Tuesday, November 17, 2009


There used to be a time when I wanted another baby. I would think of my life as a mother and refuse to believe that that chance to cuddle a baby was over for me. And I would hide the sadness by feigning relief at infertility. That was years ago. Evan was 3 or 4 years old: still young, but undeniably growing up on me. About 5 years ago. But it never happened, and I just assumed that God forgot.

I always said I wanted to be a doctor. I guess secretly I never believed it could happen. But then something crazy happened, and I made the first step that was more of a leap of faith. And then came progress. And before I knew what was happening, everything I have always wanted was right there within my reach.

I did that for myself. Suddenly the idea of Evan being an only child wasn't so bad. It meant I could have everything I wanted: a career in medicine, a husband I love, being a mother. I didn't have to sacrifice a thing other than sleep and some elbow grease. Perfect.

But God, if He or She exists, does have a sense of humor. Immersed in my world of school and work, I never noticed that my boobs hurt that badly until one day when I stopped to pay attention. So I took the test that had nothing to do with pre-med, and it was positive before I could even put it on the counter to wait the requisite three minutes. Of course it had to be wrong, so I took another. Same result. So I called a doctor and got orders sent to a lab, just to be sure. Yes. We are having another baby.

I was completely in shock. Not according to plan. Evan will be 9 about two months after this one is to be born. Then I thought about how I was almost done. About applying to med school with an infant in tow. About another mouth to feed. And I was upet.

But nature took care of that. Over the weeks, as my belly first turned softer, then started to firm with the swelling of new life. And I saw the flutter of a heart beat, strong and persistant, on a screen. Saw the smile light John's face and the excitement flicker in Evan's eyes. And suddely, my outlook changed.

I get to try it all again. I get a chance to amend the errors I made with Evan, as we parents do sometimes. I get the last chance to be the perfect mother. To smell thebuttermilk breath of a newborn and feel the flutter of batting eyelashes against my cheek. I get to sing lullabies again without anyone insisting they are too old for them. I get to witness first steps and first words again. To hear a baby's giggle. To buy those tiny clothes and smell baby lotion.

So considering names, I go for meaning and not trends. And my first inclination is the Emily I have always wanted. But then I see Amelia's meaning: work, strain, effort. And I know that this is the one. But what for a boy? John and I could not agree. Until, at the very end of the alphabet, I found one that brought tears to my eys.

The meaning of Zachary: God remembered.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Surviving H1N1

Where in the Hell have I been lately?

Well, Organic Chemistry is trying to kill me, I swear. And I have been working like a dog thanks to the pesky H1N1. I havemore updates later, but those will come unde separate cover...

What is it like to be a respiratory theapist in the throes of an early and horrendous flu season? "Suffocating" would be the first word I would choose. Everyone with a cough is in droplet precautions, which means I have to mask up before entering just about any room in the hospital. And we have gotten so out of hand with it! I had a vent patient who was known to have aspiration pneumonia. He had been on the vent for weeks when I went to treat him a few days ago. Imagine my surprise when I see a large "Droplet Precaution" sign on his door in the ICU. Why? Because he has pneumonia, we assume he has swine flu. Ridiculous.
Another example: I was working the ER the other night. The doctor was ordering my services for everyone. After about 5 unnecessary breathing treatments, I asked why a patient in with nausea/ vomiting with 100% clear lungs would need it. His response? Well, I think she has H1N1, so she may wheeze in the future. Again, ridiculous.
People are so panicked. Checking into the ER for sneezing, literally. Entire families checking in together. The ER's are clogged with this stuff, limiting access to care for people who need it most.
It irks me in a big way.
I know the flu sucks. I also know a new strain of anything is scary. But if you are healthy and just having manageable symptoms, there is nothing that can be done for you in the ER that cannot be done at home. So stay there. Tylenol works for fevers, Gatorade and Jell-O work for dehydration. And these are all infinitely cheaper than an ER bill.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'm a Double Major in Moleculr Biology and Biomechanics On a Pre-Med Track

Mouthful, isn't it?

I have one more day off, then back to class I go. Kinda excited, kinda nervous. Calculus has never been my thing, but it has to become so this quarter. I dropped that physics course and 3rd chem course due to my illness over the summer, and they are prerequisites to all of my fall classes. Most professors are forgiving, and are letting me slide. Except for my Genetics professor. She isn't very favorable to my staying in her course, but if one of my advisors has anything to do with it, I will remain in the course. (Yes, I said one of my advisors, as in I have 3: one for biomechanics, one for molecular biology, and one pre-professinal advisor who is going to help me get into med school. As if things weren't confusing enough...)

My feelings of "I am really doing this?" have turned into "Am I really going to do this?" The idea that I am on the track to accomplishing everything I have ever wanted in my life is so surreal. I envision myself graduating medical school, of reciting the Hippocratic Oath, of doing it, and in the back of my mind are these doubts that it will really happen. I've always been Andrea, the girl at the top of her game. But I haven't really been competing, thus far, with a slew of others at the top of their games as well. Is my "top" good enough to compete with theirs?

I've made up my short list of where I am going to apply. I should be starting that process later this year. So here it goes:

Universty of Michigan
Ohio State University
University of Kentucky
University of Louisville
University of Cincinnati
Indiana University
Wright State University
Vanderbilt University

Hopefully one will bite.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

It Started (Warning: Language)

How Odd

It seems so strange that we celebrate Evan's birthday in the same month as one of America's greatest tradgedies. But I remember holding my newborn son at home when my mother-in-law called to tell John and I to turn on the television, to see what was happening.

