids is around 80% within five years of diagnosis.

The fact that we are still going strong, that we love each other as much now as we ever have, is all pretty awesome in my books.

If only I could list 'happily married despite all factors saying we'd crash and burn' on my autobiographical sketch!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Eight point one

As things stand, I have no idea what is going to happen next. Forgive me, I'm going to talk about money again. I know it's generally considered a subject one does not discuss with others, but my blog, my rules. I'm sure other non-trads face this stuff too, and I do intend this blog to be an accurate reflection on how things went when I someday look back on it.

My husband's employer is not intending to fully lay him off. They want him to take unpaid leave, but be available for work. This means staying out there in a hotel, getting a few hours in the yard (half his normal hourly rate) occasionally. Doing that, we could expect him to make enough to pay the rent. Maybe.

Where we live, we have amongst the lowest wages in the country. Despite being bilingual and having a variety of technical and interpersonal skills, the absolute best job I can get here pays around $12/hr. As we currently have 8.1 job seekers for every available job, even that is optimistic.

As we also have amongst the highest income taxes in the country, this works out to roughly $700 every two weeks.

Daycare for both kids will need to be full time since it is summer and would equal $285/week. Because of our annual income, we are ineligible for subsidy.

Add to that gas getting to and from work (~$40/week) and you can see the predicament.

When we both worked, we had alternating schedules. It sucked, but it worked, and we only needed a sitter a couple hours a week when we had some overlap. Without him here, we can't do that.

So if my husband is out west, earning nearly nothing but unable to get EI because his employer paying for his hotel counts as income, and I am here netting a grand total of $50 biweekly, we have a bit of a problem.

That is what we are facing right now, and why I am given to fits of self-pity in my posts. If he doesn't go back, he may well lose that job, and he got that job through luck and timing, nothing more.

Right now, we are scrambling to come up with solutions. His employer has been giving him different information every time he asks. There is a possibility they may have rig work (his usual work) when he is due to go back. We don't know how strong that possibility is.

We are both very determined people, and we have gotten out of tighter scrapes before. We are used to living poor, navigating these waters. But it sucks, and we thought this was behind us when he got this job. I'm trying to remain optimistic about school, I really am, but sometimes, I just want to whine.

Bingo

I stumbled upon a course syllabus for my chem course. It's always nice to get a head start. The subject matter is mostly stuff I remember doing in the first half of grade twelve, and recall the details of quite well. I won't even be doing redox until second semester, which I find rather surprising.

My high school was in Ontario, and I can't help but wonder - given the overall dismal educational outcomes of high schools here - whether our provincial university's first year science material is closer in nature to that which I studied in grade twelve in Ontario, given that I was in gifted courses. The books seem to go more in depth, but not by a great deal.

We'll see, anyway.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Moving On

Today was my son's last day at his preschool. It's actually an Aboriginal program, as he is Native by way of his father.

This program has been absolutely amazing. It is small - a maximum of twelve kids - with two teachers, and he has had his tutor in addition. He started with the program in January of last year, and has done amazing things in his time there. He has grown so much, made so very much progress. Things I couldn't even have dreamed possible for him two years ago are now a reality, largely thanks to the dedication of his teachers.

He has friends. Real friends. He plays with them. He protects the younger kids. He has an inside joke (jokes! From an autistic kid!) with his best friend. It has truly been amazing.

I wrote each of the teachers and his tutor very heartfelt thank you notes, and I made up pretty cards using my calligraphy skills.

He is sad to see it end, and I am too. It has been a place of such growth for him. In September 2013, my daughter will start there, and I'm looking forward to that.

It was fitting that today is National Aboriginal Day - a celebration of Native cultures in Canada. It's also a religious holiday in our home, celebrating the bounty of the summer.

My son, my little tiny boy who has such difficulty with people, managed to stand on stage and drum the Honour Song for the dancers. It is a big honour to be invited to drum, and he was very proud of himself up there. I am proud of him. Who would have thought, when he was diagnosed, the I'd be able to watch him stand up in front of a crowd, drumming and singing?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Three days!

