Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Something Good from Swine Flu

I happened to enter my hospital through the main entrance for the first time in weeks and walked straight into several signs warning everyone about extra precautions due to swine flu. Signs remarkably like this one.

Reading, don't visit if you have fevers, aches, chills, cough etc. Further, as staff of the hospital we have gotten multiple emails saying that if you have any of the above symptoms, you are to go to employee health and get swabbed to see if you have swine flu before you can work. The staying away from work if you have a cough, cold, chills etc., I get. The idea that we are to get screened and if it isn't swine flu you can work. That I don't get. But alas, baby steps right. baby steps.

I have made it clear that I find all of this swine flu hysteria a litte rediculous, but there may be some good messages coming out of it. I work at a Children's Hospital taking care of critically ill babies. Viruses that cause the common cold in adults and healthy, older children can be deadly to my patients. It seems like almost every year, we have some parent visit their child with a runny nose and wind up spreading their virus to their child and others. These same viruses that can cause severe respiratory issues and can be deadly to former preterm babies, babies with congenital heart disease, etc. and not even to mention all of the patients in this hospital getting chemotherapy. There are a hundred reasons to screen visitors before allowing them to come into the hospital and if swine flu is what has finally gotten this done. I'm OK with that. I just hope that people will continue to be vigilant when this hysteria has passed and realize how much broader the threat is to medically fragile babies and children.

Please think about these things before visiting the medically fragile, whether in the hospital or not. Thanks

Monday, May 18, 2009


I have recently posted several times- things like I'm incarcerated again, have I been bad. I'm incarcerated again, I've worked so many nights I feel like a vampire etc. People who know me now, know that means I am at work, but still they don't get the analogy. Truthfully, the nurses and respiratory therapists I work with don't get it either, as they will often reply "will then I'm incarcerated too." To which, I invariable respond, oh no you're not. You get bathroom breaks, lunch breaks, whatever breaks.. See there is a difference.

When I am at work overnight, there is only one of me, and I am in charge. Yes, I have my team, residents, nurse practitioners (during the day), fellows (sometimes) etc., but only one of me and ultimately everything that happens in my unit on my watch is my responsibility. That is the nature of the job. If I have done the teaching portion of my job well, than my team can handle 90% of what happens and so I hang in my office doing whatever it is that I do. However, we aren't allowed to leave, just in case. Invariably if I have a slow day and spend two hours getting work done in my office and then go to get food,or go to the restroom, or go outside- I'll get paged- invariably. Leading to my comment that we are really denied our civil liberties. There is no freedom for those hours, none.

Don't take this to mean I don't like my job, I do. I know that I am good at what I do. Take my recent 24 hour Saturday call, one of my friends on twitter made fun of me for not working too hard since I was tweeting. My response was "no one wants to know the truth of what I do." I believe that and trust me THAT wasn't a fun day, but I know that I left the babies better off than when I got there even the one who died peacefully in his parents arms. I know this, but still sometimes, it would be nice to be able to have a few moments to relax, at least to not be responsible while in the restroom. I'm just saying. So yes, it does feel like I'm incarcerated, held at the mercy of my little charges illnesses for the sentence imposed on me (tonight, only 14 hours). I hope that I do right by them. That is my overarching wish in my job to do right by the babies.

On Notre Dame and Obama

I started this post as a comment in response to a post that my friend from college wrote after reading the LA Times this morning, but it got long so I decided to put it here. Of course, Kim is much more eloquent than I will ever be, but this is how I see the swirling controversy surrounding our President giving the commencement address at my alma mater.

I consider myself extremely lucky to be a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, a school often labeled as one of the nation's premiere catholic institutions. A label it justly deserves as the very air of Notre Dame is infused with a spirtuality that is palpable. Some of the memories that I hold dear from my college years are the walks around the lakes, the visits to the grotto, dorm masses, walking across the parking lot at sunset hearing the band practice the alma mater, long nights hanging with my friends. The school makes no amends and offers no pretense of being anything other than a catholic institution, but it is also an institution of higher education and a welcoming place. People aren't turned away because they aren't catholic, differences of opinions are inevitably voiced and debated as occurs at any university. Albeit with a larger voice to more traditional. conservative values.

