Thursday, January 31, 2008

Medical Communication

In the age of the internet, I thought medical communication would be pretty fool proof. Well I don't know why I spent that time studying nursing - it just makes things more confusing.

The nurse said, "I think you should come to Halifax". My heart almost stopped. In my day, that's what they said when it was already impossible to get there fast enough to say goodbye.

When they said pneumonia, I didn't ask what kind. I thought I knew. Aspiration pneumonia used to be referred to as aspiration pneumonia. If I had typed aspiration pneumonia + average length of hospital stay into google and saw 28 days, I would have taken the time to find my boots, fill a prescription, put a little thought into my packing.

And mostly I'm scared. We're going to walk out that door and I'm not going to know his labs or have seen his xrays or have privy to any of his assessments. I'll take him out into the cold, get into a taxi carrying all his stuff and then have to get him to his 3rd floor walkup apartment. Then we'll flip his futon mattress down on the floor and one of us will have the mattress and one of us will be sleeping on top of a sleeping bag and both of us will have a struggle getting up off the floor again. Finally there's the chest tubes. What do I remember about chest tubes. Only thing I remember is that a girl in my class grabbed her nursing scissors instead of the clamp and cut one off by mistake. Guess I'll let the hospital worry about the chest tubes.

And what about my real life? The life I have been away from for 3 weeks. The responsibilities that have backlogged beyond the tipping point.

In Fiction: Consider keeping it short
Edelstein argues that the novella works in today's lifestyle. "Readable in a couple of hours, a novella demands far less time than a full-length novel: you can get through them in the same amount of time it takes to watch a film or two reality television programmes. .....I'd much rather purchase a £5 novella than yet another soul-destroying glossy magazine to accompany me on an hour-long train trip. "
Of course, being a young 'em she misses some of the marketing aspects that could entice the aging boomers. Well she did get that being able to read the whole thing in one night is a blessing for those whose memories disappear as quickly as the clock struck midnight for Cinderella. And for those of us who find running the length of an airport a bit of challenge and now have the added weight of a laptop, a 1/4 weight reduction in the book increases the chance of having enough breath left to climb the stairs into the plane. And as anyone who has ever been around when a new hymn book is being introduced, the weight of the book can be the difference between being in pain or not for anyone with the 40 varieties of arthritis.
I overheard a conversation between young friends. "I'd like to read the book you wrote. How many pages is it?" "130 pages" "Never read anything that long." So there you go.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Taxi Drivers

I've taken 2 taxis a day for 22 days. Every single ride has been with a different driver. Yesterday morning my driver was Russian and told me about health care from grandma. Another morning, my driver was Chinese and told me about the bad luck that comes when it's the year of whatever animal you were born under. It's like browsing a living internet with stories from all around the world. One taxi driver got out of his taxi and made sure you didn't slip on the ice getting to the door. He didn't need the company - he had a stream of customers calling him. My dad used to wonder why a pensioner without much money would call a cab every day to take him to the donut shop. It's a combination of transportation, a long range weather report, a multicultural experience with information you've never found anywhere else, a listening ear and being able to please someone with just a decent tip. I'd say it's quite the bargain.

Continuing Education Forms

The completion of continuing education forms by clergy is a fairly recent phenomena. I, personally, am not too thrilled with the idea. Fortunately I'm not clergy and what I read and what I study is my own personal business. I think it has all the inherent dangers of the government going into the public library and accessing the data base of books you've checked out. Why have a form floating around that could lead to presumptions about people's stands on all kinds of issues when you could just pick up the phone and talk? At this stage of life, new information is brain candy - I know I don't really need it but I love it. What is amazing is how much sifting through you have to do to toss out false information taught by experts and proven incorrect. And there's all that stuff that's lying dormant in the memory cells that you've forgotten you ever knew - stuff like algebra or some rarely used latin phrase. Part of the appeal of Angels and Demons, The DaVinci Code and National Treasure is that the hero and heroine actually save themselves because of their vast stores of knowledge which they can recall when needed and use to solve complex puzzles. Continuing education hours make sense in the sciences where information is outdated by the time it is published. Christianity is built upon ancient texts. Are priests being asked to verify that they've studied the ancient texts or the works of their contemporaries?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

What Feet Can Do

Sabine Becker has extremely short arms due to thalidamine. She was born in Germany and received physiotherapy to learn how to use your feet as hands. Seeing her thread a needle and work with those tiny beads used in Indian beadwork is truly amazing.
Creating the Alaskan Spirit Doll - Visit "Special Feet Studios" in Wasilla, Alaska where Sabine Becker makes collector quality Alaska Spirit dolls - with her feet!

