Toxic

In the hospital, whenever we experience difficult times — when we have too many patients to handle or when we’re simply unable to catch up with the output required of us — we have a term for it: “toxic.” When there are too many admissions, and the only thing we do all night is update the patient census, it’s toxic. When the patient has different tubes attached to any orifice you can think of — natural or artificial — we call him “toxic.” However, there is another kind of toxic I hate, and it’s working with toxic people.

The hospital itself is toxic. Being on duty for 36 hours is no joke. Every time I go home, I always have a mindset that I won’t be going home the next day, even though we go on 36-hour duties for two to three times a week. Even so, every two days, our day lasts for 36 hours. Therefore, I believe, it is essential to keep a positive attitude, and to keep reminding oneself why you’re there, why you’re doing it, and that you’re enjoying it in the first place. Because, let’s admit it, medicine is actually very fun.

But when you’re forced to work with people who complain about everything, people who do not even meet minimum expectations, people who take every criticism personally… it’s enough to make you lose a few pounds due to stress. I realize I haven’t been enjoying this rotation because I’m forced to work with such people. When I was able to take a 2-week break from them, I was reminded how I enjoyed seeing and experiencing new things in medicine. It made me realize I was okay with being decked to a surgery that could last for 10 hours, just so I could experience it. And now that I’m back with them, I’m reminded of the exhaustion, because when I’m with them, all I could hear are complaints — how hard it is, how irritating person X is, things like those. Thank God I don’t have to directly work with them for two and a half months.

Thank God, my group-mates aren’t like that. Thank God, my group-mates actually appreciate medicine, because it actually is enjoyable. But if you’re gonna be in a toxic environment with toxic people, the stress will just, well, poison you.

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Status post 11-hour spine surgery

With the doctor who operated on one of the previous presidents of the country. It’s something a med student has to undergo, especially those who are just trying to breeze through their surgical rotations unscathed, like me. The day started out with me having my last meal (a cup of oatmeal), and not knowing that I was not gonna eat anything until 9 hours later, for a 15-minute lunch. The surgeon was angered too early in the process due to the long time it took for preparations. The surgery was supposed to start at 6 in the morning. We ended up cutting around 8 AM. He was angry at the nurses, he was angry at the radiology technicians, he was angry at the sponsors who were there for the metal implants which were to be inserted to the patient’s spine. Even I made a small blunder, but he didn’t have the stomach to be mad at doctors and doctors-to-be. Like me. His temper early in the morning made me a bit nervous, I guess.

And I was assigned that surgery after being in the hospital for 24 hours already. I did not have a good sleep before that surgery. I learned a lot, though. Who knew Orthopedics could be brutal? It was. They were inserting, screwing, drilling, or hammering things into people’s bones. And we’re talking about the spine. I guess it was amazing to see a spine being opened in real life… if only I wasn’t sleep-deprived and exhausted before I entered it. This is where I realize I’m meant to be seated beside the anesthesia machine.

The Hospital Jocks

In reference to my previous post about stereotypes in the hospital, I discovered that residents of General Surgery are not the hospital jocks. It’s the residents of Orthopedics. The tall, buff guys are in Orthopedics. They only have a total of more or less five girls in the department, and only two of them are built with a small frame. The rest are just bulky. They were made for Orthopedics, to carry bodies, to drill into hipbones, to hammer into shoulders, and to amputate whole legs.

Moreover, most of the time, the guys from Orthopedics make me feel uncomfortable, and not in a good way. They love green jokes. And when I say green jokes, I mean really green jokes. Jokes I would not laugh at. Jokes that everyone in the operating room would laugh at just to please the elderly consultant who made the joke in the first place, but which I would get light-headed upon hearing.

There’s also this one elderly consultant who would allow only girls to assist in his surgeries, because males would get roasted. And then he’d ask girls all these sexual questions, like how far you’ve gone with a guy, what the dirtiest thing to ever cross your mind was, etc. I’m not an innocent girl. I’m not pretending to be a goody-goody. The fact that I understand their jokes proves that. It doesn’t mean I enjoy it.

There is, however, one resident, who’s reserved and kind. He’s quite good-looking, too, and I appreciate his presence when he’s there, because to be honest, I’m scared of most of them. It’s not like I’m afraid they’d touch me or anything. Nothing like that. They’re nice people. But I don’t really like talking about things I’d rather not talk about. I don’t appreciate being asked if I watch porn, when obviously, I don’t.

It’s funny how I have these side-problems, other than the other problems we deal with in the hospital. Every day is a usual day for us when it comes to patients. Nothing special. Maybe when a patient comes in the ER with a pole in his abdomen, I’d actually write about patients for once. But for now, let me rant about the things TV series and films show which are actually true-to-life.

