Monday, July 30, 2012

I HATE the dentist... sometimes I do, too!

photo courtesy of Des Moines register, taken during dental school

I hear a lot of complaints both from patients and friends about dentists and doctors. It can be hard to remember what it is like to be the patient but I recently had a good reminder.

A few weeks ago I had an exam with my physician. It was a pretty typical appointment.

I arrived about 30 minutes early. And then I waited for 45 minutes after my appointment for the doctor to come in. I was just coming off a 24 hour shift and anxious to sleep. I tried to read an ICU book or sleep, but I couldn't seem to do either well at the opposite time-- I couldn't sleep when trying to sleep and couldn't stay awake when trying to read.

I found myself nervously waiting for the doctor. A little annoyed when I had to give my name/birthday multiple times. (Really annoyed when they said I shrunk an inch.) Feeling like a wimp when they had to take my blood pressure more than once (those cuffs get so tight, don't they?). Wondering if there was anything extra I should ask him when he came in, hoping he understood where I was coming from, and hoping he wouldn't think I was dumb if I had any silly questions (if I could even remember them).

Luckily, I narrowly escaped the pap smear. Yay! But then found out I needed a shot.

Great. I remember what it is like to have nervous patients. I wanted to say, "A shot! I don't know what it is, but there is something about shots in my arm that always get me." or "You nurses really just like hurting people," just like my patient's say to me (almost) every day. But instead I said, "Okay!" putting on my bravest face. And just like it is for most of patients, it wasn't as bad as I expected (but hurt really bad afterward -- but unlike many of my patients, I didn't call to let them know in the middle of the night).

And after about 15 minutes I left. Luckily for me, I didn't have to worry about how I would pay for the bill which I know is a concern for a large percentage of my patients.

I think it is good to experience the patient side every once and awhile, even for a simple appointment like mine. I think it is interesting how easy it is for me to switch to the patient role. I also feel nervous and a little intimidated, frustrated with scheduling delays, anxious about pain and hope to remember to ask all of my questions. It reminds me that my patients feel this and probably more (Dentists and certainly Oral Surgeons do not have the best reputation for being cuddly and warm--we usually do have to hurt you to do our job, at least enough to give a shot).

Too bad patient's can't see our side of things.

When your doctor is running behind it can be very frustrating. It is also frustrating and stressful for your doc to be behind schedule. She feels the pressure to give each patient adequate time but also feels bad to keep others waiting. Other patient's also often show up late (it is not unusual for us to have patients show up 45 minutes late for a 15-30 minute appointment) or come with an emergency that needs to be addressed somehow in the already full schedule. She probably feels torn about helping them and getting further behind. Hopefully you can remember that this means your doc will try to spend as much time with you as you need, understanding that she does have a schedule to keep and may not be able to talk about everything you'd like to talk about socially.

It is important to remember that a lot of medical procedures hurt. I think sometimes when we think of the miracles of modern medicine we forget simple things like surgery hurts! And sometimes you need a shot or to have blood drawn, etc. It sounds silly but many patient's forget this and even become angry when they have pain after a procedure or because they need a shot to receive local anesthesia. If you understand that this is normal you will have a better experience and can hopefully realize your health care provider is truly trying to help you, even if it does hurt.

Your doctor should be happy to answer questions. It can be a bit overwhelming to see a patient with a large list of questions and concerns but she should generally be happy to answer questions to help you take a better and more active role in your health. Most of medicine requires effort from the patient as well as the doctor and understanding your own body is an important part of that effort.

Just a few thoughts. What frustrations do you have as a patient?

Monday, July 23, 2012

If I had the faith of a Pioneer…

Growing up July 24 was a special day. In Utah, it is a state holiday known as Pioneer Day. Much like the fourth of July, it is a day off from work to celebrate with fireworks, parades, and BBQs; except this day is not to celebrate our independence as a country but the day the first Mormon Pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley after their exodus fleeing the mobs of the midwest.

Moving away from Utah going on 8 years ago (!) I tend to forget about this day and my pioneeer heritage. In fact, I have often balked at it. I remember arriving in Iowa City discovering Mormon Trek Blvd and the University of Iowa’s Mormon Handcart Park and saying “I thought I finally escaped all of the pioneer and handcart re-enactments.” For my Iowa friends who are still confused, Pioneer Day is a lot like Pella Tulip Time, except instead of dressing up like Dutch people from the 1800s we (sometimes but not usually) dress up as pioneers from the 1800s and youth often pull handcarts around parks or trails for a few hours to experience “what it was like” (although this can happen at any time during the summer, not just on the holiday).

