" /> Toads-in-the-Hole: March 2008 Archives

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March 21, 2008


We've matched at the University of Iowa! We're Blackhawks! No... that's not right, that's a hockey team. Umm... we're Blackeyes! Wait, that doesn't make sense. Hawkblacks? Eyehawks? We're this bird-thing:

Match Day was both less and more than I expected. The school sent out word of a ceremony in which we gather at 10:30, receive our envelopes at 11:00, and then have a lunch. We arrived a little late to find my class, some professors, and a lot of significant others and kids crammed into a hallway and stairwell. There was a table set up selling USD alumni gear, and everyone was talking simultaneously whilst milling around. Adelaide stuck three fingers in her mouth and refused to look at or talk to anyone. Aimee grinned, glassy-eyed with terror. Suddenly the dean was talking, and talking, and talking, and thanking people. No one seemed to listen, and then a deanlet was standing next to him with a pile of envelopes. They distributed them in random order, and I was third. I pushed through the crowd to get the envelope and then pushed back to Aimee and Adelaide with a rushed, unthinking feeling- kind of like jumping into cold water, I just made myself do it without any consideration. I tried to rip the envelope open, but my hands couldn't get any purchase on its slick surface. Finally, it was open, and I scanned through the sparse text looking for a school name. There it was: U Iowa Hosps and Clinics. "Iowa!" I shouted. I expected Aimee to hug me or scream or... do something other than point to the diaper bag and say, "Look in there," which is what she did. Confused, I dug through the diaper paraphernalia and found a plastic bag from Scheel's, within which was an Iowa baseball cap. Laughing, feeling like a first-round draft pick, I whipped it on and pointed my head at the classmates around me. Aimee snapped my photo, and I noticed that her hands were shaking. "Iowa! University of," I kept saying, to anyone who would meet my gaze.

Meanwhile, other people were receiving and opening their envelopes, but I was barely aware of anything except Aimee and Adelaide and my piece of paper and, oddly, the diaper bag. What else had Aimee smuggled in there? Was there a banner from U of Wisconsin? A sweatshirt with a Golden Gopher on it? A bumper sticker proclaiming the virtues and merits of the University of Nebraska Medical College? But no, I found out later, Aimee was so certain of our getting our top choice that she secretly bought Adelaide and me two caps and herself an Iowa t-shirt.

So, we've finally matched. We can finally start planning and researching and making choices for our future. We can finally start thinking again, all the apprehension and frustration that had clogged our brains for the last ten weeks has been flushed away. We're Hawkeyes now.

March 19, 2008


Look who's two!

Adelaide's official family birthday party won't be until Saturday, but she had a "friends-only" bash at daycare on the 18th. She's a little reluctant to give us all the details of the party, but she came away with an excellent balloon with cats on it and a new-found sense of possibility.

For instance, as a someone who has begun their third year, she now feels she ought to occasionally go down the bendy slide face first, and then yell for help when she gets to the bottom.

She also wants to be treated in a more adult manner: When asked if she wants to be changed, if she wants to go home, or if she wants more to eat, she might say, "No, I'm fine," and you're supposed to take her word for it. Of course, this means that she needs to treat other people like real human beings deserving of respect, too, and so she has started to say, "'scuse me" if you're standing in her way.

Her third year has started out well- the sun is shining, it's warm enough to go outside without those bulky snow pants, and there's plenty of mud to enjoy. Hooray for two!

March 4, 2008

Prepping for World War III

“What am I doing?” I thought to myself as I slid off the road into the ditch. “What the hell am I doing?” I grumbled as I dug vainly at the snow impacted under the car’s wheels. “What the hell’s the point?” I muttered as I handed the tow truck guy $130 (later reimbursed by our insurance). All these questions were directed not at my driving, the icy weather, or the tow truck guy’s fees, but at my school’s administration: Why was I rushing at 7:00 in the morning through a snowstorm to get to an ear surgery I’d already seen a dozen times? And, more generally, why was I required to spend a week following an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor around? Or an anesthesiologist? Urologist? Orthopedic surgeon? Neurosurgeon? Or, God help me, an ophthalmologist? What was I, a future pathologist, supposed to learn from these arbitrary required courses?

Fourth year of medical school is a strange and unfortunate time. After I sent in my applications for residency, none of my grades really matter (other than that I pass), I’m not looking for letters of recommendation, and my focus is really on preparing for next year (i.e. reading paperback novels and looking at real estate websites). It’s very similar to the spring of my senior year in high school, only I’m not allowed to miss class to hang out in senior hall. Also, there’s no state track meet to look forward to (and wouldn’t that be something? “Alright, medical students, we the administration have decided that, instead of your surgical subspecialties, we’ll have a track duel against the Creighton School of Medicine. Who can throw the shot put?”). As a pathologist, I will be working with surgical subspecialists, and I’ll need to know what kind of stuff they’ll want me to look for, but I’m still struggling to stay focused during long hours of back pain or earache clinic.