My husband is due home on Saturday. Anticipated difficulties for the summer aside, I am extremely excited about him being home. He's been gone since April 27th, so it will be eight weeks. He's going to be home for two weeks.

He is really awesome. As he tends to like waking up early, and I don't, he wakes up with the kids and lets me sleep.

Sleep is one of the most valuable commodities, and I find that since becoming parents, we trade the opportunity to sleep for various chores.

"Hey, could you clean out the basement? I'll let you sleep in tomorrow."

This is more true the younger the kids are.

My son, as previously noted, wakes up absurdly early. Yesterday, he ran into my room proclaiming "Mommy! The sun's up, at means it's time to wake up!"

No, no it doesn't. At least not when daddy's away.

In three days, you can wake up with the robins to your heart's delight, child, but for now... go back to bed.

Monday, 18 June 2012

3:30

It's 3:30am. My son will be up in just over two hours, and I can't sleep.

Good news, my hands don't completely hurt anymore. Because my pinky and ring fingers, as well as the parts of my hands below them are completely numb. The rest of my hands and arms still hurt though. Deep aching, throbbing, burning pain.

It's just a tad unpleasant, like a broken leg is a tad uncomfortable.

I have pain meds, but as a rule never take them before sleeping unless I have someone else to watch the kids if I end up drowsy/hard to wake up.

On that note, I had the 911 talk with my son recently. We talked about when he would call. I made the mistake of using the sentence "if mommy seems hurt and can't wake up." Well, day before yesterday he came into my room at 4am and I drowsily told him to go back to bed, that it wasn't time to wake up yet.

Good thing the phone was on my dresser. He'd already typed in 911 before I got to him. Fortunately, he hadn't hit the talk button yet.

Perhaps I need to get a bit more specific with that. Autistic kids can be so very literal that I sometimes overestimate his understanding of a concept.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Fathers' Day

My husband is still on the other side of the country, so our celebration of him is delayed until he returns on Saturday. My dad is out of the province as well today, but I'll be giving him a call to wish him a happy Fathers' Day.

My husband is an amazing father. His own was not involved in his upbringing, and he seems to really want to ensure our kids have what he did not. It's particularly difficult for him, in light of that, to be away so much. But he makes this sacrifice so that our family is provided for, and so that we have a brighter future.

He is a dedicated, hardworking man, and I must do whatever possible to make sure that his dedication pays off.

From the first time he left, my son has always wanted to watch his daddy's plane leave. It breaks my heart a little more every time.

This was on August 30th, last year, his first flight out away from us, after it vanished into the blue sky and our son kept saying "Bye, Daddy" over and over. I cannot wait until he is home, and I once again get to watch the kids scream and run across the airport to cling to him.

When daddy is gone so much, every day with him is Father's Day.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

I have to fight

The past couple of days have sucked.

I'm currently experiencing some really severe nerve pain in my arms, and it came out of nowhere. It started in my hands and has spread up to my shoulders. Already saw a clinic doctor and am under orders to hit the ER if it starts in my legs or things start to go numb.

Typing is excruciating. I am dictating most of this. Thank you, Dragon.

I am planning to spend the summer fighting. My husband is being laid off, for up to two months. After he was off for spring breakup, we expected he would return to at least most of his usual workload, thus we'd be able to pay for my school. Not so. He will make a lot over the winter (more than half his annual income in 4 months), which may exclude me from consideration for student loans. I was told it probably would, but I will fight this.

I'm going to have to try to find work - easier said than done here - for the rest of the summer just to make ends meet.

My biggest regret is not fighting harder to stay in school the first time. I didn't qualify for any assistance then because although I supported myself completely, my parents made too much. Maybe I could have found something.

But I am not going to roll over and let it happen again. I am going to fight for this. I have waited almost seven years to get this chance, I can't let it pass me by again!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Well, that's the end of that.

