Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Burn out

People often tell me, “I don’t know how you do it. How do you handle it?”

It, of course, is RESIDENCY.

Residency and all that comes with it: long days, nights on call, high stress situations, occasional rude patients, a multi-year time commitment.


The truth is, a lot of the time I DONT handle it. Or at least not very well. The difference is, I have no choice. When you have to make it work, you find a way.

Unfortunately, that way for me is often wanting to scream, cry, yell, whimper, or run away. And sometimes I do more than want.

Like when you get paged to come see a patient in the ER that you’ve been in contact with for days and know there is nothing to be done for them. You get called just as your head hits the pillow with a sigh of relief. That is probably a wimper moment. Especially if it is 3 am.

Or when you get asked to do a procedure on a patient you don’t agree with. But the staff demands it. That is a yelling moment.

And being paged for a rectal exam as your third page in two minutes as a dental resident who never learned how to do rectal exams. That is a run away moment (or at least a wish-you-could run away moment).

Add in pages from sometimes rude nurses, demanding patients, and the stress of dangerous medical problems you may be asked to solve (luckily this doesn’t happen very often for me in my specialty) and it can be hard to “do it.”


But you willingly signed up for it. You “knew what you were getting yourself into.” Except I don’t think you can ever really know.


I’m not saying I don’t love my job. Most of the time (or sometimes some of the time). It can be difficult and challenging. Unfortunately, I don’t have any super powers that make it any easier for me than anyone else or any character traits to be admired that make me “handle it” better than others could. But when patients are involved, you have to find a way to get through it. And sometimes for me that means taking a minute for a good cry, scream, or tantrum (I’m wondering if I have learned adequate coping skills?). And then picking myself back up, gathering my composure, and starting over again with the next beep of the pager.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


I’ve been thinking a lot about getting older lately. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was Abe’s long awaited graduation. Or maybe it is the realization that my LITTLE sister is having a baby, or thinking about my upcoming birthday next month.


I remember when 21 sounded “so old.” Each year after that has also sounded old. Older than ME, at least. I’m slowly getting more used to these upper 20’s and I realize that while I’m not OLD, I am getting old-er. And it is a strange feeling. I am about to hit that timeless age of 29 that no one wants to pass. Is it because it is a great age, or is it the last “young” age before jumping off to 30? When I think of other people being 30, they seem young, but for me it still sounds a little strange. I guess I never thought it would be me.

When I was younger, say high school and college, people would talk about how YOUNG I was. I think I took it as a compliment, as if it was a wonderful character  trait I possessed. They would tell me of the time when they were young like me. I’m not sure I quite believed it. When you are young, it is hard to realize that those who are not young were once young like you, and that if you are lucky enough to get older, you will one day be like them. It is hard to imagine when you are in wonderful shape that one day you will have wrinkles. And maybe high blood pressure, heart disease, or dementia.

Here are some pics of the last almost-decade. Can you see any changes from year to year?


(After college graduation, age 21)


(First year of dental school, age 22)


(age 23)


(wedding, age 24)


(age 25)


(Graduation, age 26)


(birthday, age 27)


(Recent picture, age 28)

Luckily, I know I still am young and look even younger (my patient’s remind me of this quite frequently, usually with an air of distrust). But I’ve had some thoughts as I reach the last year of my twenties.

-I thought that this was supposed to be “my prime.” I wonder if mine somehow passed me by. I am more out of shape than ever. Simple things like running a single mile can kick my butt. And suddenly I can’t eat whatever I want without noticing. For the first time in my life, I am limiting myself in what I eat, and having a harder time than ever keeping my weight stable. My doctor told me I am now “middle aged.” I thought I had another 10 years or so before I got there but he assured me that I am there already. Depressing. I guess what he meant was that at this age things are getting harder and I will have to work harder to stay in the same condition I was in before. Add in the stress of residency, bad cafeteria food, late nights and early mornings, and a little hormone called cortisol for an extra challenge. Ugh.


(A few years before turning middle aged, probably about 25. I’m the really cool looking one on the far right)

-I am also starting to wonder when I need to leave the “junior’s” section at the department stores. It is starting to feel a little silly shopping next to the 13 year old girls, but it feels a little more awkward shopping next to older (I almost said middle-aged) moms, business women, and grandmas. Besides, most of the clothes in the “women’s” section seem not quite me (particularly the jeans!). I can’t help but wonder if it is like being tan. Does anyone ever decide they are “too tan?” There are certainly people who get there (as seen very obviously in the recent news), but it happens so gradually it must be hard to realize because people often don’t seem to know when to stop. I have been thinking of the junior’s section in the same way. Do you suddenly wake up one day and think, “Nope, today I am a woman!” and turn down the other aisle towards high waisted pants and shoulder pads? I kind of doubt it. But I also don’t want to be one of those creepy moms who dresses like her teenage daughter and can’t give up that she is way too old for some of the latest styles. If anyone knows the magic age, please let me know.

