“Hi. My name is Sandra and I don’t update my blog”

Thanks Amin, for pointing out the obvious 😛

Hello again readers! It’s been so long, I think my DHAL (Daily highlights and lowlights) series is officially a flop! However, I will still continue to write DHAL posts when the opportunity arises.

I do have quite a few things to share on this blog since my last post including: my geriatric medicine elective experience in Nanaimo, my surprise week in Ottawa, and starting my cardiology elective in Halifax. Please stay tuned! 🙂

DHAL: July 29, 2014 – Best news ever!

(Note: Sorry, this is going to be a long post because I want to document this part of our journey)

As some family and friends may know, the last few weeks have been incredible stressful for Michael and I as we held our breath and waited for potential job offers for next year.

Since some of you may be unfamiliar with how the Australian system works, let me try to summarize it:

In Australia, the medical degree is called an MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery), not an MD like North America. They are, however, equivalent. Both countries have a 4 year program with the first 2 years being course based and the last 2 years being clinically based in hospitals.

Once you graduate, however, it’s quite different.

In North America, you apply to the residency program (specialty training) of your choice in your last year of school, in order to start shortly after graduation. These training programs range from 2 years (Family Practice) to 4-6 years for other specialties. Once you are done your residency, you might chose to do a fellowship(s) to become even more specialized.

In Australia, once you graduate, you must complete an internship year before you receive your full registration. This year consists of 5 rotations: general medicine, surgery, emergency medicine and 2 electives. Following intern year, many doctors do a Junior House Officer (JHO) followed by a Senior House Officer (SHO) year in order to gain experience and get to know seniors in their field of interest before applying to a Registrar Training Program (equivalent to the North American Residency program). The length of the Australian training programs are about 2 years longer, with General Practice being 4 years. Overall, the training takes a few years longer in Australia vs North America.

Now that you know more, here is our story. Both Michael and I want to stay in Australia after graduation and complete at least our internship year. For that reason, we have not completed all the required exams in order to apply for residency back in Canada this year. Depending on how internship goes, we would be more than happy to stay in Australia to complete our training. The problem was, however, where we stood when it came to applying for an internship position.

The state of Queensland has 6 priority groups (you can see them HERE), and jobs are allocated in order of your priority. According to the list, as Canadians studying in QLD, we are Priority 4 (P4). Unfortunately, there are not enough jobs for the number of applicants. Not only did both Michael and I want jobs, we wanted jobs in the same city in order to be together… what were the odds?

In order to apply, you had to preference 16 hospitals in Queensland from 1 to 16, #1 being the hospital you want a job offer from the most. Therefore, jobs are allocated first in order of priority, and second in order of preference. All Priority Groups submit their preferences by the same date. However, P1s get allocated their positions first. Once they have accepted or denied their offers, the remaining spots are finalized and published. At this time, P2-6s have the opportunity to submit a new list of preferences if they wish.

For example, if a P4 listed Hospital A as their first preference, but after P1s have been allocated their jobs, there are no spots left at Hospital A. He or she may choose to submit a new preference list topped with other hospitals that still have spots.

After a lot of thought and talking to our senior colleagues and friends, both Michael and I decided to chose Rockhampton Base Hospital as our first preference. We had read and heard first hand from many people that Rockhampton had many new and continuously expanding facilities, numerous educational opportunities, consistent workplace support, great teaching from senior physicians, and attractive intern to consultant ratios.

This was this year’s Position Status Report after P1s had accepted their offers and P2-P6 had submitted their second preference list. Note the number of intern spots remaining vs the number of P2-P6 who applied.

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There were 20 spots total available at Rockhampton. Luckily, it turned out not to be a popular hospital with the Australian students, with only 3 people who preferenced it high enough to get a spot. That left 17 spots leftover for the 63 (P2-P6) applicants who had listed Rockhampton first, slightly less than a 1 in 3 chance.

We had been told that unlike P1s, job offers for P2-P6s were not random. We would be specifically selected based on the (unknown) criteria/interest of each respective hospital.

What could we possibly do to increase our chances of getting an offer from Rockhampton? There were lots of rumours, but here’s what we decided to do:

  • We listed Rockhampton as our first choice during the first round of preferencing and didn’t change it. This showed that we were initially dedicated to them, and didn’t chose them first in the 2nd round simply because they had spots left over.
  • We made contact after submitting our application. If we hadn’t been in Canada, we probably would’ve flown up to Rockhampton to meet the recruitment team in person. Since we couldn’t, we emailed them instead – as a couple, which was different. We also didn’t just email them to express our interest. We spent a lot of time and thought putting together a package for their perusal. This PDF package consisted of:
    • A letter of interest. We expressed the reasons why we wanted to be together and work in Rockhampton, and that we would be fully committed if lucky enough to be offered a position. Canadians have been notorious in the past for accepting internship positions (that start in January), then abandoning their jobs in July when they receive acceptances into residency programs back in Canada. We knew it was a black mark against Canadians and wanted to make it clear that we had no plans of ditching our contracts and responsibilities.
    • Photos of us. If we couldn’t meet them, at least we could help them put faces to our names. We also didn’t send traditional headshots, we sent in photos of us as a couple, another difference.
    • Our CVs. We both had our own weaknesses when it came to our CVs, but it gave them a picture of who we were and what we’ve accomplished.
    • Our transcripts. Neither of us had the best transcript in the class, but we worked hard for what’s on it.
    • And lastly, our personal statements. In our application, we had to submit 2 statements: Tell us briefly why you would like to undertake your internship in Queensland or at a specific facility(s) and What are the critical career related experiences you want to pursue in your intern year? We put them in the package so they could view everything together at once, rather than having to look at our application, as well as this document.

These were the photos we sent in:

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  • We received a response thanking us for confirming our interest and were encouraged to ask any questions. We replied to voice our concern of missing a possible important phone call from them because we were overseas. We reiterated that we were very interested and asked if there was anything we could do on our end to ensure we wouldn’t miss out.
  • There was! We were told that the initial phone call is often made to clarify a few things. The problem with Canadians abandoning their jobs was mentioned and we were given the opportunity to answer the questions we would’ve been asked during this phone call via email, in advance. The questions were:
    • Are you still on track to graduate December 2014?
    • Have you completed the necessary requirements to be considered for an internship position in Canada?
    • Your intentions to commit to Rockhampton Hospital for the full year (at least) if offered a position?
  • We were polite and enthusiastic in all our correspondence, and replied to each email in a very timely manner. The officer asked for our replies to the above questions at our earliest convenience/ASAP and we replied within hours – despite time differences.

Soon Monday, July 28th came around, and I heard from my friend Amanda (who had also applied to Rockhampton) that they were starting to make phone calls. Not with job offers though, they were just asking for answers to the questions mentioned above. Michael and I didn’t receive a phone call that day, presumably because we had already given our answers via email, but we were still nervous.

Then came afternoon/evening of our July 29th, business hours of Wednesday July 29th in Brisbane. This was the day that Rockhampton offers were scheduled to come out. We waited with bated breath. Nearly 7pm my time (11pm Michael’s time) Amanda messaged me to say Rockhampton was starting their phone calls because she just received a phone call from them with a job offer. Congratulations to her, how freakin’ exciting!

But then my heart started pounding. I was FaceTiming with Michael and we were incredibly nervous and stressed. Would we get a phone call? Would it be just one of us? Would luck be on our side and we both get job offers? It was really agonizing.

Nearly an hour later, Michael couldn’t stay awake any longer and he had an early day ahead of him. We said our good byes and he went to bed with his cell phone beside him and volume on maximum in case he gets the phone call.

I was beginning to stress. There are only 17 positions to give away. Surely the phone calls do not take very long. It had been over an hour since Amanda got her offer, did we miss out?

I decided to log onto Skype and try calling my cell phone, just to make sure calls were going through. Yep, it was ringing (as 0000123456) through fine, I quickly hung up.

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Now I kid you not, literally 2 minutes later, my phone rings, from an Unknown caller. I picked up, “Hello, Sandra speaking.”

I don’t even know how to describe exactly how I felt in those next few minutes. Relief and happiness flooded through me as the officer told me she had great news and wanted to offer me an internship position at Rockhampton Hospital for 2015. I really almost cried. I immediately thanked her and told her how incredibly happy I would be to accept her offer. She explained to me that the official offer will be arriving by email in the next few hours and to make sure I respond to it by the deadline.