I was completely selfish that day. I remember instantly thinking that my husband, just three years out of the Marine Corps, would be going to war. A war I would ultimately end up watching on CNN and Fox News nightly while I did my housewife duties. I know so many people who have served in that war. And John was almost one of them. What would I have done? It's hard to imagine. I know I would have waited faithfully for his return home. But I could not imagine the constant fear that he wouldn't be coming home. And livng my life daily wthout him here with me.

So on the 8th anniversary of 9/11, I spent the day thinking about them. About the boys who fight for us, about their wives and kids who wait here at home in a world that does not stop for them because their husband or daddy is away. About all of our brothers and sisters we lost, whether directly or indirectly, because of that fateful day.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yesterday was the Day I Almost Died.

All I could think was, "Please, do not let me die like this." Curled in the fetal position of my bathroom floor, covered in my own vomit and feces and sweat while some faceless EMT or Paramedic, or both, worked on me. I could hear John's voice in the background, telling them to "please, just hurry. She's had these reactions before. She knows what they are."

Everything had been fine about 20 minutes ago. I had awakened from a nap after working all night. I had a sore throat that had persisited through the last half of my shift, and was still there when I woke up. I took a sample of the Avelox my family doctor had given me the day before I was hospitalized for pneumonia. A couple of minutes later,I ate a candy bar from Evan's school fundraiser. I started having this intense itching all over my back, and I made John scratch all over. Then I had these stomach cramps that were bad enough that I went and sat on the toilet. It was there that I started to feel lightheaded, felt the thickening in my throat, the tightening in my chest. I yelled for John to call 911 as I fell to the floor in front of the toilet and began to vomit. while clear drainage poured from my nose.

I got the terrifying feeling of taking a deep breath, but the air wasn't getting anywhere. In between gasps, I would shout "Please hurry!" to anyone who could hear me. John kept trying to reassure me : "Baby, I hear the sirens. They're closer." I remember telling him I was going to die.

EMS arrived, and I was assaulted with the questions I ask my patients: "Ma'am, what's your name, allergies, date of birth. What happened today, what's your health history, are you on illegal drugs?" I don't know if the words were coming out. I tried to tell him to hurry while trying to answer his questions. Did he really just ask me if was on heroin? John's response: "Dude! She's a registered respiratory therapist!" I smelledthe new plastic of the nasal cannula, asked fo the nonrebreaher instead. "My sat's okay. For my comfort," I croaked. I begged for the Epinephrine I knew was in his bag. The miracle drug that would stop me from having to have an emergency cricothyroidotomy when what little left of my airway was long gone and the only way to get air to my lungs would be through the whole they made in my neck right there on my bathroom floor. More importantly, the miracle drug that would ensure I would be alive when Evan got out of school in just a few short hours. Ahhhh, Evan. Funny how I can be in hell, knowing my life hangs on how many more seconds it takes this EMT to give me the epi when he appars to not be grasping what is going on, to focus on the sound of John's voice somewhere behind me, and through it all, only be able to see Evan's face.

I don't know where it was in the progression of things when the image of my surroundings began to fade and blur around the edges, when I collapsed the rest of the way, still begging for epi, and thinking of my mom and how I didn't want to, but it would be okay to just go ahead and die. That John and Evan would be okay, that my life insurance was adequate. And I just let go.

Then I felt a pinch in my arm. When I realized I could beathe just a tiny bit better, I realized it was epi, then the EMT said it was epi. That is when I started to vomit again, and someone thrusted my own bathroom garbage can under my face. When my bowels completely released. They were asking me to sit up, to help them help me to stand. I have no idea how I got on the stretcher. But then I heard the clacking of the wheels, saw daylight and the flashing lights in front of the house. Then I was at the hospital, and there was more epi, more Benadryl. More oxygen and questions. And IV, followed by even more Benadryl, Pepcid, steroids. The cold washcloth as the nurses cleaned me up. I begged hem to close the curtain. "I work with these people", I wailed. And sleep. A sleep deeper than I have ever known. And you wake up and it is all over. "Mrs. F, we are going to send you home on a medrol dose pack and I want you to take Benadryl every 4 hours for tonight. And you must get an Epi-Pen. You need to have one with you at all times, do you understand?"

Once home, more sleep. But this time, I would wake to John and Evan's faces. Feel my son kiss me on the cheek, and hear John tell him that Mommy had been sick while he was at school.

And I thought to myself that, though the hours/ days/ weeks/ months/ years of my life have been or will be consumed by images of scrubs and stethoscopes, textbooks and classes, hopes and goals and ambition, isn't it funny that when the edges started to fade, it wasn't any of that that floated with me just beneath the surface as I resigned to my death. It was John's voice and Evan's face.

I have had anaphylactic reactions before. Only none of them were so memorable. I woke up intubated after one of these episodes, but my only memory of that was feeling nauseous and waking up fighting against the tube. Other times, I sought help before it got to that point. I never felt myself slipping away like I did this past week. A later recounting of the experience to my doctor confirmed that I was dying that day, that I was almost gone. Now there are just a few reminders of it left: bad memories, a bruise on my arm from the EMT's rough injection technique, and fear. Fear that my body can react so violently to something to which I have been exposed my whole life without incident.

Now, because I feel like I need to, here are some links for more info: