On being a patient as a medical student

On being a patient as a medical student

During my fall break last week, I (finally) got my torn meniscus repaired. Having surgery on my knee gave me an interesting opportunity that I haven’t had in a while–a chance to be a surgery patient.


I’ve had surgery before, but this time, as a medical student, it felt a little different. I understood a lot more of what was going on with my procedure and who was involved in my care. And of course I thought about everything that could possibly go wrong during surgery. Even though the meniscus repair was a pretty minor procedure and not very invasive, with any medical procedure there is always potential for something to go wrong. So naturally I found myself feeling a little anxious about all the possibilities for a bad outcome.

Getting surgery was a reminder of how overwhelming, stressful, and anxiety-provoking being a patient can be. As I sat basically naked under a hospital gown and blankets, doctors and nurses came in and out of my room to talk to me, started an IV, asked me questions, marked the site of surgery…. I verified my name and birthdate I don’t know how many times, and explained over and over to various people my idea of what was going on (arthroscopy of the right knee and repair of the lateral meniscus) to make sure everyone was on the same page.

It was a lot.

Post-op phone call with my sister (pretty sure I was half asleep)

I felt lucky to have my parents there with me pre-op, which helped me feel a little more relaxed (even though they may have been more nervous than I was). I also felt lucky that I had a general awareness of what role all the various nurses and doctors played in my care and a good understanding of the procedure itself.

But I realize not everyone has these comforts going into surgery. Some people may show up for their surgery completely alone (especially if it’s an emergency situation), and many may not have a solid understanding of the procedure. I can only imagine that in either or both of those cases a patient’s anxiety would markedly increase.

Being a patient while in medical school was particularly interesting because one day, pretty soon, I will be on the other side of things and be a doctor taking care of my own patients. I’m thankful I was able to have some moments of introspection and reflection about what it feels like to be a patient because I think it can be easy for physicians to just view patients as a constellation of disease processes, injuries, or symptoms instead of as a whole person with feelings and fears. In the future I want to always keep in mind how I felt as a patient: vulnerable, nervous, restless, unsure. I don’t want to lose sight of what that felt like, because I’m sure my future patients will have those very same emotions–and many more.

I thank God that my surgery went  well. The care and attention I received before and after my surgery was absolutely wonderful. (And I’m sure I received great care during the surgery as well because I’m recovering fabulously.) I couldn’t be more proud to be a student at an institution that really values patient care. (Sounds cliche but I really mean it.)

Recovery= rest, ice, compression, elevation, and Law & Order marathons

 

Now time to get back in the gym!

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Kehinde Wiley, you made my Labor Day

Kehinde Wiley, you made my Labor Day

Labor Day Weekend 2016 has (sadly) come to an end. (But I refuse to say goodbye to summer because the temperature is still in the 90s.)

This year turned out to be a pretty relaxing LDW (after the part where I endured a pretty grueling final exam for cardio, of course). I mainly hung out around the house, tidying up/organizing/decorating. But everything changed when I came across an email about an upcoming discussion about artist Kehinde Wiley! I’ve admired his work for a while, because I love how he creates incredible, colorful portraits of people of color that are inspired by historical works of art. (If you want a better summary of his life and his work (trust me, you do), check this out.)

So naturally, when I realized that his exhibit, “A New Republic” was on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art in Richmond, I had to go. I recruited my best friend Michaela (also a huge Wiley fan) to come with me, and we spent our day off from class flourishing away in Richmond.


I was super excited for this exhibit and I can say that I was not disappointed. Wiley’s work is infinitely more beautiful in person, when you can really appreciate how detailed and (how massive) every painting truly is. I really was in awe of all of his work. I couldn’t even pick a favorite painting.



“A New Republic” also included some of Wiley’s sculptures and stained glass pieces, which were new to me because I had only heard of his paintings. But these works, especially the stained glass, were just as awe-inspiring as the large-scale portraits. Clearly, this man is talented.

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Painting is about the world we live in. Black people live in the world. My choice is to include them. This is my way of saying yes to us.

-Kehinde Wiley

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Bottom line: If any of you ever have the chance to see Kehinde Wiley’s work in person, please please please go! You won’t regret it.