Before I could ask her if Michael had received an offer too, she said, “Now, I’m about to call Michael next. I have no idea what time it is for you guys over there right now.” I laughed and told her it was after midnight for Michael and he had just gone to bed but don’t worry, his cell phone was right beside him. She was so lovely, she even asked if it would be okay to call to call him at this hour. I said most definitely and that he would be thrilled to hear from her. I thanked her again and we hung up.

Less than 5 minutes later, my FaceTime rang and I knew exactly who it was. I answered to Michael’s beaming face (the officer had told him I received an offer too), we couldn’t believe it! We had beaten the odds, both of us had been offered a position at Rockhampton Base Hospital – our first preference. We were now a statistic – 2 out of the 17 available positions!

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We were so ecstatic and relieved. We both had a job, and therefore a career and our feet in the door towards our future! Michael said, “Now that we have jobs, we can finally start planning our wedding!” And how true!

The excitement kept Michael awake for a couple of hours talking to me before he could go back to sleep. The sleep deprivation no longer mattered once we found out we had jobs for next year! 😛

And that, is the story of the best news I’ve received since the start of my medical degree. Best belated birthday present too 🙂 I have since emailed my referees to let them know the good news and thank them again for playing a part in my future – they were super pleased for us as well.

By now, we have also heard from a number of our Canadian friends who didn’t receive a job offer in Queensland 😦 Emphasized for us again how lucky we are and fingers crossed for them that they will soon receive an offer from out of state or from the private sector (Commonwealth Medical Internships – CMI).

If you’re still here reading, then thank you for your interest and sharing this happy moment with me!

DHAL: July 28, 2014 – My 27th birthday!

Thanks to my lovely sister for spending the past weekend and indulging with me! Unfortunately, it was back to the real world for me and back to Vancouver for her this morning!

On the other hand, happy 27th birthday to me! Gosh, makes me feel old! I spent my birthday in the hospital, working hard and coming home late, just like any other day because no one knew it was my birthday and I felt it unnecessary to share. Despite being alone, I received so much love from family and friends in the form of text messages, phone calls and Facebook messages – many thanks everyone!

Facebook message and photo from my sister

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Received these 2 Pandora beads from my sister. The left one is the Birthday Bloom charm for my birth month. The left is an engagement present and called Forever Entwined. I love them, thanks Jenni!

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Cards from Mike’s parents and my sister (telling me to cheer up)!

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Facebook message and photo from Mike

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Received part 1 of my birthday gift at the airport from Michael. I’ve been wanting a fitbit for a while – it’s a bracelet you wear that helps you track your activity as well as sleep, thanks love! I haven’t started using it yet because I have no one around to discuss it with at the moment. I’m also excited for part 2 of my gift – soon reunited!

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Facebook message and photo from my mum!

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Before I left Ottawa at the beginning of this year, my mum had already given me my birthday gift in advance – this gold heart Pandora charm. Perhaps she forgot about it and that’s why she has another present for me? 😛

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I even came home to a chocolate bar and well wishes from my housemate Lyndsay, thank you! 🙂

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My first birthday spent truly by myself away from family and friends, but I felt the love!

DHAL: July 27, 2014

Had a late start today!

Wasn’t until midday that my sister and I headed out. Today’s plan: Visit Newcastle Island. How? A 10 minute ferry ride that costs only $9 return.

Some sights along our walk to the ferry dock

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Revealed itself during the low tide

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Liked the reflection in the water

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Beautiful day with lots of boats in the water

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Didn’t take long until we got to Newcastle Island!

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A really beautiful island with lots of nice walking trails (approx 8km around the perimeter of the island), areas for picnics and places to swim. Click HERE for more information about the island.

Some photos during our hike!

One of the views off the island

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Christmas colours!

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Jenni’s not so much a big fan of hiking, so got bored a little too quickly

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Hello!

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Crystal tree droppings

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Lots of easy to walk trails

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More water and boats!

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Took a rest by the beach, and a selfie!

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Lots of pretty views

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And lots of people watching 🙂

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You could easily spend the whole day on Newcastle Island, but we had important things to do. Mainly: Buy Nanaimo bars and yummy pastries to eat before the shops closed.

After a few hours, we said farewell and hopped on the ferry back.

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Looking back towards Nanaimo

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From there, we proceeded to Mon Petit Choux Cafe & Bakery to pick up a few goodies for later this evening.

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We then headed back down to the water to enjoy a delicious late lunch/early dinner at Troller’s Fish & Chips. I got halibut and my sister got salmon, it came with fries, coleslaw & tartare sauce. The fish was delightful, such light and crispy batter, went great with the tartare sauce. The fries were good as well, but the coleslaw was so warm! We couldn’t tell if it was because of the temperature, but the coleslaw seemed to have iceberg lettuce in it as well, definitely not as good as it could’ve been.

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We called it an early day after eating and decided to head back to my place. Instead, we decided to watch some of our classic favourite movies: Freaky Friday and White Chicks. Don’t laugh, it was good fun! 😛

Selfie on the way home!

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For dinner (and an early birthday celebration), we had delicious pastries from Mon Petit Choux. Top left is a Marjolaine, originally invented by French chef Fernand Point – combining almond & hazelnut meringue layers with chocolate buttercream. Bottom is an Earl Grey Chocolate Mousse, which lost a bit of its shape in the heat during the walk home but retained all of its deliciousness. And lastly, a berry custard danish – yum! To top all of that off, we also nibbled on a Nanaimo Bar – so rich we couldn’t finish a slice together but certainly yummy!

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A fun weekend hanging out with my sister, a little sad that she will be leaving me tomorrow! 😦

DHAL: July 26, 2014 – My sister visits!

For those who don’t know, my sister is doing a Masters degree in Occupational Therapy at UBC in Vancouver. Friday marked the successful end to her first year and before flying back to Ottawa for the summer, she came to visit me for the weekend.

She arrived by ferry early Saturday afternoon, there she is!

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We ended up walking back to the house from the ferry terminal, which isn’t too bad – about 25 minute leisurely walk with uphill segments.

We spent a few hours catching up, snacking and FaceTiming my mom, brother, and Benny. We even got a complete family photo for the first time in a while 😛

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She brought over some goodies for me, including these (now expired) orange KitKats she had saved, as well as some yummy chocolate from Hawaii, a gift from a friend.

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We didn’t head out until late afternoon. Decided that we would walk along the water and head into downtown. Apparently this weekend was the International World Championship Bathtub Race, part of the 3 day Nanaimo Marine Festival. I never knew such a thing existed and we weren’t sure of the schedule but would be walking by the harbour anyway.

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So the great thing about BC, there are wild blackberries growing everywhere. I can be going any where and always find blackberries to munch on. Mmm

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Some beautiful flowers we passed during our walk

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Looked like a giraffe to us before I zoomed in for the photo 😛

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Here is the iconic statue of former mayor Frank Ney (may be hard to see) beside the bathtub. Known for his role in initiating the bathtub races across the Georgia Strait from Nanaimo to Vancouver.

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There wasn’t much activity going on along the water so we decided to head up to Commercial St, where the Bathtub Days street fair was set up. We had already missed the parade but there was still live entertainment and lots of neat vendors.

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We saw Flaming Donkey and couldn’t resist. Even though we could read, my sister went up to the guy and blurted, “What’s a flaming donkey?!”

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Healthy salsa with no additives, no preservatives and no salt. Not only is the price comparable or cheaper than the local supermarket, but apparently lasts longer in the fridge as well. We like supporting local businesses and bought a salsa + chip back after a taste test of the mild option ($7.50 I think). He had already run out of the spicy salsa.

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To be honest, we didn’t think find the salsa nearly as good as the one our mom makes – mainly due to the lack of salt (which doesn’t require a lot but that’s their motto), but also lack of spices as well as pineapple. We are pretty spoiled when it comes to good food, so this is a really good business venture, but the taste didn’t wow us.

Towards late evening, we decided to have dinner at Sukkho Thai, also on Commercial St. We had delicious Thai food, which I will write about in a separate blog post next. We had some fish cakes to start,  pad thai for my sister and sticky rice with BBQ’d chicken and papaya salad for me. Yummy!

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After dinner we noticed a lot of people heading down to the water, most likely to find a spot to enjoy the festival fireworks later that night. We decided to skip out on the fireworks and head home to relax. Even introduced my sister to some Hamish and Andy’s hilarious Gap Year in South America before calling it a night.

DHAL: July 19-25, 2014 – Week 1 in Nanaimo

July 19. After saying farewell to my sister in downtown Vancouver, I hopped on the bus to head to Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal. The bus ride took less than an hour and a one way ferry ticket to Nanaimo cost $16.25.

