Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Inspiration Beyond Words

There are no words to describe the story I'm going to let these few videos tell you. Just sit back, relax, and be inspired!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Lifetime Wish

In pediatrics, there's often discussion of how a doctor is not only treating the child, but that you're also guiding the parents in making healthy decisions in regards to their child.

That's something I want, over all things. I want, more than anything in this world, for my child's own pediatrician to guide me through milestones, through diaper rashes, and through the frustrations of temper tantrums.

I want to be able to bandage the knees of my child and to have the magic kiss that takes all the pain away. I want to show a child love like he's never seen before. I long for my arms to be a safehaven for his tears and my heart a safety net for his fears.

I constantly think about my situation, however. I understand that fertility isn't an issue associated with cerebral palsy, and for that, I'm immensely grateful. However, I worry. I worry about being pregnant from a physical standpoint. Bedrest for 3 months? I'll take it. All that matters is that I'm bringing a precious soul and a precious life into the world, and for that, I'll do nearly anything.

My heart also is called to the throws of international adoption. Children who have so little and deserve so much need a breath of new life, new hope, new joy, and new love. And really, adoption follows a similar process to childbirth in that it allows parents to restore hope in the life of a child, and in my opinion, that's the greatest privilege anyone could be given.

It is blogs and Youtube videos like Steve and Kate's that make me understand what undying love for a child looks like. It's Dr. Smith's photos of his granddaughter, and it's my own memories of my mother in my childhood.

The only thing that I want more than marriage and to become a doctor is to be a mother. To be a mother of a young child who will learn, grow, and love in the tight grasp of my hug. My heart is heavy, but I'm certain. My lifetime wish will come true.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Native Inspiration.

For whatever reason, via Twitter or Facebook, it's been difficult for me to find medical students/doctors/medical professionals from the state in which I reside, which is Georgia. It's quite sad, but I'm not surprised. We're behind in nearly everything, so why not be behind in technology and social media as well?

It might be hard for me to write this post without a few tears, so if the keyboard is slick and there are a few typos, please excuse me. Read on, and you'll figure out why.

I had just declared a pre-medical intent. It was the end of February or early March, and as doctors often do on Twitter, many of the doctors that I follow follow this doctor with the handle "doc_rob", so I clicked on his handle to find out more about him.

And then the moment occurs.

I read: Location: Georgia (Augusta).

I breathe, and I take a moment to contain my excitement.

I read again: Location: Georgia (Augusta).

Could it be? I found a Georgia doctor! I really did!

Immediately, I clicked to follow him, and I tweeted him a simple message, which was something to the effect of "Hi, I'm a pre-medical student from GA. Pleased to follow you!" We got to chatting about school and discovered that he is a short drive away from me.

The "awesome-this-world-is-so-small" connection is just the beginning. You see, Dr. Rob has taught me so many things, and I'd like to publically thank him while sharing his lessons with you.

Dr. Rob has taught me, rather indirectly, how to truly love medicine. Each time I read his blog posts, as humorous as they may be, I know. I know that he truly loves his job, his practice, and the life that "doctordom" has created for he, his wife, and their four children. I know that being a doctor doesn't require a lifestyle of seriousness in the sense that a doctor can't have other hobbies. Though his blog is healthcare oriented and one of the most educational blogs on the 'net to date, he has fun. What doctor would give me a Golden Llama Award and cause me to think it was a blogging Grammy or something like that? He has fun. That's most important.

Dr. Rob has also taught me even further to find joys in the simple things. It was a short time ago in which he wrote about why he loves being a doctor. Through the simple, underappreciated action of a hug, he showed his patient that he valued her as a person in addition to his patient. He cared for her as a person and as a patient. In that sense, he not only taught me because I'm a fellow human being. See people for all they are, all they bring, and all they have.

Finally, the last thing Dr. Rob has taught me (for now, anyway) is that anyone can do anything they work hard to achieve. I'm aware this sounds cliche, but it just means more than you know to have "homegrown" support. From tweets to blogs to podcasts, Dr. Rob teaches.

And he teaches from his heart. Thank you, Dr. Rob, for being the intelligent, hysterical doctor, mentor, social media fanatic that you are. I appreciate you more than you know!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I'm A Person, Too

A few days ago, a mentor of mine posted a tweet that caught my eye. The woman that had originally tweeted had a complaint about seeing a woman in a wheelchair one minute, and then the same woman was hauling her luggage out on foot a few minutes later. Her argument was that the wheelchairs used in airports shouldn't be free unless someone had documentation. My mentor, a well-respected pediatrician, indicated that not all disabilities were visible.