I am really sad

And I didn’t expect to be. We brought my brother to the airport last night, on New Year’s Eve, for his trip to the United States. I know he’s really sad, too, but he was not showing it. He did not use to smile in pictures years ago, so it’s comforting that he’s smiling genuinely in the pictures we took before he left.

He’s been through quite a lot. He’s also been misunderstood a lot. He suffered from depression for years. It’s a genetic-environment thing. I think my family, mother’s side specifically, is plagued with mental disorders. My uncle has schizophrenia, and he’s non-functional at 50+ years of age. One of my half-uncles is also intellectually impaired. He’s more functional than my schizophrenic uncle, but still cannot function in the real world. One of my mom’s greatest fear was that my brother would end up like them. I never thought this day would ever come, when he’d actually say yes to living in a foreign land, with people he has never been with before.

For years, my brother liked being alone in his room. There were bad times when I’d hear him yell curse words. He’d smear his blood all over the walls and door of his room. I think even my dad gave up on him. I seriously thought there was no hope for him, too, at one point. He had also become addicted to alcohol and smoking, and he did not really have a good support system outside of the family. Even the family – we – were not the best support system.

This day, one year ago, my brother still had clinical depression. In 2017, he met his psychiatrist. He did not take medications. He underwent months of pure psychotherapy. I thank God so much he met his doctor, who did not give up on him. I never thought 2018 would start this way. I feel sad because I miss him terribly, and it hasn’t been 24 hours since he’s been gone. I go about my day and I still think he’s just in the next room. I’m about to go to him and then I suddenly remember he’s around 6000 miles away from me. It was hard for me to go back home and going back to his empty room, seeing a lot of things he left, and thinking that the last time I was there, he was with me. It’s not the first time this happened, but I forgot how painful it was to miss someone terribly.

Anyway, I should be happy for him, and I should concentrate on helping him and rooting for him. USA is gonna be a huge challenge for him. It’s probably not something I’d be able to conquer right now. The people he’s gonna stay with are quite harsh when it comes to conversations, but deep inside, they’re kind-hearted people who are willing to help. I just hope he concentrates on the good things he has, and the good future ahead of him, which everyone around him thought he’d never have.

He’s just a reminder of God’s goodness, and it gives me mixed feelings. This is just a slap in the face for me, because I think I’ve given up hoping for good things recently. I believe in God, His love, and His goodness, but I stopped praying and hoping for specific things, because I believed if something bad were to happen, I’d have to accept it. Much like Job.

But mom reminded me that my brother was like Joseph the dreamer. His family rebuked him, much like how most of my family did not believe my brother would amount to anything, and someone outside the family saw his potential and invested and helped him. This is just a reminder that when God wants to bless you, He will not hesitate to do so abundantly. I guess it’s better to focus on this.

Work-Life Balance

If in 2017, I learned to stop crying, in 2018, I shall learn to have the work-life balance.

Ever since I started rotating in the hospital and having 36-hour shifts, I just seemed to have quit on life. I always had the excuse to not do things I used to do, not to see old friends, and not to buy things I used to buy for myself and other people. I really am broke this year, which is why I was not able to give gifts to people, but I didn’t even try anymore – to save up or to get out to buy gifts. Or even just to write letters of appreciation.

I just simply quit on everything, and I felt like I had the perfect excuse to. It’s because there are a lot of times this year when I would get home from a 36-hour shift, head straight for the bed without having dinner, and ending up not taking a bath for 48 hours straight. According to our residents, it gets worse in residency, which is why I believe I have to figure out a sort of balance this year, before internship/ last year of medical school starts, and before I plan things out for residency.

I also have to decide where I want to do residency, because it means I have to start making arrangements. It’d be easier for me, logistically, to stay here, because I wouldn’t have to worry about things like airfare to the US, or paying for the USMLE, which is, for my standard, a ridiculously expensive exam to take. I always keep talking about the US because we were born there, and as I’ve said in my previous blog post, my brother’s about to settle there starting January 1, 2018. It’s just a thing about our future that’s been decided ever since I was born. I always had an unconscious mindset that the US is our future. That’s how my parents have always planned it. I don’t really have objections about it, unless my bank account says otherwise. Or unless my heart says otherwise. I don’t know, maybe I will meet someone special right before I leave for the US, and maybe he’ll stop me from leaving. Nah, just kidding.

So yes, work-life balance. I have to re-learn how to make better use of my time and energy, and I have to take time to keep special people in my life, especially if I still want them in my life. I don’t want them to drift away. I don’t want to be the type of person who is cynical and values work over everything. I don’t want to keep chasing my cell phone in the morning, worrying about whether I have a surgery to assist with the boss of the Department of Surgery.

