...many times a simple choice can prove to be essential even though it often might appear inconseqnetial.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Reflections on a Saturday Afternoon

After reading Rosellen’s most recent post, I felt compelled to write about my own experiences with the healthcare professionals that have played a significant role in my life. I’ve put a decent amount of thought into how exactly I should go about writing this post. I don’t normally talk about it, but after reading that post I immediately knew I had to write something. But I don’t’ want to sound like a complete schmuck either, so I’ve been putting it off.

Waking up this morning, feeling ever so grateful that the euphoria of the job still remains and the effects of the two double-short rum and cokes has not, I feel now is the time to try and put these thoughts into words. This is, after all, one of the reasons I started this blog.

Being (mostly) fresh out of college, the piece of advice I remember most came from my dad. Back when I had finally decided on a major, my dad asked me if that’s what I really wanted to do. I had told him, yes, Anthropology was a subject that truly fascinated me, and that even if I didn’t know the exact direction that it would take me, it’s where I wanted to be. He smiled, and told me as long as I would be happy in that field, that’s all that mattered. He told me that although he considered and was told by many people he could do a lot of other things besides being a farmer/rancher, in the end, he chose what he loved to do the most. Growing up, most children think their parents can do anything, we have our own personal superheroes at our disposal. My dad sat on school and various philanthropic boards, he truly cares about the community and what happens in the world around him. He really could have done anything, but despite the long hours and low pay, I saw him go to work and come home everyday loving his job. And even though we disagree on the political scale and don’t always see eye to eye, I admire him to all ends. His advice has always stuck with me because he just didn’t shell out some words of wisdom, he led by example.

Growing up around this philosophy, it’s also encouraging as a (mostly) fresh college graduate to hear other people’s experiences in the field of work they love and know they’re supposed to be in. Rosellen’s post was another reminder that pain of unemployment and the uncertainty of life are only temporary and when the right thing comes along, I’ll know it.

However, it was the part about the finite relationship that healthcare providers ultimately have with their patients that really struck a chord with me. Not an angry chord, but when I read that, something resonated inside me...I’ve had that sudden realization that a relationship in my life wouldn’t always be there and would come to a rather abrupt and complete end.

Some background: I have been rather fortunate in my life when it comes to certain aspects of my health. I rarely get sick, I’ve never had strep throat, a bloody nose, I can’t remember having an ear infection, I’ve never broken any bones, torn any ligaments, and never had to visit the emergency room (because of my health, for other people’s, that’s another story). With that being said doctors, in the general sense...”oh you’re sick, maybe you should see a doctor” didn’t play a hugely significant part in my life growing up.

With that being said, I have also been on the rather unlucky side when it comes to certain aspects of my health. I had bronchitis four or five times that led to a nasty case of childhood asthma (which did lead to a rather unpleasant experience with my pediatrician who always called me Kathy to begin with...I hated that), I had a tumor the size of my fist removed over Thanksgiving break my senior year of high school and I have a, I don’t even know what to call it exactly...condition...called hydrocephalus. In brief, your brain and spinal cord are protected by, among other things, cerebral-spinal fluid. This nifty stuff is supposed to drain naturally from your skull, as it is being continually produced by your body. If it doesn’t drain, well it accumulates in your head, and bad stuff can happen. So my head doesn’t do that on its own and I have a system of tubes and valves that do it instead.

This system of tubes and valves gave me the privilege of having a neurosurgeon for the first 21 years of my life. When I called to make my last appointment with Dr. W. (who, I can say without a doubt, knew why he was here; he is a great man, very dedicated to his work), I was informed he would be retiring in a couple months. My usual yearly checkups had, as I grew older and farther away from the last major surgery, became every other year checkups, so news of his retirement came as a bit of a surprise for me. I had assumed that this would be my last appointment with him, regardless of his retirement, but the thought of him not being there if something happened, was the definitive realization that our relationship, however important to my life, was indeed not intended to last my entire life.

