Tuesday, October 16, 2012

All in a Day's Work

Today could have been ruined by a failed Synvisc injection beneath , putting my scrubs in the hamper with my watch in the pocket (don't worry, I was that med student digging through the laundry), or by my lack of attention and poor sterile technique. I could hear Dr. Steiner, my microbiology prof from Hillsdale, giving it to me from a distance, and Dr. Moody audibly telling me it was a good thing I had a scrub clinic to go to that afternoon.

But it was made up by the 40 minutes I spent with the patient (the failed Synvisc patient) telling me about the Latino dancing that happens every Friday night in Bay City--I can't wait to try it--and discussing how the simple phrase "get busy living, or get busy dying" applies in almost every situation. He was just kind of awesome.

Today could have been ruined by a 12+ hour day, with no lunch or dinner break. I did manage some small snacks...

But it was made up by the simple act of bringing a woman I saw in the nursing home a cup of coffee. And then watching her talk motivationally to her arm that had become immobile due to stroke. And then by being asked to join her in eating cookies and drinking coffee. Needless to say, I practically inhaled the cookie.

Today could have been ruined by seeing a 51 year old woman I had the privilege of seeing with dermatomyositis. This devastating disease has caused Raynaud's in her fingers, a severe rash, muscle pain and weakness, pulmonary fibrosis--her lungs sounded like the separation of velcro and her fingers were showing characteristic clubbing due to low oxygen--Sjogren's syndrome with subsequent severe dry mouth and eyes, scleroderma that was making if difficult to open her mouth and her skin dry and taught...oh yeah, and she has trouble swallowing.

But it was made up by her good sense of humor. Her amazingly calm spirit. Her willingness to let me examine all of her unique qualities. Her telling the doctor to stop being so serious about her and encouraging him to laugh despite everything going on. She doesn't have a good prognosis, in fact it's terrible. But, she doesn't let on to it. My goal? Be her.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Brought to you by Prius

This was a fabulous weekend. And I got to drive a fun little red Prius from fun thing to fun thing. My poor Focus is still in the shop...And when all is said and down, I'll be about $900 dollars in the hole. I highly recommend hiding your phone when driving to avoid the temptation of distraction. It can be expensive.

I made the trip to East Lansing where I met up with an old friend, my high school Young Life leader, Betsy. She and her boyfriend are both med students and we all share a very similar vision for where God is leading us in our future as docs. I can't really explain how much I loved talking with them. Betsy and I haven't been in touch for about 6 or 7 years, but you wouldn't have known. It was one of those moments where the interconnectedness of life makes me really, really happy. I was able to share about CCHF and CCDA, plus, I'll get to see them again in Louisville for round 3 of the Global Missions Health Conference. It was fun to say, "See you next month," as we said goodbye.

I was able to spend time with Heather that night, she's an amazing hostess...and then made my way down to Royal Oak to visit my dear Lindsey, newly engaged, and as always, so much fun to laugh and talk with. Then, I spent the evening with Alex and Bre in Northville where we went to church, made a delicious meal,  and ran the next morning. An amazing run, it hardly felt long or hard. Those are the best. Oh, and I was introduced to the wonderful thing that is Trader Joe's. Big fan.

Knowing the transiency of my time here makes me less motivated to stick around on the weekends. Especially when good times with awesome people happen outside of the 48708 zip code.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Patriotic Pacifism

Two entries in one week. And the week isn't even over yet. It just so happens I have to do journal club tomorrow...I do so many more things--like read books, blog, play instruments, and call friends--when the alternative is studying. Otherwise, I watch Dr. Quinn episodes. Or go to bed at 9. Plus, I'm reading this really good book.

When reading, I rarely remember more than one or two main points. I recently found one in the book, Reborn on the Fourth of July, that I feel compelled to document and share.

Logan Mehl-Laituri writes: ...I started getting approached by a number of other festival goers about my decision to file as a noncombatant instead of requesting discharge. But the most impressing conversation I had rarely touched on my decision. One woman didn't ask questions or poke around my beliefs. Instead, she shared urgently about someone she cared for, a Marine torn between the cross and the sword. She broke down and told me how much the church needs the message of patriotic pacifism, how much we need to articulate an alternative to the stark binarism between faith and service.

When young people get ready to face the world as emerging adults, they want to do good; they want to serve a greater purpose. The military provides a means of fulfilling those needs: by joining the military, they are "being all they can be" and become one of "the few, the proud." If they want to fight the good fight and do so in a morally captivating way, the military provides the structure through which they can sacrifice themselves, risking themselves out of loyalty to their fellow service members.

The church doesn't do this so well. When I was in youth group, I rarely if ever thought about whether or not I would die for the person sitting next to me. But in the Army, there was no question. Even in training, there was a good chance I could get hurt; if my battle buddy failed to pass his static line off properly as we jumped from an aircraft, I would suffer the consequences. On the range, we risked injury if someone failed to eject his or her excess rounds properly. The threat and the promise of service were very real, and you witnessed it every day. But in churches, it's not always clear where loyalties lie, whether someone is willing to die for (or with) you.

The woman recognized the magnetism military service has for people who want to be able to know, without much doubt, that they are doing something that works toward a better world. She knew the church had not properly prepared her loved one to express his desire to live sacrificially, that the narrative of the state had a monopoly on the language of virtue. 

Today I had some extra time with a patient who was proudly displaying his Vietnam Veteran hat adorned with an Air Force pin. So we got to talking. He'd served as combat air support from '67-'68 and served an additional three years afterwards. I mentioned this book to him and said that I've found the descriptions of war from an emotional standpoint intriguing. Particularly, Logan Mehl-Leituri's expression of PTSD. The gentleman then responded by stating that his experience with PTSD has intensified in the last 5 years..."and my experience was decades ago. "I never want to go back to Vietnam" he muttered, shaking his head. He described a few of the details before the doctor came back in and then near the end of the visit our conversation returned to politics and then foreign policy (doesn't foreign policy sound nicer than war?). I made a comment about morality in war, and he responded with, "In war, there is no morality." He was emphatic and looked me straight in the eyes. I felt ill-equipped to talk about war with someone who had experienced it so intimately. "Sometimes," he said, "you have to do what is right." I wanted to ask how you could do what was right while removing the concept of morality. Instead I mentioned that if the issues were black and white we wouldn't be having this conversation and left it at that. 

It reminds of me this prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Gray

So much has happened since the last time I wrote. If only I'd taken the time to write every time I thought, I don't want to forget this. But alas, life is too short to dwell on the should haves and what ifs.

I attended the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) conference in Minneapolis, MN last weekend. Minneapolis is a cool city. The conference was wonderful. I ran into my friends from Benton Harbor, caught up with Natalie over a coffee, stayed in a hostel, packed only one small backpack for the entire trip, discovered the food truck craze, spent time traveling and discussing how transforming the message of the Gospel is with Nancy, worshiped in different languages, heard stories about Native Americans, Palestinians and Israelis, and kids in prison that made me anxious for the coming of God's Kingdom, experienced Chicago at 2AM...it was wonderful. It made me want to be a pediatrician again...can you imagine doing house calls as a pediatrician? Kinda cool, right? We'll see...

While there, I also picked up a book Reborn on the Fourth of July by Logan Mehl-Laituri. It talks about the challenge of faith, patriotism, and conscience. After joining the military as a future Air Force doc in 2010, I've been challenged by friends, books, like Irresistible Revolution, and stories told by those involved in war to consider the role of Christians in times of war. More importantly, I've been challenged to examine whether my true loyalty stands with God or America by virtue of my actions, not just my words. So far this book has exceeded my expectations and I highly recommend it to anyone, whether in the military or not.

I like answers. Answers that are clear cut and straight forward. The conference gave me a lot to think about. Another thing I've been thinking a lot about is how medicine is best practiced. Every doctor has a different way of doing the same thing. But more and more I am learning that life is gray, not black and white. Be it in the question of peace and war or the practice of medicine. This verse in John 16:33 has been my go to lately. Christ tells his disciples, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Three other quick noteworthy events:

1. I rear-ended a Yukon in my little Focus. In case you were wondering it happened on a Monday. It was a sad day.

2. The other pictures are from a spontaneous Sunday drive I took to Port Austin, MI. I went hiking at the state park, met an awesome older couple from Austrailia who were so excited I was studying osteopathy--we talked about the documentary Forks Over Knives and agreed that what people need is more nature in their lives.

3. While on my road trip I drove accidentally (well, sort of accidentally, sort of on purpose) onto private property where I met a family that was nice enough to let me hike back onto their property to get an up close view of  this beautiful, miraculous piece of nature. How trees grow on that rock is beyond me.