Hi, I’m Jessica

3 Feb

(I haven’t posted in weeks. (I’m bad at these things.) I have them written, though! Check back later.)

I went to Alcoholics Anonymous tonight.

Before assumptions are made, I’ll quickly mention that it’s a requirement to attend one of these for Psych. In my pretend career, I’ve already referred handfuls to AA. In my (hopefully) future life, there will be more. So I guess the whole point is, if we’re telling people to do something, we might as well know what we’re telling them to do. I’m so glad I went tonight.

You never know what to expect when going someplace you’ve never been. Even Hawaii. You can see as many pictures as you want, but you don’t know Hawaii til you’ve been there. Same with AA. I certainly didn’t expect the group leader to munch on Cheetos the entire time–both flamin’ hot & regular. And the people. Wow. As one person said to me, “You stick out like a sore thumb,” but many looked like a friend’s parent, nothing screaming “alcoholic”.

The meeting starts off with rituals. The serenity prayer, standard AA readings. Then the leader goes around and asks if anyone’s celebrating an anniversary or birthday this month. Of course, I assume this is some kind of AA language, so I ask my neighbor what “birthday” means.

“It’s the day you were born.”

Oh. By then, I had forgotten I was born on February 25. I missed my chance!

But then the newcomers raise their hands. All except me. Was I supposed to? No worries, since she points at me then loudly commands an intro. “Hi, I’m Jessica…and…?”

“Hi Jessica!,” to the sounds of applause and whispers stating, “It’s okay, it’s okay to be shy & do nothing but smile… but there’s no need. Just be yourself.”

Then the group leader creeps up the calendar. “30 days sober?” She goes around & gives them a hug. “How about 60 days? That’s 2 months!” “90?” “6 months?”, “1-2 years?”, etc etc. All the way up to, “15 years to 75 years sober?”

As it was the first week of the month, we had a speaker. One of the men in the group shared his story. His words apply oh so well to my life. Maybe yours too. Just substitute “drink, drunk, alcohol, drugs” with ____. Here are my notes:


“After that moment, I told myself, ‘I will never drink again.’ But you all know what happened next…”

“It’s okay to sell drugs because someone else would sell it to him anyway.”

“I lived my life based on my feelings instead of a higher power.”

“Spirituality: enables and develops positive and creative forces in a human being.”

“God is against defects/sin because they don’t work. They corrupt what is decent and noble in humanity.”

“Why am I doing this?”

“I heard the bell. I didn’t think anyone else heard the bell, until I came here.”

“… in order to stay alive.”

“Any man can fight the battle of one day.”

“I can’t go to the same places I used to go and expect different things to happen.”

“I came here, and you didn’t let me go. Loving people you don’t even know. I stayed with you people because you called me out on every dopey move I had. You do that for me every week.”

“Don’t doubt God’s work in you.”

“I started like a fire started.”

“The best thing that being an alcoholic did for me was leading me to AA.”


I met some friends there. One woman’s been sober 5 years now and after I replied her question of “Are you in recovery too?,” she said to me, “I’ve been to the state penitentiary five times. And now I work for the state. The only way it worked this way is God.”

Another new friend told me she’s been sober 2.5 years. I replied, “Oh, that’s 18 months?” She thought for a second and stated, “Oh, yeah. You’re right!” As the meeting went on, I realized my mistake. (To think I was once on Math Team.) I later said, “Oh, I miscalculated. It’s actually 30 months!” She grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye and said, “Good for you! Keep on going. You are doing so well. See you next week! I hope you come back.” No need to correct her. Because I needed that meeting tonight.

One day at a time.


It’s been a really exhausting week. In all ways. Stressful. Nothing going as planned or expected. But mercies are new every morning. One day at a time.

We ended the meeting in a big circle, hands joined. With hands held and eyes closed, we ended with The Lord’s Prayer.

…For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. Forever. Amen.


Baby Delivery!

