Tag Archives: Other Things I’m Learning

You Should Blog.

This is a blog about ‘how not to hit a golf ball… and other things I’m learning.’

People talk about the learning curve that is internship year – the steep exponential curve of the first six months. I remember exhaustion, uncertainties, frustrations and feeling so, so inept. Stupid things I did. The madness of my first weekend shift. Most of all I remember the security of having colleagues I could trust – nurses, clerical and allied health staff, and more experienced doctors – who helped me find my feet and not screw things up too badly.

I was lucky enough to have the first five months in my home hospital. Starting a stressful new career was made so much easier by not just the familiarity of my surroundings, but by having The Girl there by my side every step of the way. Making me coffee every morning, and dinner every night. Amazing, wonderful love and support. None of ‘all this’ could or would have happened without her.

Which brings me to something I’m still learning, which I can’t really wrap up into a neat set of words. It’s something about family. I’m just writing and deleting words from this paragraph, none of which really make sense, so I’ll leave it there and hope that something coherent unfolds at some point in the future of this post or this blog as a whole.

My grandmother died suddenly in February this year, in my father’s arms, a few weeks short of her 90th birthday. I spent some time with her in December, and I’m so glad I did. She had a wicked sense of humour. I wish I’d written more about her.

I was late to the funeral. I expect I will be late to my own.

That’s enough for now.

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It Depends on Your Definition…

In my ongoing quest to bring the world helpful explanations about medical stuff, mostly the meaning of certain medical terms, I’ve been paying extra special attention to the different classifications of the common symptom of ‘Pain’. Here, for your education and my general catharsis, are excerpts from two memorable consultations I have had during my General Practice placement.

Me: Can you describe the pain?
Mrs Payne: Well, it’s a paining pain.
Me: So… is it like an ache, or a burn? Or maybe a stabbing pain?
Mrs Payne: No, it really is just a paining pain… You know, it just pains.

I know, it’s a paining pain.

Me: So, this pain in your legs, can you describe it for me?
Mrs Akers: Oh, it’s not a pain.
Me: Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you said you had a pain in your legs?
Mrs Akers: No, no, it’s not a pain, it’s an ache.

Definitely not a paining pain, then.

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Possibly Neglected to Mention

In no particular order, since June:
Received a one-year rural medicine scholarship.
Did my first Arterial Blood Gas ‘Stab’ – Easy as.
Still suck at plain old cannulation.
Attended an arrest call and kept out of the way.
Told by patient “You look like kd lang… not in a bad way.”
Got my hair cut on the back porch for $10. Trauma-free.
Started Bootcamp and got hooked.
Survived 12 days at home without The Girl and Yellow Dog of Happiness.
Spent a day as interviewer for Med School applicants.
Started interval training for running, again.
Buggered my knees, see above.
Don’t care, not stopping.
Avoided Med Ball.
Ooh, was in Med Revue. Again.
Remain madly in love with Girl.
Flirty guy doctors. Wrong tree.
Random encounters with mothers of two babies I delivered last year.
Delivered one baby.
Attended 21st birthday party (possibly first since own).
Mistaken for Senator Penny Wong. Sense recurring theme.
Stephanie Alexander’s chocolate chip cookie recipe is exceptionally good.
Jointly disposed of 3x large bin bags of oversized clothes.
Mostly just happy.

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Faultlines

For a long time, I wore a jade bangle. It was a part of my arm, part of me. It had threads of deep and lighter green, red-browns, and specks of white. In Chinese culture, jade has a particular energy and significance, and the jade bangle is believed to protect the wearer.

I was walking home from work one day when my bangle broke in two places. I didn’t notice it break because largest part of the curve stayed on my wrist. I wondered what it had protected me from – a breakage is supposed to represent an escape, a dodged bullet. I retraced my steps and found the missing piece.

I liked that bangle, even though I detest the word ‘bangle’. Something in that stone – its colour, its weight, our shared warmth, a vibration – it resonated with me. It fit.

So carefully, I glued it back together. I let it set. It broke again, in different places. This time I let it stay that way, until the night before my med school interview. Glueing it together, I superglued my thumb… but that is another story. I wore it. It broke again.

All the time I was doing this it I knew it was a futile exercise. The circle was broken. The milk had been spilt. The nature of the thing had changed.

Some things mend themselves. Fracture a bone and the faultlines heal stronger than they started. Slice your hand open and bit by bit the fabric of your muscle and skin will knit itself together until you barely see the scar.

But some things are just broken. They start off broken, they break before their time, or they were always meant to break. No matter how neatly you glue the handle on the teacup, if the porcelain is truly crazed with faultlines there is no fixing it.

Sometimes the nature of the thing has changed for the better, sometimes for the worse, or not at all.

