Friday, April 29, 2016


I've got a college reunion coming up. I'm not going to say which one it is, but it's one where people are starting to all have kids and be balding and wrinkled and pregnant and all that.

I had wanted to go to the last one, where everyone was still fairly young, but my husband got appendicitis like three days before. This time, I had decided not to go pretty definitively. But now I'm feeling conflicted. Is this something I'll regret if I don't go?

Then again, I can't think of even one person I'd be super excited to see. I feel like seeing all these people, many of whom I haven't seen since we were 22, looking all grown up will be.... really disturbing. Because I find Facebook disturbing. So it stands to reason.

I don't know.... can't someone get appendicitis again so the decision will be made for me?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Garbage

When I was in residency, I probably sacrificed a tree or two photocopying patient documents. But sometimes it was easier to do that than to go find the chart every time I wanted to look at a patient's discharge summary from another hospital. When I was done with the document, I'd throw it in the shredder bin: these bins we had with a small hole to insert papers that had private patient information to be shredded.

At some point during my residency, we noticed that an important piece of a patient's paperwork had gone missing from the chart. I remembered that I had photocopied that document, so I knew there was an extra copy floating around. Unfortunately, I dropped the paper in the shredder bin the day before. I explained this to the attending and showed him what bin it was in.

"That sucks," he said. "We don't have a key to this bin."

He then flipped the bin upside-down, stuck his hand into the tiny hole, and started pulling the papers out one by one.

I had no idea you could do that! Doesn't seem very secure. Anyway, even though I had thrown my paper in the day before, it seemed like the papers he was pulling out were much older than that. I had a growing sick feeling in my stomach as I wondered if I was making my attending stick his hand into what was essentially a garbage and the paper wasn't even in there. That seemed like an offense worthy of disciplinary action, or at least major embarrassment.

Thank God, we found the paper.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Years ago, I was sort of into the band Nickelback. I downloaded two of their albums. My husband used to make fun of me, because he especially hated Nickelback for unclear reasons. "they just seem especially douchy."

Now it's over 10 years later, and I'm not entirely clear how Nickelback evolved into this personification of terrible music.

For example, I was recently watching an episode of modern family, and there was a random joke making fun of Nickelback. And then I saw an attack ad yesterday on Ted Cruz, citing his love of Nickelback.

Seriously, is Nickelback that bad?  I can see not thinking they were the greatest band ever, but how did they become this joke about bad music?  Surely there's worse music out there...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A stranger is just a friend you haven't met

A short time ago, I met Dr. Orthochick for the first time.

I've known her online for a really long time. I can't remember exactly how we found each other, but I was definitely still in residency at the time. Anyway, we've had a lot of contact with each other over the years, and Orthochick always said to me that she thought we'd get along really well if we ever met in real life.

I agreed, but with reservations. I have no doubt in my mind that Orthochick is really cool, based on everything she had told me. However, I know for a fact that I am not really cool. When you talk to people online, it's easy to portray only the good aspects of your personality. Of course, I guess the opposite is also true. I've confessed things online that I would never tell real life friends.

This was not my first time meeting an online friend. The first time was about seven years ago. A blogger I knew really well was coming out to my neck of the woods with her husband and child, and we all went out to lunch. I was sort of terrified about meeting her, although she seemed more excited than terrified. But in reality, I really enjoyed meeting her. Having known her so well online, it didn't even feel like I was meeting a new person. It seemed like getting together with an old friend.

More recently, I met Gizabeth from Mothers in Medicine. She and I had talked a lot privately over the years, so we finally got together. Again, I really enjoyed meeting her and her children.

Weirdly, I didn't tell anyone that I was meaning Orthochick until right before. I finally told my husband the day before, when I felt obligated to say that I was going out and would be leaving the kids with him.

Me: "I’m meeting a friend."

Husband: "who?"

Me: "you'll never guess."

Husband: "yeah, I'm not going to play this game."

Me: "fine, I guess you'll never know…"

Husband: "gah!" (Proceeds to guess every single one of my real life friends)

Me: "no."

Husband: "is it someone you know online?"

Me: "yes."

Husband: "is it a doctor?"

Me: "yes."

Husband: "Oh, I know. It's that one who's the doctor who specializes in… you know, things."

Me: "huh?"

Husband: "You know what I mean! Things! Like, ortho things."

Me: "ok, you're right."

Husband: "Well, when will you be back?"

Me: "I don't know. If we're just sitting there in awkward silence, it could be pretty quick."

Anyway, I refused to make a big deal out of the whole thing. I was working that day, and I even kept on the same comfy shirt and fleece that I wore to the hospital, although I did change into jeans from my scrub pants.

When I met Orthochick for the first time, she gave me the absolute best hug that anyone I've ever met for the first time has ever given me. She raced across the train platform and threw herself at me and I almost fell over backwards. It was the kind of hug that makes you like a person instantly, as long as you survive the hug.