Most importantly, I want to get back into the habit of taking time to appreciate and study the Bible. To be honest, it’s been a long time since I last prayed. Whenever I pray, I keep it real, because I know God already knows my inner thoughts, and He knows I don’t want to ask for things anymore, because, well, I don’t want to get my hopes up most of the time. If I’m gonna be my own villain and count the things life has put against me, it would include my dad’s death in 2014, my brother going away in a few days for good, and my mom actually having a pulmonary mass which we have yet to fully know about. But if I were to really rely on God, I wouldn’t be the boss of my life. Maybe it is okay to ask for things from God, but ultimately, I aim to trust Him in the end.

Another aspect of the work-life balance I have yet to start figuring out is the boyfriend part. It’s not something I deliberately pay attention to, and it’s not something I’m really worrying about right now. I always know, deep inside, that this is one of the things I completely leave up to God, because I seriously don’t know how to deal with it. Also because I want that aspect of my life to serve Him as well, and I know He knows what’s best for me.

Even so, I can’t help but consider things, or people, along the way, especially when your residents tell you they’ve overheard someone talking about you that way (you know what I mean) and that they insist they will find your secret admirer for you. It gives me fluffy feelings whenever I think about that, as well as when I think about the time when they actually announced to your whole group that you have a secret admirer, and now, people can’t stop reminding you about that, as well as asking you if you’ve found out the identity of the person. I find it weird, because I’m not usually the girl people find attractive the first time they meet, or see. I was described as the “girl next door.” I looked it up on Google and that was the only time I only fully understood what it meant, even though I’ve heard of the term before, as a previous fan of chick lit novels.

Most of the interesting things in my life still happen in my head, which is why I’m still wondering I can’t get the hang of writing again. Maybe that’s another thing I’m gonna try to reconcile this year. People have been throwing parties left and right (and the only one I attended was the one I was required to go), and, hearing drunk stories, I’m glad I decided to take a one-year break from alcohol. Was it natural for me to not have expected anything interesting for 2017 because of that? Nah, just kidding.

This year, I learned to stop crying

Literally. I learned to tell myself to stop crying whenever I had the urge to. I told myself, before clinical rotations started, that I could only allow myself one opportunity to cry during fourth year of medical school. I met my quota on my second day of clinical rotations. I haven’t really cried ever since. Maybe I did, but in private – in the bathroom, in the shower, or when something got stuck in my eye. Other than that, I’ve learned to tell myself to suck it up and leave feelings for later. I always tell people I’m proud I went through OB GYN without crying, even in private.

However, the final exam comes on December 31, 2017, when we bring my brother to the airport for his trip to the US. And when I say “trip,” I don’t mean vacation. He’s gonna be staying there for good; at least, until he gets enough money to live on his own and travel back home on his own. To say the least, I don’t know when I’ll ever see him again, since I’m gonna be finishing med school here in the Philippines, and I still have more than a year left. After med school for me, I seriously don’t know where I’m headed. But that’s for another blog post. Or maybe I just don’t want to dwell on the thought altogether – I seriously don’t know where I’m headed after med school, and it’s the first time I don’t have an after-plan, ever.

So yes, I don’t know if I’ll be able to control my tear ducts for that day. I’m torn between staying in the hospital just so I have an excuse not to face that moment, and insisting that I tag along to the airport. My brother and I have had disagreements before, and I didn’t really take time and effort to understand what he was going through. As a sister, I wish I did a lot more for him when he was suffering with depression. I have a tendency to run away from things I’m uncomfortable with, things which I don’t know how to deal with, and things which I’m not required to deal with. Even so, he’s one of the best people I could talk to in the world. He’s probably the only one who fully gets my weird-ness, because he’s as weird as I am. He’s been through a lot, and he’s been misunderstood a lot, but deep inside, he’s still so pure and kind. Too pure, he’s too good for the world.

My baby brother has to learn how to live alone. Well, not alone, because he’ll be with other people, but that’s the thing. He’s gonna be with people he’s never been with before. I hope he won’t be too sad. I hope he could focus on the brighter aspect of things. After all, going to the US is a really exciting thing.

Then again, there’s no place like home.

December 25, 2017

I appreciate being home for Christmas, even though it’s only for four days, and duty hours for four days straight await me at the hospital for New Year.

For the first time in a long time, tomorrow, for Christmas morning, I will wake up to the sound of something else other than my alarm clock. It’s been exhausting for the past few weeks, even months, since I started clinical rotations, but somehow, I know I’m gonna have to learn to adjust. I feel like I just came out of the hospital, not knowing what year I’m in, and someone just tells me it’s Christmas already, and boom, it’s actually December 25.

I also appreciate this time to remember the greatest gift I’ve ever received. Thank you, Jesus, for coming to give your life to us. My life has been changed drastically since you came in to my life. I cannot thank you more. Though I don’t take time off everyday to reflect on your Word, you are really the only constant in my life.