Some things can be fixed. But some things, some people, relationships, lives – some are so riddled with faultlines they are broken, just broken, always broken. They can mend, but they have to mend themselves.

And that is nobody’s fault.

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Seek And Ye Shall Find

The search terms which have caused people to find this particular patch of internet are a regular source of amusement to me. Sometimes the search term itself amuses me, and sometimes it amuses me that someone would actually click on the link to this site when it pops up in their results.

So to thank these faithful searchers for the hours of amusement they have provided me, I feel it is incumbent upon me to provide some answers from time to time.

Let’s start with something recent, and I admit, not unreasonable, given that I present myself as providing advice on how not to hit a golf ball.

golf ball not going in the air when hit

Keep hitting it the way you are hitting it. See, I’m qualified to tell you how not to hit it. If you want someone to tell you how to hit it, I’m not the best person to ask. However if I were pressed, I would suggest that you hit it somewhat inferiorly to the current point of impact of club on ball. This should give you some loft.

Loft is such a great word.

in which countries is the term “dad joke” used?

I’m curious as to why you need this information. Is it to be used in planning a travel itinerary? More likely you are employed by a pharmaceutical company and are testing market viability of a new cardiac drug you’re considering naming something like “Dadjokesin”. I will help you regardless: You may add Australia to your list. Of countries, not potential drug names.

cell organelle analogy harry potter

It sounds like something I would know about, but I honestly can’t think of one. If Harry Potter were a Golgi Complex… I think I shall come back to this after exams.

soob medical terminology

This is an important abbreviation, and close to my heart. It is used when writing in patients’ notes to record observations. SOOB stands for “Sitting On Own Bottom”. Sometimes you will also see “SOSEB” which stands for “Sitting On Someone Else’s Bottom”, which is indicative of significant improvement in the patient’s condition.

free air underwear

This is a good idea, but I think I should test the market with t-shirts first.

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Filed under Golf, Med School, Travel, Uncategorized

Feathers

    I

I was maybe eight, looking through the green of the mesh of the patio shadecloth. He had asked me what was heavier, a tonne of feathers or a tonne of bricks. I said they weigh the same, but the bricks would fall faster.

    II

He coughed as he opened his eyes, blurred with sleep and choking on a mouthful of feathers. They stuck white to the sweat of his skin like scales, and lit the room as snow floating on slivers of late morning sun.

    III

I think he said bricks, but he might have said cheese. In a race between bricks and cheese, the cheese would fall faster on account of its smooth surface. The physicists will say the relevance of the aerodynamic differential is dependent on the height from which they fall. Gravity is a constant.

    IV

She is bricks, solid and immovable, secure in her knowledge. He is cheese, he has churned himself hard. He sweats under pressure. I am feathers, I can fly. The form of things, the shape of things, the shape of things to come.

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The Seventh Dwarf

I was sitting in a consultation room having just taken a brief history from a new patient. New to us, anyway. Not new to him – he had been referred to our team with his fourth recurrence of a particularly fickle malignancy. He’d been treated further afield, but this time decided he didn’t want the travel. Cynically, I wondered if his specialists had flicked us a literal hospital pass.

He needs a name. Let’s call him Mr Sherrin.

He was our last patient of the day. I took a good history. Talked with his wife. Had a look at the problem. It was pretty bad. Ugly, obvious, fast-growing, metastases all over the place. Disfiguring.

I handed over to the consultant. He and the registrar came back to the consult room and we all had another look and a feel and the consultant talked about treatment options. Cures are off the table, this is palliation. The treatment might slow things down or make them worse.

Mr Sherrin is not young but he’s not old either. Mrs Sherrin is visibly anxious but Mr Sherrin is quite calm. He wants to give it all he’s got. There is no hesitation as he opts for treatment.

I was watching the consultant, talking, feeling the lumps, asking questions of the Sherrins and the consultant. I wondered, for the umpteenth time, how oncologists deal with the daily load of poor prognoses. Who drinks? Who swims? Who prays? Who kicks the cat? Who washes their hands at the end of the day and leaves all the work in the sink?

Somewhere in amongst all this, Mr Sherrin and I had a long moment of eye contact. We knew what we knew. As that moment passed, I felt a rising tide of grumpiness.

Cue lightbulb.

I’m not welling up and I genuinely, honestly, don’t feel sad. I feel grumpy. Not about anything, or toward anyone.

I’m not angry with death, and I’m not afraid of it or uncomfortable around it. I know, and I feel, that I’m not part of the life and death stories around me any more than a flight attendant is part of a traveler’s holiday.

Something in the way I’m emotionally and intellectually processing what I’ve learned and experienced on this rotation is producing a consistent response, because that grumpiness has been here pretty much every night for a month.

I guess I shall stomp off somewhere soon and get my head read. Come up with a better plan. Life is not a Disney movie, but Grumpy is no way to be.

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