-S

Helloooooo, M2!

I know, it’s been a while, but the first few weeks of school were pretty hectic. Between moving into a new apartment unit, and taking an anatomy practical and an exam within the first two and a half weeks of class, I’ve been a busy lady these past couple of weeks.


This year is my second year of medical school, and I’ve set a few goals for myself. I’ll share them with y’all so hopefully you keep me accountable.

  1. Keep studying hard. I (thankfully) managed to make it through my first year of medical school, so I just have to stay focused and make it through one more semester of pre-clinical work! (And then study for boards but I don’t wanna talk about it…)
    1. Cook more. I’m trying to save up some money to take a nice, much-needed vacation after I take Step 1 in January, and I know I can save a ton if I eat out less and cook more. I’ve been stocking up on cookbooks and recipes so I’m pretty excited to try out some new dishes—and depending on how they turn out I’ll share them on the blog!                 
  2. Exercise more. Exercise is good for the mind, body, and soul and it really helps me feel better when school gets stressful. A knee injury has been holding me back but hopefully after that gets sorted out I’ll be up in the gym just workin’ on my fitness a little more regularly.
  3. Call friends/family more. Sorry guys I know I’m bad at this. But just because I don’t call/text doesn’t mean I don’t think about you! I’ll try to do a better job of showing it though.
  4. Take time for myself. Medical school gets pretty stressful, so it’s important to find time to wind down and relax. For me this will probably mean the occasional Netflix and chill (by myself) or treating myself to a mani/pedi every now and then. Also, I recently discovered a local massage school that only charges $25 for an hour massage, so best believe I’ll be checking that out.
  5. Keep on flourishing. The good thing about only having class Mon-Fri from 8am-12pm and podcasted lectures is that I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule. But that will change once I get on the wards in February. I want to make sure I take advantage of the free time I have now and get out and explore wineries, try new restaurants, dance at salsa nights, go on some weekend trips, maybe go on a hike or two… You know, just flourish. 

I’m really looking forward to this upcoming school year. I’ll be sure to share some of the highlights with you on the blog, so keep an eye out!

In the meantime, back to studying.

-S

My Jungle Adventure at Tikal National Park

My Jungle Adventure at Tikal National Park

Ever since arriving in Guatemala, I knew I wanted to go to Tikal National Park. Temple I in the Great Plaza of the park is basically a symbol of Guatemala. My guidebook went as far to compare it to the Eiffel Tower’s iconic representation of Paris.

Temple I (“El Gran Jaguar”) in the Great Plaza

The problem was that I was living and working in the southern/southwestern part of the country, and Tikal is in the northern part, deep in the jungle. But I was determined to get there.

So, at the end of my project, I left Xela a few days early with two of my friends and we headed for Tikal. We first took a bus to Guatemala City (4 hours), and from there took an overnight bus (10 hours!) to Santa Elena, which is close to Tikal.

We arrived in Santa Elena at 6:30am and at the bus station were immediately harassed by vendors trying to sell us bus tickets to Tikal. But to avoid getting scammed or overcharged, we decided to head towards Flores, a nearby island-town and book our bus and guided tour through Los Amigos Hostel. Best decision we could have made.

Los Amigos was great. The hostel itself has a really cool vibe, and setting up the bus + guided tour with them was really easy and went incredibly smoothly. We also bought a bagged lunch from the hostel’s restaurant to take with us to the park.

We left for the park at 8am, and stayed until 3pm. Our guide, Luis, took us on a tour through the park, leading us from complex to complex and pointing out spider monkeys and tarantulas along the way. He was really knowledgeable about the flora and fauna in the park and made the whole experience really incredible for us. He showed us a plant whose flowers smell like garlic, and encouraged us to eat termites, which he said tasted like carrots (almost everyone declined but a few brave souls actually did it).

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The branches of the ceiba tree, the national tree of Guatemala
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The massive base of the ceiba tree—the Maya believe its four posts signified the four cardinal directions
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A tarantula the size of my hand!