Beautiful views from the ferry terminal!

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I was on the Coastal Renaissance… never have I been on such a humongous ferry! I admit, I did get lost but I was impressed. Ended up making it to the top deck and… fell asleep for most of the ride over to Nanaimo 😛 I was exhausted with only 3 hours of sleep, I tried!

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Once we arrived in Nanaimo and with my luggage, I decided to grab a taxi instead of the bus. I don’t think I mentioned this in a previous post, but the hospital I’m doing my elective at has a 3 bedroom house that they rent out to medical elective students for FREE. I felt quite lucky to be able to save some money! I was dropped off at the hospital to pick up my house keys and then walked approximately 700m to my accommodation.

The house is spacious, with everything provided, including linen and household products. Even has a desktop computer and printer for tenants to use.

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There is a housekeeper who comes by every Tuesday to clean the house as well.

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I had a moderate sized room with a desk and closet, didn’t take long to settle in! There’s also a lock on every bedroom door, allowing more security when you’re in and out of the house.

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Pretty great internet provided!

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I ordered some groceries online the day I arrived and was too lazy to go exploring so I even ordered some Chinese take out for dinner. Lowlight: It was THE WORST food I’ve ever eaten, I don’t even want to explain it. Those in Nanaimo, never order from Sun’s Noodle Bar. Needless to say, not much got eaten and a lot was thrown out.

I spent Sunday at home, reading and relaxing. There wasn’t much to do around my neighbourhood and I didn’t care to go into the city. Sunday night my housemate came home, a really sweet medical student from Ireland doing an elective in Paediatrics.

Otherwise, I was just nervous for the start of my elective! Was hoping for a nice preceptor! Have never worked in the Canadian medical system before so didn’t know what was expected of me yet. Monday came quickly. I started my week with some PowerChart training – the online medical record system they use here. I then met the course coordinator and eventually my preceptor. I was expecting to be a part of a hospital team for my geriatrics elective. Turns out my preceptor is a one man team!

He’s great though. Extremely patient and never discouraging towards me. He lets me do as much as I want within my limits of comfort and learn what I want to learn. Always takes his time to answer my questions and teaches whenever the opportunity arises.

As you can imagine, elderly patients most often have a plethora of issues that landed them in hospital. These can include: dementia, delirium, instability, falls, cardiac disease, stroke, incontinence, infection, etc. I love geriatric medicine because it is so general that you always see a variety of presentations. History taking needs to be thorough and examinations need to be all encompassing in order to not miss anything in an elderly patient, especially when there can be so many causes to their issues.

On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, we are in the hospital in the morning and at his clinic (about 5min drive away) in the afternoon. We spend Wednesdays and Fridays in hospital.

My first week passed very quickly. My days start later than I’m accustomed to. My preceptor often tries to make it in by 9am but he has 3 young children to take care of and drop off at different activities in the morning, so we often don’t meet up until 10am. I get to start my day at a good pace and have time to review patients before he gets in. The days pass quickly because we are so busy, I often don’t get home until 7pm and we normally don’t have time to take a proper lunch. Usually we work until we need to rush to clinic and eat our lunch during the 5 minute drive there. A one man team is busy busy!

So far so good though, I’m quite enjoying my time working! Don’t know if I’ll see much of Vancouver Island while I’m here, we’ll see!

My sister is coming for my first weekend here, to celebrate my birthday early with me, which makes it less lonely!

DHAL: July 13-19, 2014 – Ottawa for a week!

One week home in Ottawa, been looking forward to this for weeks! 🙂

Michael and I aren’t planning on going home for over summer/Christmas holidays, since our graduation date isn’t until December 20th and we expect to be moving and preparing for a job rural at the end of the year, hopefully! This rotation is our opportunity to spend some time in Canada… so who knows when we will be back next!

Spent some quality time with the family!

Got to eat one of my favourite Vietnamese meals – Bo Bia! Fresh rolls with Chinese sausage, sauteed turnip, egg and veggies including Thai basil dipped in a hoison peanut sauce – thanks mum!

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A meal selfie!

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My mom’s famous deboned, stuffed, and breaded chicken wings! Delicious! And some homemade samosas

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And with my grandparents!

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Trying out my grandpa’s first batch of banana lime liqueur – coming along well!

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We enjoyed quite a few different taste testings, haha!

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I finally got to meet Benny! The dog my brother adopted earlier this year who is now considered the baby of the house and my mum’s favourite. He’s a cutie and (mostly) really well behaved but always gets a little too excited when new people come over that he pees on them.

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He’s a sweetheart and a whiner, always crying and looking out the window if you leave him behind.

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And he loves his balls and squeaky toys…

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Had the opportunity to go down to Perth Road Village to spend some quality time with Mike’s family on July 14th. Their property is by a lake and very cottage-like, so it was very nice and relaxing! Mike’s brother Matt and sister in law Jessica recently had their 2nd child – Rinoa, who’s super cute! Their oldest, Jasper has grown so much since I last saw him!

Some of my favourite photos, you can view all of them HERE.

Matt, Jessica and Jasper out on a canoe ride

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Matt & Jess’ dog Bubba – not feeling well today.

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Father son laughs

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Auntie and niece bonding time.

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Little Rinoa

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Tummy tickles!

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Like father like son

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Hanging out with Uncle Mike

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Indeed!

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A pair of loons and a baby! We tried to get as close as we could without being intrusive and they certainly kept an eye on us the whole time just in case!

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This dinosaur

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Got to satisfy a few of my cravings! Including McDonald’s McGriddle breakfast (mmm sweet and salty, maple syrup and sausage) and of course, Shawarma Palace with their awesome garlic sauce! Not shown: Stops at Tim Horton’s!

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Even had time to catch up with some of my best girls! Thanks for coming over on July 17th Atong, Julia and Hue!

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Julia loved Benny!

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Julia requested Cuttlefish snacks by Nong Shim, which apparently can’t be found in Ottawa anymore. They are delicious though, even Mike’s hooked on them.

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A lovely engagement gift from Julia & Atong 🙂 A family cookbook that even has room for photos!

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And perhaps most importantly, my mum held an unofficial engagement dinner with Michael’s parents so they could formally meet all of my family. This was on Friday, July 18th, the night before both Michael and I flew out to our respective electives. We decided to have dinner at Chu Shing and luckily, only a handful of family were missing. It was the usual family deal, chaotic but I think it went well! Thank you also very much to my grandparents and to Ong Tia Ba Y for their generous gifts!

Some of the photos!

Selfie at the dinner table

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With Mike’s parents, my mum, my grandparents, and my dad’s aunt and uncle.

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The elders!

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All my aunts and uncles (except for my 4th aunt who was in LA with her daughter Lilian) and a few of the cousins

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Some more cousins as well as Aunt Diane, Uncle Andrew (my great aunt and uncle’s daughter) and their 3 children.

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Group photo!

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With my dad’s side of the family

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Aren’t I lovely?

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With Michael’s family. Unfortunately, his sister Meaghan was not able to join us due to work. His brother has 2 small children on an early schedule and it’s a drive up from Kingston!

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Before heading home, we dropped by Phuket Royal, a restaurant where my cousin Kevin was working (couldn’t make it to our dinner) to say hi. He was just getting off work so we decided to go to My Sweet Tea to catch up over bubble tea. We didn’t get back until past midnight, and Mike and I still needed to pack! Needless to say, it was a late night.

Woke up at 4:30am the next morning to have breakfast together at Perkins with Di Nam before heading to the airport for my 7am flight to Vancouver. Good bye family and see you again soon!

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They’ve changed the format of the security line at the Ottawa Airport to be extremely inefficient, causing myself and a number of other passengers to almost miss our flight. At other airports, once passengers go through security, they may be pulled aside to a different station for an explosives scan, which is when they swab the outside and also open your bags to swab the inside and test for explosives. For whatever reason, Ottawa has decided to incorporate the explosives scan as part of their security line, before your bags go through the scanner. The ENTIRE security line gets held up when someone’s having their bag tested. Meaning nobody’s bags are being scanned and nobody is walking through the metal detectors. Completely inefficient, I don’t know what they were thinking, but they better change that.

My sister met me once I landed in Vancouver and we had time to grab a quick bite to eat before I had to start heading to Horseshoe Bay to catch my ferry to Nanaimo. It took a good 2 hours to get there from the airport via the SkyTrain into the city and then bus to the ferry terminal. More about Nanaimo in my next post!

