Meet Norman

About 9 years ago, when Aden was just over a year old, I had a very rare health issue pop up. I had a pregnancy in my ovary. They are so rare, they get lumped in with ectopic pregnancies- they don’t have an “official” name for them.  I don’t know exact stats, but something like 3% of pregnancies are ectopic and less than 1% of those are in the ovary (certainly correct my stats- I’m simply recalling from when it happened). The pregnancy was not viable since it was outside of the uterus and, honestly, I didn’t even know I was pregnant until I was at the ER with intense abdominal pain. The pregnancy had ruptured my ovary and I was bleeding internally- almost 2 liters of blood to be exact. I was rushed into surgery, the rupture was corrected, bleeding stopped, and pregnancy removed. There was no way to save the pregnancy and given my current state, the focus was to make sure I made it through surgery.

It took a while, but I recovered and worked through the psychological side of coming that close to not making it through. I didn’t even deal with the pregnancy side of it and didn’t realize it was an issue until we got pregnant with Asher. We were thrilled at the prospect of expanding our family and when we found out it was another boy, we joked that the baby we lost was probably a girl. That’s when I had to work through the idea of this lost child. I knew that in no way would that pregnancy have survived- it ruptured before they even operated. But it was weird thinking that there was a baby in there that we never met.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. As I was putting Asher to bed and we were chatting about his day, he told me about his friend Norman. To my knowledge, we do not know any Norman’s in our day to day life, so this was a new name to me. We talk through a few things about Norman (mostly me checking to see if this might be a real person). I began thinking this was his new imaginary friend. So, I learn he likes dinosaurs and wants to be like his mom and dad when he grows up- “they stick together” was Asher’s comment of what they do. I then ask him when I can meet Norman and he tells me that I can’t meet him. When I asked why, he said because Norman is his little brother. I tell him he has a little sister, not a little brother. He replied, “last time he came out of your belly when you weren’t there”.  I ask him when did Norman come out of my belly- he said before Ariah. I asked it was before him and he said yes, after Aden. He said Norman is a happy boy who visits him while he is sleeping. Now, I know this is probably just the ramblings of a toddler, but it did bring a sense of peace to that whole situation. Although it’s unlikely we would have named him Norman (it doesn’t fit the vowel pattern of naming we have), I guess it was a boy? So, what do you think- imaginary friend or a special visit?

Time to Be Me

Every year hubs med school has a live event called Hippocrates Café that focuses on allowing medical student the opportunity to express themselves artistically through story and song. Typically, a lot of people submit works and then a handful are selected to be presented. Some people perform their own works, while others are performed by professionals. This year, hubs written piece was selected and read by a professional! I am so proud of what he wrote that I felt it’s important to share. It’s a raw piece that truly expresses how these last few years have been, not only for him, but many others in med school as well.

 

Time to Be Me

By: Robert Mills

 

Confident to start, jovial to begin.

Living out my dream, I got this.

Wait. You say you went to what Ivy League school?

You too? And you…?

I’m just a kid from the hood, who’s made it out, so far, so good.

So pardon me if I don’t speak so eloquently.

I’m just tryin to do me.

I wasn’t afforded the social capital and wealth

That allowed you to achieve, seemingly carefree

Naw, that’s not me.

As I swim in this sea of unfamiliarity, I can’t help but wonder,

Why did they pick me?

And as the failures pile up, I feel I’m losing my identity.

Excuse me, is USMLE playing a cruel joke on me?

All the doctors said it was ADHD.

God please!

PLEASE take away this depression.

PLEASE take away this fear.

You’ve brought me so close to my dream, yet it’s on the verge to disappear!

This can’t be how my story ends.

I feel it deep down in my soul.

I was meant for this!

I can’t let this dream go!

Therapy has helped me to see I’m not an affirmative action case.

Despite my upbringing and lack of wealth,

I belong in this place.

What I realized is that the gunshots and the dope spots,

The broken homes, kids being left all alone,

The gang signs and the violent crimes,

Taught me some valuable lessons you can’t learn within four walls.

