Saturday, October 15, 2005

Five Random Things

A long, long, long time ago in happier, more carefree times. Posted by Picasa
"I was raised to believe that God has a plan for everyone and that seemingly random twists of fate are all a part of His plan." ~ Ronald Reagan (American 40th US President (1981- 89), 1911-2004)
I have been tagged for the "Five Random Things" meme by Elisabeth. I can't seem to think without my quote and this one was appropriate for me. Many things in my life might seem random to most people but I don't believe they were or are. I believe God has a plan for my life, I just haven't always been very good about following that plan. This has landed me in hot water more than once. So here goes.

1. I have always loved animals. When I was four I had a Chihuahua named Tippy. He was hyper like they all are but he played in the yard with me all the time. His favorite game was "steal the toy". He would steal one of my sandbox toys, take it to the other side of the yard and sit there looking at me. He didn't chew on it or hide it, he just took it and sat there as if to say "I've got it, now what are you going to do about it?" I would go and take it away and he would just steal another one. One day we were playing this game and he ran too close and made me trip. Trying not to fall, I stepped on his little foot and broke it. I was small but the little bones are so fragile. At the vet they had to do emergency surgery to try and fix it. Tippy always ate the Cream of Wheat I didn't finish in the morning. He had done so this morning as usual. When they gave him the anesthesia, he vomited, aspirated and they couldn't save him. The vet said that his bones were crushed and couldn't be repaired. Mom and Dad told me and while I don't think I understood it all, I knew Tippy wasn't coming back. They say I cried for days. Over the years I have not gotten any better at it either. I essentially become a basket case when I lose an animal.

2. I didn't plan on being a doctor. My plans were to major in Biology and minor in English and maybe teach. First week on campus we took the CLEP tests and I tested out of 30 hours, almost all of my general requirements. So I ended up double majoring in Zoology and Chemisty. My advisors suggested I take the MCAT test for medical school. I hadn't really thought about it but went ahead. The Tuesday before the test on Saturday, my grandmother in Illinois died suddenly after being ill for only a couple of days. I flew from Oklahoma to the funeral and flew back on Friday night arriving at midnight before the test at 8 AM. I didn't didn't prepare and did not expect a score high enough for acceptance, but my results were better than I expected. So I applied to med school. At the time we lived in Delaware and this state did not have a medical school. So I applied many places including Thomas Jefferson in Philadelphia, University of Chicago Pritzker, and all the University of Texas schools (Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Galveston, etc.) By the time interviews and the waiting for those elusive acceptance letters came around I had made plans to marry Paul. He was from Texas, with a double major in Physics and Math, and planned on doing graduate work in laser physics at North Texas State University in Denton, Texas. In February before graduation, I was accepted at University of Chicago Pritzker, UT Galveston, and UT San Antonio. I was put on a wait list for UT Southwestern in Dallas. Since I was going to marry the day after graduation, the only recourse was to turn down those offers of admission and wait. I thought my advisor was going to have a stroke. You just don't turn down a spot in medical school. I decided that if it worked out it was meant to be, if not I would just change my focus. Between February and the first of May, I had no where to go, no school, no plan. Then on the 3rd of May, 1974 I received the acceptance letter from UT Southwestern in Dallas. I thought this meant my plan was the right plan. Looking back maybe it wasn't the med school that was my wrong choice but rather that Paul was my wrong choice. I say this because David was also at UT Southwestern. (not going to say any more about that now) Anyway, at the end of May I married, we moved to Denton, I worked the summer in a nursing home and Paul started grad school. We moved to Carrollton at the end of the summer. (half-way between Denton and Dallas) I started medical school. "They" tell you that the hardest thing is getting accepted and after that it is a breeze. "They" lie.