28 Oct

My patient had her baby last night (the 26th), right before midnight. =) I got to the floors and read up on her case, went to see her and meet the family. Etc etc. A few hours later, it’s decided that a C section is recommended. Then we wheel her to the OR, we scrub in (my first time!!), and embark on the procedure. What a neat experience! What a rush!

The entire area is sterile, and when we’re ready to begin, the curtain goes up in front of the patient. The anesthesiologists are on one side, at the head of the patient. The attending, 2 residents, and I are at the other end, with lots of staff surrounding us. Fast forward through layers of “body”, we get to the uterus. The resident makes an incision into it, and all of a sudden we spot an EAR!! Then a head of hair. Then the resident pulls the baby out. Seconds later, we hear the soft cry. What an experience! The baby is quickly handed off to the pediatrician, who’s also scrubbed in and standing at the edge of our circle. Mom sees baby, then baby is off with the peds team.

The next part took the longest time. Stitching her back up. The attending left our circle and let the senior resident take the reigns. Less than an hour later, our patient has layers of sutures in her, but she’s ready to make her way to post-anesthesia recovery before 1am.

Around 5am, I went with the senior resident to do post-partum rounds, and our patient was doing so well. Happy and well. The baby was next to her in his cart, also happy and well.

I’ll never forget this experience. =)

Sleep Talking.

23 Oct

1. Just finished Neurology. Also just made my way to Costco, where I sat in huge amounts of traffic and realized, as I pulled into the parking lot, that I left the Costco card at home. Typical. Less typical: I saw a patient’s family member in the aisles. Naturally, I swiftly maneuvered my cart like a pro and darted away. Although, I’m 87% sure that the family member wouldn’t recognize me since I only spent 30min with them in the outpatient setting. But wow. I didn’t think that’d ever happen.

2. Someone broke into my car. Blah. What is wrong with people!! Broke a window. Threw my crap around like a toddler throwing a tantrum. Stole all my change. Took some CDs too. But didn’t steal “the usual” which begs me to ask, “Why didn’t you look closer before breaking in?” Jeez. It took an entire evening to file the reports. And an entire afternoon to get the window fixed. First the catalytic converter, then this! I want a garage.

3. I sleep talk. Joanna casually mentioned it to me one day. Apparently I talk about my patients. “Oh no! Poor patient…” and stuff. I guess I can’t escape the hospital. I never thought I’d be one to sleep talk. ME?! I’m partly ashamed, party embarrassed. Could be worse, I guess.

4. I love having 2 days off in a row. It’s such a luxury. Mmm. Apartment is still a mess, but whatevs. Having weekend days off makes me feel like a normal person, and I love it.


25 Sep

Three months of internal medicine are over. I don’t even know where to begin. Med school is one of those things where you have to be in it to know it. I think I experienced every emotion there is during these months. Joy, frustration, anger, gratitude, love, exhaustion, more exhaustion, nervousness, teamwork, problem solving, accomplishment. So much for my heart and brain.

I often got rides from Security, as I left my apartment while it was still dark out. I remember one of those days where I just didn’t want to be there–I was tired of the emotional beat-down, tired of putting in incredibly long hours yet still inadequate and feeling incompetent. I was resting my head against the seat with my eyes closed when the officer simply said, “It’s a good day when you get to see another one.” Truth.

I love my patients. There are some who I’ll never forget. I’m thankful for their wisdom, graciousness, and willingness to let me take care of them!

I have a long post written about the ones forever etched into my heart. Even though none of their personal identifiers are included, I’m going to hold off on posting it to respect patient confidentiality. (I also don’t want to get kicked out of med school for a blog post. Gosh, yikes!)

So many stories.

-I’ll never forget the desperation of family members. But in their desperation, their sweet words of gratitude infused me with the exact amount of oomph to get my tank out of empty. No one else could have gifted that to me.

-In my lowest point, being told that God’s light was shining through me.

-Tears. Of sadness. Of joy. For death, despite our noblest attempt to save.