Like the social injustice spawning deep mistrust in a system that has historically disadvantaged us.

You see these life lessons ain’t in vain,

No matter how excruciating the pain.

And while these tools I’ve acquired don’t scream academic pedigree,

They do provide an empathetic demeanor, which has allowed patients to trust me.

So I’m done with the mask med students wear while being insecure inside,

God has brought me through too much mess to just run away and hide

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,

And It’s not an oncoming train

It’s dreams fulfilled and destiny revealed through all of the pain.

Below is the video of the professional reading his piece. What an awesome honor to have been chosen and to be able to share such personal feelings with a group that understands so well. If med school doesn’t work out, I feel like a fine arts degree might be in his future….

This is Why

As the mother of a toddler, not a day goes by where I don’t hear “why?”. Every request is countered with the question, “why?”. Every statement, “why?”. All. The. Time. Of course I get to the point where my only response is “because I said so!” with far too much exasperation in my voice. These last few weeks have made me often wonder “why?”.

For starters, why did the plague hit our house…wait for it…the week of hubs exams?? Because that’s how we roll, that’s why. What fun would exam week be if there was not violent vomiting and explosive diarrhea to share? We’re apparently a loving family, we share everything….even those trifling germs. It hit nana, the toddler, and even hubs (thankfully his was after exams). Then tween 1 went down next, sent home from school merely days after finishing his first ever musical- thank you Jesus for holding that out!

So, that takes us to tween 2. First night parenting solo while hubs is away on a new rotation and he’s got a low grade fever. No biggie right? Get some ibuprofen and lots of water and he’ll be back to new in no time. Well, by 6pm it was clear the fever was lingering and the meds were keeping it at bay. Since asthma is always our first concern with him, I had him sleeping in my room to keep and eye on him. When 10pm rolls around, he’s knocked out, fever is almost nonexistent and I head to bed.

Here’s where it gets crazy. Why did I wake up, out of a dead sleep 2 hours later to check on him?? No noises, he was sound asleep. I felt his head and knew the fever had returned. Upon taking his temp, I knew we had a problem. The first time read 105.0. I couldn’t believe it so it took it again, several times- 103.3, 104.8, 104.4, 105.0. You get the idea. Crazy enough, he woke up, was totally coherent and did not seem phased by the high fever. A trip to the ER, quick triage, and we’re home with a diagnosis of Influenza A.

So, why did I wake up and check on him? Honestly, that’s all God. Some may say a “Mother’s instinct” but I can tell you, this mama was tired and I’m not one to wake and function like that. That was all God.

Why did he not have any side effects from a fever that high? I mean, I would have expected lethargy, confusion or even febrile seizures. Again, that’s God.

Why, with such a severe fever, was his asthma not affected- especially with influenza, which is known to wreak havoc on the respiratory system? If only I could share the crazy roller coaster of a ride we’ve had with his asthma- admits to the hospital, 911 calls, etc.- that would be a memoir on its own. A simple cold has landed him in the hospital for a few days stay. I have 2 reasons: first- you guessed it- God. Second, the flu vaccine. Thank GOD for modern medicine! The vaccine is not meant to prevent influenza, it’s meant to lessenthesymptoms and prevent death from influenza. It worked just as intended with him. I have no doubt that this particular strain could have caused immense turmoil on his lungs. Why do we all get the flu vaccine in our family? Because we want to protect those whose body may not be able to fight against the virus.

Why did I feel it necessary to share all of this info? Because God moved in a way that shook me to my core. He “took the wheel” and allowed me to care for my child. Something about our babies being in distress- whether they know it or not.

So, hug your babies, say a prayer of thanks, and get your flu vaccine! Why? Because I said so! 😉

Working Moms

I haven’t written lately about the work aspect of life. Actually I haven’t written lately at all! Anyway, often my topics are around children, Hub’s med school journey and whatever falls in-between. There are times I feel like I’m a mom who works or a worker who happens to be a mom. It doesn’t always feel like I’m a “working mom”. It also often feels like a lonely island where I’m juggling a million things and I would never want to put myself into a vulnerable position and actually ADMIT that I’m barely keeping my head above water.

