The One Where I Used a Machete

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to join my school on one of its social missions: to build safe stoves for the families of rural Guatemala. In many homes, families are cooking over open fires, which is problematic for a multitude of reasons. There’s the obvious fire hazard, along with the threat of respiratory disease due to smoke inhalation, and also the less obvious fact that an open fire doesn’t allow control of the heat, so much of it is lost, requiring more wood or other fuel to cook the same amount of food.

My school channels much of its tuition into buying the supplies for these stoves, and the students volunteer to provide the labor once per week.

The day began with my first chicken bus ride!


I have yet to take a good picture of a chicken bus myself, so here’s a stock photo!

Basically, a chicken bus is a school bus clad in colorful designs or cartoon characters jam-packed with native Guatemalans in local dress. I was kind of bummed because the one that we took was unfortunately just plain yellow, but I have to admit I never thought I’d be riding a school bus again!

As the bus headed farther and farther outside of the city, the change in socioeconomic status was visible. The scenery transformed from colorful storefronts and houses to dilapidated sheds without doors in fields of dust:DSCN1208 DSCN1209

Our group of four arrived at a small little home barely larger than my bedroom in the US, which was home to a couple and their three sons, ranging in age from 1-6 years old. There were stacks of concrete bricks, sand, and concrete mix waiting for us, but we almost immediately ran into a problem: the family did not have a water source in their home.

Upon venturing across the neighborhood a few times to refill buckets of water at a neighbor’s house, we got to work: soaking the bricks so they would adhere to the cement. Mixing cement. Stacking the bricks in a precisely measured and leveled rectangle.

And my favorite job: chopping apart concrete bricks with a machete.

My handiwork!

My handiwork!

In the end, we’d made this:

Our stage 1 stove! There are two more stages to be completed in weeks to come!

Our stage 1 stove! There are two more stages to be completed in weeks to come!

There’s no doubt that the extreme poverty of this family was striking, but what stood out even more is their generosity. While six year olds in America have no qualms asking for a laundry list of items for Christmas, the six year old in this house divided his single cookie into five parts: one for himself and each of four volunteers.

Why is it that people with nothing share so willingly, while people with everything hold on tight?


The One Where I Joined the Walking Dead

It’s Medical Monday again, so obviously that means I come out of the woodwork to introduce myself. This is me:

Image from The Walking Dead

Okay, so that’s not always me. It’s me when I’m in the midst of my second week of night shift for my pediatric subinternship. If that’s not an excuse for an extended absence, I’m not sure what is. At this point, even coffee gets me to about here:

 And of course, I’m also working on my residency applications right now, which makes me look something like this, even on a good day:

But even among the hustle and bustle, I’ve been hoarding ideas for future blog posts. Like about the time that an elderly veteran in ophthalmology clinic decided to read my palm. Or about how I finally managed to write a personal statement after months of procrastination. Or about my patient who disappeared off the floor at 1 AM. Or about narrowing down which residency I want to pursue (!).

Really, I’m going to write about all of that. Someday.

But right now, all I can think about is sleep.


MedicalMonday button It’s the first anniversary of Medical Mondays, and I am so grateful for the efforts of Emma and Jane over the past year. It’s been so much fun to connect with other medical student/medical wives/medical professionals in the blogosphere. The posts shared each week remind me that I’m not alone in the hectic world of medicine, enlighten me on the various roles played by different staff in the medical system, and provide advice on everything from raising children as a physician to the latest in interview suit fashion. While I hop on into my bed, I highly recommend you hop on over to their blogs to meet the other fabulous participants of MM.

Happies and Crappies: Neurology Week 3

Scissors and a Whisk: Happies and Crappies Link Up

The Happies:

1. I am having SUCH a blast doing inpatient neurology at the local VA. They pack four patients into the same room, and the room that my assigned patient is in is full of the nicest gentlemen I could ask for. Even though I’ve only been formally introduced to my own patient, they all greet me by name and strike up a conversation… it really helps to make the day better.