You know how it seems sometimes like things can't get worse? That's just the warning that they are about to.

Unless some miracle happens, there is no possible way for me to attend university this fall in light of information received tonight. I will not withdraw my registration yet, I'm going to fight through the rest of the summer to secure some sort of funding. But as it stands, my premed journey is over, as far as I am able to determine.

If you will excuse me, I am going to go cry for a little while.

Hoof Beats

When people who aren't med students get medstudentisis, it is called hypochondria.

So I'm sitting here, aching really badly. Every muscle in my body hurts right now. My chest hurts. My abdomen hurts. My legs are achy, my arms are shaking. I almost passed out at the grocery store, and my heart is beating quickly.

As I'm on Metformin my mind is going 'lactic acidosis!' But, the logical part of my brain is trying to beat that little panicky part of my brain into submission. I'm sore because I'm just getting over a cold and have body aches, my heart is fast because I've had to take salbutamol. I almost passed out because I took my Metformin without food. My chest hurts because I've been coughing, my abdomen because, well, Metformin has some *ahem* crappy side effects. I'm going to head to the clinic anyway, as I'm supposed to have my electrolyte levels checked after being on Metformin as it is.

Once I get into med school - well, if - at least doctors will shake their heads, roll their eyes and bemusedly exclaim 'med students!' when I start worrying about rare stuff. For now, I'm just the hypochondriac patient that doctors make fun of for reading too much.

Feast or Famine

My husband's work is seasonal, and highly weather-dependent. Unlike most seasonal industries, his busy times are the cold months. Wetter weather means less work, so for us, the saying "when it rains, it pours" is quite true.

Well, the clouds are rolling in yet again, and it's looking like my plan to return to school this fall may be washed out from under me.

He hasn't been working there long enough for us to develop a decent emergency fund. In fact, our meager savings were wiped out by two months without a paycheque, and it is looking like we are going to get through July by the skin of our teeth.

As it stands, for me to work right now would cost more than I would earn. Child care for the summer, and gas to drive to/from work and daycare will eat up anything I make and more, but the subsidy cutoffs are absurdly low, and I can't find child care anyway. So, we're stuck.

It's feast or famine. Because of what he will earn in the winter, which is a lot, I am unlikely to be eligible for any student loans. Because past poverty necessitated difficult choices, I do not have the credit to get private loans or a line of credit. As such, we're stuck. If my appeal to the student loan office does not work, I will have to withdraw.

And I don't think I have the heart to keep trying. This is my third attempt at going to university, and finances have always been the reason I couldn't. I thought for sure that this time would be it, but no such luck. It's like the universe is dangling the carrot of education in front of me, while I run on the treadmill of some great cosmic joke, grasping at what I can't have and will never reach.

It's breaking my heart in two. I have always, always looked forward to university, but here I sit, a failure, a walking waste of potential, a cautionary tale. The best I have to offer my kids is a father absent due to economic forces, and a mother who can't do anything.

They deserve better than this. Yes, I realize I'm being depressing and feeling sorry for myself. When everything goes to crap in a short period of time, I wallow a little bit then get over it. I'm wallowing in self-pity for today. Tomorrow, maybe, might be better.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Adorable Little Vectors of Disease

My kid brought home a cold recently. Not a terribly big deal, even with my terrible lungs, I can usually handle a cold fairly easily just by increasing my maintenance medication.

Not so, with this cold. My seasonal allergies, combined with spring cleaning, combined with a cold means I am sitting here with a mask on my face, breathing in the jitter mist. Salbutamol and ipratropium - I jokingly called it jitter mist to my son once, because it makes me really, really jittery, and the name stuck. Until I got my nebulizer three years ago, I had to go to the hospital any time my puffers weren't cutting it. Had I taken my allergy meds, I could have prevented cold+allergies+irritation from developing into a pretty bad asthma attack, but I'm dumb like that sometimes.