-I find myself wishing for my 21 year old body (or even my 25 year old body). The good ole’ days when I ran miles, played lacrosse about 20 hours per week, still felt guilty when I didn’t go to the gym to lift weights and do more cardio on top of that, and was thin while eating as much as the guys I hung out with.

And then I remember, I wasn’t completely happy with myself then, either. My biggest insecurity since college has been my stomach after a roommate and boy I dated told me it was “funny.” Before that I don’t remember thinking about my body too much. I guess I am pretty impressionable. And have a long memory.


Now I’d like to go back (to my less funny stomach). It doesn’t seem to suck in quite like it used to.

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I guess with age I am also realizing that I need to be happy with myself and not focus so much on looks or being perfect. Look how happy I was (about age 2), chubby cheeks, tummy, and all!


I hope to get in better shape, maybe tighten up my tummy some more, and get healthier, but I also hope to worry less and enjoy what life has to offer in the years to come.

Thursday, May 24, 2012



That is what everyone has said when asking where we went on our vacation. Curacao (pronounced like “Cure –A – Sow”) is part of the ABC islands, which includes Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, or otherwise known as the Netherlands Antilles. The island is about 20 miles away from the coast of Venezuela and was previously occupied by the Dutch. There is a large variety of people on Curacao, I think I was told from over 160 countries. We did meet people from all over who make the island their home, from Aruba, multiple countries in Africa, Jamaica, Venezuela, Netherlands, etc. There is also a strong Jewish heritage and history of African slaves brought to the island to work on the plantations. Most of the locals speak four languages: Dutch, English, Spanish, and the island’s language, Papamiento. For the most part, this was very true and we had no trouble getting around the island despite our lack of Dutch skills.

The main city on the island is called Willemstad, a cute colorful city with a Dutch flavor. (image is from

It is divided into two areas called Punda and Otrabanda (the Point, and the Other Side) by two bridges. One is a very tall bridge for cars. It is difficult to appreciate from pictures but was very steep and offered amazing views of the city.

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The other is a historic bridge built on pontoon boats from the 1800s. An interesting story was that when the bridge was built, it was free to pass if you were barefoot and cost 2 cents if you wore shoes.


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Can you see the pontoon boats that hold the floating bridge up?

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Here is the view from the floating bridge. The bridge periodically opens to let boats pass through. We got stuck on the bridge as it swung open like a door 90 degrees until it was parallel to shore, as you can see below.

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Here we are trying to wait out our time on the bridge…

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…until this big boy finally passed through.

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I got asked/tricked/suckered into dancing with this islander at the historic fort to this old organ/puppet show thing.

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We didn’t do a very good job at getting pictures of the cute colorful buildings during the day time, but we got a great view from dinner one night.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012


May has been a busy and eventful month for us. I have a lot of potential topics to write about but I am most excited about our recent trip. After 8 years of graduate work, Abraham graduated with his MD/PhD degrees. We figured it was worth a vacation after all of that work! Also, we aren’t allowed to take time off in the summer time so we figured this would be our best chance to celebrate our upcoming 5 year anniversary.
We left Tuesday night directly from work. We arrived in Chicago that night. We stayed at the airport Hyatt and were very pleased with our room.
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We were surprised to receive a knock on our door with room service. We tried to say we didn’t order any room service but were told, “Strawberries and champagne for Sheffield.” The only thing we could think was it was from the front desk who congratulated Abraham on his medical school graduation. We sent the champagne back and were given juice instead.
We woke up very early to catch our flight to Curacoa. We arrived about 2 pm.
We were a little disappointed when we arrived at our resort…
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I’ve been to the developing world but this was a little rough!
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The flowers were beautiful though.
Actually, I am totally joking. The pictures above are of a resort my dad asked us to look into while we were on the island. “Just drive by and see if you can get a feel for it.” We felt pretty strongly about it pretty quickly! The resort evidently went bankrupt about 5 years ago and the disgruntled, unpaid employees took everything they could find as compensation. That was pretty obvious! Garmin needs to update their GPS as we easily found the “Sunseat Beach Resort” on the map.
Here is what OUR resort really looked like.
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We got a great deal on our room at the Marriott Hotel. And we even received a free upgrade to a beachfront room (offered to us initially for an extra $100 per night).
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The grounds were beautiful and the beach was one of the best we saw on the island. I don’t think the pictures do it justice.
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