But today I had some new thoughts regarding this upcoming July 24.

I wont get the day off to celebrate. There will be no fireworks and probably not even a BBQ. But this year I am remembering the amazing heritage that has been left behind. My ancestors and the other pioneers were survivors! They humbly endured horrible trials I cannot imagine. It is hard to understand that in this country where we value religious freedom and equality that my people were thrust out of their homes by angry mobs with torches, were tarred and feathered, and sometimes murdered. In fact, in Missouri it was not against the law to kill a Mormon. It is hard to comprehend that a whole group of people, here in the United States, were forced to leave the homes they had built for an unwanted desert land thousands of miles away.

I have made the trek, maybe even on some of the same roads, from Utah to Iowa (a bit of a pilgrimage back home I suppose) in my car. It still takes about 18 hours and even today, is sometimes impossible due to harsh weather. I have lived in the sweltering heat of Iowa and the blistering cold of its winters. I have a better understanding what it must have been like for the people to cross over the frozen Mississippi river in February. I have no idea what it would be like to walk miles in the snow without my high tech snow gear or a warm house at the end of the day.

One of my own ancestors, Lucius Scoville, was a prominent member (you can visit his bakery in Historic Nauvoo) of the Nauvoo community (the last Mormon settlement before the Saints left with Brigham Young leading them to Utah).

A week  before the first group left, his wife died, leaving him alone with four children. He was called to serve a mission in England and left his young family behind in Iowa without much of anything except a trust that God would take care of them. While on his way to England, he was on a river boat leaving from St Louis. A group of men were talking about how they had been in the mob that had forced the Mormons to flee. One man mentioned he shot an old man in the back just because he found the man annoying. He swore he would kill any Mormon in his path, especially on a river boat, and would throw them overboard. Great-something Grandpa Scoville couldn’t take listening to this anymore so stood up to the man and was luckily protected by the other passengers on the boat before the mobster could throw him over the side. Eventually Scovillle was able to meet back up with his family and take them the rest of the way to Utah after helping many other families make the trip as well.

I think about the problems I have in my life. Frustrations at work, difficulties accomplishing day to day tasks, feeling tired and worn down. But I have never been asked to leave everything I own behind, I’ve never been threatened with physical harm because of what I believe, to suffer through an Iowa winter or summer without the relief of a warm house or air conditioner, and I have never had to leave my family behind not knowing if I would ever see them again. But hundreds of Mormon pioneers faced these trials with courage and faith. Many died, but those who lived passed on those survivor genes to the generations to come.

I hope to be like Lucius Scoville-- To face my enemies (hypothetical or otherwise) bravely and head on without complaint. I want to adopt the humility, diligence, and faithfulness of the pioneers. I think I can (with practice). After all, it’s in my blood!

I may not be dressing up like a pioneer this year, but I’m going to try my best to be more like one!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Doctors

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After 7 years of anticipation (for me, 8 for him) as I previously mentioned, Abraham graduated from Medical school and graduate school with his PhD in May.

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The three “Drs. Sheffield.” Crazy enough, I have only one of the five doctorate degrees in this picture! I always wanted to be “Mr. and Dr. ______.” Thanks Abe for letting me fulfill that (prideful) desire for a short time (before you totally overtook me in education).

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I was really happy that so many from both our families could be there to celebrate.

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Abe with his research mentor and faculty member (continued mentor) in Otolaryngology at PhD graduation.

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I love this picture of Abe. He looks so triumphant, happy, ascending figuratively and literally!

In case you were wondering, the gold and black robe is the PhD robe for the University of Iowa. The green “hood” denotes medicine, the blue is for the PhD.


*    *    *


So what’s happening now?

Today is day 11 of residency for Abraham and day 11 of my third year. Abraham is waking up early (about 3:30 am) for his Neurosurgery rotation and I am working in the surgical intensive care unit (shifts starting much later at 6 am).

It is fun seeing Abe around the hospital. Sometimes we are able to meet for a quick lunch or breakfast in the cafeteria. I see him when his is rounding in the morning with the neurosurgery team. People keep telling me, “CUTE!” when they see we are both in the hospital.


(The “Real” Doctor Sheffield sneaking out for some lunch)

He is much busier now than his time in medical school. Luckily, this month has a lot of time off (after 24 hour call shifts) for me. I have been preparing for the future by trying to get our house cleaned up and making frozen meals ahead of time on my days off. I really enjoy being able to go to the grocery store or the bank in the middle of the day. I feel like a “real person” having that freedom to do what I want when I want. I know a lot of stay at home mom’s must think what I do is exciting but I feel the same way about them. I was thrilled to go to the bank (the BANK!) while it was open and to go grocery shopping during the day last week. How refreshing. But oops, still woke up about 6am on my day off.


