Showing posts from 2013

Cornered Animals

Autonomy is basically the ability to make decisions about your daily life.  Those with the most autonomy report the most satisfaction in their lives.  As humans we crave control.  We need it.  We go a little crazy without it.  There have been medical studies about autonomy- patients that control the lighting in their hospital rooms heal faster than those who don't.  It's why office workers have cubicles rather than desks in open rooms- even the illusion of autonomy makes for more productive workers. 

Think of all the bosses you've ever had.  I'd bet that the ones you disliked the most weren't the ones that were the most demanding in general, but instead the ones that were the most demanding about stupid shit.  "Don't put the paper clips there." "Never blue pens, ONLY BLACK."  And a million other nit-picky things that you still don't understand why they mattered.  That's just it though, they didn't matter.  That boss of yours was …

Doctor Skills

Blood pressure, respirations, heart rate, height and weight measurements, eye exam, ear exam, palpation for swollen glands, and an inspection for obvious signs of distress- these are things your doctor can do in their sleep.  Most of the time your doctor probably doesn't even do them- a nurse will in order to save time.  Pretty much everything I just listed any one of you could do with minimal training (except maybe the eye exam).  However, learning these basic clinical skills in the context of what they mean is overwhelming.
At a different school we would have probably started learning basic clinical skills on day one.  Here we take a more traditional approach and focus on learning the underlying physiologic and biochemical processes first.  We were asked to pick partners for this semester’s Doctor-Patient Relationship.  We spend a couple of hours in lecture hearing about the skills we’re going to learn and all of the underlying malfunctions they could show us.  We then get to s…

Americans Abroad


Apathetic: adjective; the psychological way of saying you have no more shits to give.
"Man, this semester really has me beaten down; I'm just apathetic."

Upper semesters have described third semester to me as: "tear-inducing," "terrible," "makes you hate everyone," "sleep-depriving," "caffeine will be mainlined," and, my personal favorite, "will make you wish you were on drugs.  Or drugged.  Either way- you'll want drugs."

In the beginning I hoped that the uppers were just teasing me.  Unfortunately for me and my classmates, all of those things are true.  I have cried.  I have lost sleep.  I have had so many cups of tea that when it comes time to sleep I'm still buzzed on caffeine.  At times, I have hated pretty much everyone.  This semester is genuinely terrible.

It's not that this semester has been particularly intellecutally taxing, it's more that it has been emotionally taxing.  We have no ti…

Faking it

Ever have one of those days where you're pretty sure that you're stupider than everyone else?  And meaner?  And lazier?  And more selfish?  And probably- just to add icing to the cake- fatter?

Yeah, I'm having a moment here.  Maybe it's the moon.  Maybe it's this semester.  Maybe I'm finally cracking.  Or maybe I really am stupider and meaner and lazier and more selfish and fatter than everyone else.  (And as I read that back, I'm definitely whinier and more hyperbolic)

My Aunt Karen would officially call this a "black-assed mood."  There's no telling what set me down this particular spiral, but I guess that doesn't really matter.  Back home there's half a dozen things I would do to shake this off, but here I just feel even more lost because none of those things are a viable option.  That's not to say that I don't have wonderful supportive friends here; it's just that we're all going through the same crap and I don'…

The F-Word

Let's talk about the f-word- that one that you don't like to talk to your mother about because it's embarrassing and she's probably going to yell at you.


There I said it.  Failure.  There I go, I said it again.  Are you scared and uncomfortable yet?  You probably should be (fear is a great motivator).  You can fail at pretty much anything: a relationship, at an exam, at work, at goals you've set or at goals someone else has set for you.  Failure is disheartening.  It's humbling.  It's usually uncomfortable.  Sometimes a failure can be so epic it feels soul-crushing.  Think about the last thing that you failed at.  Was it a big thing?  Why do you remember it?  Did it change you?  Did you tell anyone?  Did it break you?  Or did you try again?

We had exams this week and they were difficult (as they always are).  However, for this block, for whatever reason, people who have never failed anything in their entire life bombed exams .  You should have seen th…

Ridiculous Nonsense

As previously mentioned, school gets crazy and I don't really have a lot of time.  However, ridiculous things are still happening on Saba, and y'all still need to hear about them.