Honestly, the next time I spend much time in the hospital, I'd like it to be with a white coat on, so I'm hoping that I can break through this with my nebulizer. Really have zero desire to have to drag both kids to the ER at night.

Not so good

Finances for the rest of the summer and into September are looking dubious at best.

Financial aid has offered nothing in the way of actual aid besides "call the student loan people/apply to LOCs." Useless office, no good advice.

Student loan people are unhelpful. LOC isn't an option.

If I have to withdraw from university again due to money, I think it might possibly break me.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Dr. Mom

Motherhood involves a great deal of medical skills, I find. For instance:

Charting: Potty training/chore/behaviour sticker charts. Kids are far more obsessive about these than any other being. Also, fertility charts.

Observational skills: Newborn diapers. If you don't know why this falls under observational skills, you haven't had a newborn.

Triage: *thud* "Are you bleeding? No? Okay, as you were."

Orthopaedics: "Owwwwwwwww. Mommy, I think my _____ is broken!" "Can you move it?"

Laboratory Medicine: Knowing the sensitivity levels of every home pregnancy test on the market, and why it is significant.

Neuro: The research a first time mom does at length the first time her newly mobile infant whacks his head on the floor.

Gastroenterology: Waiting until that coin is seen again.

ENT: Favoured locations of Lego studs, beans, and pennies.

Stimulants: Copious.

Anti-anxiety medications: Prerequisite.

Sterilization procedures are second nature.

Toxicology: Familiarity with every toxic compound that is in or could possibly be anywhere near one's home and children. Memorized poison control centre's phone number.

Cardiology: "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?!"

Epidemiology: Deciding whether to risk that birthday party after a cold.

Yep, I'd say I'm well rounded at this point. Next stop, med school. :)

Long-Term Planning

I like to plan things in 1, 5, 10, and 20 year intervals, just for the sake of goal setting. As variables come into play, or leave the equation, I can modify my projections easily and get an idea of where I want to end up.

Within ten years, I will be a doctor. Could be as little as six, or as much as 15, but my goal is to have at least finished med school within the decade, and be in residency. My current plan is family medicine, so I'd be looking at 6-7 years (six if accepted to a three year school) from here to MD, plus 2-3 years family medicine residency. Practicing independently in 8-10 years.

Within the next ten years, my uncles will retire. My family has a farm, has had it for almost 240 years. It's a significant part of our history, but despite my plethora of cousins, only two actually work on the farm. It is likely that I will see it sold off in my lifetime, and that makes me intensely sad.

Farming is hard work, with very little financial reward, but my husband has expressed an interest in doing it. It simply hasn't been possible due to finances.

So, the current twenty year plan is for me to be a rural family doctor and have my husband farming. Buy up the old homestead and renovate it, making it into a really nice home. That house was the closest thing I had to a permanent home during the entirety of my childhood, and I can't imagine seeing it outside the family.

Looking at the coming years from here, I'm excited. It's a ways away, but it's doable.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Moments Like This

My kids try my patience a lot. They are kids, after all. It's in their nature. My son in particular can be a very difficult child, and my daughter is a busy toddler. But they adore each other. No matter what, they always seem to have each others' backs.

Tonight, after bath time, they both curled up in my bed. My daughter brought a book to her big brother, and they snuggled up so he could read her a story.

Moments like this make all that other stuff fade into the background, while I have a peaceful moment to enjoy the fact that, despite the troubles, I really am raising good kids.

Plan B

While I have always wanted to be a physician, for several years, I didn't think it would be possible. As a result, I decided to consider other healthcare careers.

Nursing, obviously, was on the list. I've written before about it.

My other goal was midwifery. In fact, I was quite serious about it, and it remains on my list as a solid Plan B. The continuity of care offered by midwives is a big reason for it.

