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Archive for the ‘Tough Stuff’ Category

Match Day

March plays host to many special occasions such as Daylight Savings, Dr. Seuss’ birthday, St. Patrick’s Day and the first day of Spring. For the medical student crowd it brings MATCH DAY. Ahh…Match Day, the day that can bring smiles, laughter, yelps of joy, tears and fear.  Match Day is a long awaited day for every Medical student and their spouse….that is if they have one. It also the day that will set their medical careers in motion.

My memories of Match day are somewhat bittersweet. Our Match Day was held in a huge banquet room with the 100 plus medical students and their guest. We all were seated at round tables. My husband and I were surrounded with some of our dearest friends all awaiting the paths that our lives would be taking for the next few years.  Once they announced we could reveal our envelopes (they were creative and wrote every ones residency placements with invisible ink) you could hear the rustling of every ones paper and the scratching back and forth of the “Magic” markers resulting in a room full of  people hugging and kissing  accompanied with YES, Hey I got MY FIRST CHOICE, as well as a chorus of WAHOOs! Despite all the joy in the room you also could hear, “I didn’t get it” or “What does it say again?” and I am sorry. The latter was unfortunately accompanied with tears and the look of defeat for some.  Seated at our table there was a half and half mix. I looked across the table and saw my best friend and her husband going to their desired location full of joy and exuberance of what was to come and then to the side of them a couple with the wife in tears because she thought that they wouldn’t be moving further than another zip code finding themselves moving three states away.  My husband didn’t get his first choice either and I was borderline devastated.  We were matched to a great program housed in a city of 4 million people of which we knew not soul and not to mention we would be several states and too many miles away from our families. The tears fell and they fell and then they fell some more. It was hard to see my husband not get his heart’s desire and it was hard not to get my heart’s desire too. You see…I had hatched up this wonderful plan that my husband would get his first pick which also happened to be our dear friends first pick and we would live happily ever after in a new city and state with our friends to get us through these crazy 4 years ahead and best of all I would be comfortable.  However the story did not go as I had planned. Actually it ended up quite different. The story went more like we are going to move to a city with a Metro population of about 4 million people and we didn’t know any of them…yep not a soul. Luckily we were going to do a transitional year in our hometown so I had plenty of time to soak up the family and friend love and prepare for my “move of  doom”.

The year flew by and I found myself loading up the UHAUL and making my way to this new city where the streets all have the same name (or so it seems), and have I mentioned we didn’t know a single soul and surprise I was PREGNANT.  I could have allowed this move, pregnancy, and lonliness bring me down and I’ll be honest I had my moments of fear and sadness but overall I decided that I was going to have to take a more proactive role in making this new city my own because residency was going to be demanding and my husband was going to be busy and I knew that I was going to go crazy if I didn’t make friends and make them fast.  Some might say I went a little overboard but I was determined to have a good life in this new city and that involved forming new relationships and friendships.  Here are some things I did to get settled and plugged in:

  • I unpacked and I unpacked quickly. In less than a few days the boxes were gone and our home was functional.
  • I joined the YMCA–we all know that exercise is not only good for the body but also for the mind. This was a great way for me to release stress. Moving is stressful and being in a new city with your husband working crazy hours is REALLY stressful.
  • On-line Mom groups and Meetup.com were a blessing and allowed me to network with other moms in the area. Through these two outlets I joined two playgroups which kept me and my daughter busy with several outings a week. I got to explore my new city and find all the cool places that Moms and kids hang out. Not to mention I met one of my dearest friends through one of these internet meetups. It made me a believer in Cyber dating! 🙂
  • Meet your neighbors. Get out and walk the neigborhood and don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with a stranger. I kiddingly tell people that my daughter is the reason I ever meet anyone because she is constantly introducing me to strangers. Most of the time it is a great converstaion and I always learn something new about this great city I live in.
  • I also joined a church, a bible study and a M.O.P.S group.

All of the things I mentioned were key for me to maintain a sense of self and to keep busy most of all. Our husbands lead busy lives and it is important to hold on to the things that make us who we are while still being of great support to them. I now love my new city, have incredible friends whom I have made great memories with and  I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else (for the time being).

I would love to read your memories of Match Day or the ways you made your transition into residency. I think this could be of great support to the Medical student wives who are about to take their next step into Residency.

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It’s midnight, and poor Dr. Dad still isn’t home.  We were expecting him around 5:30, but that’s how it goes sometimes.  We ate dinner without him.  The kids went to bed without seeing Daddy.  There were several things I’d hoped he could help me with once he got home.  I’m sure he would have liked to have some dinner by now, too.

But it’s not those things that hit me the hardest on a day like today.  He’s late because someone has a sick baby.  They came in for what should have been a “regular” delivery.  But once the baby was born, (s)he ended up not doing so well.  Dr. Dad did what he could to stabilize the baby and then called for transport to a near-by NICU(we don’t have one in our small-town hospital). 