Barack Obama was invited to give the commencement address at this most conservative catholic university and he accepted. A dubious selection by the university, maybe. A PR opportunity for the president, maybe. People have protested this choice because he is pro choice, pro stem cell research. However, as ND's president Rev. Jenkins was quoted as saying "Others might have avoided this venue for that reason (knowing of the inevitable protests), but President Obama is not someone who stops talking with those who differ from him." For if you do not discuss things with those who see things differently than you than how can you ever reach compromise. Obama said in his speach "When we open up our hearts and minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground." He also contended that the two sides of the abortion debate may have "irreconcilable differences", but they can also find a common ground in working to increase accessibility to adoption and in decreasing the rate of unintended pregnancies.

As an institution of higher education if Notre Dame was to shield its students from the political debates of our time because they disagree with the church than in my opinion the university wouldn't be doing its job to educate future members of society. If the clout of the university is such that the President will speak to its graduates as they head off into uncertain times, then I applaud them. Learning to find common ground in life, in jobs, in careers is essential. I am proud that Obama spoke at Notre Dame and that at least the majority of the university community welcomed him.

... just to clarify, no this doesn't mean I agree with all of Obamas politics

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Soak up the Sun

I have recently been in a funk; the reasons are many and varied. Also, it seems like a lot of people around me are in funks too. Now there are lots of really good reasons for such malcontent, but often it seems that they lie in wanting something you don’t have: a career you believe in, enough money, the perfect relationship, health, a child, a healthy child, a change in some circumstance etc, etc. My funk certainly fills some of those bills.

As I’ve said before, Sheryl Crow is one of my favorites. I love her new album. “Soak up the Sun” definately is near the top of my list. I’ve always loved the beat, it makes me run faster, it will keep me on the elliptical. I’ve heard that song enough that I should and do know the lyrics by heart. So, it surprised me the other day, when it came on while I was driving and all of a sudden a single line hit me. “It’s not having what you want, but wanting what you’ve got.” I played it again, and a light bulb burst on over my head. That is the point. This song would be my new mantra. It’s not easy, it is human nature to want to keep up with the Jones’s as it were, but when I really look at things I am inordinately blessed. The funk didn’t get banished immediately, but ultimately it got pushed out of my conscious thought. The motto, not easy, but a work in progress it is. So, I’m off to “Soak up the Sun,” thanks Sheryl.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Good News and Caution

Back in New York, I have now finished my scans, tests and seen my favorite ortho onc, and I'm still healthy. Yep declared to be in excellent shape. No sign of any recurrent or metastatic disease. She was amazed by how much I can do, how strong my ankle. Everyhting is good. We went through the usual discussion of my recent athletic pursuits and she gave me that look. That look I remember from when I asked if I could get out of the wheelchair because I wanted to exercise by using crutches. Well, not quite the same but still I knew the look. She is happy about what I can do, happy about how strong I am, proud that I have focused on getting healthy and strong, but worried about me starting to run long distances. She is OK with the triathlon, but warned against pushing myself to hard. As she says the constant banging on a post radiation heel and ankle can be hard on the ankle. Further, apparently the radiation weakens the bone and makes stress fractures more likely and post radiation stress fractures might never heel. So, Be Careful is what she said. She wants a picture of me crossing the finish line. She was not so subtle about pursuing any longer distance running- that got a serious negative.