2. My lack of confidence in note-writing has been restored this week… my chief resident has been doling out a lot of compliments for my note-writing, and I’m so grateful to know that with a little effort I’m right where I should be. Or else my chief has lower expectations than the clerkship director. Hmm.

3. I passed my surgery shelf exam, even with significantly less study time than past shelf exams!

4. I discovered this, which may or may not nullify my Blogilates progress, but Nutella just might be worth it.

The Crappies:

1. My neurology shelf exam is coming faster than I can handle… it’s next Friday, and I’ve got a tight schedule this week with life-things. If only life drama hadn’t kept me from learning neuro well as a second year!

2. I have to take neurology call this weekend, even though it’s the weekend before the test. And I have the attending who has a reputation for being disrespectful of people’s time.

3. I had to respectfully decline an invitation that read as such: “Hello. Welcome to D’s Birthday, secret edition. The party is still this weekend, but tomorrow night, I’d like you to join me on a small adventure. Dress to walk outside and meet at XYZ location, and bring $10 to donate to the cause.”

4. My closet is currently an explosion of dirty laundry. And my apartment complex still doesn’t have a working dryer. And I have call this weekend and an upcoming exam. So uhh… these dress pants from the closet floor don’t look THAT bad… right?

Gearing up for a neuro-filled weekend, what with a call day and a study day… here’s hoping life doesn’t get TOO in the way.

The One Where I Worked Out in Heels

Broken record alert!

For probably at least the third time, possibly more, I’m going to talk about Blogilates. Because I’m obsessed and I want to share my excitement with you all. Because for once, I’m actually motivated to get fit, healthy, and strong. Because I’m finally not being a hypocrite when I encourage my patients to exercise more frequently. Because for the first time, I look forward to my workouts every day.

Yeah, you heard me. I’ve actually been excited to work out for the first time in my life, thanks to the adorably energetic Cassey Ho, Pilates instructor extraordinaire and host of the Blogilates workout videos.

Though let’s be serious: it’s absolutely a love-hate relationship. Countless dialogues progress as such:

Cassey: Just a few more!


Cassey: You should start to feel your thighs burning!

Me: What? Start? Are you serious?

Cassey: Get LOWER!

Cassey’s put me through five minutes straight of lunges, countless burpees, endless squats, and crunch after crunch after crunch. And just when I thought she’d put me through it all, she told me it was time to work out in these:



I know. I thought she was crazy, too. And I was terrified my roommates would come home to discover my mismatched gym-shorts/black pumps combo and I’d never live it down.

But I tossed my Vibrams to the side and donned my black pumps, terrified of the workout to come.

But thankfully (and I’d imagine purposefully)… there’s NO jumping.

So I panted through my plie squats.

plie squats

All workout images from the Blogilates website; click for full workout printable!

And I wobbled through my T squats.

T Squat

And I sweated through my lunges.Lunges

And I actually survived without any broken ankles or being busted in my ridiculous outfit by my roommates. The soreness the next day was far above that of my typical leg workout, so hopefully it’s actually working.  Plus, let’s be serious. It’s kind of fun to look in the mirror as you do the moves and imagine how awesome your legs are going to look in those heels once you’re done.

So seriously, if you find yourself wishing you could get into better shape but lacking the motivation, give Blogilates a shot. The best part is there’s dozens of videos of varying lengths, so even on days when you’re pressed for time, you can squeeze in a really effective 10 min work out. You can start crazy with the stiletto workout or start slow with some of the beginner’s videos.  But either way…



The One with the 2012 Recap and 2013 Resolutions

2012 brought a lot of ups and downs for me.

I started out with heartbreak, which was pretty terrible…


But as cliche as it may be, it ultimately brought me closer with old and new friends, helped me sort out who my true friends are, introduced me to new hobbies, and really challenged me to grow as a person.