DHAL: July 12, 2014 – Back to Canada!

The day I flew back to Canada! And because of going back in time, 2 days in one!

This was my flight schedule:

Brisbane to Los Angeles (with Qantas) with approximately a 3 hour layover. First point of entry into USA so needed to take out and recheck in my luggage… even though I was only flying through. I don’t remember ever having to do this in other countries?

Los Angeles to Chicago (with Qantas) and only a 1 hr layover. As long as I could get my boarding for the next leg before arriving to Chicago, it should be okay.

Finally, Chicago to Ottawa (with United Airlines operated by Express Jet) arriving at 7pm on July 12.

The day immediately started off on the wrong foot when I dropped off my luggage at the Qantas counter in Brisbane. The lady was grumpy and raised her voice at me when I inquired about being unable to print a Chicago to Ottawa boarding pass after checking in online. She practically called me stupid for purchasing a flight with so little layover time and “kindly suggested” not doing it in the future. Knowing it was going to be a long day, I didn’t have it in me to deal with her. It wasn’t until I was boarding my flight later that I realised she never gave me my baggage tickets. If my baggage got lost, I wouldn’t have a reference number to locate it with.

Next was going through security. I had never seen the line up so long before, it was snaking around the entrance foyer twice. I guess good thing I arrived with plenty of time! When I finally reached the security scanner, I took out the usuals of my laptop and liquids in a clear plastic bag. Some airports also require that you take out your iPad as well. Noticing that the man in front of me had taken out his iPad, I took a step forward to ask the employee if he wanted me to take mine out as well. Before I could even open my mouth, he barked at me saying, “Get back and stay with your bags!” He thought I was trying to go through the metal detector, which I wasn’t and told him so. He said I didn’t have to take my iPad out and then sent me through the metal detector. Thinking finally, I’m through this line, can you guess what happened? They scanned my bag, the employee working the scanner said he needed to search my bag, took out my iPad and sent everything through the scanner again. In the meantime, people behind me are being held up as well. Unbelievable.

Finally through security, of course I was “randomly chosen” for an explosives scan. So used to it, I lifted my bags on the counter before the employee even asked. “You’ve done this before obviously!” he joked. Yep, I answered, every time!

After going through Customs and with all the airport procedures behind me, I headed to the gate early and settled down. Was able to chat with my mum and give Mike a call as well. I told them my concern of missing the connecting flight from Chicago to Ottawa and we all agreed that hopefully I’ll have time in LA to grab that boarding pass from United Airlines.

Flight from Brisbane to LA was around 13 hours long but felt more like 20. The airline food was actually delicious, I was quite impressed! I chose a lunch of chicken salad with aioli sauce that was quite filling and full of fresh crisp vegetables including peas, radicchio, and celery and cucumber. Hot breakfast was a spinach frittata with beans and sausage. I also realised halfway through the flight that there is a galley in the back filled with goodies for passengers. Fully lining a backlit wall were snacks of Anzac biscuits and savoury biscotti, as well as amenities including socks and toothbrush kits. Service was great and being in an aisle seat allowed me to get up and stretch whenever I wanted without disturbing fellow passengers.

I was pleasantly surprised when I landed in LA and had someone greet me at the gate with an express envelope allowing me access to priority lines through customs and security, as well as boarding passes for the remainder of my trip. I shouldn’t be missing any flights now!

Once I collected my bags, I was directed into the express line, where I waited… and waited. Watching all other passengers fly through the non-express lanes. Why? Because there were nearly 10 normal lines and 1 express. One customs agent was alternating between my line and a regular one next to me. After a while, he skipped our line all together. After a few passengers in the next line were called and we remained ignored, I asked the gentleman in the next lane if it would be alright for me to go next, he agreed. When the agent called out, “Next!” I thanked the man again and proceeded to push my luggage cart towards the desk when the agent quickly yelled at me saying, “I was calling this line, not you! Get back in line and wait for another agent to call you!” I was appalled. What is the point of having an express lane when it is moving slower than a regular lane, even worse, not moving at all? Luckily, I could afford the wait, but I’m sure there were other passengers behind me who were genuinely concerned, and may have even missed their flight.

Unfortunately, it was all in vain. The LA to Chicago flight ended up being delayed for over an hour, causing me to automatically miss my connecting flight to Ottawa. In the past when I’ve missed flights with other airlines, I have been automatically met at the arrival gate with new boarding passes for the next available flight. It was not the case this time. Before disembarking, we were told to talk to the agents at the gate, who directed us to a panel of phones, called the “Rebooking Centre” to rebook the flights ourselves. I looked around while being on hold for what seemed like ages at other passengers who like me, were tired and frustrated at such a slow process. Eventually, I was put on another flight later that evening but had to find the United Airlines desk to collect my boarding pass.

This was when I realised the Chicago O’Hare Intl Airport is humongous. I stopped to ask a man driving an airport buggy for directions to the United Airlines counter. He informed me it was in the next terminal which is quite a distance away and offered to drive me there. It was a small gesture, but appreciated nonetheless!

Eventually, I made my way to the United Airlines counter, got my boarding pass, and asked about ensuring my luggage would be put on the correct flight. If you remember, I was never given baggage tickets so there was no way to track my bags. I ended up having to give them a physical description of my bags and just cross my fingers that they make it back to Ottawa with me.

Soon I was finally boarding a teeny tiny plane back to Ottawa. The flight was short and I remember the elder man who sat next to me. He spent the flight completing Sudoku puzzles and looked very physically fit. Made me think, I hope I keep myself mentally and physically engaged like that in old age!

Landed in Ottawa to find out one of 2 of my luggage pieces made it to Ottawa. I wasn’t too concerned but had to wait in line to file a claim. When I was asked what was in my piece of missing luggage, I replied, “Inside the suitcase is a cardboard box, filled with ginger beer, candies, and biscuits… for real.” 😛 By the time I was done, I was the last person on the flight to walk out.

My mom, my brother, my aunt and Mike were the only people still waiting arriving passengers… finally home!! Finally reunited with Michael, and my family!

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DHAL: July 04-12, 2014

A huge gap of DHALs, how shameful! This is going to be a long one!

Friday, July 4th… meant one more week of Anaesthesia before the completion of my Critical Care rotation! It was getting harder to see the end now because although it was so close, it felt so far! Since there was no final exam (aside from an online multiple choice exam I had already completed in week 2 of 8), I did not have to spend my weekends immersed in studying, I was able to enjoy going out and seeing my friends.

So on Friday after my shift, I met up with Amanda for dinner. There is a vegetarian restaurant in Fortitude Valley called Kuan Yin Tea House that Michael and I have been meaning to visit because we have heard good things and it is highly rated on Urbanspoon (96%). I was a fun night out with Amanda but the food was subpar, I’ll be writing a separate blog post for this later on!

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Next day on July 5, I finally had the opportunity to see and catch up with Josiah and Danya! They are living in Bundaberg this year, so we have not had a chance to hang out since coming back from Canada, but it finally happened! Weekends in Brisbane for them are always hectic but they had some time to pop over for a visit! And I was finally able to pass on a small wedding gift that Mike and I brought back for them from Canada, which only had to wait 7 months 😉 They even gifted us a nice bottle of wine as a belated engagement present, unexpected but thanks so much guys! It was so good to catch up and hear that they are enjoying living in a new city and being well looked after by the small Bundaberg community. They are liking it so much that they have decided to stay for Josiah to pursue his internship training… that’s saying heaps!

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Lowlight: My cousin, Hoang, from Vietnam who now lives in Brisbane with his wife, was supposed to come over for dinner on July 5th. Unfortunately, something came up and they had to cancel!

The following day on July 6, I had a photo shoot session with the Gibson family!

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This was the first ‘photo shoot’ of any kind I’ve ever done. Pretty much had no idea what I was doing, didn’t have any special equipment, and worked with kit lenses. Had a good time with Kristen, Matt & Abigail but too bad Abigail wasn’t her usual smiling bubbly self! I imagine having a big black camera covering my face might be a little intimidating for a 6 month old! Was able to get a few photos, even some smiling ones. I’ll have to make a separate post but here’s a teaser photo!

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Because my cousins never made it on Saturday for dinner, I invited Sarah and Amanda over for some studying and dinner on Monday, July 7! Had bought a bunch of ingredients to make dinner and didn’t want them to go to waste, what better way to use them up than to have friends help you? Made some Thai green curry chicken to have with rice, yum!