In no particular order...

1.   It's a little difficult to get off the island and back home.  There are flights and ferries, but nothing around here is particularly reliable.  If the wind is too high or blowing in the wrong direction neither the flights nor the ferries will leave.  In the semester breaks, several hundred people are trying to leave the island in the span of about 3 days.  The planes that fly to and from Saba are 15 passenger commuter flights.  Although they run about 5 or 10 flights a day during those 3 days, seats on those flights are a precious commodity.  I had all my flights booked, no problems.  I called a taxi driver the day before and scheduled a time for him to pick me up the next day to take me to the airport.  It's time and the taxi driver isn't at my house.  I gi…


In the last couple of weeks I've heard the phrase "med school is like trying to drink water from a fire hose" more than once.  Before this semester started I had no idea what anybody meant by that phrase.  Now, I think I'm starting to get it.  It's like you asked for a drink of water and someone water-boarded you instead; I spend a lot of time spitting and sputtering and trying to catch my breath (metaphorically of course).  This semester we pretty much have class from 8AM to 5:15PM every single day.  Do that math real quick.  I'll wait.  Yeah, that means that we're on campus for more than 9 hours every single day, and that we get 8 hours of instruction every single day.  Now, you're thinking to yourself, "stop whining Caitlin, it can't be thaaaaat bad."  Wait for it; I haven't told you the classes yet.  We have: Microbiology/Immunology, Neurology, Medical Psychology, Medical Ethics and Laws, and Doctor Patient Relationship III.  Oh,…

A Year Ago (AKA: That Time a Fraternity Rescued Me)

Amanda and I used to play this game "where was I a year ago and could I have imagined my life now?"  This game has been helping me out when I get stressed lately. You should try it.  And keep in mind that even though you would have never guessed all the shitty things that happened to you, there have been plenty of magical things that you would never have planned out either.

A year ago I was working as a lab tech for a misogynistic research despot that got deep pleasure from making me cry.  I was under-trained, overworked and underpaid.  When I look back now and think of all the science they expected me to be responsible for, it's almost laughable.  Now I take great pride in the fact that I quit and told my boss' boss that there "was no way I was going back in there with that monster."

A year ago I was rejected from every medical school I applied to, one painful "we're sorry to inform you" at a time.

A year ago I was living in a termite-infest…

The Chronicles of Naked Neighbor

You've all heard of Naked Neighbor and his particular penchant for standing in his doorway, at least partially in the buff, shaving his face.  He seems to shave rather frequently, so whenever I come home and he's in the doorway I make sure to say "hello" while maintaining constant eye contact, because while I am absolutely certain that Naked Neighbor is shirtless, I don't want to be verify the rest of his wardrobe.  This happens at least two or three times a week.  I figure it adds some measure of weirdly terrible excitement to what could easily become mundane.

When I am home on the weekends, I leave my front door open.  There's no screen, but the bugs don't really seem to come in (I am attributing this to altitude and windiness).  It brings me a deep sense of satisfaction and calm to be sitting at my kitchen table studying and to look up at the ocean.  There is no real downside to leaving the door open except for how loud everything is.  People drive by…

No Man is an Island

There are about one hundred of us and we spend about 8 hours a day with each other 5 days a week.  Between us, a lot of life happens.  It seems like by the time we hit the half-way mark every semester there has been entirely too much going on.  Sometimes as I hear myself telling people back home the day-to-day happenings here, and it doesn't even sound real to me.

We've had family members born and family members die.  We've had classmates struck down with sudden illness and we've had classmates wiped out by stress and exhaustion. Yet, we've seen people come together to form lasting relationships amongst all of this.  At the end of the day, that's what gets us all through: we rely on each other.

It shakes me up sometimes, how many big and scary and sometimes wonderful things happen here.  This is my real life.  These people are MY PEOPLE.  And the big things that are happening to them are just as likely to happen to me and that is terrifying.  But I breathe and …

Talkin' funny

Around these parts they keep telling me I talk funny.  And, I will admit I do play it up sometimes, but I figure I better not go getting above my raising.  The other day somebody gave me a hard time about my liberal use of the word "y'all" and how they couldn't use it because people would think that they were "uneducated."  I smiled and nodded and didn't worry my pretty little head about it one bit.