Agreeing with him to the point at which I was almost in tears, I responded that though I have a condition that is visible, I also have a condition that's not. Even more, there are distances that are just too much for me depending on the day's events and energy conservation. The tweeter then responded that she thought that I would react the same way if someone was acting that way, and I replied with a simple "Not at all. That could have been me!" And then I gave her a tip that I'd like to share with all of you. Most of you know this, and to most of you, it would be common sense, but please indulge me.

If you're ever in contact with someone who looks like they may be having difficulty, and you're concerned, instead of uttering something under your breath and making assumptions, simply go up to them and ask if you can assist. Some people with extra challenges will get a little pestered by that, but at least you used your concern in a productive manner, and there was absolutely no harm done.

In relation to the "visibility" issue, I have hydrocephalus, and though I haven't had any troubles for ten years (knock on wood), being out in a public place when symptoms start could pose some danger that might be strange to those people who aren't as well-aware of the condition.

On the same note, the "making assumptions" act is rude. It would be almost as if I were to look down the street and see a woman walking her dog. "Oh, that woman doesn't have a car, so she must have to walk everywhere she goes." Who knows? Maybe the woman is enjoying the evening breeze and getting her exercise.

Next time this happens to me, do I have permission to scream, "I'm a person, too?"

Because chances are, I just might.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Anatomy of a Dream

As evidenced by the content of this blog, one of my biggest dreams (for a really, really long time, might I add!) has been becoming a doctor.

Another, hidden inconspicuously within each and every word of this blog, is to become a published author. Picture this: a ten year old Erin, writing an assignment for her fourth grade language arts teacher about the absolute miracle that happened to her just a few weeks prior. A week later, she receives the assignment with the teacher's comments, and the only things she had said were "I'm speechless. Wonderful job." Back at home, I had an uncle who was an English professor, and he was elated to find that I had honed these expressive language skills. I would talk about writing with him for more hours than you and I can count. "What's the best way to get better?" I'd ask. "Practice. Every single day." he'd answer sincerely.

And so, for the last ten years, it's what I've done. I've practiced. Every. Single. Day. After browsing some tearful inspiration for the last couple nights, I developed the idea for my memoir to be written in a series. Since I'm twenty, I'll write the manuscripts in increments of five years. Though I want to keep many details under wraps for now, I'll have you know that I am working more diligently than ever this summer to make A's in my courses and to make my dream a reality. It is my dream. With the ideas that I have and the heart that I've developed for the art that is the written word, I'm confident that it will happen. I will write things that no one has ever heard me say out loud. I will write my heart. I will write my soul. I will hope to connect with my readers in such a way that they will understand my perspective, empathize with it, and internalize it.

Most of all, I'll write because I love it. I'll write because it's my voice, and I'll write because words are the most beautiful things I've ever seen, and I'm so blessed to be able to use them.

Friday, June 4, 2010

I'm Just Saying

I'm just saying. I've had a headache for three solid days now, and the only thing that really helps me is to lie down in a semi-dark room. I'm just saying that I'm really, really tired of my head hurting.

Over-the-counter medications are great when they work, but, geez. Oh, my aching head.

We're going on family vacation tomorrow, and while I'm super excited, I never said this headache could go with us. I'm just saying.

I can return to the semi-human world for a few hours per day, and then it's back to the dark room with the closed blinds and the oh-so-comfortable blogging chair or full-sized bed. I am really lucky to have been blogging like I have. It keeps my mind off the ache, and I'm just really weak.

I'm okay. I'm just sayin'. I hate, hate, hate headaches. They scare me, but then Angel Doctor saves my life, so all is right with the world again!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Heart As Big As The Hospital

Pictured above is the Columbia University Medical Center. It is, in fact, the place I hope to complete a few rotations during medical school, if not all of them. But you know, it got me to thinking a bit deeper. It got me to thinking that though a human heart is born to love, care, respect, and so much more, the doctor's heart truly is something special and really something that should be as big as the hospital.

You see, our hearts aren't the ones that thrive off of the scientific side of medicine; our heads are simply satisfied with that. Our hearts, however, thrive on seeing our patients healing, responding, and most importantly, thriving. I just noticed that I'm using the pronoun "our" just as though I'm a doctor, but if there's one thing I've learned in my short career as a 'future doctor',' it would have to be the fact that once you're certain that you'd like to enter the medical profession as a doctor, in particular, it doesn't matter how much educaton you have in order to have the same mindset. It's just the heart that's important.