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Had also made lots of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies so sent the girls home with a bunch as well. What made the night fun was meeting Sarah’s boyfriend, Jay. After years of poking fun at her for having an imaginary partner (he has always been too busy to attend any of our events or get togethers), we met him when he came to pick her up. Mind you, it was completely dark outside so I have yet to see what he looks like in person 😛

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The weekend passed too quickly and soon I was completing my last week of the critical core rotation. I feel quite lucky to have had most, if not all, preceptors be very kind and willing to teach. It made for a very good learning environment and I never felt intimidated with any procedural skills, even when I failed them. There was always room to improve and my supervisors were always willing to make things work better for me.

It is also nice when your effort and hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. I was rostered for 2 days (July 09-10) on the APMS (Acute Pain Management Services) team, who are responsible for hospital wide consults for patients who require more specialised care for the managment of their pain. These patients can include those who have epidurals, regional blocks, or patient controlled analgesia (PCA). With only 2 days on the service, I made the most of it including being proactive in taking notes, chatting with patients, and handing over plans to nurses in charge. I’m not sure what the other medical students did during their time on APMS, but when I received the note (not required and squeezed beside the signature box) “Above and beyond the call of duty” on my last day and a number of verbal thank yous and compliments, I knew I had done well 🙂

Lowlight: I was told this last week of the rotation by the course administrator that she wanted me to make up time for 2 sick days I took earlier in the rotation. My last week, where I’m fully rostered, and she wanted me to make up 2 extra shifts last minute. I was not happy as we were never made aware of having to make up for sick time, isn’t that why you have sick days to begin with? After having a chat with her and explaining to her that the request was unreasonable in the amount of time I had left, she told me to have a chat with the respective professors of the Emergency and Anaesthesia departments. Bring them my work books and evaluation forms so they can assess if I have done work to their satisfaction and maybe they will let me pass the rotation without making up the time. Lucky for me, both professors were more than happy to let me off after having a chat and leafing through my documents. It was annoying and stressful before I was given approval because of the potential to fail the rotation, but I’m glad things worked out!

Soon, Friday (July 11) rolled around and I was super eager to finish my last day of work! I had been packing up and cleaning the house bit by bit throughout the last 2 weeks so I didn’t have much left to do before flying out Saturday morning. And to end the rotation on a good note, the anaesthetist of my last shift was awesome. He spent the first few hours of my shift grilling me and asking me questions non stop, explaining things along the way as required. When that was exhausted, we just chatted about life in general where he also shared some good advice for my internship year. By 2:30pm, he was showing me his wedding videos and because the same surgery had been going on since 8:30am, he asked me if I just wanted to head home. Early day on my last day? Heck yes! I could definitely use some extra time.

I went home, where I met up with Yoni. He’ll be renting out one of our bedrooms (Christine’s in the other one) so I just wanted to give him the keys and a verbal handover, including what food he should help us finish, which he’s always happy about.

I then headed back into the city to meet up with Mabel, Amanda, Sarah, and Xuan for a post-rotation hang out! We had a coffee catch up at Bonsai Botanika before heading to Maru for a yummy Korean dinner and finished the night with some delicious bubble tea at Gong Cha. I will be writing blogs for the respective restaurants soon! Lovely evening with good company to end my time in Brisbane!

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It was around 9pm by the time I got home, plenty of time to finish up my packing and cleaning. I tried to stay up as late as I could in order to sleep easier on the plane but by 3am, I had to lay down for a 3 hour nap.

Thanks to Christine for giving me a ride to the airport at 7 in the morning! and soon I was boarding Qantas flight 15 to Los Angeles. Boy oh boy was it not the best journey home, will tell you more in the next DHAL!

DHAL: July 02-03, 2014

Lowlights:

  • Yesterday I experienced the worst lowlight since starting DHAL. I was feeling quite down and sad regarding the anniversary of my dad’s passing and being alone at home made it even worse, I’ve never been alone on this day before. I cried many tears. But writing yesterday’s blog definitely helped me deal with my emotions, even if it brought back many many memories. Thank you to all my friends who sent me their love, it was very much appreciated!

Highlights:

  • Ran into Mabel after finishing my shift the past 2 days in a row! Nice to stop for a chat and a few laughs!
  • The flowers Michael sent me bloomed and are gorgeous! Thanks love!

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  • Even though I’m on afternoon and evening shifts this week, it’s nice being in emergency theatre when the rest of the operating rooms are empty and there are only a handful of staff on duty. Just nice and quiet… 🙂 Also, the tea room is always stocked with fresh bread (white and whole wheat!), butter, vegemite, and jams to make toast. A good pick me up when you’re feeling low on energy! Of course there is always coffee, tea, milk, juice and also a basket of cookies for some extra calories whenever you need it.

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  • Since coming to Australia, we have been buying the large tubs of yoghurt thinking that it was the cheapest option, especially when they’re on sale. Recently I learned that was a lie. And that regular priced yoghurt in individual servings is cheaper than large tubs on sale! Never again will I be buying tubs when I can be buying something cheaper, with more variety, and easy to pack for lunch!

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I know, my life is SO EXCITING! 😛

DHAL: June 27 – July 01, 2014

A few moments of my previous few days…

Highlights:

On Friday, June 27, Mabel came over to review some Obstetrics and Gynaecology cases. Good to go over things and happy that information is still fresh on my mind. Caught up over homemade dinner including cauliflower soup and banana chocolate chip bread! It’s nice to have people to cook for, otherwise I don’t feel the motivation to make food!

On Saturday, June 28, I finally met my cousin and his wife in Brisbane! He moved to Brisbane from Vietnam over a year ago but initially I didn’t know he was in Brisbane and then life got in the way. Fortunately, although I absolutely abhor his father for despicable things he did and said when my dad was sick, my cousin is a kind person and his wife is quite friendly and easy to get along with. I met them in Inala (home of Viet-town) where they spoiled me with a yummy dinner at Que Huong Restaurant in Darra. Food dishes included fried soft shell crab, abalone and steamed chicken with greens. I was glad to finally catch up with him and meet his wife! They took me by their place so I could see their home and was kind enough to drive me all the way home. I’ve invited them over for dinner this coming weekend, so looking forward to that.

Then the next day, Yoni and I went on an awesome food adventure. We decided on a budget of $40 each and I chose a few highly rated but cheap eateries in the Fortitude Valley area. We met up at 1pm, started with BBQ pork and duck at Golden Barbeque. On the way to the next restaurant, Jamroc – Jamaican Jerk Chicken, we made a pit stop at 711 for Krispy Kreme donuts. Stuffed after jerk chicken, we headed into the city so I could run a few errands. Deciding to talk a walk in the Botanic Gardens, our plans were pleasantly foiled when we found out the cinema in the city was still showing Edge of Tomorrow and we could get student priced tickets at $6.50. After an enjoyable movie and some time to digest, we picked up some bubbletea from Hazel Tea Shop and headed to Maru, our last stop for Korean dinner. A very fulfilling, weight gaining, 6 hours of eating and eating. I’ll definitely be writing some reviews for the places we visited – let’s do this again soon Yoni! 🙂

This week in Anaesthesia, I’m rostered for PM/evening shifts in the Emergency theatre. Things have been good, I get a nice long break in between afternoon and night surgeries to have dinner. I’m actually writing this blog post on my phone during said break 🙂 I have had the same senior registrar the past two days who’s been very kind, encouraging and keen to teach. He reminds me very much of the first intern I ever worked with back in the beginning of 3rd year. The kind of person I hope to be towards my juniors in the future.

I have caught up with one of my favourite shows – Supernatural. Glad to hear that the show has been renewed for a 10th season because I can’t wait to see what happens!

I believe I have finally finished all my shopping to begin my packing to go home. You’ll see what I mean in a few weeks!

Lowlights:

Being alone! Canada Day was utterly boring as it isn’t a holiday here and I spent it all day in theatre!

Wished time went by quicker when you want it to! As much as I’ve enjoyed this rotation, I can’t wait to finish and be on a plane home!

DHAL: June 19-26, 2014

Hello friends! How have you been?

What a long absence, but here’s what I’ve been up to this past week!

Highlights:

  • As I mentioned in my previous DHAL, I spent last week in ICU and glad to say I enjoyed my entire time there. Unfortunately, I do think a week is too short. Just as I was getting used to the very different medical environment and getting to know the team, it was time to move on. Alas!
  • On Friday, June 20th, I made soft cranberry white chocolate chips! I think they turned out good and not too sweet with a hint of cinnamon.