3. I planned to go into Obstetrics and Gynecology. After medical school the new, young doctors go into internship and residency in their chosen specialty. Some like Family Practice may be two or three years and others like Neurosurgery may be eight years. OB is really an absurd choice for me, looking back. It always took me a very long time to become coherent at a moments notice in the middle of the night. On my rotation in internal medicine at Baylor Hospitals I had to sleep in the women's call room when our group took call every fourth night. I never understood the location of the emergency calls in the middle of the night with the first try. The operator had to repeat the room, hospital, and patient name. So what was I thinking trying to do OB; everyone knows most babies decide to arrive in the middle of the night. The biggest challenge of the senior year in medical school is to get the right residency. This is done through "THE MATCH". You apply to a residency program, interview, send testing results and grades. Then the student ranks their choices of places to go 1,2,3, and so on. The residency programs rank the students that have applied on the basis of who they want. This goes to some magic place and on March 15th seniors line up in front of the mail boxes to get their letters. (Does anyone see the irony in this date? The Ides of March, Julius Caesar, stab in the back?) I missed this. On March 13th (another ironic date) I, along with several others in our class were called in to the Dean's office. We had not matched. None of our top choices wanted us. Apparently, 50 students out of the 200 in our class wanted to do OB/GYN and most wanted to stay in Dallas. (I had to stay because Paul wasn't finished with his PhD.) There were only 25 slots if you didn't count Parkland Hospital. I would rather have had my head cut off than do residency at Parkland. We worked with the booklet looking for residencies with spaces. One in St. Louis and one in Knoxville, both fell through by the end of the day. The medical school's solution? Do an internship in anesthesiology for a year and then try again for Parkland residency. That day ranks up there with the ten worst days of my life.

4. This is sort of a continuation of number three. I got into Pathology by a very weird path. That afternoon I was in total despair. I thumbed through the booklet listing open slots over and over. I noticed that Baylor University Medical Center there in Dallas had two slots open in their Pathology residency. The head of their program, Dr. G. Race, also held an administrative position at the med school. It happened that he was in his office that day and had time to see me. Had I known anything about him or if I had ever met him prior to that meeting, I doubt I would have had the courage to go through with it. But being at the end of my rope and being railroaded into a year of "passing gas", I went. I just sat down and it all came tumbling out, the match, the missteps with Missouri and Knoxville, the anesthesia, the OB/Gyn and the fact that I had never thought of Pathology. At the end of my dump, he calmly said, "Come over to Baylor tomorrow morning and look around, talk to the staff and we will see what we can do." Next morning I was there at the early conference, 8 AM sharp, only to hear them announce the names of the new first year residents. I did the math. All the spots were filled. I kept going although inside I was deflated. Towards the end of the day, Dr. Race took me in his office and offered me a spot. Apparently, one of the fourth years was finishing in three months and they would just work in an extra resident. All of this was with the understanding that if after a year I wanted to go back to OB I could. So I signed the contract on the spot. Relief. When I got home, Paul told me that the dean of students was desperately trying to call me. (no cell phones then) One of the hospitals I didn't match with had had a change of heart. Unfortunately I had discovered the reason they did not match with me: "They had already matched with one WOMAN and didn't want any more in their program." I no longer wanted to work with them. I had a contract and a place to go. The amazing thing is that I was the only one of that group that stayed with the program the whole four years and ended up Chief Resident. Who'd of thunk it?

5. I've stopped to give medical help at accidents at least three times over the years. The most memorable was on a backroad between Wichita Falls and Dallas, Texas. Paul and I were on our way to his parents house. We came across an accident just after it happened. A motorcycle with two riders tangled with an 18-wheeler semi truck. The motorcycle lost. One of the passengers, a girl, was lying on the roadway screaming. The driver was walking around in a daze. The trucker had called for an ambulance but they were 30 minutes away. The driver had a leather jacket on and seemed to only have cuts and scrapes. I told Paul to get him to sit and not move. The girl was awake and kept screaming that her leg hurt. It wasn't obviously broken but I had her keep it still. She was scraped and had superficial cuts. I worried most about her abdomen and her head, no helmet. At first she couldn't remember her name, her address or phone number. I didn't have my bag. I just kept talking to her and held her hand and as she calmed down, she gradually started to remember who she was and her phone number; finally, she could tell me that it didn't hurt when she breathed or when I palpated her abdomen. The paramedics finally arrived and her blood pressure was stable. I had them put a blow up stabilizing apparatus on her leg and gave them my name and number. They were in contact with a physician at the emergency room. We went on to Wichita Falls and I called the hospital to learn that she had broken her leg but was doing fine. No head injury. Two months later I was sitting in my resident office at Baylor when the phone rang. It was the girl. She had gotten my number from the hospital emergency records and wanted to thank me. She didn't remember the accident but remembered that someone held her hand and kept talking to her and that had helped her be less afraid. After she hung up, I shed a tear or two. It was the first time any patient had ever thanked me for helping them. In fact this incident in residency and one other while I practiced in Mississippi were the only two times in 27 years that any patient ever said "thank you". Everyone, even doctors, need to hear this once in a while.

Well, that's it. Elisabeth tagged several for this meme. I think I will just let those who want to do it do so and then let me know so I can visit and learn more about you too. Thanks.

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