Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Influence of Facebook

Sometimes I sit and think about what deployment must have been like for my grandparents during World War II.  There was no internet - no Skype, email, or facebook.  Handwritten letters only occasionally made it to their desired recipient.  My grandmother went months without hearing from my grandfather.

Times have definitely changed.  My husband and I have almost unlimited ways of communicating with each other: email, snail mail, telephone, yahoo messenger, google chat, skype, facebook etc etc.  It's pretty incredible to think about.

I always imagined the technology would help with unit cohesiveness and family support.  It's a small unit and everyone quickly became facebook friends with each other.  We formed a private group for all the soldiers and their family members.  It was intended to be a way for everyone to keep in contact and encourage each other through the tough times.  Unfortunately, things quickly went downhill from there.

Facebook became the downfall of the entire support network.  It began with inappropriate comments and photographs.  While it was a private group for the unit and family, there were concerns that people were being offensive to others in the group.  At one point, this turned into a series of arguments between different people and bred a lot of animosity.  Things only unraveled further from there.

Recently someone publicly posted an article about an attack on my husband's base from a few months ago.  Unfortunately, the majority of family members had not been aware of what had happened. 

I remember the day clearly.  I knew something was wrong because my husband did not respond to my email or come online for our previously planned Skype date.  In fact, no one from his unit came online.  Time passed and I started getting more freaked out.  By the end of the day I was hysterically crying on the phone with my husband's best friend.  When I finally heard from him the next day, he confirmed that something had happened and there had been a black out but everything was fine.  He downplayed things for my mental health and I appreciated that.

A couple weeks later I signed on to facebook and one of his fellow soldiers - a superior in fact - had posted an article on his wall about that specific day.  The article referred to how dangerous their base was and how terrible that particular day was for the troops that were there. I won't site specifics because I don't want to reveal too much about the unit, but it described a particularly terrifying thing for family members to hear.  It was something that I and several other spouses wished we hadn't read.  Sometimes secrets exist in military relationships for a very important reason and we like to keep it that way.  It was insensitive and caused a lot of anguish and further animosity.

Most recently a posting was made publicly about when the unit would be coming home.  We all know that Obama has promised all troops out of Iraq by Dec 31, but everyone in the military knows not to hold their breath about anything.  Most members of the unit had told their family not to expect anything so soon and that they would probably be in Kuwait or somewhere else for an unspecified amount of time.  The posting referred to the unit's date of return in fairly specific fashion.  This was the last straw for a lot of upset family members who were trying desperately not to get their hopes up and for soldiers who were trying not to disappoint their loved ones.  Not to mention the fact that people are angry about an obvious OPSEC violation.

Family members are upset. Soldiers are irate. Nasty emails have been sent around.  There has been name calling.  People have defriended each other on facebook.  The unit is divided and family support has unraveled.

Deployment is difficult enough but we're now at the point of complete disaster.

Technology is amazing but it's equally terrifying how it can completely change the dynamics of a group.

How has technology affected your unit cohesiveness and family support?  Has it been a blessing or a disaster?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Not For One.

Out of the corner of my eye
I see them.
I pause.
My shopping cart goes in reverse.

Pillsbury cinnamon rolls

Warm gooey pastry
Sweet sugary frosting
My mouth starts watering.

That cardboard can with metal ends
The way it opens with a
I can't resist it.
So delicious.

All I want is just one roll...
Or maybe two.

But the smallest can has five.

How many calories in five?

Raw dough
Reminds me
of the simple fact

That it's just me.

I leave the rolls behind
For someone else to buy
Someone without a husband

Someday I'll wake up
To that sweet aroma

Pillsbury cinnamon rolls
in the oven
and my husband standing there
Ready to eat
The other three.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Better Day

"Hey did you hear the news?"

I looked up from a patient's chart and saw one of the city paramedics.

"They announced today that all troops will be out of Iraq by December 31st!"

I gave a fake smile.

"Oh, yeah, well I'll believe that when I see it," I replied.

It was my routine response to this topic.  I've known about the December 31st deadline for a long time and I consistently google all news articles related to the topic.  However, I know that these things can change at any moment and the nature of my husband's work makes it so that he will be one of the very last to leave.  I have prepared myself for a late spring reunion.