Yay! Sunshine and rainbows and unicorns and everything is better!

I spent months and months of the most intense studying of my life in preparation for USMLE Step 1.


I celebrated the end of boards with my first trip out of the country: to England, Hungary, and Spain (a trip designed to allow me to experience three totally different tastes of Europe in two short weeks).

I visited the set of Harry Potter in London!

I visited the set of Harry Potter in London!


I explored beautiful Budapest at sunset!


I ate traditional paella at a cute restaurant in Barcelona!

I finally began my clinical clerkships, which made all of the countless hours locked away in a study room worth it. I’m so much more excited to go to school now that I spend every day meeting new people and learning just as much from them as they learn from me. I met patients who made me laugh, who lost their lives in my care, who supported me, who taught me life lessons.

I started this blog, which now has over 2000 views in less than six short months, despite my best efforts to completely ignore it at times. (Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me!)

And now it’s 2013, and I couldn’t be more excited. In a week and a half, I will be done done DONE with surgery and rejoining life as a real person, and for the first time, I’m challenging myself to several resolutions:


…complete with a color-coded system for keeping me honest via marks on my calendar.

Bring it, 2013.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Medical Student Progress Note: Trauma Surgery

Patient: Kay Isandos

Chief Complaint: the surgery service is insane

History: Patient is on Hospital Day 1 s/p one day on trauma service. She complains that rounds are run so quickly she is not able to orient herself to the patient before she is racing to the next room, but admits it’s a great physical and mental workout. She was unable to scrub into the OR today because her assigned laparoscopic cholecystectomy was bumped for an appendectomy. She is hopeful that she can scrub tomorrow, but reports still feeling very confused about the various surgeries and the expectations on the service.

She reports palpitations and some abdominal discomfort, but admits it was likely due to nervousness surrounding a Trauma, Priority Level 2 today. She participated insofar as she met a patient and provided him with several warm blankets before radiology took over and she was sent back to clinic, realizing her anxiety was pointless.

In the clinic, she was able to see three patients, though she struggled to compile the short, to-the-point presentations desired by attending surgeons when dealing with multiple patients who presented for follow-up for multiple gunshot wounds. Additionally, she was able to complete her first hernia exam successfully.

Her afternoon is described as “crazy,” rated 9/10 in severity and radiating to her personal life as well. She denies associated nausea or syncope. She is happy to have been released from her work early today, leaving plenty of time to study, study, study, and study.

Past Medical History: Has already completed OB/GYN, Peds, Family, and Psych.

Medications: Caffeine qday

Social History: Non-smoker, non-drinker. ?poor sleep and eating habits.

Pertinent Physical Exam:

  • Vitals: Occasional tachycardia, otherwise wnl.
  • General: Young female in no acute distress. Tired-appearing.
  • HEENT: Dark circles under eyes, but PERRL.
  • Cardiac: RRR, normal S1/S2
  • Respiratory: Lungs clear to auscultation bilaterally.
  • Abd: Hyperactive bowel sounds audible without stethoscope
  • Psych: No evidence of depression. Possibly delusional.

Assessment: 24F third year medical student with acute anxiety and significant confusion due to new involvement on the trauma surgery service. This is likely to improve without intervention in the near future, though if it does not, she has been advised to avoid surgery as a future career.

-Continue caffeine PRN for sleepiness.
-Eat and sleep whenever possible.
-Study as much as possible to increase knowledge base and reduce confusion. Consult with residents when textbooks fail to appropriately treat problem.
-Consult with other medical students on the team when feeling overwhelmed.
-Continue participation on trauma service at 5 AM tomorrow and for the rest of the month, until service is understood and pt is able to roll with the punches.

I survived my first day! If not clearly evident from above, my brain is still spinning and trying to make sense of an incredibly busy day on a brand new service. But I tend to feel uncomfortable in the first few days… here’s hoping that things calm down (at least, in all the right ways) from here.