For those who aren't familiar with how it works in Canada, midwives here are not nurses first. They attend a four year training program, focused exclusively on birth. Attending normal birth is obviously a big focus, but so is learning to spot complications early and address them as quickly as possible, often by transferring. While midwives do not work under OBs here as CNMs do in the US, they often work with them to coordinate care for patients who need it. Midwives have hospital privileges, and deliver at homes, hospitals, or centres. The inclusion criteria for home/centre birth are very stringent to ensure only those who can safely do so have those options.

They have a great deal of autonomy, and it works well for the patients.

My current province is the only one that has no regulation for midwives. We have no practicing midwives at all, despite a strong push (ha) and a desperate need for them.

The reason I decided not to continue pursuing it, though, is that a lot of midwives stray heavily from evidence-based medicine into pseudoscience and quackery. It's a big part, I think, of why many doctors don't take them seriously. I had hoped to influence that a bit from the inside, encouraging reliance on medical science.

There are many women, I think, who would love to have the care of a midwife, but dislike the crap so many of them spout. I think there is a lot of room in maternal and neonatal care for serious midwives to work with obstetric groups to offer a better model of care to mothers.

And I think for my province - which has, overall, a very paternalistic medical community - midwives who focus on science-based practice are the ones who are going to make the breakthrough we need, because they will get along with the obstetricians far better.

If I eventually choose to pursue rural family medicine - I'm intending to, but may change my mind - I'd love to have a practice that includes midwives.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

No, I have no interest in paeds

There is one specialty that I can say for certain I will not pursue.

Paediatrics. It isn't that I don't like other peoples' kids (well, okay, I often don't) but parents drive me nuts.

Many of my friends are parents, and I adore them because they are wonderful and level-headed people. But, most other parents are insane.

You get:
- Overprotective parents who rush to the ER for everything.
- The oblivious parents of teenagers.
- The GoogleMD/WikiDoc moms.
- The diagnosis shoppers.
- The abusive parents (at least there's something you can do about that, but I don't think 'beating the crap out of the bastard' is considered an adequate response)
- The helicopter/'My precious snowflake!' parents.

Obviously, doctors have to deal with kids and parents in almost every specialty, but paediatricians deal with them day in, day out. This is all, of course, based on nothing more than my own observations as someone who has spent way, way too much time in paeds wards and ERs, and stories I've heard from the many nurses I know.

But, yeah, doesn't strike me as particularly appealing. There's no faster way to make someone hate you than to say something they don't want to hear about their kid.

My hat's off to all the paediatricians out there - they are special people. I really don't think I could do it.

Pass the Lysol

I love my children to pieces, but I think I despise all other kids.

Well, not really, but their germs.

Yet again, my son returned home from preschool bearing tiny little viral gifts for his sister and I, and he was so kind as to share without being asked.

Time for Popsicles.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Example of problem solving.

My daughter is 19 months old. She really, really wanted to swing on the swing set with her big brother, but couldn't balance on the swing seats.

So, she came up with a completely new way to swing, and she did this for a good twenty minutes. Smart girl. Also, freakishly strong for a toddler.



And, I might as well add in a photo of my son at his graduation, as he asked me to put him on here.

Reinforcements!

My husband works on the other side of the country. He generally goes out for six weeks, and comes home for a week or two before leaving again. He'll be home on the 23rd, after eight weeks away this time, and I am so very ready to share the parenting with him for a couple weeks.

I get double the cuddles, which is awesome, but these kids are experts at tag-team troublemaking. One distracts me, the other makes a go for whatever it is they are not supposed to do or have. As both kids are extremely active risk takers, this makes for some comical scenarios and I am the fool in all of them.

Sneaky little things. It's like herding cats. Cats on speed.

When my beloved husband gets home from eight weeks toiling in the oil fields, I will hand him my omnipresent roll of paper towels, and leave for a couple hours. The rest of the time home will be about him relaxing and having downtime, but those first few hours are for me to regroup, and those few short hours of sanity are all I need to keep going.

As I've said, motherhood has prepared me for medicine. But above anything, this experience of being the wife back home has cemented that.