That is, until later, when it hit me like a ton of bricks that the person I had just had a conversation with pretty much called me uneducated to my face.  Now, I don't take kindly to being insulted- no one does- but I just find being insulted to my face a little much.  It made me just want to take the ridiculous colloquialisms up to a whole new level.  I got to thinking about the phrases I loved as a kid and still get a good ole kick out of to this day, so I compiled a little list.

Well, slap my ass and call me Sally.

The cat having kittens in the oven …

The Naked Neighbor

Heritage Haven has 5 apartments, but only 3 of them are filled.  I really like my place in general, but it's especially pleasant to just have a couple of quiet neighbors.  There are other houses around our building with exciting local families.  One of my neighbors is Superman: he's a little boy of about 7 who runs around with a cape shouting "up up and away" on the weekends.  One of my neighbors spends Sundays grilling chicken, driving me insane with delicious smells.  One of my neighbors is one of the local taxi drivers; the back window of his taxi is busted out- instead of fixing it, he covered it in plastic.  However, as much joy as all of these people bring me, none of them is as entertaining as my naked neighbor.  Naked Neighbor lives in the house right beside my apartment.  He is old and wiry and likes to stand in his doorway nearly naked.  He might be totally naked- I'm not ever sure, since whenever I see him and I either look away real quick or maintain …

Being where you're supposed to be

Sometimes I sit here in class and wonder what I might be doing if I weren't in class- it's the classic student daydream. I think about how I could be back at home and how nice it would be to see all my people and just HUG EVERYONE SO MUCH and how everything would just run more smoothly if I were back at home...
But then I think that if I wasn't here I'd probably be at some soul-sucking job that I hated and payed just enough of a smidgen above minimum wage to assuage the guilt pseudo-bleeding heart liberals that would be my employers and just barely payed the bills. I'd be living somewhere that was still a little too close to the ghetto for my Mother's comfort, and I'd never be able to leave anything outside because it would grow legs in the middle of the night and walk away. I'd be a little sad and lost and lonely, watching all of my friends take steps to move their lives forward.
That might all seem a little hyperbolic, but that's the joy of h…

Sailboats and Sunshine

Five months later and it finally feels like I live on a picturesque Caribbean island.  It's always pleasantly breezy- no wonder the Dutch called these The Windward Isles- and everything is blooming or fruiting. I pass ripening bananas and soursops and mangoes and coconuts and key limes every day on my way to class.  There are goats that frolic.  There are roosters that crow.  The people are friendly with unintelligible accents and the road is terrifying.  I can see St. Maarten from my front window and get to watch sailboats meander from island to island. 

This place is positively bucolic.

However, I did a bad thing the other day...  I looked in the cistern.  YOU SHOULD NEVER LOOK IN THE CISTERN.  WHY DID I LOOK IN THE CISTERN?  It was like a wreck, I knew I shouldn't look, that there would probably be something that was going to give me nightmares, but I couldn't stop myself.  I opened the lid and peered in.  It was deeper than I had imagined- no wonder Lassie was always …

Home: God Bless America

People like to talk a lot of smack about America.  Hell, I've even grumbled a bit about this and that, but never in my life have I ever been so happy to land in Miami as I was a couple of weeks ago.  I considered throwing myself on the ground and screaming LAND, but didn't want to draw unwanted attention to myself in the airport.  I danced a weird little gleeful dance once I realized I could understand everyone's accent (in English and Spanish) and that there was food available on pretty much every street corner.  

There are so many things I take for granted being home.  The glory that is driving a car.  The wonder at how gigantic a grocery store is.  The clean tap water.  The septic systems that work flawlessly.  The mail that runs in a reasonable amount of time.  The traffic laws.  The availability of cheese that isn't Gouda.  And, most importantly, the being surrounded by people that know you and love you anyway.

Being home has been a little bit of a slap in the f…