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  • The next day, I accompanied FangYing (and her younger sister FangZee) in the morning to help her look for wedding dresses. I couldn’t stay with her for all her appointments because I had lunch at Matt & Kristen’s – thank you so much for the delicious food! It was lovely to see their family – Abigail gets bigger, smarter and more gorgeous each time I see her. Not only was it really nice to see my friends (James, Kim and Smiles), it was also really nice to meet some of their friends and catch up with some of the ones I’ve met in the past. Annette, who I first met through Kristen during our first year elective in Vietnam is 6 months pregnant already, how time flies!
  • On Sunday, I went with FangYing and her sister again to another bridal shop in Indooroopilly, where she also convinced me to try on a few wedding dresses. Although I’m not seriously looking for one myself yet, it was a fun experience! I definitely do not want a mermaid wedding dress and after trying on some strapless ones, I like them a lot more than I think! That’s all I got so far 😛 Afterwards, we met up with YungHowe, her fiance, for dimsum lunch – yummy! I’ve been craving for a while so it was quite satisfying 🙂

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  • It was a fun weekend that continued even into Monday when I met up with Sarah and Amanda for a girl’s night catch up. We had dinner at New Shanghai, left stuffed with the promise of doing it again soon. It was also Amanda’s belated birthday so Sarah and I had the chance to treat her to dinner.
  • My gorgeous friend Ruixi married her love, Chris, on June 21! So sad I couldn’t be there with them and friends, but she was a beautiful bride and they both looked so happy!! I’m so happy for you two! Love seeing the photos!
  • Starting this week until the end of this rotation – July 11th, I will be on Anaesthesia. This entails me accompanying a different anaesthetic consultant everyday to theatre in order to learn and assist. So far, I have been blessed with very friendly seniors who are happy to have a medical student and eager to teach and give me hands on experience. I am getting better at ‘bag and masking,’ which is the most important skill to learn in these next few weeks. I still lack the upper body strength to hold the mask and bag at the same time, but I’m working on it! Another skill we try to master during this term is intubation – which I’ve met with variable success – I accidentally put the endotracheal tube in the oesophagus today. My last intubation was perfect though, hopefully I keep it up!
  • The other nice thing about anaesthesia is the chance to see surgeries I haven’t seen in the past. For example, a total hip replacement, maxillary advancement, bilateral breast reduction, etc.
  • This morning, I got confirmation that I will have free accommodation during my 4 week elective in Nanaimo, BC – yay! Saves me at least $500 🙂
  • I finished at the hospital quite late today. It was already very dark outside when I got home but I saw an outline of a bouquet waiting for me at the door. I couldn’t look at it until I was inside but what a beautiful surprise. A bouquet of our favourite flowers – lilies from Michael – I love you! They haven’t bloomed yet but are so fresh and I can’t wait to see what colour they are. Thank you dear!

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Lowlights:

  • I need to start packing! 2 weeks left until I go home! So much to do still. I have 2 pieces of baggage on my flight back so I will be bringing back goodies for my family 😉
  • Long days. I’m exhausted and falling asleep around 10pm these days. This rotation is draining! Can’t wait for it to be over and to be going home!

DHAL: June 11-18, 2014

Hello friends!

Look at that, I didn’t even get through one month of DHAL and I already failed at daily blogging, oops!

The reason I haven’t been blogging is because I have been on shift in the Emergency Department and in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for the past 7 days straight and I’m so tired when I get home – with laziness and studying distracting me. I still have a couple more days to go before I can finally have the weekend off. My days are averaging 10-11 hours, which is quite tiring for a number of reasons:

  • You’re not getting paid.
  • You need to be alert and learning at all time, so it can be very mentally exhausting.
  • It’s constantly a different environment with new staff, protocols, and procedures to become familiar with.
  • You still have to go home and study or read up every night to at least look slightly competent.

With that being said, there have been a number of highlights and lowlights this past week.

Highlights:

  • Enjoying and finishing my 4 week stint in the Emergency Department. I quite liked the variety of presentations – from mild to serious and seeing how they are assessed and managed. Had a good time working alongside the doctors (especially the interns), nurses, and physios. Felt appreciated for my work and had a good performance assessment by a senior doctor at the end.
  • I finally had suturing experience! An elder man had a large wooden post fall on his hand which gave him a number of lacerations that needed to be sutured. My only prior experience was in theatre while the patient was still asleep, not awake and watching me. I’m happy to say that unlike before, I sutured with a steady hand, with proper technique and approval by my seniors. Patient was also happy with my handiwork – yay! Confidence restored, I thought I was going to have to live with a hand tremor exacerbated under pressure for the rest of my life.
  • And related to previous post, where it used to be nerve wracking to have someone scrutinize me while doing procedures, either someone junior observing to learn or someone senior watching to make sure everything went well – I am now quite comfortable performing underneath someone’s gaze. Phew!
  • Did my own plaster casts, on real patients! I know, it’s silly that I’m halfway through the end of my last year of medical school and only getting this experience now. Unfortunately, as international students, we do not get the opportunity to go on a rural rotation, which is where you get a lot of hands on experience. With that being said, I’m trying to make the most of all opportunities I come across.
  • This week, I am the only student in ICU when normally there are 2-3. Initially, I was a little intimidated to be the only student, especially in such a different medical setting without a colleague, but now I definitely feel privileged. I now have scheduled one-on-one teaching time with great consultants, who never make you feel stupid for not knowing all the answers. I was invited to stick with one team throughout the week and follow the same patients so I get the opportunity to learn how patients are managed in ICU – as opposed to being with a different unit every day. I’m also getting opportunities to see and participate in procedures and tasks I haven’t in the past, like maxillary antral lavage, bedside bronchoscopy, and transport of critically ill patients. It’s cliche, but I really am finding everything interesting. My days in ICU pass by quickly as there are a number of scheduled activities every day including: morning handover rounds, one-on-one teaching, radiology meeting, afternoon teaching rounds, etc. I always feel welcomed to ask questions, which is a good facilitator to learning as well. Only 2 more days!

Lowlights:

  • I am SO tired! Would’ve been nice not working for 9 days straight, but I guess that’s what the real world will be like when I’m working.
  • Not eating well. I’ve been averaging 1-1.5 meals a day, which isn’t healthy but I’m trying to change that.
  • The sickest patients are in ICU… and it’s hard to see them not get better. For example, we are caring for a young woman who had pneumococcal meningitis and developed sepsis following a microvascular decompression surgery for trigeminal neuralgia. She now has partial locked in syndrome – paralyzed from the mouth down, intubated and ventilated and could only communicate by blinking her eyes. After a couple of weeks (when I first met her), she began to develop fevers with an unknown focus, despite adequate coverage with antibiotics. All possible tests and scans have been performed with no cause for her fevers found. In addition, she has a rash that was getting worse before our eyes and right before the end of my shift today, she took a turn for the worse and became completely unresponsive – GCS 3. It’s not easy dealing with an unwell patient, but even harder when we don’t know how to help a deteriorating patient.
  • June 15 was Father’s Day, always a difficult day when my dad is no longer with us in person…

DHAL: June 8-10, 2014

Highlights:

  • June 08 – Starting a new show called The Blacklist. I’m really enjoying it and it reminds me of Alias, one of my favourite shows. A female protagonist, working for the FBI and a male antagonist (but is he really a villain?) with a unique relationship with the protagonist and a clearly deeper motive to his every single action.
  • June 09 – Saw X-Men: Days of Future Past with Sarah and Amanda, I loved it! I was also surprised to see Blink (Asian mutant who can create portals) played by Fan BingBing, an actress I grew up with for her role in the extremely popular Chinese series, Princess Pearl.

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  • June 10 – Good teaching sessions today. Ended the evening with a dinner from McDonalds. I know… I shouldn’t have.

Lowlights:

  • June 08 – Not getting much studying done because I was too busy watching the Blacklist 😛
  • June 09 – Had to tear up all the weeds in the backyard. Our landlord refuses to provide any gardening equipment and we will not spend our own money on such tools. Therefore, we have to tear them up by hand whenever there’s a house inspection or they make a big stink about it. A good workout, but wouldn’t need to do it if the landlord would do something about his backyard like the real estate agent said he would when we first moved in 3 years ago.
  • June 10 – Long day! Headache by the time I got home but ebbing with some Tylenol.