Illusions

During the times my mind is not otherwise occupied, I have started going over interview questions in my head. The standard ones - why medicine? What makes you a unique candidate? What are your weaknesses? What are your strengths? - and some ethical dilemmas MMIs tend to include.

I've started writing down my answers, because I'd love to see how my answers change over the coming years.

There is a book that is more or less required reading in my family. I was ten when I first read it. It is called Illusions: Adentures of a Reluctant Messiah, by Richard Bach. It is my favourite book. I urge you to get a copy. It is a short book, an otherwise silly story that smacks of the philosophies of the flower child generation, but it really makes you think. Like this:

The simplest questions are the most profound. Where were you born? Where is your home? Where are you going? What are you doing? Think about these once in a while and watch your answers change.

I think people can learn a lot about themselves by seeing how their answers to such questions change over time, so I am doing a bit of that with my interview questions. In a couple years, when rereading what my current answers are, will I think my past self naive or disillusioned? More passionate, or less so? It will be interesting, nonetheless.

There is one other quote from Illusions I'd like to share, because it is my guiding principle on this journey.

You are never given a wish without being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

It's the little things...

I had my course registration this afternoon, and it was my first face-to-face meeting with my advisor. We had spoken previously on the phone and by email, but hadn't yet met.

As it stands, I'm taking the 'dress for the job you want' approach to university. So, I wore business clothes, did my hair, wore shiny things (oh how I love my shiny things!), brought my dossier with prepared notes, and my iPad on which I had created my colour-coded sample schedules which contained each section I wished to be in, and projections for future years.

Standing in a room full of jeans-and-tees clad teenagers lolling about with their parents, I stood out a bit.

During my appointment, my advisor and I spoke about my goals, and she told me that I'm the type of person who gets into med school because of my determination and organization. I think she was surprised by how much research I have already done on the subject.

It is such fun, surprising people. It seems like, before they meet me in person, people are expecting something completely different than the thorough, professional person I choose to be in many such situations.

Either way, it seems I made a good first impression. That's a start. Hopefully I can do so with my professors as well.

University is my job now, and I will approach it as I have approached my employment in the past: determined, professional, and organized.

Graduation

My son's preschool is doing a little graduation thing today. The kids get to wear ribbon shirts (ceremonial thing) and do some drumming, singing, show off the Mi'kmaq they learned, then have cake.

I think it is a little absurd that 4-5 year olds are having a graduation, but I will go, smile, clap, and be excited for my son because it means a lot to him.

Knowing that someday, my kids will be in the audience, watching me cross the stage and be addressed as Doctor for the first time means the world to me. They will be see the results of the next few years' hard work. They will be old enough - my son entering his teens, my daughter elementary school-aged - to know how special it is to become a doctor.

Today is about my son's achievements. He has worked very hard at his preschool, and has grown a great deal. But when next any of us attend a graduation, mine, it will be about my family, because they are the ones encouraging and supporting me through this.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

I need to stop reading the Premed forums.

I keep reading premed forums. This is not, on its own, a problem. But I keep stalking the accepted/rejected and waitlist threads to get an idea of what stats I need to be competitive.

This generally makes me feel horrible about myself. I'm going up against concert pianists, first authors of research pubs in big name journals, health care professionals, people who have shadowed surgeons, kids who have gone to Africa to volunteer at medical clinics.

And what do I have? I was a PCW for three years and have a disabled child.

It's the same feeling I get when I see the 'supermoms' spending four hours a day grinding their organically homegrown spelt into flour for bread, while having a beautifully decorated, pristine home full of perfectly behaved children who composed sonatas before they had molars. Thoroughly inadequate in the face of people who do things far better than I do.

It's a bit discouraging, really. But I don't have to be better than them. I just have to be better than ~3000 other applicants. You don't have to be the fastest gazelle to get away from a hungry lion, after all. You just can't be the slowest.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

A mom can dream, right?



My daughter using my lucky stethoscope on my husband.

My son says he wants to be a doctor, and he really does love science. We'll see how the future unfolds.