I most enjoyed finally being able to see (and climb) Tikal’s temples and pyramids. I liked spending time in the Great Plaza, which is flanked by two large temples.

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View of the Great Plaza from the North Acropolis
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Temple II (Temple of Masks) in the Great Plaza
A pyramid with sacrificial altars lined up in front
Palacio de los murciélagos (Palace of Windows)

I also enjoyed climbing the Temple IV which is the tallest temple in the park, and actually the tallest remaining Pre-Columbian structure in the Americas. (It’s also the site where they shot a scene of Star Wars Episode IV!) From the top of Temple IV, we had a beautiful view above the jungle canopy , with the temples flanking the Great Plaza poking out between the trees. It was truly breathtaking.

View from Temple IV

After our day at Tikal, we spent a little time exploring the nearby town of Flores. I absolutely adored this town—it’s actually on its own island! I also loved that Flores has this cool Caribbean vibe to it complete with brightly painted houses.

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We ate dinner at Raices Bar & Grill, and sat out on the dock. This gave us a beautiful view of the sunset, and was the perfect ending to a long day.

View from the dock at Raices

I was scared that I would spend so much time trying to get to Tikal and then be underwhelmed by the park itself. But I can easily say that nothing about the park was underwhelming. The natural beauty of the park along with the enormous ruins were truly amazing, and worth the long journey to get there. This long excursion was the perfect end to a wonderful time in Guatemala.

-S

Oh, Antigua Guatemala…

There is so much to see in Antigua Guatemala! We really could have spent a full week there. Unfortunately, we only had the weekend. However, we managed to fit in a little bit of sightseeing (and a good bit of nightlife) into the 36 hours we spent in the city.

Sights

It was pretty drizzly and we didn’t want to be out in the rain, so we skipped a lot of the sights. We started off in the central park, which is huge, with an interesting “Mermaid” fountain in the middle of the plaza.

We then made our way to the ChocoMuseo. This place is part chocolate museum, part chocolate shop, and includes a tasting bar and a café. There are also a few classes each day where you can make your own chocolate (sadly, we just missed the morning class). I sampled some fantastic dark chocolate, and some amazing chocolate liqueur. I was so close to buying some choco-mint body lotion from the gift shop, but I convinced myself not to spend the money (in retrospect, I should have bought it—it smelled incredible).


We also made it over to the famous Arco de Santa Catalina, which was quite beautiful. Unfortunately it was so dreary outside that it was hard to appreciate the color of the arch and hard to see the volcano in the distance.

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We also made a pit stop at Nim P’ot, which is a huge hall full of artisan handicrafts. It seemed a bit overpriced to me, but I enjoyed wandering around looking at the wide variety of artisan goods that were for sale there.

Finally, before the rain, we headed to La Merced church. I was amazed by its intricate yellow and white facade, which includes carvings of lily vines and sculptures of priests. Inside the church, curtains of pale and golden yellow were draped from the ceiling behind the altar. To the right of the altar was a massive sculpture of Jesus bearing the cross, encased in an intricate gold structure.

Food*, Drink, and Party

We ate at Mono Loco the first night, which was kind of pricey (for Guatemala, at least), but pretty delicious. They have huge plates of nachos that are plenty for two people to share. The second night we tried Paddy’s BBQ, which was absolutely amazing. I had a burger with fries and it may have been one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.

*I’m planning on writing a separate post about my favorite restaurants later, so I will elaborate on these restaurants even more then.

We had a great time going out in Antigua. Two of our favorite spots were Lucky Rabbit and Reilly’s En La Esquina. But what happens in Antigua stays in Antigua so I can’t share any details (lol).

Although we didn’t get to explore any of the ruins in Antigua, or spend a lot of time just walking around and getting to know the city,  I really really enjoyed this trip.

-S

Quetzaltenan–I don’t wanna–go

I spent a total of two and a half weeks in Quetzaltenango (AKA Xela), and almost every day I discovered something new about the city that I absolutely adored. And since I’m realizing now that I never gave Xela its own blog post, I decided to come up with a list (in no particular order) of some of my favorite things about the city.