Self Control is a Limited Resource

Being out of my element is definitely not making me a better person. I just want to go home and have a life. For some crazy reason, I thought that going to Nova Scotia and getting away from my life would prevent burnout and rejuvenate me. My natural element works for me. Going somewhere else is always harder, more energy draining and health robbing. At home I have a great bed - here I'm sleeping on a futon cushion on the floor. Here there is nothing to graze on so I thought I'd lose weight. Well I've eliminated a pile of bad eating habits but I've gained weight. Don't ask me why but my body is ballooning with lean cuisine. This living like a monk definitely supports the idea that self-control isn't all it promised to be. I want to go home.
This link leads to Study Hacks posting on Motivation & Will Power" which is based on research by Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist from Florida State University.
"—Self-control is a central function of the self and an important key to success in life. The exertion of self-control appears to depend on a limited resource. Just as a muscle gets tired from exertion, acts of self-control cause short-term impairments (ego depletion) in subsequent self-control, even on unrelated tasks. Research has supported the strength model in the domains of eating, drinking, spending, sexuality, intelligent thought, making choices, and interpersonal behavior. Motivational or framing factors can temporarily block the deleterious effects of being in a state of ego depletion. Blood glucose is an important component of the energy."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Gamer's Memory

Really interesting article. Quite the generation gap. I guess all those memories parents try to create are just not as memorable as Nintendo. I bought Nintendo hoping that it would develop hand-eye coordination skills but my kids only had a short passing interest in it.
"Nearly 50 percent of 26-year-old paralegal Philip Jenkins' encoded long-term memories involve button combinations, game-playing experiences, and spatial-cognitive maps of various levels and worlds from Nintendo's line of video-game consoles, a team of neuroscientists reported Tuesday...
Although these percentages are only slightly above the average for males in Jenkins' age bracket, McCarroll said that the memories most closely associated with the interactive gaming systems can be accessed far more quickly than any of his memories involving school, work, or family."

Grand Rounds

Every month, Medscape selects a blogger to do Grand Rounds. The blogger selects a theme and then directs you to a blog entry from a variety of medical bloggers. So this month, the topic is "Briefing the Next President" and it's hosted by Alvaro from SharpBrains. Here's a link:
If this is your thing, you can get all the past Ground Rounds if you sign up at and do a search under pre-Rounds. You won't find it easily by searching Grand Rounds because the site also has specialty Grand Rounds which have nothing to do with blogging. To be notified about future grand rounds, you'd need to sign up for the medstudents newsletter which in my opinion is the best of the newsletters because it compiles a bunch of links from all the medscape speciality newsletters. It also has its regular med student blogs which gives the student perspective.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Cost/Benefits Analysis of Resolutions
I'm a great fan of Scott H. Young's blog. He's a 19 year old Manitoban with a 4440 feed. Because he's so young, he's a little fresher than the more experienced motivational/personal development gurus. The above link takes you to his article on great ways to invest in yourself which I'm posting in lieu of discussing New Years Resolutions. I could profitably work on any of the 9 areas he writes about. What's different about his list of things you should do to make your life flow better is that he also includes the cost and the payout. I love the feeling I get when making Resolutions to become a more disciplined person but I think my downfall was never doing a cost/benefits analysis when decision making.

Values Tribe
This link takes you to Adams values survey which gives you a good idea of which values tribe you probably belong to. At the end, you not only get examples of people in your own values tribe but you can look at other the other tribes with their example people as well. I don't remember the name of my tribe but it includes Pamela Wallin and David Suzuki which you got to admit is pretty interesting company. So you can do the survey or you can just think about what people you admire and either way you'll find your values tribe.

Diagnosing is Extremely Difficult

There are some things you definitely know about yourself and one of those things for me is that I am absolutely terrible at diagnosis. Thanks to Dr. William Osler, I even know why I'm so bad at it. I'm a big fan of Osler because he was Canadian and because he was a brilliant diagnostician. According to Osler, "The whole art of medicine is observation, as the old moto goes, but to educate the eye to eye, the ear to ear, the finger to feel takes time and to make a beginning, to start a man on the right path, is all we can do." I glance rather than see and I'm not much into listening or touching. Sometimes you just have to stop and focus on what's in front of you or you miss the whole thing and missing the whole thing can kill a person. Because I like Osler so much, I'll give you two more of his quotes:
"Observe, record, tabulate, communicate. Use your 5 senses." and
"Variability is the law of life, and as no two faces are the same, so no two bodies are alike, and no two individuals react alike and behave alike under the abnormal conditions which we know as disease."

