A Month of Love

As Step 1 nears and anxiety escalates, I often find myself looking at the negatives. Like, I’m never going to finish all of these UWorld questions!! Pathophys will be the death of me!! And other catastrophic thoughts that only serve to destroy my productivity and self-esteem (don’t think of such things!). But I wanted something positive to look back on in this experience, and the end of February seemed like the perfect time to do that.

The first weekend of February was a golden weekend, and it marked the end of the 4th test cycle (woohoo!). That Saturday night, a group of my classmates had a game night of Trifecta (Taboo and charades combined). I laughed SO HARD. So hard I couldn’t breathe. While imitating Donald Trump, hula dancing, pretending to be a potato, and acting out old musicals, we all temporarily forgot the stress of the last test cycle.

The next evening, a friend and I visited an Escape Room in Redlands. We worked on puzzles with two strangers and escaped the room with minutes to spare. I had a blast using my mental abilities for something other than medical school for a change.

On February 8, one of my friends celebrated a birthday, and a few of us surprised her with some macaroons and balloons. She was studying at home and was so happy to see us! While at the bakery looking for her gifts, I nibbled on some sweets too, which always makes me happy.

During that week, one of my classmates had a healthy, handsome baby boy. A few days after giving birth, she brought her baby to class so that we could all look at his angelic sleeping face. He was a sweet reminder that life is so precious and that many wonderful things can happen during times of distress.

That Friday night, we had a class vespers at one of my classmate’s lovely house. His parents were so kind and welcoming. We had fantastic Indonesian food and home-made cookies and heard two of our classmates share their testimonies of their journeys with Christ. We also made Valentine’s Day cards to hand out to a neighborhood in San Bernardino.

February 11 was Caribbean Day (part of Black History Month celebration) at Kansas Ave. SDA Church. A few of my friends were on praise team that day. We celebrated the many cultures of Caribbean countries. Many church members were dressed to represent. The music was lively and uplifting. So many colors and beautiful people! And delicious food for lunch!

That night, our class had a documentary showing for a fundraiser. We raised hundreds of dollars towards our class project — Koidu Clinic in Sierra Leone (check it out here)! Also that night, a friend’s church had an Acoustic Night during which lots of old and new love songs were sung and played. I was sitting next to a special someone that night, and the whole event simply felt like a dream.

100 roses!

Valentine’s Day was a big day because I had been planning a rose fundraiser for the class project. I and a few friends (and a far-away expert florist) worked hard to get them ready for distribution. This was the giving day, and it was a success! Everyone was so happy to receive them. Valentine’s Day was off to a good start.

The day got even better when I went to my car. I was greeted with this! A “I <3 U” message on my steering wheel, a solar powered dancing plant, snacks, and chocolate. I felt so loved and special.

The weekend of the 17th was a big one for the M1s. Friday night was the class’s dedication, and I saw my first year friends receive their LLU Bibles. I was so proud of them. The next afternoon, an M1 friend invited me and other friends over to his place for lunch with his parents who were visiting for the big weekend. We played Trifecta with his parents, and now I know where my friend gets his hilariousness and competitiveness from!

That Saturday night, a group of friends and I went to Round 1 in Moreno Valley and had a karaoke night. We sang to Beyonce, Journey, Phantom of the Opera, Usher, and Disney songs. I saw the true fun (slightly crazy!) side of my friends, and it was so refreshing!

The next day, Sandi Patty performed a concert at LLU Church. She was overwhelmingly amazing!! I have never seen her perform live, and I was blown away! The day after was President’s Day, and I was able to spend it with my family. The moments when all five of us are together are few, so we always make sure to involve food as well.

In the days that followed, I went to Street Medicine, gave advice to high school students at a CAPS event, ate at an Indonesian restaurant with a few girl friends (girl’s night out, we called it), spent time with an uncle and aunt visiting from Colorado. The School of Medicine had a special vespers during which an experienced panel discussed the topic of relationships (oo la laaa, I know).

The end of February was capped with a visit under the sea – to The Little Mermaid! I experienced it with a very special friend (yes, the same one who went to Acoustic Night with me and decorated my car).

In the end, although the time between these events were filled with classes, studying, stress, and Step 1 anxiety, the good still outweighed the bad. I still had friends and family who cared about me and reminded me that there is life outside of medical school. I still had weekend time to enjoy extra things. There were still so many things for which to be grateful. In the end, it was still a month of a lot of love.

Awkward.

I didn’t realize how little outside exposure I would get during the first two years of medical school. I’m inside practically all day and only go home to sleep (which is still indoors!). As Step 1 nears, the atrophy of my social skills has become all the more apparent, and in many situations, I end up being very…well, awkward.

A few examples to illustrate:

On one normal Sabbath day, I was merrily singing my heart out during song service. Then the congregation started singing, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” For the first verse, I sang, “All hail the power of Jesus’ name! Let angels prostate fall!” I immediately stopped, incredulous and amused. Did I really just sing out the word “prostate”?


Spending time in crowded areas, even grocery stores, lately feels new and exciting. When I’m out in public, I can’t help but stare at people. I think, his face and arms are very edematous – I wonder if he has superior vena cava obstruction? I would have to look at his JVP, check for pitting, and rule out a heart or liver issue. Or her right eyelid is drooping – I wonder if she has Horner’s? Or maybe Bell’s palsy? That man is walking with a shuffle gait. I wonder if he also has a Parkinsonian resting tremor. I stare long enough until some people catch my eye. Of course, my instinct is to smile and totally give away that I’ve been coming up with a dozen review of system questions to ask them.