My last appointment went as normally and routine as all the other checkups. Look over the CT scan of my head (which I got to keep this time, not many people have pictures of the inside of their head, I felt pretty cool), poke and prod the valves in my head to make sure they’re still working, check for pulling at the incisions on my stomach, walk in a straight line, balance on one foot with my eyes closed, how are my parents? how am I doing in school? boyfriend? married? (okay, that was a new one and definitely wasn’t expecting it). And with a couple more final tidbits of information...having kids won’t be a problem, I have small ventricles and the name and type of my shunt (main valve thing), it was over. An event that had become so routine, it was almost as mundane as the other things in my life that defined me, suddenly took on a new meaning. This was it; this was not routine. I gave him a hug, and (to my surprise) through tears, told him thank you, took my folder of CT films, mumbled something about thanks for the parting gift and left his office.

After thinking about it the entire drive home (our little town in Wyoming didn’t have the medical facilities or staff for this, so my doctor was actually 2 ½ hours away in Billings, MT) and then really stewing over it later that night at home, I definitely felt some strange hole in my life. I worried I had come off as ungrateful, was a “thank you” and subsequent comment out CT films adequate enough for the moment? I mean, not to sound all-important or overdramatic, but this man had saved and given me a chance at life, repaired, fixed and replaced that which I needed to stay alive. And all I said was “thank you.” How very anticlimactic.

Eventually, after the I immerged from whatever state you want to define that as, I realized that my appreciation could not be summed up in one final moment with him, but hopefully I was able to effectively show my gratitude with every visit and after every surgery. My mom did send a letter to him, my last visit was one of the few time she stayed in the waiting area, and a part of me always regrets I didn’t do the same. I’m always tempted to find his address and write, maybe one of these days I’ll get the nerve and actually do it. Is there a “too late” in this situation?

And so, while my checkups and relationship with Dr. W had become an integral, but rather ordinary aspect of my life, it took the finiteness to make me realize how truly important, even if not permanent, he was to my life.

Here’s a big thank you to Rosellen, Dr. W, my parents and everyone who knows where they’re supposed to be, and love doing what they’re doing; you encourage all of us who are trying to do the same.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Merry Christmas to Me!

Okay, I told myself that I would never blog at work...but well dammit, some things just can't wait.

I am now officially one step closer to becoming a real, full-fledged adult. I have a (permanent) job! Yes, folks you read that correctly. No more temp work, I have a position that includes benefits and paid vacations and everything else that comes with a real job.

So really, the next time you talk to me you should totally ask me about the new job. Not only do I think they're great because they gave me a job, but they do amazing work and I am so happy that I get to be a part of the organization.
Note: I had posted a link to my new place of employment, but as Mary Ann pointed out, that might not be the best idea. Sometimes annonymity is the best way to go. Now you'll just have to ask me if you want to know.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Thawing Out

Denver has finally started to emerge from its time that can only be described as living in a perpetual deep freeze. Today with highs in the 40s, people shed their layers of sweaters, hats, gloves and scarves to find comfort in wearing their light jackets again. I'm all for white Christmases, but nothing zaps the holiday spirit out of me more than subzero temperatures.

And thanks to the recent warming trend, my car may not hate me for the rest of the time we spend together. My car and I have, for the most part, gotten along very well. I take her in to get her oil changed, I sometimes feed her premium gas (well maybe not now with outrageous gas prices, but I used to), I am never (consciously) wreckless with her, we've never been in an accident, I try to avoid driving in traffic as much as possible, and I've taken her fun places like Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and even Nebraska. These places let her run free without the worry of other rude drivers and occasionally, the drives are scenic. Even better, we never have to go back to Nebraska. If something happens and she breaks in whatever way, I get it fixed, usually at a Honda dealership, I gave her a new windshield and bumper parts...and I even gave her a bumper sticker-like thing.

However, in recent months, she has felt not only neglected, but unjustly punished as well. For the last several months, my need to drive has declined greatly. Being in between employment opportunities, not only did I go fewer places, but when I did, they were short, uneventful trips, or in an effort not to go crazy, I would walk. My poor car would watch helplessly from her parking spot as I left the house, on foot, to go to the gym or the grocery store.