Career Choices
If an article gives me one new idea to ponder, I think it's a good day. This article "What Should I Do With My Life?" by Po Bronson gives you several things to consider. The stock market gets people thinking in "Boom/Bust" mode wondering about what's coming next rather than focusing on what comes first. In NASA, the backup plans all lead to the same destination. I'd say the same thing is true in people's spiritual lives. It's easier to flow with whatever happens if life if you believe that all things are part of a path to get you to the destination. A big point that I picked up was to not ask people "What do you do?" The question is degrading, reductive and feels mercenary. She suggests that it is a strange North American phenomenon. No doubt we ask the question as a shortcut to getting to know someone. It gives us a starting point to a conversation and a clue of what to ask about next. The big problem is that in the past if you knew a person's occupation, you pretty much knew how they thought about a bunch of stuff - that's why demographics used to work. According to Bronson, "A status system has evolved that values being unique and true even more than being financially successful." It seems to me that that's what I learned at Sunday School - that I was a unique creation and what came first was God and that life lead to an ultimate destination.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sex in the Snow

Catchy title for a book on Canadian demographics. That said, it is really helpful for understanding a society that is changing rapidly. The problem old people like me have with it is that it has done a total flip on what is considered a healthy personality. In the old days when I was studying abnormal psychology, fluid sexual identity was considered a state of prolonged immaturity and instability. The adoption of multiple personalities was a form of dissassociation and spawned movies like the Three Faces of Eve. Now, the exploring of all the multiplicity of your personality shows a highly developed post modern imagination. Personally I've been trying for a lifetime to develop one somewhat healthy personality that serves well enough to get me through life. Hello: When your mother says get a life, she wants a real life. Virtual lifes are not real. Virtual moms do not fly across the country and live in hospital rooms for weeks on end trying to save your stupid life. Real moms come through - real moms have real emotions like love, guilt, fear, compassion, anger and a sense of duty towards the genetic material they send out into the world. Just to show you how old fashioned and corny I really am, I don't even consider my children my children. I think I have to knock myself out for them because they are God's children lent to me, entrusted to me, whatever and that I will be held accountable if they aren't a blessing to others. There's no crying in baseball and there's no quitting in parenting. And don't make a virtue out of what happens to kids when their parents are vitual parents. Virtual parents suck because they aren't Demeter. You deserve a parent that will descend to Hades and fight to haul Persephone back to a world of colour and beauty and fruits and vegetables and all things that if you were a little older and wiser you'd realize are absolutely miraculous.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Still in Nova Scotia

I've moved from military housing to my son's apartment where I have computer access. I'm spending from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. at the hospital with my son who went into hospital on January 2nd. He's doing much better but still has chest tubes and the decision hasn't been made yet as to whether or not he'll need surgery or if the antibiotics will be enough to clear up his penumonia. The weather was beautiful - springlike - for the entire first week and now we're back into winter. Too bad I didn't venture out of the hospital except to do David's banking. I should have at least bought some snow boots (no idea where mine are as I wear them so seldomly - maybe forgot them in the Bruce) and a loaf of bread. Our home bathroom scales are so inaccurate that it's hard to figure out but I think I'm losing 1/2 a pound a day here which can only be a good thing after the Christmas chocolate binging. If I stay long enough, I may conquer the mindless eating habit.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Textbooks for Christmas

Christmas presents for Peter and Paula this year were textbooks. Peter got his todays and were a lot less than I had anticipated so we stopped at Walmart and got a filing cabinet for him as well. I've been looking through them and there is some overlap between his media course and his marketing course and his business writing course has applications as well. The computer course seems to be mainly about Excel and the Math course is heavy on algebra with some geometry. He had a great first semester and I think he'll really enjoy this semester as well. Paula will be taking 6 university commerce courses this semester in order to be eligible to graduate in April. When she transferred from College they gave her 2 years credit less a course for her 3 years at St. Clair. So she has that one course to do as well as the normal course load for 4th year. She's holidaying in Montreal at the moment so she won't be purchasing any textbooks until next week.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Breathe, Just Breathe

I'm on youtube listening to Breathe, Just Breathe with videoclips from Grey's Anatomy. David was home for Christmas and developed pneumonia. He lost 20 lbs and gave me his cache of cigarettes - that's how sick he was. We did an emergency room trip late Saturday night and he had his first dose of antibiotic at 4 a.m. Sunday. He was scheduled to attend a 6 month course starting tomorrow so he flew back to Halifax on Wednesday night. He made it to Halifax but he was taken by ambulance to the hospital when he tried waiting in the cold for a bus. So now he's in hospital with a chest tube and the military has told me that he may remain in hospital for a week so taking the course at this time probably won't happen. Wish he were here so I could be with him. Instead I'm hoping that somehow the message can travel from my mind to his, "Breathe, Just Breathe" David.