I worked the rest of my busy shift, walked to my car, and pulled out my phone to check my email.

One of my best friends wrote: "This is great news, right?"

I shrugged.  Maybe.

Then I saw the video:

The tears started running down my face.  And then I started sobbing.  Alone in my car I was able to let down the wall and feel the complicated emotions of deployment.

I'm still ready for the full deployment but I can't help but feel happiness over the official announcement of a possible early return.

I got home, ate Chinese food, and opened my fortune cookie.

It read:  

Today is probably a huge improvement over yesterday.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Please Forgive Me!

I just had a realization.

I haven't written anything on this blog in almost 2 months. Where did the time go? How is it possible that time moves so slowly in my life but so quickly on this blog? Why have I had such writer's block lately? I can't answer these questions but I promise to be better about it.  This blog has been a major stress outlet for me over the course of this deployment.  I've felt very agitated lately and I think it has to do with my lack of writing.  Deployment weighs heavily on my shoulders every minute of the day and  this feeling of dread won't go away until he's home.   It's incredibly difficult for me to separate these emotions out of the workplace and I think that sometimes my mood can carry over.   Writing on this blog helps me to release some of these emotions.  So.......I'm back.

What have I been doing over the last two months?  Well, there's a very simple answer to that question.
I've been sticking my hand in many, many vaginas.  

Yes, you read that right. 

I spent a month working on the labor and delivery floor.  I can now say that my hands were the first to touch the heads of 38 new human beings (or little goats as I like to call them).  I was so happy to end the month but it is pretty cool to think about that little fact. 

The actual act of delivering babies is fun and it's usually not even that hard.  Not dropping them on the floor is the most difficult part.  They are slippery little buggers!

Now I'm back in the Emergency Department and it feels good to be home.

Stay tuned for the regular return of Dr. Army Wife's blog!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Worm

I see a lot of disgusting things at work and it takes a lot to gross me out.

This morning, however, I made a particularly gruesome discovery.  I was out walking Libby and she was doing

I looked down and what did I see?


Libby has worms.

Tapeworms to be specific.

I will spare you sample images. If you're interested, feel free to google.

It was a total freak-out moment and I have literally been shuddering all day.  Thankfully, tapeworms are relatively benign and easily treated.  They occur after the dog swallows an infected flea so I guess it could happen to any dog.  I'm fairly confident that Libby doesn't have fleas but we did a flea bath just in case.

The vet listened to my description, basically threw the medication across the counter like this was totally routine, and I went on my merry way. 

We are now embarking on a mass genocideTapeworm execution. Worm murder.

Wish us luck. 


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Evolution of a 12 hour Emergency Visit

You've either experienced it yourself or you've heard about it from other people.  It's a common complaint and one that hospital administrators, medical workers, and government officials are always trying to solve.  I'm talking about the lengthy emergency department visits. 

I frequently hear friends or family complain about waiting seven, eight, nine, ten hours in the emergency department for their medical care.  Honestly, I feel for you. I really do.  I know it can be frustrating and boring and can seem completely unnecessary to have to sit on a stretcher in a hallway for hours upon hours.

I want to shed a little light on why this happens and hopefully change a few viewpoints out there.

First and foremost, the emergency department is primarily for emergencies.  The main focus is to resuscitate and stabilize people who are very sick and who may not survive without intervention.  That's not to say that back pain, sprained ankles, vomiting, urinary tract infections, sore throats, flu-like symptoms, or lacerations don't have a place in the emergency department.  Sometimes people don't have primary care physicians, cannot get an appointment with their doctor, or feel so lousy that they want some help in the middle of the night.  I understand.  Most emergency doctors and nurses are in the field because they like seeing "any patient, any time, with any problem." We don't mind treating more minor complaints.

There's just one very important caveat:  Sick people get seen first.  Always.