I hate these kinds of days(and nights) because although I know my husband is a very capable pediatrician, there is only so much medicine can do. 

And I hate these kinds of days because this family should be celebrating the birth of a baby, and are instead probably scared about what lies ahead. 

I hate these kinds of days because it reminds me that even when everything looks “normal”, there’s always a chance for a trainwreck.  There’s always the chance that something could go wrong. 

But these kinds of days also remind me that I shouldn’t complain about the minor things that went wrong today; I should celebrate all the things that went right.

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My preschooler has a new obsession with The Wizard of Oz. Saturday mornings are movie time at our house, and our TV-hungry child (I maintain strict television-viewing rules during the week) is always eager to choose a movie to enjoy. For the past few weekends, she’s wanted to watch Dorothy explore the wonderful world of Oz. She’s even decided she wants to be Dorothy for Halloween (she’s recruited her baby sister to be Toto).

I enjoy the classic movie, too, and the other day something struck me. When I heard the faux wizard command, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” I couldn’t help but think of my husband.

Sometimes I want to say just the opposite: Pay attention to the man in the white coat. He’s not a wizard. He’s a human being. He has a family at home, including two, little girls who miss him terribly. He is committed to being a physician, but there’s more to his life than his work.

Oz’s great wizard wants Dorothy and her gang to see him as all-powerful, a superhuman. But I want people to see my husband and all physicians – even when he’s in his scrubs or in a pristine white coat – as a person, not some omnipotent, omniscient god.

I know some doctors might not seem compassionate or caring. I’ve had a few of my own, but I’ve also had great doctors. And I know my husband is one of them.

As a wife of a budding doctor (we have two more years of residency plus a fellowship remaining before he will be out in the real world practicing), one of my greatest challenges is to be understanding when my husband calls while we’re sitting around a set table with the dinner staying warm in the oven waiting for him to come home so we can eat as a family. “Go ahead and eat without me. Something’s come up. I’ll be late.”

I turn to my 3-year-old and relay the disappointing news. Her face drops. She misses her daddy. I miss him, too. But people are depending on him – not only patients but other physicians and health care providers. He’s a real team player, and I’m always so proud when we go to social functions and people come up to me and say that my husband is one of their favorite people to work with, that he’s not only bright but dedicated.

Still, the unpredictability of his schedule (and we’re lucky because radiology happens to be a much more family-friendly specialty than many others) can be tough on a family.

I share this because the next time you or a family member sees a physician (I may be preaching to the choir here, but I think even spouses of doctors need to be reminded of this) remember that he or she is not only serving you or a loved one, but he or she may have a family waiting for their mommy or daddy to return home.

And don’t forget: As much as we’d like them to be, especially when we’re hurting or watching a loved one suffer, doctors aren’t wizards.  My husband tells me over and over that despite all the advancements and cutting edge technologies, medicine is often not an exact science. Just like people in all professions, doctors make mistakes.

I recently saw the following headline for an article: “Should You Trust Your Mammogram? “It went on to say that even good doctors make mistakes, and I thought, “Of course they do,” but when their mistake means they miss cancer, people get angry and want to point their finger at someone. I don’t blame them,  but the truth is mammograms can be very difficult to read, especially if doctors don’t have a baseline image to compare it to. Believe me, they don’t want to miss cancer. They want to save lives first and foremost, and they’d rather not get sued.

But the bottom line is that yes, good, even excellent doctors do make mistakes. And even good doctors may seem distracted at times (maybe their wife just called to say they were having contractions five weeks before their due date; I made such a phone call when I was pregnant with my second child).

As a wife to a doctor, all I ask is that you pay attention to the man or women behind that curtain of medical professionalism. When you strip that doctor of his white coat, scrubs, scalpel, stethoscope, etc., he’s just like the rest of us – human.

 

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I have been reflecting on my  journey with my husband in medical school and residency and thinking of the fears I had in moving to a new place. I must admit that I was very fearful of moving to a new place and the possibility of never making a friend. Those who know me would probably say that these fears are unfounded given my love of people and making new friends. None the less, I was afraid and uncertain.

The move we made for medical school was an hour and half away from our home town and it might as well have been on the other side of the globe. I was panicked at the idea of being away from all that was familiar. In my hometown I was very comfortable within my existing circle of friends. When we moved for medical school I was in a city where I knew my husband and maybe three other people. I was lonely and unsure of my role in my husbands life as a medical student.