So of course, she was delighted when I got fulltime work (temporary or not, I was getting out the house!), she would be driven again, and would get to sit in the company of other cars in the light rail lot. When the day finally comes that I get to drive her every single day, what happens? It turns bitterly, almost unbearably, cold. Suddenly not being able to live in a garage becomes a big deal, the snow and ice caked to her are unable to melt for days. Starting in the morning, and at night, takes a great deal of pain and a great deal of sitting and idling. Her speedometer is cranky and really doesn't like the cold, it makes loud noises and puts up a fight to accurately read speeds over 20 mph. When the agony of driving in such conditions is over, in an act of defiance, as if to say "oh hell no, if I have to run in this kind of weather, it better be for a lot longer than this" the gearshift doesn't like to go into park, and therefore rendering me helpless to get the key out of the ignition. Eventually I am able to reason with her, get the car into park, and I can go on my way through the sinus-freezing cold, to the train and to work.

At least when it snows, as opposed to when it rains, the sunroof doesn't dump a payload of water into the passenger seat (or passenger, if occupied). I have that to look forward to when it gets warm enough to rain.

Gosh...maybe my car and I don't get along as well as I thought we did...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Office Space: Revisited

On J's last day, the department got together and ate homemade banana cake in her honor. The cake was cut and then passed around the conference table so the person farthest from the cake got the first piece, and the person closest got the last. I don't know when this tradition started, but now it's done to just be ridiculous, but still we're inching closer. Luckily everyone got a piece of cake, otherwise we might have just been one step closer to a "case of the Mondays" epidemic or getting the building burned down.

Guard your staplers.

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

It's December and there's no hiding the fact that Christmas is just around the corner. Christmas lights are up on every block, eggnog is now available for consumption, you will undoubtedly hear at least one Christmas song everyday from here until the 25th.

As J and I drove to work earlier this week, listening to the station that has switched to playing Christmas music 24/7, we commented how it just doesn't seem right to be hanging lights, listening to the music or thinking about shopping and holiday parties unless there's snow on the ground. It has been unusually warm for most of the winter. Until this week, we should have just kept our mouths shut. Now there's snow, and coldness, lost of coldness. It almost got warm enough to melt the remainder of the snow from my car, but then it just got cold again, so my car is still streaked with ice and snow. The streets in the neighborhood are still spotty with ice and crusty snow.

Spotty, crusty streets do not mix well with the high-heeled foot apparel needed to attend Christmas parties. J, brother-in-law P, A, P and I attended a Christmas party this weekend. Good times were had drinking eggnog (by A and me), port (by P), Manhattans (by bro-in-law), vodka tonics (J and Me) and some horribly toxic liquor called Drambuie (by A, with recommendation from the host). Okay, so the party wasn't all about drinking. There were great appetizers, including chocolate covered grapes (delicious), the pre-requisite Christmas music and general party conversation, which ranged from explanations of how we knew the people at the party to discussing the excitement over a fellow coworker's engagement, and continually admiring the gorgeous ring. Okay that was just the girls, we like sparkly things...

You know it's Christmas time when, despite the cold, ice and snow, you still throw on a party dress, strappy high heels and head out into the night, walking gingerly and shivering just hoping you make it to the party before you fall and break your ankle or contract eternal goosebumps.

Happy Holidays, folks!

One Step Closer, I Think

Still not wanting to jinx this, but I'm just too excited not to say anything....

I got called back for a second interview. I came home on Friday to find a message on the machine letting me know I needed to call to pick a time for the second interview. Of course, it was after five, so all I could do was leave a message.

Funny story...I decided to reiterate, in the message, the number I could be most easily reached. About two hours after I had left the message, I realized I somehow managed to tell them a phone number that was a mix of my home phone and my sister's cell phone number. Needless to say, I cannot be reached at that number, and I had to call back the next day and leave another message that supplied the correct phone number. To say the least, I feel a little foolish.

To my own defense, I had the same phone number my entire life until I went to college. That phone number changed every year, but I still didn't get good at remembering new numbers. Now that I have a cell phone, remembering numbers is completely obsolete as long as I get people onto my contacts list. In conclusion, there was a very logical explanation (that doesn't include my own incompetence) why I somehow rambled off a non-existent phone number to a potential employer. Right?

I just hope those who are considering hiring me, just chuckle to themselves as they listen to the message and still decided to call me back.