I went to a conference in the fall for women who work in the same industry as me. I went hoping to do some networking and learning how other working women navigate through their career paths in this industry. However, I was pleased to find that the “mom” part of these women’s lives were woven into the fabric of the conversation. Virtually every person I spoke with had some component of juggling life with work. Even if she did not have children, there was that navigating of work/life balance that we all experience. It was even more enlightening that the women I spoke with were very open about their experiences and challenges. I was- get ready for it- NOT THE ONLY ONE! I mean, intuitively I know that. I’m not THAT special. But, when hubs in occupied with med school and I’m running the household schedule, menu, cleaning, etc., it does get lonely. And, I’m a lucky one because hubs is 110% involved when he’s around. He doesn’t come home and hide away from the mayhem of our house and make me handle everything. We co-parent really well. It doesn’t mean that things are not challenging on occasion. I was so pleasantly surprised to have that reminder at this conference.

I wish there were more open discussions of this. I’ve seen it in private mom-groups and every once in a while I’ll see some brave soul mention something on Facebook. It’s few and far between. I want to hear what your biggest challenge is. Is it the balance between home & work? If you are a working mom from home (outside employer or SAHM), is it getting a break? What are your challenges??

Missing Out?

As a working mom, it’s inevitable that I will miss milestones that my children hit. Perhaps a first step, first word, first tantrum (never that lucky….). It’s not easy, but for me, that was a piece of parenting I went into with my eyes wide open. I knew that, statistically speaking, if someone is watching my kiddo for 1/3 of the day, they were bound to see something new that I had not seen yet. With our fourth (and last) baby, I was really worried that my more rational side might step away and the more emotional side may step in. Being the last baby, would I have any regret or sadness not being there for every moment? Am I willing to share that with someone else? There are some days where I really want to be here every moment. I want to record and document every little tidbit of the day. That’s not practical. Even if I did document everything, what purpose does it serve? More boards on Pinterest? I get writing down when a child takes their first step or cuts their first tooth. But all of the other little items- peas for the first time, first sneeze, first diaper blowout, does it really ever end? That’s a lot of pressure in an already busy life. Besides, sharing those milestones- good or bad- is an opportunity to see that the person caring for my kiddo is fully vested in their life. We’ve been so fortunate to have amazing people in our lives to share our kids with. I certainly don’t take that for granted.

So, I’ve decided instead of focusing on what I’m missing, I will focus on, and enjoy, everything I am here for. I will rely on our “extended family” to rejoice in the milestones I miss. All that matters is that my kiddos know that they have a support system that loves and cares for them. And I’ll save my Pinterest boards for more important things like “What I didn’t know about Adulting”.

Diving Back In!

I’m in week 4 of being back after maternity leave. The end of my first week back I had found myself on an airplane on my way to a conference in Las Vegas. Nothing like diving right in! Overall the first week wasn’t bad. I didn’t cry and I managed to get through all 3,000+ emails that accumulated while I was out. However, I should have written myself a note to remind myself what the heck I was working on before I left. Seriously. It took piecing together many emails to remember projects I needed to follow up on and people I had to reach out to. I feel like the maternity fog is still lingering, but its begun to dissipate substantially. Well, except for the burnt out part, I can forego that feeling.

Week 3 we had family visiting and Ariah’s dedication at church. I went right from our crazy Vegas conference, to hosting. And then again last week, I was sitting on the plane headed to another conference in Vegas. The problem with this conference, although shorter than the first, it left me reeling with ideas for work. Not that digging out of email and playing catch up from three months away isn’t enough, right? Networking with others in the analytics industry and seeing what’s been happening over the last few months, gets me all revved up to go back to work and conquer the most challenging business problems. So, thank you Alteryx Inspire conference, you have inspired me. But I’m gonna need to wrap my head around the fact there is just one of me and lots of ideas.

iPhone 115

I’m especially thankful that hubs is a rock star. I don’t have to worry for a second about him holding down the fort and taking care of 4 kids. It’s easier to be away and makes FaceTiming way more enjoyable. Instead of having to ask “did you remember to take the baby out of the car seat?”, I can ask what the funniest thing Asher said, or did the boys enjoy the notes I put in their lunches. I suppose if I’m diving right back into work, that’s the best way!