DHAL: June 06, 2014

(Yes, I skipped DHAL for June 4th and 5th, sorry! I just didn’t find anything exciting or unusual to talk about)

Highlights:

  • Sleeping in… until 9am today!
  • Lunch date with Sam and catching up. I miss having him around to joke with like last rotation. He went to Wagaya for the first time today, and approved! Even treated me to lunch, although I was the one that took him, so thank you friend! 🙂 Glad he liked it because his girlfriend loves Japanese food, so now they have a new place to dine at.
  • Dinner date with Amanda, Sarah, Kee Ping, his girlfriend Janice, Xuan Ping, Aditya, and Daniel at Malaya Corner. So nice to see them all and catch up! Food was tasty and plentiful and conversation was not lacking – what I enjoy! Also ran into Clarence and his friend Andrew, so that was a nice surprise as well.
  • I baked today! The first time in a long time. I only bake when I can share with friends, like tonight. Trying to create a new chocolate cake recipe as well as a new choco-peanut butter icing and I think it was a success! Saved some for some special people I’m visiting tomorrow 😉

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  • Completed and submitted internship applications to Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia, 3 states in total. Now it’s completely out of my hands, I’m just praying that both Michael and I will be offered a job in the same city – that is our only wish.

Lowlights:

  • We haven’t sprayed cockroach repellant outside our house in a long long time. Now that it’s getting colder, the first one has finally made it’s way inside the house! Argh, so gross. It was about 1.5cm long and was too fast for me to kill… now it’s around the house somewhere and going to get revenge on me when I’m asleep. I guess it’s time to set traps. :(d

DHAL: June 03, 2014

Highlights:

  • When I was in Canada, one of my favourite cereals was Honey Bunches of Oats – Just Bunches! Randomly started craving that, so I looked for something similar at the grocery store. Guys, I found something even better: Jordans Crispy Oat Clusters – Chunky Nut

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Delicious! There’s just something about crunchy oat clusters… maybe because they’re flavourful with awesome texture and don’t get so soggy so quickly? And I was so impressed because there are tons of whole hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, and brazil nuts. I know right? So many awesome, expensive nuts in a cereal box – who would’ve thought! Delicious with frozen fruit and yogurt!

  • I came across a really good Vietnamese singer I’ve never heard of before – Hoang Thuc Linh. Really great, mature vocals and she really does older Vietnamese music justice – I don’t really know many younger singers who embrace the genre.

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  • I came across this English proverb on Instagram today, “A smooth sea never made a skill sailor.” It made me think back to the rant I wrote yesterday. Although frustrating at the time, every experience, even difficult, can teach you to be a better person.

Lowlights:

  • Still having difficulty finalising my personal statements for internship applications that are due this Friday!

DHAL: June 01, 2014

Highlights: 

  • Start of a new month!
  • Thought I lost/forgot my daily sign off sheet for this rotation but it was just left in the Emergency Department AND it wasn’t thrown out!
  • Actually being told to go for lunch today by a senior doctor. And then talking about Canada to the same doctor because he is interested in taking his family there next winter so his children can experience snow for the first time.

Lowlights:

  • Severe abdominal pain waking me up late in the night that ended with me in the toilet for a long time. Don’t know if it was the Subway I had for lunch or food from New Shanghai at dinner with Christine. She was fine though at least, which is good!

DHAL: May 31, 2014

Highlights:

  • When your shift passes by quickly than you expected
  • Catch up and dinner with Christine Q at New Shanghai

Lowlights:

  • Failing at inserting 2 cannulas in a row! Has never happened before and what a blow to my confidence! 😛

DHAL: May 30, 2014

Highlights:

  • I passed my Obstetric & Gynaecology rotation! Woo hoo! Results came back last week, and if you didn’t know how I felt about the 3 consecutive days of exams, you can read about it HERE. I was genuinely worried about the possibility of failing and ended up doing much better than expected. Happy with my results and can now breathe and move on!
  • I was rostered to sit in on a 4hr teaching session for the junior doctors today. Couldn’t help myself from participating even though I think I was only supposed to be an observer but a great learning experience. Case based learning today on the topic of neurologic presentations to ED (syncope, delirium, altered mental state, overdose, etc) interspersed with clinical skills. I’m glad there will be teaching like this for me next year to help keep up with relevant knowledge and skills.

Lowlights:

  • Ending the day with a headache 😦

DHAL: May 29, 2014

Highlights:

  • Finding the motivation to finish all my assessments (ahead of time) for this current Critical Care rotation. Modules are completed online with respective quizzes followed by an online multiple choice exam. Passed everything, so that’s now done and out of the way!
  • Calling my great aunt and great uncle in Perth (grandma’s siblings) to catch up and invite them to Brisbane to visit and possibly attend my graduation. I felt guilty because I haven’t spoken to them in a loooong time, they didn’t even know of my engagement! My great uncle has Alzheimer’s but it was still great to have a conversation with him about what’s been going on in my life and my future plans… even if I ended up having the same conversation with him over and over at least 5 times.

Lowlights:

  • Ended up calling in sick today. Just haven’t been feeling well and low mood. 😦 Hard coping being alone and never been away from Michael before!

DHAL: May 28, 2014

Highlights:

  • Having Christine over for dinner of fish cakes, roasted sweet potato and green apple & fennel salad. Peanut butter cheesecake for dessert! It was lovely to catch up with her and have her company for a few hours!

Lowlights:

  • Feeling generally unwell and a little down. And could be related or unrelated but a severe lack of motivation today. Didn’t get much done overall. 😦

DHAL: May 27, 2014

Quite the uneventful day!

Highlights: 

  • A great teaching session alongside Lauren and Kee Ping given by the Medical Education Registrar at our hospital. Simple things that really drive home the point but exactly what we need to work as an intern next year.

Lowlights:

  • A pretty bad headache that knocked me out for a few hours.
  • It makes me sad to see family members not bother lifting a hand to help their loved ones in a health care setting. I don’t know if it’s because they don’t care or if they feel it is not their job/beneath them – but either way. I was assisting a staff member today (she was tiny) to change the sheets of a large elderly man. He had urinated on the bed and also had dementia, was delirious and agitated, and didn’t speak much English. Despite our struggle, his big burly son didn’t even try to assist, either physically or even speak to his dad to help calm him down. When we finally finished, he pointed to a clean urinal bottle, at his feet, that fell during the change of sheets and said, “Um, the urine bottle is on the floor.” Really, you couldn’t just pick it up? I know everyone is different and has their own reasons, I just couldn’t imagine being like that when my dad was very sick years ago and I was his care taker.

DHAL: May 26, 2014

Highlights:

  • Booked my (why so expensive) flight home! I will be arriving in Ottawa on July 12 at 6:55pm on flight United 3829 from Chicago! I will have a week in Ottawa before flying out to Nanaimo, BC for my first elective in Geriatric Medicine.
  • Completed most of my learning modules for this Critical Care rotation. Still a lot more studying to get done!

Lowlights:

  • Still not done my internship application. Although I have until June 6, I really need to bang out some really well written personal statements. Not only is there the worry of not getting a job next year due to lack of positions and being lower on the priority list because we are international students, it is also likely that Michael and I will not be able to get a job in the same town 😦 Thinking of the distance saddens me.
  • Paying this (8 weeks long) rotation’s tuition of $10,560. My approximate $500 000 debt by the time I’m done medical school is quite nerve wracking. Not to mention with Michael, we will have a combined debt of $1million or more! Is there anybody wealthy reading this blog who would be interested in financially supporting 2 hard working, soon-to-be junior doctors with a massive debt and a wish to get married and start a family?

DHAL: May 25, 2014

Highlights:

  • Finally back on track with my blogging! I was finally able to upload my Bali video (using school’s internet because our upload speeds are so crappy) and I believe I am now mostly, if not fully, up to date with my blogging! I just need to stay on top of it and not fall months behind again 😉
  • I did clinical tutoring for first years today, and as always, really enjoyed it. This weekend was to help them learn their GI examination as well as to practice taking histories. Always makes me think of how far I’ve come as a student. I can still remember being nervous and trying so hard to remember the steps of each examination or all the questions I need to ask on a history taking (past medical history, medications, allergies, family history, etc). Now it is so second nature that I forgot how scared and new everything was back in first year. Growth and learning is good!
  • Lunch date with Mario! It’s been so long since we caught up over some good food – delicious ramen at Wagaya! Sent this photo to Michael to say hi and make him envy as Wagaya is on of his favourite restaurants as well.

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  • Skype date with my mom and brother, and then a phone call with my sister – both late last night. Good to catch up and we also discussed a number of future plans that I hope will work out… if it does, I’ll let you know!

