Deep breath. Place blood pressure cuff on patient. Check. Palpate brachial pulse. Inflate the cuff. 40…100…140…Release slowly…snap at 120. Make mental note. 110…96…80…72. Silence. “Patient’s blood pressure is 120/72,” I state with relief as I deflate the cuff. A simple blood pressure. And yet, when asked to take blood pressures, my blood pressure shoots through the roof. A side note on my clinical skills, my parents do not have a bumper sticker heralding my distinction on the honor roll for clinical medicine. I tend to croak. I’m a croaker. But not today! I was 2/2 today on continuity clinic, wielding the blood pressure cuff with much prowess.
Not bad a way to end the first week post-exams. Its always a brutal shock to come back after a relaxing weekend medicine-free. And what a great weekend it was! Right after I turned in my last paper exam last Friday, I went with some friends to stuff ourselves at the Indian food buffet. Then I took a leisurely stroll through Trader Joes, whilst being enticed by the tantalizing good eats. A cart full of goodies later, I headed home to relax and watch some TV. A few days ago, one of my classmates told me that I looked exactly like the new Asian girl on House. So I decided to check out my supposed look-alike. I stared at the little nerdy Asian girl with her infamous bowl cut and glasses. That’s what I look like? When my husband came into the room, I asked him what he thought, and he burst out laughing. I guess I got my answer. I think its time for a new haircut….
7:30 am Sunday morning: my therapy appointment, retail therapy that is. My sister, cousin and I drove down to Orange County for the big sale. We stood in line to wait and received a raffle ticket for coming. The owner began to read the last three numbers of the red ticket…”0…(so far so good)….4…(almost there)…1!” It was me!!! I was the lucky winner for a $100 gift card. As I clutched my prize, I savored that glorious moment. It was hard to believe that a week ago, I was pouring over my textbooks with notes strewn over my kitchen table while dressed in my unglamorous yoga pants and t-shirt…fast forward a few days later, I was staring blankly at a formidable packet of doom, aka my pathophysiology exam while sweating bullets reading and re-reading each question.
For those of you who haven’t had the honor of suffering through a pathophys exam, let me attempt to describe the agony in my own feeble words. This exam had 60 questions. So far, not so bad right? WRONG. Each question comes with its own prequel, spinning the sad saga of lab results, history, and physical exam findings. Then, there are a gabillion answer choices. As I read the first answer choice, it seems correct. Then the second, equally as plausible. I then feel my blood pressure rising, my pulse bounding, and glistening beads of sweat beginning to form. Keep going. I read the third option. Ummmm…not sure. Keep it on the list. I read the fourth option. What was the original question again? I am developing secondary hypertension as I try to answer questions on hypertension. By the time I read all 7 options, I can only eliminate one or two and my head is spinning in circles. I begin to imagine an aneurysm slowing growing with each second that passes. Somehow, with many repeated prayers, I manage to pick my “best guess” and move on. 59 more to go… By the time I finish (barely) I’m pretty sure my Charcot-Bouchard aneurysm developing in my lenticulostriate artery is on the verge of rupturing….
But now, I was in beautiful Corona Del Mar with $100 to burn in my pocket. I begin browsing the racks with a vengeance. A few hours later and a bag full of clothes, we dined on Parmesan truffle fries, breaded onion rings, and gourmet macaroni and cheese at Eat Chow’s. I was positive that lipid-laden macrophages were building a city of plaque in my arteries, (a completely acceptable somatoform delusion), but oh well. At least now I know which drugs to offset any precipitating angina, thanks to the last set of pharmacology lectures. With my stomach content and the sun smiling down at my bowl cut, the torture of pathophysiology seemed a vague memory.
Now, a week later with the dawn of the long quarter ahead of me, my blood pressure is beginning to climb…however, at the summit awaits two wonderful weeks of vacation. Take a deep breath and put one foot forward. Repeat. One step at a time….