There is beauty in the broken. There is beauty in the breaking.

City Living

20 Aug

I love having a car in the city. I honestly can’t imagine what it’d be like without one. It’s too catastrophic to fathom.

I grew up in a town with no public transportation (does the Pace bus count?), and my only encounter with ‘public transportation’ in college consisted of the Vandy Van, a van that circled around campus from sundown to sunrise. I’m horrible with directions, so I can never find the proper bus stops. With the L, I never know where I am after I emerge from the train. Nothing ever seems to be what Google Maps told me!

So a couple weeks ago, with attempts to delay studying even further, I decide that I really want McDonald’s. Badly. So I hop in Emilio, my car. The key turns, and a horrific sound nearly makes me deaf. “My car is going to blow up!” I try a few more times, just in case. Nope, still broken. After freaking out over the phone with Dad and maneuvering around, we give up. No McDonald’s for me. My car is broken. Absolutely no clue why!! Mystery. Did something crawl in and die? Did I do something and break the car?! Whattt is wronggg??

My dad somehow convinces me to try the gas pedal “to see if the sound gets louder or softer.” The next morning, I muster up the courage & prepare myself for a sudden onset of fire and flames. I push the pedal. The sound amplified! Not only that, but it somehow caused the car alarm to go off on the car next to mine. In my harried state, I thought it was my alarm. I go to turn off the panic button, which then turns on my alarm. Oye. What a scene!

As I’m walking back from work, I see the grounds manager. He’s a sweetheart! We go through the whole ‘turning on the car’ thing, he crawls under the car, etc etc. Finally, he says, “It looks like your catalytic converter was stolen. It was sawed off.” He recommends I call the security officer on duty, who then stays with me as I file a police report. Both of them have daughters and say, “It’s my pleasure to help. I hope others do the same when my daughters are in trouble.” Such sweet men!

After calling several mechanics and receiving the reassuring words, “Your car is not going to blow up–you can drive it in,” I decided on the closest mechanic to take dear Emilio to get fixed. (However, one mechanic did say I needed it towed–the area under the driver’s seat will get very hot and can cause fire. Oh well.)

It turns out a significant portion of the catalytic converter was stolen, along with the O2 sensor, holder, and whatever. The converter connects the engine to the exhaust, and it’s a frequently stolen item because of the precious metals it contains. I’m told it only takes 2 hours to fix. But then I’m told that no one carries 2006 parts because they’re “too new”. Only 2005 and before. So I’m forced to make a couple trips to Jimmy, my mechanic & new bff, where my time on the road is filled with extreme embarrassment due to Emilio’s deafeningly loud state.

Almost $1000 later, he is fixed. And every time I turn the key, I marvel in the silence. What baffles me is despite the security car that circles around the apartment complex 24/7, some mean people still managed to crawl under my car with an electric saw, creating hours worth of headache and “my car is going to blow up” fear. They probably got a mere $30 for their stolen goods, too.

Oh, city life.


Biggest *SIGH* of Life.

13 Jul

Board scores are back!

I didn’t blog post-boards because I just couldn’t subject myself to further bashing and dejection. The ever-present thought of having to take the exam again just made me incapable of blogging. How could I write about the Step 1 if I’ll always have that post to haunt me when I find out I failed?!


Worst day of my life. I walked into there with a target score in mind. I walked out thinking I failed. Just merely passing would be a miracle.

First of all, this 8 hour test was a culmination of 2 years worth of studying. And not just off-and-on studying, but hard core. Beyond hard core. Not to mention, months of: study, eat while study, sleep. Repeat.