Lowlights:

  • Discovering that hornets are making a nest on a large plant in our backyard. Ugh. And that I’m going to have to get rid of it before it gets rid of me. I’m scared!
  • You might have noticed how hideously burnt/dark I looked in photos at James & Kim’s wedding. My arms today… even good exfoliation can’t seem to help it resolve faster.

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DHAL: May 24, 2014

Highlights:

  • I finished editing my video of our trip to Bali! My only problem now is not being to share it due to our insanely slow upload speeds. Hopefully soon!
  • Art date with Yoni! He finished painting THIS PIECE, based on The Persistence of Memory by Slavador Dali – pretty huh? I worked on the same piece I’ve been trying to complete for years now – Chaos of Cancer. Slowly getting there!

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  • I made a no-bake cheesecake for the first time! Peanut butter cheesecake with Wunderbar bits and topped with chocolate ganache. It was alright, way too rich and wouldn’t make it like that again.

Lowlights:

  • Being woken up at 4:30am this morning by a freakish grating sound coming from my ceiling fan. I couldn’t tell what was causing the noise and too scared to try and fix it half asleep.
  • I ordered a dress a while ago, this one to be exact. From Ebay seller chsislady.

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I finally had the chance to pick it up from the post office yesterday and opened it today, to find this mess.

Note the obvious asymmetrical neckline

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And the poor construction of the bow

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Not to mention the uneven and ugly seams all around the dress.

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You bet I’m going to ask for a refund!

And finally, I don’t know if this should be a highlight or lowlight… but check out the ‘fancy’ garment bag the dress came in. I have no clue what it’s trying to say, do you?

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DHAL: May 23, 2014

Highlights:

  • I get four days off in a row starting today! Which will be followed by 5×10 hour day and evening shifts back to back next week so I guess I shouldn’t be too happy too soon 😉
  • Facetime-ing with my fiance! How lovely it was to laugh with this handsome face 🙂

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  • Getting so much housecleaning done! Everything is sparkly clean!
  • Because I have the day off, I can wear my engagement ring! I don’t wear it to the hospital because I am constantly washing my hands and wearing gloves. So sparkly and makes me feel Michael is close to my heart ❤

Lowlights:

  • Apparently, my scalp got a little burnt during our time in Bali. I have disgusting looking dandruff now… hopefully it clears up in the next few days before I’m back at the hospital!

DHAL: May 22, 2014

Highlights:

  • Seeing patients with such a variety of presentations: atypical chest pain, infective exacerbation of asthma in an 81, acute shortness of breath in an otherwise quite healthy 93yo man, superficial venous thrombosis, domestic violence, etc
  • Running into my supervisor from my Medicine Rotation last year. To this day I still remember rounding with him and the team when he suddenly stops in the hallway, points to an orchid and asks, “What flower is this?” When I answered, he questioned me back with, “How can you tell? How do you know for sure?” Completely stumped, he finally satisfied our curiosity with, “Because it’s the only flower with one plane of symmetry” and continued on down the hallway. Such a lovely old gentleman who is a great teacher and well respected by students and colleagues alike.
  • Being told to go home early! So nice, even if it was only 40 minutes early. And I even got a lunch break today! The blessings… haha
  • A glorious nap after dinner

Lowlights:

  • Just after piercing the skin and successfully getting flashback on my cannula insertion for a patient, it fell out! I don’t even know how it happened, but I hate having to prick someone more than once. It was even worse because the first one was successful and I most likely left the poor man with a bruise. The patient didn’t complain and it wasn’t painful, just completely unnecessary, bleh!
  • Knowing I had more highlights to share but now they’ve escaped me. I need to start taking notes throughout the day so I don’t forget!

DHAL: May 21, 2014

A long day at the hospital (8am to 6pm) that luckily didn’t feel quite as long!

Highlights:

  • Finally knowing how to set up and use the neonatal resuscitation trolley properly! Attended daily morning teaching for junior doctors and was happy that I was still on top of neonatal resus principles. And now someone has taken the time to show me how all the equipment works
  • Getting to know a few more junior and senior doctors.
  • Picking up dinner at the hospital Subway on the way home. Haven’t had a sub in a while and no food preparation or cleaning!
  • Finally catching up with the show Once Upon A Time. I highly recommend this show, although it takes a few episodes to get into it. The sets and costumes are great. I think the most impressive aspect of this show is not only how they are able to blend reality with the fairy tale world so seamlessly but how the writers have been able to integrate all the fairy tale characters we’ve ever known into one world… Relating each character to another in such a creative way that keeps us on our toes.

Lowlights:

Being ‘gently’ reprimanded by my senior doctor. I was with her while she was removing 3 week old stubborn sutures (done by another Dr elsewhere and was now causing infection) from a patient’s neck. While she was tugging on a loose one trying to find its other end, I commented, “It’s not intuitive, the placement of the suture when you tug on it.” Although she completely understood the meaning behind my comment, she took me aside later to remind me that I should never make any comments that patients can take wrongly and in a negative way. While I completely agree, I guess I was just frustrated with myself for having someone senior, whom I’m trying to make a good impression on, remind me. She was lovely though!

DHAL: May 20, 2014

Simple day today!

Highlights:

  • Having the day off and waking up naturally without sleeping in too late!
  • Seeing Michael’s face for the first time in days, even if it was only via skype 🙂
  • Being able to eat delicious honeydew melon without having the same allergic reaction (hives, itchy throat, etc) the way I used to.
  • Getting some blogging done!

Lowlights:

  • Going to bed by myself 😦

DHAL: May 19, 2014

So this will be my first, of hopefully many, Daily Highlights & Lowlights (DHAL) blog posts.

In case you didn’t see in an earlier post, I’ve decided to start this series because I was finding it difficult not only to keep up with blogging but also to find interesting things to write about during busy and full-on rotations. I thought this would be a good way to remember the happy moments, as well as the more difficult ones of each day. Hopefully when I look back at these posts, I will be able to see how I’ve grown from the positive and negative experiences on a daily basis.

Highlights:

  • The excitement of starting a new rotation! I’m currently doing my first of 4 weeks in the Emergency Department (ED) at a big tertiary hospital. The best part is, as opposed to the last hospital I was working at (1.5hrs away each direction), this hospital is only 5-10 minutes away by bus!
  • Meeting new people. Not only did I have a chance to meet some lovely classmates, the doctors and nurses I’ve met in ED were also extremely pleasant. Some are very keen to teach and for that I am very grateful.
  • I did a few cannulations, and I’m happy to say… all of mine were successful on first attempt! I’m always a little nervous (especially in a new environment and on the first day) and never want the patient to have be pricked multiple times, so yay!

  • The patients I met and the things I learned from them:
  1. We had a few patients come in with chest pain, some very typical of cardiac pain but there was a lady with such unspecific pain and symptoms that we had to quickly rule out a life threatening aortic dissection.
  2. Met a man who was also having chest pain and syncope on a background of kidney failure needing dialysis 3 times a week. He had the most amazing arteriovenous (AV) fistula that anyone had ever seen – huge with a proximal pulse and a distal buzz/hum.
  3. There was a trauma alert for a man who fell off his motorbike going 30-40km/hr having to suddenly brake and swerve to avoid a collision. Luckily he was completely fine except for some abrasions and a broken L clavicle.
  4. A man who had a pneumothorax two weeks ago and fed up with his pain and shortness of breath. His CXRs were impressive, with most likely over 80% of his left lung collapsed. He initially wanted to manage it expectantly because he didn’t want an ICC. The doctors used a central venous line through his anterior chest and sucked out over 2L of air with instant relief.
  • Talking to Michael. Although only via text, I was happy he didn’t run into any issues during his flight back to Canada. Poor guy was exhausted but there were no issues with his flights and the additional 4-5 hours of driving went well! He shared some gorgeous views of his drive and look, mountain view just outside the place he’s staying at.

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Lowlights:

  • Getting to orientation at 9am to be told that my first ED shift would be from 1-11pm in the Resuscitation/Trauma area. I was so nervous! An evening shift on my first day where I’ll be working with the sickest people that come through the emergency.
  • The constant feeling of not knowing enough. There is always more to learn and things to review!
  • The feeling of exhaustion when I finally got home around 11:30pm. My legs and feet were incredibly sore from standing the better part of a 10 hour shift. Not to mention it was quite busy so I didn’t even take a break! I also need to make sure I stay hydrated as a headache started creeping on in the last hours of my shift.
  • Coming home to an empty house and not seeing Michael. I’m so used to his company so it is awfully lonely when you don’t have anyone to talk to!