 

Medical School Debt

There was recently a video online from a radio show where the host ridiculed the caller regarding he and his wife’s student loan debt. Both were doctors heading into residency. The caller was asking for advice and instead got talked down to and disrespected. Although that is the right of the host (it’s their show), I thought it was in very poor taste. What startled me even more, was when I read comments from people that watched the video, so few people really understood what the full medical school journey is. That, coupled with the constant questions of where hubs is in his journey, got me to thinking. I imagine there are a lot of people who really do not understand all that goes into becoming a doctor. All you hear about is a lot of school, insane hours, and insurmountable debt. I can assure you, all of those are correct. However, there were a lot of assumptions people made- at least based on their comments- that were incorrect. For example, that a Family Medicine physician does surgery. That is incorrect. They may do some small procedures, but Surgeons perform operations. That was just the beginning of the misconceptions. Here is a crash course on what the process and cost is.

Let’s talk timeline to fully lay out what this journey looks like.

Year 1: Classes that will require ridiculously expensive books (usually around $500 if lucky), laptop ($800-$1,000 for a decent one), apps for studying (upwards of $100-$200).

Year 2: Classes that again require books, Step 1 (the first of 3 board exams and the cheapest one at $600), Step 1 study course ($4,000 – $15,000 depending on what you choose), Step 1 study apps ($100-$300 each), Step 1 practice test ($50/test and you usually want to do multiple tests to ensure you’re scoring within passing range). If you don’t pass Step 1, plan on paying for all of that again.

Year 3: Rotations begin so transportation to/from practicing locations. Study items related to your rotation- not required but recommended. Step 2 (the second of the board exams and I believe around $1,200), study materials for Step 2.

Year 4: Rotations continue (see above). The largest cost is residency applications: $99 for the first 10 and then a per application fee after that. That doesn’t sound so bad right? Well, in most cases you will want to apply for MULTIPLE programs to increase the odds for interviews. For example, most people I talked to had applied to 35-40 programs, some even more. Using the current pricing, the cost for the applications alone would be over $400. That does not include travel to each interview you’re invited to. You are responsible for travel, lodging, and food. We’re talking hundreds of dollars for each trip. Now, you don’t get invited to interview at every place you apply. But, a few people I talked to had 5-10 interviews they attended. Think about that: 10 interviews at (conservatively) $700 per trip, we’re at $7,000. Of course, if it’s booked last minute and your airfare alone is $900 and it’s a high cost area so your hotel is $200 a night, that can break a budget quick.

So, once you’ve made it through fourth year and graduate, you’re a doctor! But you still have Step 3 you need to complete (I believe it’s around $1,600 for the test alone). The fun doesn’t end there- you now have residency! That is where you rotate through your specialty program for usually 3-5 years and get paid a meager salary- usually making less per hour than the custodial staff. But, it is better than nothing. If you chose to go further in your specialty, you would then do a fellowship, which is another few years. The fun can last for 10-12 years beyond undergrad! Are you ready to start your med school journey yet??

Now looking at that timeline and the number of non-tuition items that come up, you can see why my blood pressure skyrocketed while reading those comments. I’ve previously written about the journey to get into medical school. So, if you make it through that mayhem, you have to figure out how you’re going to pay for medical school. That is assuming you don’t have a wealthy family member than can cover the $30K/year tuition cost, lab fees, books, and living expenses since you cannot work while in medical school (we’ll get to that later). So, if you don’t have a rich Aunt Agatha or even a stingy Uncle Scrooge (that wouldn’t fund it anyway), you need to figure out how to pay for school (up front). There are a few options:

  • Save up your money and pay cash. So, after you finish undergrad, often a graduate degree as well, begin setting aside as much money as you can. For a state school (typically the cheapest) it’s usually $30K-$40K per year. Multiply that by 4 years and that is the amount you need. So, on the safe side, assuming you do not need basic living needs such as shelter, food, clothes, insurance, etc., you should be covered with about $160,000. But be careful to not have any unexpected things happen because that may cause you to reallocate your robust savings.
  • Enlist in the military. All branches (that I’m aware of) offer a “scholarship program”. This is different than an academic scholarship which we personally have not encountered often, if at all. You sign up to serve in the military, at their mercy for 4 years after medical school and they will pay for medical school and even provide a living stipend. Yay for Ramen money!! Actually, hubs did try this path since he had previously served in the military but was not selected. We’re not sure why, I say it’s because he’s old. All kidding aside, this is a great option. But, like we discovered, not everyone is accepted (even with previous military experience and active duty service). So, for those who go through the rigorous process of applying and getting in, but do not get the scholarship, please, forget the work and money you put in and just quit. That must mean it’s not meant to be.
  • Reach out to Sally Mae. So, when your rich relative and the military cannot help you out, there are student loans. You can get enough to cover tuition and then even a refund (to be addressed later). You may have an option after becoming a doctor to practice medicine in an underrepresented area (rural or urban typically) and after a period of time have all or a portion of those loans forgiven. We may go down that road, but are more focused on getting to the “becoming a doctor” part first.

Now, let me address this refund thing. A lot of people seemed to get annoyed that medical students get a refund. I will say our case is a little different because we have 4 kids. For most medical students, it’s just them and perhaps a spouse. Even so, beyond the tuition there are books, food, clothes (especially if you’re in clinic and don’t have business clothes), insurance, transportation, rent/mortgage, school supplies (laptop, paper, pencils, etc.). There are many expenses outside of just tuition. As a medical student, at most medical schools, they do not allow the students to have a job. Being a student is your job. Quite honestly, I can’t imagine hubs even trying to have a job. Between classes full time, studying in off time and something called sleep that doesn’t happen often, there is no time for a job. Not one that would pay for all the things mentioned above. You cannot stop and start school either. You know if you were in undergrad and didn’t have tuition for a semester, you might take it off and work and then come back in the fall. That’s not possible with medical school. It’s all or nothing. If you don’t believe me, ask the 8,000+ wives of doctors and students who regularly weigh in on these topics. So, in our case, that refund helps to replace the income that hubs had before school. Believe me, it’s merely a fraction of what he made, but every little bit helps. We don’t live extravagantly and use the money for vacations or big ticket items. Well, unless you count the car seat we bought for Ariah. Then yes, we did buy a large ticket item.

Let me really rock the boat for a second. Stop and really think. How many people do you know, coming out of undergrad and/or graduate school that do not have any student loans and have resources to pay cash for medical school? You know, that $160,000 for tuition? Don’t forget living expenses, travel expenses for year 4 when you have to travel all over the country for residency interviews and other miscellaneous items that come up during 4 years. Now, did that person you’re thinking of (if you can think of one) grow up in poverty? I’m not talking about race, I’m talking about class. Did they grow up living comfortable- surviving well beyond paycheck to paycheck? With an already growing doctor shortage, I just cannot understand how someone could say that the only people who should attend medical school are those that pay cash for it. I feel that would not only severely limit an already understaffed profession, but it would feel like we’re stepping into some caste system that allows only those with money the ability to pursue careers that can be lucrative. Not only as a physician, but lawyers, dentist, etc. I’m just saying, I don’t feel like the ability for my doctor to practice medicine hinges on how much student loan debt they have. I would rather they be great at their job- taking care of their patients- than what their net worth is.

So, I write all this to say that I cannot fathom how one could go to medical school without some type of assistance. Medical school is not just 4 years of science. It’s hours upon hours of studying, serving, and testing. The drive needed to be a doctor, in light of the debt you’re likely to have coming out, has to be fierce. We need doctors that are willing to practice medicine, care for patients, and change the world of medicine for the better. They’re mentors for our future and role models for our children.