One of my personal doctors, namely, my neurosurgeon, showed me that his heart is indeed as big as the hospital in the late night hours of July 11, 2000.

My parents had gone to the Braves All-Star game that night at Turner Field, and my sister and I were staying with my mom's best friend's daughter, who is now the best nurse I've ever seen. For a week, I had been displaying flu-like symptoms, which, for those of us who are fortunate enough to carry around a ventriculoperitoneal shunt, can be extremely treacherous.

After my parents had arrived home and I had been lying on the couch with a pillow over my face, lying flat on my back, and vomiting incessantly all night long, my mom decided it was time to really evaluate the situation to see what conditions were and how we should handle the situation. I ate, I believe it was a popsicle, sitting straight up in a straight back recliner because I couldn't move my neck due to severe pain, and I couldn't touch my chin to my chest. Which, unbeknown to my ten year old self at the time, is a sure sign for shunt failure. A sure sign.

After eating the popsicle with laborious effort, I told my mom to call the hospital. At the ripe old age of ten years old, I had more body awareness than most do in their lifetime. I knew something was wrong. A brief phone call led to a rushed trip to the hospital that is fifteen minutes from our house.

I vaguely remember the parking lot of the hospital that night. Shortly after we got out of the car, I fainted, cold and lifeless, in my mother's arms. Hurriedly running into the emergency department, she screams, "DOCTOR! WE NEED A DOCTOR NOW!" The doors of the emergency department flung open, and still unresponsive, I laid on te bed in the observation room as the staff prepared to airlift me to my pediatric hospital, which is about fifty minutes from the local hospital. Shortly after the phonecall was made, I became responsive once again, and turned my head to the right. To my right, I saw my twin sister. I heard her screaming, "Please don't let her die!" over the crocodile tears that streamed down her face.

The decision was finally made that I would be transported by ground to the pediatric hospital, and my mother, her best friend, and my sister would follow behind us. Inside the ambulance, it was all I could do to keep from screaming. I was grateful for the emergency medical staff around me, the doctor that came with me, and the millions of intravenous fluid tubes surrounded the gurney, but all I wanted was quiet, The pounding, so loudly echoing inside my head, drained me of my energy. Drained me of my life. Drained me of my soul.

Upon arriving at the hospital, the first person I saw who looked vaguely familiar was my uncle, who lives about ten minutes from the hospital. I remember just the outline of his face and the thick Harry Potter book curled into his right hand. "Hello there, sweet girl," he muttered. "Hi, Uncle Jim," I responded back. "Thank you." While we waited for my mother, many things happened, most of which I only have faint memories. A skinny, dutiful anesthesiologist walks into the room and says he needs to take me back for imaging. Immediately confused, I ask for a radiology technician. Ultimately, she was the one to escort me. Maybe the anesthesiologist meant well, but I wasn't taking any chances without my mother, a backup person who knew my history. Finally, after the CT scan was complete, I see my mother for the first time since the local hospital.

Shortly thereafter, the radiologist had reviewed the scans, we were under the impression that my doctor had been called, and he revealed that shunt failure had been ruled out. Here we go on the battle known as viral meningitis. First stop: The lab. For a lumbar puncture. Meanwhile, my mom was pacing up and down the hall outside the temporary room. Suddenly, she runs into my neurosurgeon. He's headed out of the emergency exit doors as she blurts, "Oh, thank God. You're here!" He stopped, and he asked my mom what she was doing at the hospital. Mid-sentence, he stopped. He screamed, "Where in the world is Erin?" Mom tells him, and he runs.

As the doors to the lab fly open, the needle is inches from my spine. I hear his voice, my cry becomes louder, and he comes to the head of the bed in my line of vision. He takes the needle from the doctor's hand, and calmly, he whispers, "It's okay. I'll take care of this." Grabbing my hand, he smiles. "Hey, little girl. You're okay. Let me take some fluid and then we'll see each other in the OR in 30 minutes. Sound good?" I nod my head slightly.

The surgery is performed, and everything is now revised. I'm feeling well after a night in the hospital, and the door to my hospital room creaks open. I hear a sniffle, see my doctor with his round glasses and sharp grin peering through the door, and I smile. Coming to sit down on the bed, he faintly says, "Wow. I think that was a fluke last night." My mom looks confused. "Why do you say that, Doc?" she asks. "Because no one ever paged me. I didn't know you were here. I woke up at 3am and decided I just needed to go to the hospital. My wife thought I was nuts."

Teary-eyed, my mom responds, "No, Doc. It wasn't a fluke. It was a miracle. You saved my daughter's life."

My angel doctor proved to me that his heart is indeed as big as the hospital, and his heart will be reflected in my own.

Thanks, Angel Doctor. I love you.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Return of the Blogging Chair

Last evening, my mom came into my bedroom and offered me something. In her mind, she was offering me a green, fluffy, round armchair from her bedroom to fill a space beneath the floor lamp in my bedroom, but little did she know.

She offered the return of the place of my greatest blogging inspirations, the chair that has seen me cry many, many tears and laugh one decibel too loud. Just loud and hard enough, in fact, that my ribs began to ache.

I'm excited for the return of the blogging chair. That means this summer will be filled with more blogging than you can imagine. And, by the way, some of you might need to dig out your own blogging chairs! I need some help! Four guest posts while I'm on vacation next week are up for grabs! Just see my new guest blogging page for more information, and I look forward to hearing your little inspirations from your own little blogging chairs!

Oh, and one more thing! I'm working to start a group blog for attending physicians, medical students, residents, and possibly other health professionals with disabilities. Though I haven't created the official blog yet due to waiting to see whether or not there is enough interest, I have created a Twitter account and Facebook page so that we can start connecting. If you're a doctor or other health professional, please consider promoting the creation of this group blog that I believe will benefit many. We'll be called "Doctors with Disabilities". Yes, I know. It's original, right? But catchy! The blog already has an e-mail account in an effort to manage correspondence! Thanks for your assistance with this promotion!

Here's to many tales from the blogging chair! I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Snippets of the Story: Legs of an Erin

If you read the tagline of my blog, you'll discover that I have a physical challenge. To be clear, it's one diagnosis that creates many different difficulties. In this series of posts titled "Snippets of the Story," I hope to enlighten you on some of those things.

For today, we'll start with the legs. Oh, the legs. I'll break it down into parts of the leg to make it easier to digest.

You see, my quadriceps have a hard, hard life. Due to cerebral palsy, they pull most of the weight in my leg, and because I've been walking (for 15 years this November!) in such a distorted manner for so long, my quadriceps hurt. Like hell most days, but it's nothing I'm not well-accustomed to, so though I may let out a few "yelps" that resemble a hurting animal, I'm okay. Really, I swear I am. In addition to flat out hurting, my quadriceps are arguably the strongest part of my body. It's because those are the muscles you use most in your leg when you walk or when you use your leg in everyday life. If you're not a doctor, medical student, or haven't spent a large, long time in dealing with the anatomical make up and function of the human body, I'd be surprised if you ever thought about that. That's okay, though. That's why you have me.

My knees have taking a beating for the last fifteen years (well, really longer than that) that has caused the damage to become irreversible. For example, the lateral patellar retinaculum in both of my knees is inflamed. I think the patellar tendon might be as well, but I'd like to not think of my injuries anymore than I have to, thankyouverymuch. My knees sustained much of their current damage due to the fact that my gait causes my knees to shift inward, if that makes sense. So much so that some days, my knees even rub together when I'm standing still, also known as crouching. It's just because I have re-wired my brain to do things that my body wasn't meant to do or my brain wasn't meant to process. It's all my fault, and I admit that, but I wouldn't be where I am today had I not decided that walking was something I wanted to do at the ripe old age of five-and-a-half. I've always got painkillers on hand for my knees, as they are the one thing that bothers me the most, if anything, but I haven't taken "knee medicine" in about 5 weeks or so. Maybe longer than that!

My triceps (the three muscles that make up the area of your leg known as the "calf") are incredibly strong. Sometimes they like to tingle and make me think I'm about to faint, but most of the time they do well, and as mentioned, they are incredibly strong, so it take a lot to get them stirred up if there's something going on with my body. They also are the world's best stair climbers. It's sych a blessing to have them to be able to climb massive staircases (not that I have to, thanks to the invention of the elevator) that are sometimes unavoidable.

Last, but certainly not least, are my Achilles tendons. I've had a lengthening on the right side due to the fact that the heel wouldn't touch the ground, making it almost impossible to work. Though the right side does tend to have a little bit more soreness due to scar tissue from the surgery seven years ago, I really have no problems with them as a whole.

I hope you've enjoyed this snippet of my story, and I'll see you back here for more really soon!