Hello, exquisite blog-readers. :)
My third week at UW SMDEP has come to a delightful close—meaning I’m halfway through the program already. Ummm, how is that even possible?? Prepare yourselves for a longer read, because week three was one for the books!
Last Saturday night (well, technically early Sunday morning), a large group of us decided to crash one of Seattle’s premiere 18-and-over gay clubs. Ok, I have no idea if it’s premiere, but it sure was fun. It’s called Neighbours (yeah, written in a fancy British fashion), and 18-and-overs aren’t allowed in until the bar closes… At 2 AM. But hey, you’re only a crazy, young, resilient fool for a few years of your life, right? So, at 1 AM, a group of us met up in our dorm lobby, walked to the bus stop, and hopped onto one of the creepiest busses I’ve ever had the displeasure of riding. I swear, this bus driver could have been Vincent Price’s doppelgänger. As we disembarked our chariot, he eerily growled that “this [would be] the last bus until the morning sun.” Nonetheless, when 2 AM rolled around, we made our royal appearance. I can’t say I’m an experienced club girl, but I know one thing, gay clubs are the bee’s knees. Ladies, if you ever just want to dance with your girls, and not be “backed-up-on” by an irritating, drunk twenty-something dude, GO TO A GAY CLUB. More than half of the people at these places aren’t even that sexually attracted to you. They truly just want to boogie with you and tip the go-go dancer. However, the club did close at 4 AM, which meant it was time to wipe off our sweaty brows, and make a 4:30 AM breakfast trip to the closest trashy IHOP. After feasting upon sub-par omelets and pancakes, we mustered up the energy to drag ourselves back to the dorm—consequently crashing into our even more sub-par dorm beds. But, as I glanced at the time on my phone through exhausted eyes (7:45 AM), my twin bed felt like it was fit for a queen.
This school week was unique, because it was the first week that we had a final—microbiology to be specific. The beginning of the week consisted of grunty gym trips, relieving FaceTime calls with my parents, and late-night study sessions with my best friends, Ben & Jerry. Our microbiology exam was on Wednesday, and I’m sure it went well for most. Later in the week, some of us had the pleasure of partaking in a dental simulation, which was SO COOL! Although I don’t plan to be a dentist, I truly valued the experience of creating plaster casts of teeth, and attempting to recreate chipped teeth with wax and dental tools.
Thursdays are by far my absolute favorite, because Winnie Kiongo and I get to shadow the most remarkable man alive—Dr. Sanjiv Parikh. He is an Interventional Radiologist at Swedish Medical Center in Issaquah, and he is nothing less than inspiring. Never have I met someone who can work so incredibly hard, yet still manage to laugh and joke around with two 19-year-old girls. Every morning that we get to see him, we usually start off with a cup of coffee and an overview of his patients for the day. On this particular day, we got to see him place a port for chemotherapy in a 40-year-old woman’s right subclavian vein (below right collarbone). He somberly explained to us that this woman had stage four lung cancer, and had very little time left. She gave us permission to listen to her lungs, and as Dr. Parikh moved the stethoscope over her chest, he let us hear what proper breaths sound like, and what improper breaths sound like. The entire upper lobe of her left lung didn’t even budge. It was essentially petrified with tumors. At that moment, I wanted to cry. It brought back memories of a 7-year-old Abbie, who always had to cautiously hug her breast-cancer-ridden mother. Subsequently, my mom had the exact same chemotherapy port. But I do digress, watching him place the port was incredible. He obviously couldn’t see this woman’s subclavian vein with his naked eye, so he did it entirely with ultrasound. He never ceases to impress me with his talents. This man does more procedures with the help of machinery than any other doctor. It’s like he’s a cyborg—a really badass Indian cyborg.
Here’s an example of a right subclavian port placement.
Nonetheless, my favorite experiences with him have been those where I can see the dynamic between him and his patients. For example, a 70-something terminal ovarian cancer patient comes in every week to have fluid removed from her peritoneum (abdomen). When we walked into the room, her eyes lit up as she saw his warm smile. She glanced at me and Winnie, and almost teared up. She was truly proud of us, and of our lofty goals. She told us that courage is the reason that her terminal diagnosis of three months, became more than two years. She said that our courage would take us to the moon. As we left the exam room, she handed Dr. Parikh a box of chocolates for him and his wife. He said that she brought him gifts every week. While we walked down the hallway, he kept repeating, “such a lovely patient,” over and over. He sat us down and reminded us that sometimes certain patients will touch us more than the rest—but we can’t lose sight of reality. He explained that if we get too emotionally involved with a patient’s care, it could actually end up hurting him or her. He told us to look at every situation “compassionately, but objectively.”
However, my day with Dr. Parikh was cut short, due to the fact that I (and other SMDEPers) were scheduled to volunteer at a migrant farm camp. We essentially helped set up a health fair for the workers, and a few providers volunteered their time to give health exams. Although we couldn’t give examinations, we did set up a craft tent to distract the workers’ kids. It was a lovely experience—staring into their big, inquisitive eyes, and listening to their hopes and dreams. Plus, they were really cool kids!
Yesterday was the day I had been waiting for since day one… Yesterday was the day we got to climb the foothills of Mt. Rainier! As a big fan of fitness and the outdoors, I could hardly contain my excitement. I would actually be hiking on part of the largest mountain in the lower 48 states. The car ride from Seattle takes about three hours, and we ended up taking twelve vans to the mountain! The hike was beyond breathtaking. It was about 2.5 miles to the outlook, and about 2.5 miles back. We marched on dirt, mud, grass, wildflowers, and multiple patches of snow! Yes, snow. I still don’t even know how it’s possible. The temperature outside was in the mid-eighties. But, it did make for some nice summer snowball fights. The hike itself looked like a scene from The Sound of Music. In fact, I couldn’t help belting out, “THE HILLLSSS ARE ALIIIIIVE, WITH THE SOUND OF MUUUUSIC,” while we huffed and puffed our way to the top. I felt like I was frolicking throughout the Swiss Alps with the von Trapp family or something. 2.5 miles later, and we finally reached our destination. From our perch, we could see for miles. Not only could we clearly see the peak of Mt. Rainier, but we could also see Mt. Adams standing statuesquely from the distance. That view will be something that I’ll never forget.
How many program directors will let you give them a kiss?? Only the cool ones. ;)
Aaaaand to top of the day, my parents were in town! They’re in Seattle, seeing an old friend who’s visiting from Hawaii. I used this as the perfect excuse to spend time with them. In fact, they let me stay with them last night. That’s right. I got to say goodbye to my twin bed for an evening, and they whisked me away to their hotel so I could sleep in my very own queen bed! It’s hilarious—the little things one misses while staying in a dorm (i.e. air conditioning, a tall shower head, a refrigerator hahaha). In fact, I’m spending the day with them right now. I’m sitting in front of the Apple Store with them, stealing wifi, and forgetting how much I appreciate them.
My parents. :)
Some kooky Hawaiians.
Three weeks remain.