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 07, 2014

Highlights:

  • My highlight of the day was easily having dinner at Kristen and Matt’s and seeing their little Abigail again! She is almost 6 months old and man, has she grown! Sitting up on her own and eating solids, time flies! It was also lovely to catch up with Matt and Kristen over some yummy tacos, cupcakes, ice cream, and wine! Will try to see them again soon 🙂
  • Was researching wedding stuff – exciting!

Lowlights:

  • Was researching wedding stuff – oh my god, we so poor! 😦 Haha!

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.

Another one I like

  • 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 02, 2014

Highlights:

  • Having a filling breakfast before starting the day. Doesn’t often happen on a day when I’m working!
  • Video chatting with Michael who’s now in Vancouver and staying with my sister, so getting to see and talking to her too!

Lowlights:

Similar to May 30th, I was rostered to sit in on another 4 hr teaching session for the junior doctors (interns). Seeing that I was sitting away from the main table, the interns told me to join them and participate in order to “actively learn.” The module for this session was abdominal pain, which is a very common presentation with numerous causes from simple to complex. Unfortunately, I felt the consultant who ran the session was quite demeaning towards me and by the end of the session, I was infuriated. I remember 3 distinct moments:

  • Someone has come into the emergency department with severe abdominal pain. What kind of pain relief would you consider giving? You would want something strong and quick acting, a reasonable choice is intravenous morphine. The consultant pointed me out and said, “You… maybe others, are probably thinking of the WHO ladder.” I wasn’t, it would be nice to ask me rather than imply. The WHO ladder is more for the management of chronic pain, starting with simple analgesia like Tylenol/Panadol + Ibuprofen and working up to stronger pain killers like weak opioids and then strong opioids. Of course you would not use the WHO ladder in this acute setting, I know that.
  • We then talked about pelvic examinations. Which includes a speculum exam (like when you get a pap smear) and a bimanual exam – when you use your fingers to feel inside a woman’s vagina, trying to palpate their uterus and ovaries for any masses or tenderness. Again, he pointed me out saying, “You’ve probably done one or two? Like during the training session with the volunteers?” Then without giving me a chance to reply, continues speaking. I was dumbfounded. Yes, we were given a training session and had the opportunity to practice on volunteers… back in 2nd year. By now in 4th year, I’ve had the opportunity to do quite a number of exams, even felt pathology. But… thanks again.
  • The last and most upsetting. We were asked what bHCG levels are relevant when doing an ultrasound. After a few seconds of silence, I answered “1500 and 3500.” These numbers are relevant because they’re the cut offs for the sonographer to be able to see an intrauterine pregnancy via the vagina or abdomen, respectively. However, rather than simply saying, “Yes, why?” He responded with, “I can see you’ve done your reading.” No, I didn’t just do my reading, I have completed my OBGYN rotation, I know this because I’ve learned it and applied it clinically.

I work hard to learn because I want to be a good doctor next year. I want as much clinical experience and teaching as possible in order to help me to be the best doctor I can be. And if you want good doctors, then you need to treat final year medical students like the doctors you want them to be. You don’t treat them like first year medical students and/or assume they have no clinical experience or knowledge. Argh!

My rant of the day. Over.

 

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!

My pathetically long blog absence

Dear friends,

Where have I been? Here and there. Doing this, doing that. I’ve been terrible at including you, I know. I’m sorry!

Today has been a very difficult and emotional day for me. Michael, my fiance, is currently flying back to Canada where he will be completing his next two rotations (3rd – Critical Care and 4th – Medical Specialties) while I remain in Brisbane. It will be an exciting and scary journey for him rotating through a number of different hospitals, but I have no doubt he will fit in and excel. Fortunately, I will also have the opportunity to complete Rotation 4 (starting in two months) in Canada. During the last 4 weeks of that rotation, we will be only 1.5 hours drive apart so we’ll finally be able to see each other! I already feel so alone! Never in the years we’ve been together have we been apart or tested by a long distance relationship. I’m sure these next few months will not be easy but thank goodness for texting and video calling. I miss him so much already.

I have a number of topics to catch up and share with you on this blog, including:

  • Some happy moments with friends back in April
  • The MCCEE exam that I finally wrote on May 5th
  • What food have I been making?
  • My Obstetrics & Gynaecology rotation that ended May 9th, including how the final exams went!
  • Our amazing one week vacation in Bali (May 10 to May 17) which was also our first experience with Club Méditerranée, commonly known as Club Med
  • The wedding of our 2 wonderful friends James & Kim on May 17th
  • My upcoming 3rd rotation in Critical Care

In addition, as I have found it very difficult to not only keep up with blogging but also find interesting things to write about during busy and full-on rotations, I have decided to start a new daily blog series project. Starting tomorrow, the first day of my 3rd rotation (Critical Care), I will be doing a Daily Highlights and Lowlights (DHAL) post. This idea was inspired by April & Justin whose daily vlogs I enjoy enjoy watching on YouTube. At the end of each of their videos, they share the highlights of their day. 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.

Thank you for sticking around with me, I hope you enjoy the blog posts to come!