Ok, I can deal with all of this. I'll listen to my body. I'll be careful, I promise. I worked too hard to keep my ankle and to get in shape to let anything derail that.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Train of Tranquility

For the past two and a half days I have been at the Pediatric Academic Societies meetings in Baltimore, MD. For two and a half days, I have had to be “on” from pretty much the moment I wake up until I go to bed (which has been well after midnight every night). I discussed a paper I’m working on while on the elliptical, connected with old colleagues in line for coffee, etc., etc. My brief respite was dinner at my Aunt and Uncles on Saturday night, a meal of great hilarity as we participated in what my cousin calls “full contact dining- bring your armor and your wit, or you’ll be either torn apart or left behind” I love my family. Anyway, point being- I’m exhauseted. The kind of exhausted where you are on sensory overload and a little amped on caffeine to get through my 7 am breakfast meeting today. The kind of exhausted where you’ve been rushing from point A to point B for so many days, you forget how to stop.

So, when I arrived at the Amtrak station to get on my train to New York for my biannual check up and saw there was a quiet room, I made a beeline. The trip from Baltimore to NYC aboard the express train took slightly less than three hours. For three hours, I sat in blissful silence broken only by the conductor announcing the next city. I napped, I read, I wrote, I stared out the window. Ah, such bliss before the sensory assault that is New York City.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tales of my Own Stupidity

Before this morning, I had missed two flights in my life.

The first one was totally my fault. I was in Nicaragua and misread the departure time of my connecting flight as the departure from Managua (this after I’d checked my luggage mind you). When I returned to the airport two hours late for my flight, I learned of my mistake. I made it home 24 hours and fair chunk of change later without my bags in the same clothes I’d worn for 48 hours. I ultimately got my bags back a month and a half later. Not one of my best maneuvers ever, clearly.

The second, I was flying to DC for my cousins wedding. I left my house two hours before the flight, but hit traffic, and delays getting the shuttle from the parking lot found me in line to check in and check my bag 42 minutes before the flight. The two people in front of me were on the same flight, they checked in- then the flight attendant lady said- nope you missed the “40 minute window.” But, but… I stammered, no luck. She rerouted me to a later non-direct flight, I made it through security before they even began boarding my original flight. I tried to sweet talk my way onto that flight, but nope. Defeated, I accepted my fate.

Then there is the flight I tried to get on 24 hours early, but THAT story’s already been told.

So, this morning… I found myself once again heading to DC on a direct flight. (I believe this might be the first time since that last ill-fated journey.) I was ready to leave my house two hours before my flight. My car was loaded, I’d eaten first breakfast, left my dog crying on the stairwell when I realized, I’d forgotten my sweater. I ran upstairs to the chair said sweater had rested on yesterday, but my ever efficient cleaning lady had moved it. Oops, I ran around the house for 10 minutes looking for the stupid sweater, never found, pulled down a replacement. OK, 10 minutes late, but I should still be fine. Checked sigalert.com, bad traffic on the freeway I was headed towards, I took a detour- Bad Idea. Worse traffic there. Oh well, I was still OK. More traffic on the freeway, now I’m beginning to panic. Arrive at the parking garage, 45 minutes before my flight, need to wait for shuttle. Woops, I try to get on line on my phone and check in, but nope- you can’t check in from the internet within 1 hour of your flight. This is looking bad. OK, I don’t have to check my luggage, I’m fine, right? Shuttle guy finally pulls up several minutes later. I arrive at the electronic check-in thingy with 29 minutes to go to departure time. No dice, I can’t check- in. URGG.. Long day at the airport ensues. Cancel plans with my family for tonight, flight rescheduled. I prepare to become passive and just go with it, while internally screaming at myself.

Morals to the story-
1- check-in to your flight from home before you leave it so you don’t have to deal with arbitrary time cut offs
2- If you can’t find your sweater, chose a different one immediately, or just buy one at the airport, anything
3- Or better yet, put stupid sweater away where you know where it is before it is mysteriously moved by said cleaning lady.
4- Maybe for a 9am flight from LAX leaving your house at 7am is really just too late. Maybe