Ocean Adventures

So, you know how kids sometimes get a little obsessed with a particular show or movie and want to watch it over and over?

If I have to watch that Jacques Cousteau shark documentary one more time, I may throw the Wii on a bonfire. It's not so much the show itself, it's the fact that my son wants to discuss everything in the show at length every single time. I love that he enjoys learning, but it's time to pick another topic, k?

Sick Kids

Not the hospital, but the small, sticky people in my house.

It's inevitable that they will get sick occasionally, and a cold like the one they have isn't a big deal. Colds can be enlightening, actually.

Just over a year ago, when my son was recovering from a cold, he was in that post-illness fog where he wasn't completely sick, but also not totally better yet. We noticed that he was incredibly well-behaved and had much better control over himself at that time. So I thought about it, and realized that the brain fog he had seemed to bring him out of the storm of sensory input he lived in.

So we talked to his paediatrician about putting him on a medication to reproduce that fog, but to a degree where he could still be himself, not a zombie. We found one, and he has done incredibly well on it with essentially no side effects. In two weeks, his behaviour changed a great deal, he could focus, he was dealing much better with frustration. It was really incredible to see. The vast majority of the strides he has made have been since he started that medication.

I was, prior to this, of the 'I'll never put my kid on drugs to make my life easier' mindset. I believed medications to be wildly overused - and honestly, they may be - but I have a better understanding of what a life changing thing medications can be for kids like my son. He needed that med to act as the key in the lock that restricted him.

It hasn't made him non-autistic, it's by no means a cure and I honestly wouldn't cure him if I could, but it gave him control over himself that he didn't have before.

It's a lesson, really, in what you can discover from just looking at the details and making connections. Who'd have thought hat a cold would be the clue to unlocking his potential?

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Stupid Bird

Ive mentioned SB before. For background, I've kept pet birds most of my life, and at the moment have eight birds. Birds are intelligent and fascinating to watch. SB is certainly interesting to watch, but he doesn't seem too bright.

Just today, I was sitting at the kitchen table in my mother's kitchen, and heard a 'thud.' The very confused SB overshot the feeder and smashed into the window. The feeder he eats at every single day.

Hummingbirds typically avoid perching in the open, because they are essentially the potato chips of the bird world and many animals and other birds will eat them.

SB, however....



He sat there for around a half hour while the finches came and went. Stupid bird!

My daughter's ceremonial name is Nonokasse, which translates as hummingbird, so I have a bit of an affinity for them and tend to watch SB and his mate when they come flitting around.

Still, though, all the beauty in the world won't save that little bird when one of the nearby farm cats feels like a snack. There's a lesson there somewhere.


Regaining Humanity

I recently started on Metformin for my PCOS. Insulin resistance is a common issue with PCOS, and many Cysters (as an online community of PCOS sufferers tend to call themselves) take Metformin, me included.

A few years ago, I went on it for about six weeks but had to stop because the effects were bad enough that I nearly lost my job. While I'm sure no one wants me to go into explicit detail, I will say that I call this drug 'Drano' and leave it at that.

As I've been getting little sleep because of this, I finally caved and went to my parents' house to take a nap while my mother watched the kids. I'm feeling slightly more human again.

Never underestimate the power of a good nap.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

From this side of the chart - Patient Family Life

Last year, my son had pneumonia four times within six months. Twice, he had a fever of 41.6 and he had febrile seizures on two occasions and was severely dehydrated more than once. Overall, it was a pretty crappy six months. Long story, but suffice to say I will not be applying to do my residency here since I'm pretty sure they will still remember me by then, and not fondly. We disagreed on things repeatedly. Mama bear and all that jazz.

When he was in the ER during his third bout, moments after he threw up in my purse, my parents came in. As my mother had been experiencing stubborn 'heartburn' I was worried, particularly when she was taken right back from triage.

Kid and I were brought back, and shortly after the kid's CXR, my dad came into the room where we were, and informed me my mother was having a heart attack.