I have become great at not maintaining eye contact. Whenever I start talking to someone, my eyes get confused and dart everywhere, looking for words to read. Talking to people who are interested in things outside of school has also become unfamiliar. What do I say? Am I saying the right things? Why does he think I know anything about TV shows and fun? Responses have become reflex, like “That’s so cool that you went cliff jumping and waterfall swimming in a lake! I just learned what microbes swim in places like those!”


Lately, I’ve been fumbling with words and staying silent because I don’t know how to say something. What’s the word for putting fruit into a blender and mixing them together? Oh right, blend. I’ve forgotten how to speak English. I’ve also forgotten essential information like names. Whenever I see an acquaintance, my usual greeting has become, “Oh, hi there….you! *awkward pause* How’s it going?” I can only hope that in a few minutes, my hippocampus catches up, and I can finally recall his/her name. Or else I end up asking the same person multiple times in multiple occasions, “I’m so sorry. What was your name again?”


Let’s just say, I can’t wait to be done with Step 1.

That Extra Half-hour

A lot has been said for how difficult medical school is. While the analogy of “drinking out of a fire hose” is probably more correctly stated as “drinking out of a water spigot that never turns off,” medical school still takes a lot of time and energy just to even get through the program. That said, a lot of things we took for granted when we were younger such as a good nights sleep, free time, and enjoying time with family often become back-burnered during medical school.

Throughout college, I was NEVER a late-night study owl. I simply cannot stay up late and study, as my tired brain simply shuts down and refuses to memorize another sentence. That said, I must get between 7-8 hours of sleep to function throughout the day. Any less and I’ll be nodding off by early afternoon; any more and I feel no more rested than if I had simply gotten 8 hours. So it is possible to get through medical school sleeping 7-8 hours a night (woohoo!) Obviously, I can vary my sleep between 7-8 hours. If I need extra study time, I simply sleep closer to 7 hours. If things are going well (which is rare in second year), I can set my alarm clock closer to 8 hours of sleep.

The problem I found especially with second year is that it takes a ridiculous amount of brain power to memorize and learn all the things we need to know.  As well, there is simply not enough time to learn all the pages of info we seem to cover in no time at all. So naturally, I have been sleeping closer to 7 hours and trying to power my brain all day to get through the material. The problem I found is that this is simply unsustainable long term. I tried doing that last week, and by the end of the week I was mentally exhausted. The weekend is usually a premium study time with no new lectures, but I was so mentally tired I was studying nowhere near efficiency.

Two things I have discovered. Number 1: if it is past 9 pm and I am totally exhausted – GO TO BED AND CALL IT A DAY. There is no point in trying to study if you are mentally checked out. My tendency is to try to study but take breaks that gradually get longer and longer until I am taking more break time than study time. At this point, you may as well take a complete break – you’re almost there anyway. Number 2: an extra half hour of sleep is worth the investment. After getting closer to 8 hours of sleep a couple days in a row, I can notice a definite improvement. I am much more energized and can last longer in the afternoon going through the monotony of read and memorize lecture after lecture. A half hour invested in the sleep bank can mean the difference between efficient study and inefficient study. It is way better to have 2 efficient hours than 2.5 inefficient hours. Not to mention the fact I feel way better about life when I get my sleep 🙂

As student physicians, we are learning how to care for people’s medical needs. However, we also need to remember that part of taking care of our patients is taking care of ourselves. Whether it is eating right, exercise, or even that extra half hour of sleep to feel rested and energized, we need to be taking care of ourselves before we can expect to take care of others. So during medical school, do what you need to do to keep yourself sane and healthy – your studying and learning will be much better for it, as will be your overall health and happiness.

Closer Than Ever Before

white coat class (2)Last year, as I stood in front of adoring parents and friends during the White Coat Ceremony, I paid no attention to my white-clad classmates surrounding me. To me at that time, that was all they were — classmates. I knew I would sit with them in class and study with them. But I didn’t know that I would get much, much closer.

microbio

Hiding away our bacteria

This past week, we had our 2nd microbiology lab, and for this lab, we were required to obtain samples from a classmate and streak them onto agar plates. Sounds simple enough…except that they were samples from our classmates’ throats and noses. Yes, we had to lift up the front of someone’s nose, stick a long wire into a nostril, twist the wire around a bit, and smear the contents. Afterwards, we sat with our mouths wide open as a classmate stuck a long Q-tip inside. I gagged (literally, as my tonsillar pillars were swabbed). But this wasn’t where we all started.

It all began in first year, when we had physical diagnosis labs. We learned physical exam techniques and practiced them on each other in small groups. Coming into our first lab on measuring blood pressure, we didn’t know what to expect. The least we knew was not to measure over clothes. Since men were required to wear professional long-sleeve, button-up shirts for lab, they had to take their shirts off to expose their arms. This was the start.

Later that year, for physio lab, we placed EKG leads on a classmate’s bare chest and watched his heart rhythms get recorded. For our cardiac and lung labs, we donned hospital gowns to practice ultrasound techniques, chest auscultation, and lung percussion on each other. For abdomen lab, we pressed deep into each others’ livers and spleens to check for enlargement. For ENT lab, we looked into each others noses, mouths, and ears and massaged each others’ necks to look for enlarged lymph nodes. For eye lab, classmates were close enough for our noses to nearly touch as they leaned in with their ophthalmoscope to look at my retina.

kristina

In many ways and after every day, I get closer to my classmates. We sit almost shoulder to shoulder in class, share many fears and tears, lend sweaters and scarves in AC-cold classrooms, and save extra burritos for each other. We’ve come so far from our first day in our white coats. My classmates aren’t just classmates anymore. They’re my friends, confidantes, colleagues, and fellow practicing physicians-to-be. And they’re going to be taking great care of people like me.