This means that you may watch 20 people come through the doors and get taken back from the waiting room while you continue to sit in your chair.  This is because someone qualified and trained in medical triage decided that all those people were more sick than you.  Every effort is made to see people in a quick and timely fashion, but in reality there are just too many patients.  Sometimes it can take 4 hours before there is no one who is sicker than you are and then it's finally your turn. 

This also means that once you are in a room or on a stretcher in the hallway, it may take some time before you are evaluated by a physician.  Emergency medicine is all about prioritizing so sometimes the doctor must let someone wait so that they can tend to a critical patient.  Your physician may be spending that hour resuscitating a child who has stopped breathing.  The hour you wait is an hour that someone else is fighting for their life.

Next comes tests.  Perhaps you get blood drawn, urine tests, xrays, or CT scans.  These all take time.  It takes time for the blood to get to the lab, for the lab technicians to prepare it to go through the machines, and for the computers to calculate the results.  The final step is that your doctor has to be able to get to the computer in between patients, see the results, and decide what to do with them.

There's a good chance that you will wait hours for your xray or CT scan.  There are usually only 1 or 2 CT scanners for the whole hospital and the same concept applies here: Sick people go first.  Just as you are about to go to the radiology department, another patient may bump you out of line because they were involved in a major trauma or there is concern that they are hemorrhaging internally.  This may happen over and over again.

Technology rules the world but computers don't create results for your imaging studies.  There is a radiologist sitting in a dark room looking at every image taken from every single patient in the department and meticulously interpreting it.  This takes time and they read them in an order that puts the urgent patients first. They go as quickly as they can but they also have to be extremely thorough so that they don't miss anything on the images.  Again, these results have to be entered into the computer and your physician has to find the time between patients to view them.

Next time you are in the emergency department (I hope you never are there), take a look around at the amount of patients that are in that small space.  Your physician is treating every single one of those people at the exact same time.  It's the ultimate juggling act.

Perhaps your doctor has your discharge paperwork and prescriptions in hand and suddenly a stroke patient comes through the double doors.  Unfortunately, your paperwork will be thrown back down on their desk and that's another hour you might wait.

We live in a fast food society.  There is an expectation that everything must be done promptly, that all information can be at our fingertips in seconds, and that a few minutes of waiting is a few minutes too long.  The emergency department is it's own universe.  There are no appointments and it isn't first come first serve.  Every patient is valued but some are more critical and important than others in terms of promptness of care.

Next time you're heading into the ED for something that is not life or limb threatening, remember that there are others there for whom seconds literally count.

Grab a book, bring your ipod, and enjoy the show.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Grasping to the Learning Curve

I'm here!

Really, I am.

I'm so sorry I have gone away & I promise to pay closer attention to this blog.  Writing here and getting your feedback is so important to me.  I'm going to catch up on reading your blogs too.  Believe it or not, I have 707 unread blog entries right now from all of you.  I'm sorry I've been so bad!

I've just been really really busy with this thing called INTERN YEAR.  Let me just tell you, it's a lot harder than I thought it would be.  They say the learning curve is steep when you transition from a 4th year medical student to a 1st year resident but I think the curve is not just steep. It's a totally vertical line.  You basically spend your time trying to climb directly straight up on the learning curve while at the same time grasping on with all you have to prevent yourself from falling off completely.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't feel like a complete and utterly incompetent idiot.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't make mistakes.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't doubt my ability to do this and ultimately become a proficient doctor.  In short, my confidence is at an all time low.

I wonder when I will stop feeling this way and when I will get to the point when I've climbed over the vertical curve and I am cruising up at the top.  I wonder if I'll ever get there.  They say I will.  They say that everyone feels this way and that it will get better.  It's hard to believe right now but I just have to put some confidence in the system and just keep pushing myself to get better every day.

Emergency Medicine is what I love.  I know it's the right specialty for me and I'm sure I will be happy with my career.  I want to love residency but it's a strong word when you aren't confident in yourself.

I'm happy to have the support of my husband, family, and friends to help get me through this.  I also could not be doing it without this girl:

I get to come home to her wagging nub tail every single day and cuddle with her every night.  No matter how my day was and no matter what happened, she is always there with endless love.

Deployment combined with residency is hard.  Really hard.

It is is made so much better by my battle buddy.