So, to become motivated, I think about World War III. In World War III (or some kind of global disaster that fundamentally changes human society), it might be more important for me to be a general practitioner than a pathologist. We might have so many casualties (and perhaps, so few doctors) that anyone who’s remotely capable will be called on to perform craniotomies, intubations, and reduce and pin complicated fractures. When a surgeon asked me, “You want to put in the next
screw?” I told myself that, sometime in the future, after the bombs have fallen, the plague swept through, or the oceans swamped our shores, I may need to put in all the screws. So I chirped, “You bet.” When a surgical nurse asked me, “Do you want me to raise the bed up so it’s easier for you?” I answered, “Nah, we probably won’t have these fancy beds during World War III.” This required a little follow-up explanation, but the staff has so far been receptive to my self-motivating fantasy. They’ve even been able to point out advantages that hadn’t occurred to me. Surveying my technique, one surgical nurse commented benevolently, “Lucky for you, there probably won’t be any malpractice lawsuits in World War III, either.”

Short follow-up: One advantage to these weeks has been vicariously enjoying the lifestyle of the surgical subspecialist. One of them had a gigantic flatscreen TV installed on their office wall so they could keep an eye on their stocks (I tuned it to AMC and enjoyed a larger-than-lifesized John Wayne movie during some down time.) Another had a Swiss espresso machine that dispensed incredibly good beverages that, taken in moderation, made me quite chipper and, taken in excess, gave me a splitting headache. Today I got to ride around in my attending's bright yellow 2007 Porsche 997 Turbo.
I had asked him as he directed me toward the passenger side door, "Uh, do you mind if I drink coffee in your car?" Coffee, after all, was precious. Especially when my day started at 6 am, and I hadn't had time to brew any at home for the ride in my 1993 Pontiac Grand Am Sport Coupe.
"No problem," he replied, "just don't spill any in my car." Well, needless to say, the very first time I tried to raise the cup to my mouth and sneak a sip, he accelerated with surprising force, causing me to spill a bunch of coffee. Fortunately, I was wearing a collared shirt and my white coat, which, as far as I could tell from surreptitious examination, took all the damage. After all, life as a surgical subspecialist is very challenging. The last thing you need is some crazed WWIII veteran messing up your ride.

March 1, 2008

Mickey Who?!

It happened today at the library- Adelaide ran up to a display case, pointed, and said unmistakably, "Mickey Mouse!"

"Mickey Mouse?" Aimee and I chorused in surprise. "Where did you learn that word?" I said with unseemly severity, as if Adelaide had just said "Crap-for-brains" or something. We were shocked and scandalized because we don't own a single thing with Mickey's made-of-money mug on it, nor do we watch his cartoons. An advert for Disneyworld probably plays every once in a while on our television, but that's it.

So where had Adelaide learned to love the Millionaire Mouse? Are kids just genetically programmed to recognize and desire Mickey these days? Something Uncle Walt put in the water? A new mind-control program from Homeland Security? Well, probably not. Probably Adelaide learned about Mickey just like she'll learn about sex and drugs and loyalty and betrayal: at school. More specifically, at the Hugs n' Kisses day care where she now spends 30+ hours per week.

Adelaide has learned to love the day care. It's relatively small (i.e. Fewer than 20 kids. It'd be fewer than 10 if we didn't count the owners' large brood), she really likes the other kids, and the snacks are always tasty.

Sending your kid out into the world and having them come back changed, however small, is a strange experience. I'm usually delighted when she sings a snatch of a song I've never heard of, or tries to tell me a story about her day and what Tavian got up to. It makes me look forward to when she goes to real school and comes home full of new knowledge and lessons and homework we can do together.

But Mickey? Why not Bugs Bunny or Buzz Lightyear or someone with a little more personality?! Alright, there's the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" skit from Fantasia, and "Mickey's Christmas Carol" is alright, but that's really about old man McDuck. Next thing I know she'll come home with a ring in her eyebrow or a sudden belief in astrology.

The display case was some local Vermillionaire's collection of kitsch (Mickey was a transparent Mickey head, perhaps meant to contain gumballs). I pointed to the thing next to the mouse's head, a Milton Bradley Dukes of Hazard board game and said challengingly, "Oh yeah? Do you know who Bo and Luke Duke are, too?" Standards must be maintained.