The first few months of medical school I made lots of trips up the turnpike to my hometown excusing myself from the loneliness of another Friday night with no friends to hang out with. It became clear that my weekend get-aways were getting me nowhere in the friend department and it was time to step out of my comfort zone and make some friends. My husband and I went to a Med-Student social and I met lots of other spouses that were just like me. Their spouses were cramming for test-blocks and dissecting the human anatomy just like my husband.  I then  discovered the Medical Student Spouse Alliance chapter of my husband’s institution and there was to be a dinner for the spouses at one of the physician’s homes.  It was this rainy evening that I went on to meet more medical wives, one that stands out in particular is my now dear friend Tiffany. We hit it off instantly and laughed our way through the uncomfortable evening. We even got elected to be the President of the Medical Student Spouse Alliance. A job that we weren’t sure we were qualified for but we took the job probably due to the amount of wine we consumed at dinner.  After the dinner was over we stood outside on the wet neighborhood streets and chatted. It was then that Tiffany asked me a question that I have yet to ever forget. “Will you be my friend?” she said. I was dumbfounded as I hadn’t ever been asked that question ever or at least since grade school.  Tiffany went on to explain that this was a question a old friend had asked her and now was a question that she asked of people that she wanted to be-friend. Still dumbfounded, I said, “Yes”. Could a lasting friendship be started on the premise of grade school antics? I wasn’t sure but my heart was happy to have a friend to laugh with and share the ups and downs of medical school.

Medical School proved to be not only a time of growth for my husband but for myself as well. I was growing not only in the aspect of living in a new city, or a new job  but also spiritually. In our second year of medical school, Tiffany invited me to a Bible study with some other medical student spouses. It was here that I grew spiritually in ways that I had never imagined and made friends that have lasted well beyond medical school and still to this day are my closest friends. These women were strong, loving, and encouraging. This was just what I needed to make it through the tough years of medical school and really what prepared my heart for residency.

The first year of residency was easy relatively speaking, we moved an hour and half up the turnpike to our hometown and I was relieved to get a year to spend with my family and old friends considering we were about to move 800 miles from our home state of Oklahoma so my husband could finish his residency in Anesthesia. The year flew by and it was time to move again. This move was not as easy as the previous two moves. I was really leaving a lot behind. Family, Friends, and Security. I could not escape up the turnpike like I had done just 4 years ago. I was more afraid than ever because this time I had a small child and I was pregnant. A mom and an expectant one at that; two factors that called for lots of support. I knew that I would have to take the task of making friends head on!  While in Oklahoma, I had heard a networking sites like “Meet Up” and some other sites that catered to the stay at home mom crowd. Upon arriving to our new city, I quickly got unpacked and plugged in literally. Within the first month, I was going on “blind friend dates” and meeting perfect strangers for play dates. My friends and family back home thought I had lost my mind in this 800 mile move. I knew I had to do something to make friends in this city of 4 million people. This would be my version of Tiffany’s question, Will you be my friend? Sure enough within a few months I had met friends. I had regular play dates for my daughter. I had even met some resident spouses through these random “meet ups”. I found a church and a fabulous small group of people to grow with spiritually.  My life was not what I had feared. I was not alone and I was able to make friends. I had stretched my self beyond my comfort zone once again and it payed off with genuine friendship and companionship in this time of long call nights, even longer post call days, and living on a shoestring.

It is hard to move. It is even harder to step outside of what is comfortable and make yourself vulnerable to the possiblities of new friendships and experiences.  However, you never know what friendships you might miss out on if you don’t take that first step and ask the question, Will you be my friend?

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I.C.U (Not)

As August comes to a conclusion so does the second month of my husband’s ICU rotation and honestly folks, they should change the name of the rotation from I.C.U to I.C.U (not). The months of July and August have been filled with 16 overnight calls, 16 trips to the University Hospital Cafeteria to dine together as a family, and 16 post-call days where I try to keep the girls entertained and quiet in our two bedroom apartment so Gas Man can catch some ZZZ’s.

Needless to say, the call schedule has been brutal on everyone in our family. Gas Man gets at the most two hours of broken sleep while at the hospital, which makes post-call days more like a scene from one of those really bad zombie horror flicks. Most post-call days, I am just as exhausted as my hubby due to my role as single-mama while he’s at the hospital and the fact that I can hardly sleep while he’s gone overnight. This month has been challenging not only for myself but also for my 3 year old who has struggled with her Daddy’s absence and her behavior has been less than desirable at times. How can I blame her for throwing fits and flowing tears? I have felt like doing the same on many occasion these past two months.

Being married to a resident isn’t easy and having kids in residency is at times challenging. It’s hard to explain the demands of a physician to our children and why they live at the hospital most days. In our family, we make the most of our time together tired or not and take lots of trips to the hospital to visit our Dr. Daddy while he is away. I admire my hubby and his efforts to always put his family first. He is a great father to our girls and he always finds a way to muster up that last bit of energy to have a tea party or play princess. I know that residency is a short season in our life but the memory of tired days, family dinners in the hospital cafeteria, and the excitement of Dr. Daddy coming home will be long in our memories.

What have your toughest rotations been? How do you and your family cope with the long days and time apart?

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