Parque Central and Pasaje de Enríquez

My Spanish school was close to Xela’s Parque Central, so I spent plenty of time around this lively park. There were always people in the parque hanging out, whether it was day or night, and during the day vendors sold ice cream, souvenirs, nuts, and plenty other things. I also loved the architecture in the central park, especially the “kiosk” in the center of the park.

 

View of Xela’s Parque Central from El Balcón de Enríquez

Right next to central park, is Pasaje Enríquez. It’s full of restaurants and bars, and is always a fun place to go at night for dinner and/or drinks. Good times were had here.

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El Pasaje de Enríquez

The people

Xela is full of so many nice and interesting people. A lot of young Guatemalans come to Xela for university, and there are also a lot of spanish schools in Xela, which draw a lot of foreigners to the city. This gives Xela a fun, youthful vibe, and we always met really cool people whenever we went out.

The food

While I didn’t eat out much when I lived in Xela because I stayed at a homestay, there were plenty of delicious (and affordable options) in the city. I’ll do a more detailed post on food later, but for now just know that there is something for everybody in Xela, whether you are looking for a café, a taquería, a burger spot, or Asian cuisine.

Tacos from TaCorazón

The climate and scenery

Fall is my favorite season, hands down. The crisp, cool air is perfect for me because I love wearing layers. Despite the fact that it was June/July when I visited Xela, it felt like fall, because we were almost 8,000ft above sea level. I loved it. Also, having views of mountains and volcanos (and even seeing one erupt!) was pretty darn special.

 

Santiaguito erupted during my Spanish class!

Xela is truly a fun, lively city that I would love to have the chance to visit again.

-S

 

Life in Santiago Atitlán

Life in Santiago Atitlán

This post is long overdue, as I’m actually leaving Santiago Atitlán in a few hours to head back to Xela (Quetzaltenango). But I lived here for almost a month, and this little lake town definitely deserves its own post.

Santiago is nestled in an inlet between three volcanos on the southern part of the lake. It’s a decent-sized town, but feels a lot more quaint than some of the other lake towns because it is not as overrun with tourists and foreigners (like Panajachel and San Pedro).

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View of Santiago Atitlán from a boat

On market days (especially Fridays), the main street of the town and the area around its Central Park is bustling with vendors selling everything from socks to tiny fish to mangos to blenders. A lot of shops sell gorgeous huipiles (traditional tops worn by women) and fabric for cortes (traditional skirts). The huipil design native to Santiago is striped with birds embroidered along the neckline.

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Santiago Atitlán’s Parque Central
Monument in Parque Central of the 25 cent Quetzal coin. The coin features the profile of Concepción Ramírez, who was born in Santiago Atitlán.
A statue at the entrance of Parque Central depicting the traditional dress of Mayan women in Santiago Atitlán

As you walk away from the central park towards the dock, more of the shops sell souvenirs in addition to huipiles and cortes. The variety is outrageous; you can buy bags, shoes, beaded jewelry, embroidered tapestries, wooden carvings, tablecloths, blankets, hammocks, and so much more. I did my fair share of shopping in Santiago, and bought tons of souvenirs for friends and family (and plenty for myself).

Artist Diego Morán in his shop. I couldn’t resist buying one of his portraits.

One thing I love about Santiago is that you have a view of a volcano from almost anywhere in the city.

San Pedro volcano

As for where I’ve been living, I’ve been staying in a bakery. Yep, an actual bakery. There’s a room with a huge oven and racks of bread, and people from all over town come by to pick up bins of bread. They also make yummy pastries, cakes and donuts.

Our host family is extremely kind and welcoming. Our host mom was generous enough to send us off with some fresh banana bread, a couple of donuts or apple turnovers as we headed off to work. Also, she is an incredible cook.

Our host mom decorating a cake

We also have three “brothers” (the youngest of which loves to show off his latest Lego creations), a cranky pet parrot named Manolo, and two pet dogs.

Manolo, the most temperamental animal I’ve ever met

While Santiago is definitely a lot quieter than Xela was, I’ve really enjoyed living here over the past month, and I’ll definitely miss the town (and my host family) when I leave.

My host mom giving me a lesson on how to make tortillas

-S