I couldn’t sleep the night before. I had beta tested Tylenol PM, decided that was too strong, bought tablet diphenhydramine to split in half. That was the perfect dose. So I took 1/2 tablet around 9pm. Laid in bed. Took the other half. Laid in bed, heart racing. Then took a Tylenol PM. Still laid in bed, FREAKING OUT. I pictured my classmates tucked away in bed, dreaming happily, further exacerbating my freaking-out-ness. I desperately needed to talk to someone. I knew my mom welcomes my calls at all hours, but minor detail: family was in Shanghai. Luckily, both Mom & Dad have a Blackberry from work. Called both. Don’t go through. Text both. No response. I finally decide to email them; please pray for me! A minute later, Mom texts me. A second later, I call her.

It was the sweetest thing to hear their voices. They each took turns reassuring me. Similar to my experience in Chiang Mai after a tiring, dirty, emotionally & physically taxing, but spiritually filling stint in Musekee. I needed their voices to reassure me. This helped in immeasurable ways. I was able to rest my mind and body, getting maybe 2 hours of sleep in total.

Exam day. I met up with classmates, relieved to hear similar stories of inadequate sleep. We were all wearing glasses, not brave enough to pop those contacts in. Then we make the short trek to Prometric.

With adrenaline pumping full speed, I wasn’t tired at all. But the exam… Horrible experience. Some blocks go okay, some blocks are just nasty! Horrible, gross, unfair, painful…and every “negative” in existence. In fact, I took full advantage of the feedback survey at the end of it, giving them my opinion on how they neglected to test important clinical topics and instead focused on inconsequential details. In fact, I spent so long on this that I was cut off mid-sentence as the screen went black!

I had done tons of practice questions, many practice tests. All gave me feedback with similar scores, definite confidence boosters. But then this exam just smashed all of it, ahh horrible!


I felt a whole lot of emotions, but no relief. Not to mention the crazy of reentry into life and the crazy of a 16hr flight to Hong Kong. Adrenaline still going. Inability to rest. I won’t delve into it, but luckily, “happiness” and I became reacquainted shortly thereafter. Vacation was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful!!

Then came another long flight, CRASH course, a big snafu in my clerkship schedule, another much-needed weekend HOME–the first time all 4 of us were together at home since Christmas! Can you believe that?! Oh, but it was wonderful.

Sleepless nights came once more the night before clerkships started. Nerves!! To the max! (And that brings us to the present… and nothing can prepare you for this. More on this later.)

Today, though. Today we got our scores back. Rumor has it that the OMSP pages you (yes, we have pagers) to meet with them ASAP and work out a new schedule for you. FEAR!! We jump at every pager noise (there are a lot of these noises inside the hospital). Then someone announces that scores are posted online. Hours go by with most of us forgetting & focusing on the tasks at hand: our patients. There are moments here & there when someone mentions something about it, inducing palpitations. The afternoon comes along, and I finally muster the courage to log-in from my phone. Funnily enough, we were standing in the hallway waiting for conference to begin. I randomly clicked on things, and suddenly a document pops up with my score.



June 1st

1 Jun

I’m merely blogging today because it’s June 1st. Terrifying. How is it June 1st? 2011 is already 5 months over!

I’ve been dreading this month for a year already. Step 1 is June 15th. I never thought I’d survive the events leading up to June. And now, I don’t think I’ll survive June 15th. Severe tachycardia just set in!

Oh! I just thought of something to write about.

The biggest injustice happened to me today. The cashier at the grocery store gave my groceries to the person behind me. Of course, I didn’t realize this until I went looking for the Naked drink I splurged on. And then I freaked when I couldn’t find the diphenhydramine tablets (to help me sleep). Now I’m realizing that the assorted nuts that I bought, among other things, never made it home with me either. I’m thinking that the total amounts to $25. Sadsadsad. (However, the INH + VitB6 prescription was only $8! Wow. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for health insurance.)

In other news, I’m actually doing some fun things today to make up for the exhausting morning (I took a practice Step 1 at the Prometric Center). Meeting with a realtor to check out the South Loop and Wicker Park areas. Always fun. Then, thanks to friends, we’re using their connections to get VIP seating for a late night movie. Hopefully I can do some studying before then, but…

I still can’t get over my lost groceries.