Anyway, we definitely did not sit there in awkward silence. I should have recognized that the two of us are both...well, let's just say, loquacious. We both had so much to say, we were practically interrupting each other the whole time. She's really funny and interesting and it was even fun to talk shop with her. And I don't think I've exchanged that many Simpsons quotes in quite a long time. I also learned that apparently, if I have to work with a big group of guys, my best bet is to become well-versed in South Park, and short of that, say "that's what she said" as much as I possibly can.

Also, I was pleased and/or disturbed that even though I was gone for close to three hours, I did not receive one hysterical text asking where I was, despite having gone out with random internet possible murderer.

So in summary, I'm happy to report that Orthochick is absolutely as awesome as I always imagined she would be. It was bittersweet though, because she lives far away for me now and the chance of us ever being real life friends is basically zero. But we'll always have oreo ice cream cake.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dumb button

I was recently staying with some relatives, and I woke up early in the morning with my daughter. She wanted to watch them TV, but we literally could not figure out how to turn the TV on.

When did this become a thing? I remember back when I was a child, turning on the TV with easy. It was literally one button on the television to turn it on. Now they're like 10 million buttons and devices. I know I successfully turned on the cable box, but somehow turning the actual TV on was an impossible task. I even pressed the on button on the actual television to no avail.

There needs to be a "dumb" button on the tv so that people who don't live in that household can turn it on without needing to wake up the host.

In other news, about six months ago, a fan of Baby City contacted me about wanting to turn a book into an audiobook. She's a nurse, and she worked hard to do an amazing job turning Baby City into an audiobook.  It is finally available: 

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Those of you who are either a physician or a patient probably know that there's a rating system that patients give for doctors to express satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their care. Recently, our hospital distributed a booklet on things we can do as physicians to improve our ratings. In the booklet, there were TWO PAGES dedicated to smiling.

It started out with an experiment. They tell you to look in a mirror and don't smile. Then they say to keep looking in the mirror while smiling. And, I kid you not, they gave instructions on how to smile. I thought that after thirty-something years of life, I would have mastered the art of smiling, but apparently not. (Maybe this should have been a med school course.) The instructions included showing a lot of teeth and gums. To be honest, the smile actually sounded like it could be frightening to some people.

Anyway, in spite of my skepticism, I gave monstro-smile a try the next day. And don't laugh, but I think it made a difference! I felt like when I was smiling, it encouraged patients to smile back, and I also felt like I was being nicer, in trying to be consistent with my smile. I felt like somehow this ridiculous smile helped build rapport in the room. A few patients even commented to me, "You're SO nice!" (Hey! I'm always nice!)

So that's my tip of the day: Smile.

Or not. Whatever.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Lot of cats

Patient: [sneezes twice]

Me: "Do you have a cold?"

Patient: "No. It's just allergies. I have really bad cat allergies and I just came from my girlfriend's house."

Me: "She's got a cat."

Patient: "She's got 13 cats."

That's a lot of cats.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

VA Time (an abstract)

When I was working at the VA, I did a little study called:

How VA Time Equates to Real World Time

Introduction: Things seem to happen really slow at the VA. But nobody has yet quantified exactly how slow the VA is.

Objective: To obtain an accurate representation of time equivalents at the VA.

Methods: When I was started at the VA, I was told we would be moving to a different floor of the building in two weeks. I then waited to see how long it would actually take to move.

Results: Four weeks passed since I was told that we would be moving in two weeks. I was then told that we would be moving in another two weeks. It ended up taking another four weeks.

Discussion: Results suggest that at the VA, two weeks seems to be the equivalent of no less than eight weeks. Therefore, when I am told something should take one day, I should expect it to take no less than four days. If I am told something should take six months, I should expect no action to be taken sooner than two years.

Conclusion: The VA is freakin slow.

Saturday, April 2, 2016


Most of my patients are pretty old and therefore pretty deaf. Or else, they are dysarthric (slurred speech).  In any case, communication is not the easiest thing in the world.  My default is to come into a room talking as loud as possible, to the point where rare patients with normal hearing will ask me why I am yelling so loud.

It seems like lately, I've been cursed by janitorial staff while I'm examining patients.  I'm trying to communicate with the patient, and all of a sudden, someone will come in to very, very noisily change the trash bag. Yesterday at work, it seem like every patient I saw suddenly needed their trash bag changed. Then I went to a different floor to escape, and the same guy was changing all the trash bags there too. It was like he was following me!

I don't know what the right etiquette is in that situation. I don't want to keep that guy from doing his job, which is an important and not particularly glamorous job, but I also need to be able to do mine.  But I don't want to be the arrogant doctor who won't let the staff do their work.