(Faking it on a 24 hour shift at the ICU, hoping patient’s families don’t see the DDS on my badge. Back at it again tomorrow.)

So here we are, living the life. Not as exciting as Grey’s Anatomy or anything like that (which is probably a good thing…Abe better be staying out of the broom closets, that’s all I have to say!). We are pretty busy, tired, trying to study and exercise and eat okay, see each other often enough, and squeeze the rest of our life into the small openings we have.

Speaking of shows, I think they totally need an oral surgeon in one of these doctor shows. Think of all of the drama that could come – the turf wars, the physicians who don’t think we should be in the hospital, the confusion about who we are and why a dentist is working as an ICU doctor? They wouldn’t have to be a permanent character but could be a good character from time to time. Anyone out there with connections? I’d be happy to write some scenarios.

Oh, and I think Abe would make a great replacement for Dr. Oz….

Friday, July 6, 2012

Parenting 101

What better way to teach your child responsibility than by having her return your keg?

Little girl carrying keg in IC

We spotted this the other day while driving and had to snap a few pictures. We wondered if maybe we misunderstood the situation.

“Hey Abe look, do you think that man is really having 7 year old return his keg?”

But as you can see, they are clearly going into “Liquor Downtown.”

“Yes, yes he is.”

Little girl with keg

You have to teach kids how to work from an early age. And I guess in the meantime they learn something about how to party, too.

*Two-fer* (spelling on a fake word anyone?)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Life is a Beach, and I guess a Highway

Next week the contestants on the Bachelorette are going to Curacao. I’m excited to see where they end up. (I feel like I have to admit here, that yes, I do watch the Bachelorette even though I think it is an awful and cruel premiss for a show.) I wanted to show you all how awesome we are that we discovered some more of these places, put you through more trip log pictures, and maybe just bore you.
A few side thoughts first:
Rent a car on Curacao. And get insurance. (And a GPS—I’ve never seen corkscrew roads before this island!) Your regular car insurance doesn’t always cover internationally. We had the great pleasure of our unattended parked car being hit at the parking lot of our hotel. Thank goodness it was only a few hundred dollars as we were billed directly by the rental company until we got the refund check in the mail from the insurance company. I say no fair since we weren’t even close to the car but what can you do…
It took about 3-4 hours out of our first day to get this sorted (when the perpetrator simply left his name at the scene). They have traffic “cops” in vans that turn into traveling offices. “Step into my office and close the door.” He pulls down a little desk, starts recording our “statement” and typing on the computer. Kinda weird.
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Sometimes things don’t always translate well. I don’t think this would be the name I would choose for my shoe store. Connotations, people.
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We don’t speak Dutch, but this was easy to figure out the meaning. I don’t know why we thought this sounded so funny. It reminded me of Brenna for some reason.
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I’m sure you are wondering about the beaches. There are some beautiful white sand beaches in Curacao, framed by cacti and desert plants.
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My favorite beach. Beautiful!
Other Curacao scenes:
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The food was the hardest part of the trip. We found it to be often expensive and disappointing for the price. We also tried following guide book and hotel recommendations, only to have the restaurants gone when we showed up. We ended up eating at Dominoes, KFC, Denny’s, McDonalds (which was even closed due to a power outage our first try), Subway.
(We were glad to find these McDonald’s signs to help us find some food we knew would be predictable—even though this was the closed McDonalds)
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Our best and cheapest meal was probably at the Old Market. This is a place to sample local fare for lunch during the weak and I highly recommend it! We should have done that more often.
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There is also the Floating Market close by where merchants from Venezuela sell fruits, veggies, etc from the mainland from their boats.
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The diving in Curacao was great (at least the three dives we did). We did have to drive all over the island to find a shop that would take us to the famous Mushroom Garden but we finally succeeded. Unfortunately, I don’t have an underwater camera. We had a very Dutch dive guide. He seemed very typical of my dive friends, heavy smoker right after diving and all.
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We finished one of our last days with a tour of the Hato Caves. Close to the airport, this cave was used by slaves as a hideout when they escaped from the nearby Hato plantation. Unfortunately, they were caught and the cave entrance was locked closed. It was an interesting place worth exploring. You are only allowed to take a few pictures inside. They have some cool formations including ones that look just like the Virgin Mary and a pirate face (can you see him in the picture below).
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I’m interested to see if the places we went show up next week on ABC!