So, I was sitting by my sick child's hospital bed, with my flustered father pacing (he never paces), and my mother in the midst of an MI. I was freaking out internally, but keeping as calm as I could on the outside.

Someone who had been in my son's room previously had drawn on the little whiteboard that the doctors use to explain things to patients. They had drawn a happy little flower and written "Hope you feel better soon!"

That little note helped me feel so much better. It was an extremely tough night for me, and obviously for other members of my family to a greater degree, but that little note from a stranger made such a difference. A little touch of optimism in a very tough night.

When I am a doctor, I think I will print out the picture I took of that note, to remind me what a little bit of human caring can mean to a patient. I'm so fascinated by the science of medicine that I worry that sometimes I will forget to address the emotional impact of what I will be doing. That picture, I think, will be my reminder.

Scrubbing Toilets

Im taking a brief break while my daughter naps to reread a chapter in Campbell Biology.

I really do not enjoy this book, but my professor for next year apparently tests knowledge of minute details from the book, so it is in my best interests to get a solid foundation in it. This is where having a spectacular memory for detail will come in handy.

Reading this text is like scrubbing toilets. Unpleasant, unfulfilling, but it has to be done and I'll at least like the results. Motherhood had certainly prepared me for that kind of task.

Beautiful Days

My son seems to have turned a corner, so I think my kiddie boot camp is working. My house is pretty clean, at least the bottom four feet of it.

It is a gorgeous day outside, so of course we will be heading out to enjoy it. I'd honestly rather be curled up with a few books, but the kids and dog need to run, so my studying will be paused for the day. We're just watching Wrath of Khan, as a treat, then we will be heading out.

As an amusing tidbit, Kid 1 came running to me earlier and said "Mommy, I have an osbervation." Not a typo, he says it that way. He told me, with utmost sincerity, that chocolate is yummy and he needs to test again to make sure.

Nice, kid.

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Quiet Times

We live in the country. Cows outnumber people, everyone has a tractor (lawn or otherwise, us included,) most of our small number of neighbours own trucks, dogs roam, and just yesterday a bald eagle flew right by my living room window. Last week we left some toys in the yard overnight, and I saw foxes steal them. Country.

I love that I can drive twenty minutes in most directions without a traffic light, or even seeing another car. A loose bovine is headline news, and "how's yer father?" is a greeting.

Going to med school will mean giving this up. The schools I will be applying to for 2015 entry are all in cities with populations larger than my province.

It will mean a return to traffic, anonymity, high rises, and smog. It will mean leaving behind my beloved Atlantic ocean, red dirt, 'help yerself' farm kiosks, and long drives on sandy dirt roads surrounded by saw grass and black eyed susans.

Depending on the specialty I choose to pursue, I may not be able to come home except for vacations or retirement.

We gave up a lot to move here, gave up even more to keep living here when the going got tough, but soon we will have to give up our home to pursue my dream.

I know when I get into med school, it will probably be one of the happiest days of my life. But when we cross that long bridge and leave our little island behind, this place that soothes the soul and is the backdrop to so many of my happiest days, it will break my heart in two.

But being a doctor will require sacrifices. This is only one. It is the price of admission I will pay, but I will always be drawn home, back to this little piece of paradise in the country, where eagles say hello and mischievous foxes play with children's toys.

I'm not excited. No, not at all.

My school's fall timetable went live about two hours ago. I finished my colour coded timetable approximately ten minutes later.

I register for classes next week, and since only ~20 students will be registering before me, I will be able to get all the sections I want, which is great. I'll be done by 4:30 every day, except every other Wednesday, when I will have a lab until 5:30. Best part is I don't start until at least 9:30 any day.

I can breathe a sigh of relief now, because I don't have to worry about getting to class for 8:30. My son's bus will come at 8:02, then I will have time to drop off my daughter, have some breakfast, down a few cups of coffee, and review my reading/lecture notes before class.