Brave Woman

Adventures of a future nurse-midwife

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In The Wings

Posted by Lucille on April 21, 2013 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (0)

**Sometimes I have the privilege of being a part of intimate, powerful moments in other people’s lives. I cannot and would not share these stories, because they are not mine to tell. However, they touch my life and become part of my own story. When I share these moments here, you can trust that I have not broken anyone’s confidentiality. The characters are invented. They are not real, but could be. I take creative license to communicate the essence of my experience while respecting the privacy of others.**


I've started volunteering at the campus Women's Resource Center. While I was learning local resources as part of my training, I ran across a listing I was unfamiliar with: the Sexual Assault Resource Center. A quick search revealed that they were currently recruiting volunteers for the advocacy program: providing over-the-phone and in-person support to survivors of sexual assault, including meeting them at the hospital to accompany them during an exam. Ding ding ding! Patient-contact position! Rally the troops! I downloaded an application and started filling it out.

       The next day during my shift, a young man came into the women's resource center asking about domestic violence resources for a friend. "Sure," I said. "We have a couple openings tomorrow, and a lot later this week. Depending on how urgent her situation..."

       "It's bad," he said. "Like, really bad. Can you get her in today?"

       "Let me see what I can do." I moved some things around in the calendar while he paced and glanced repeatedly at his phone. There was an 'if necessary' slot open later in the day, so I let him know she could come in that afternoon and filled out an appointment card.

       He came in a while later with a girl a few years younger than me. She was tiny and kept glancing around her like she was terrified of being seen, but she looked me in the eye and spoke assertively as I checked her in. Her friend stayed beside her, his hand resting gently on her shoulder, careful of her boundaries even though you could tell he wanted nothing more in the world than to take her in his arms and make everything be okay. "Come with me?" she asked sheepishly as a case manager motioned her back to a room.

       He squeezed her hand. "You've got this. I'll be right out here, I promise." She nodded and gave him a hug, and he held her for a moment with his eyes closed, then watched her disappear down the hall. I realized then that my throat was tight and had to step into the back room for a minute to collect myself. Interestingly, it was not the pain in her eyes that had gotten to me, but the pain in his. When you get through this, I thought to her, I think you'll find that there's someone who actually, truly loves you waiting in the wings.

       I went home and deleted my SARC application. If a two-minute interaction this simple was enough to make me tear up, there's no way I have what it takes for that kind of job.

20th Birthday

Posted by Lucille on April 21, 2013 at 6:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Whether it was far too long in coming or completely out of the blue, the moment arrived that I stepped out of the teenage years and into full adulthood (well, almost. One more year). Possibly because my birthday came on the heels of the one-year anniversary of my transfer to PSU, I actually felt older. I have an understanding of how things work here and where my life is going that I certainly didn't have last year. Realizing my newfound confidence brought on a sense of surrealism best captured in an ecard:


Healing

Posted by Lucille on March 8, 2013 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

At one week of healing, the swelling went down to show lots of pretty colors underneath. Imagining what was going on in my body on a cellular level made my head spin with giddy delusions of grandeur. My body can fix itself without me even trying. Maybe my awareness of the complexity of cells was peaked by having just read through entire chapters on single organelles for biology, but watching blurs of purple gradually become clearly defined veins under unmarked skin made up of microscopic, self replicating boxes of polypeptides really drove it home.

My cells make more of themselves. I might be able to do that with advanced cloning technology, but my cells do it on a scale I can't even imagine, every day, out of food of all things, and without conscious thought. While I'm sitting at a desk studying the structure of different cells, my body is making uncountable numbers of them, out of something I ate, exactly where they're needed and specialized to perform exactly the jobs they need to do. Wow. Imagine that on a resume. Wrapping my head around how much goes on in my body that I don't even have to think about makes me feel like some kind of ninja.

At two weeks healing, I was off crutches. And at three weeks healing, I promoted to purple belt.

Which is cool and all, but not quite as cool as having a black belt in cell regeneration. You do, too. Right now, whether you're out enjoying the sunshine, curled up relaxing at home, or sitting somewhere and catching up on your blogs, your body is churning out billions of ridiculously complex packets of DNA and protein that sustain life, out of food, without you even having to think about it. Damn, you're awesome.

Ouch

Posted by Lucille on January 2, 2013 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (0)

At last, the sweet reprieve of winter break. I hadn't made it to tae kwon do in a while because of school, so I made sure to go to the first class after finals were over to make up lost time. While I was sparring a black belt, I jumped to do a round house kick, but I could see he knew what I was about to do so I changed my mind and set up for a hook kick, and hesitated just a second too long. I overbalanced. My ankle turned under me as I landed, with a crack so loud the class stopped and stared at me in horror.

       Ow. I knew cognitively that it hurt, but on later reflection I don't think there was actually pain for several minutes. It happened so fast that my brain was playing catch up. And my first thought, as I rolled over and clutched my ankle, was thank goodness. Thank goodness thank goodness thank goodness that this happened now, and not at the top of a mountain in Olympic National Park. I was crying instinctively, and someone handed me an icepack and asked if I was okay. I nodded fervently. It sucks to be injured, but all I was feeling was gratitude. The timing had been perfect. I wouldn't even have to worry about missing school, and because it was the very start of winter break, I had been planning to rest for the next couple days anyway.

       "Can you move your ankle?"

       It took me a minute to test it, because every instinct in my body was telling me not to move. I couldn't put weight on it, but I could move it in all the directions I was supposed to, though I stopped quickly as the pain started to register.

       My teacher drove me home. Travis was amazing that night. Once I had enough pain meds, I actually felt fine, but he refused to let me get up to help at all as he made dinner and curled up on the couch with me to watch star trek.

       The next morning I woke up and stared at my foot in disbelief. It felt like a club had been attached to my leg.

Travis helped me hobble up the hill to the school clinic. On the way, a stranger stopped and asked if we needed help, and offered to get his car and drive us wherever we needed to go. We were almost there by that point, so we declined, but I was deeply touched and grateful for the compassion of both loved ones and strangers.

       The doctor's word is that if it is fractured, it's not a bad enough break to require intervention, unless it fails to get better. And now I'm armed with crutches. Getting back to the apartment was infinitely easier, and I had no complaints about relaxing and watching scifi with Travis while my body worked its magic.

Finals

Posted by Lucille on January 2, 2013 at 6:50 PM Comments comments (0)

At last, the final papers were in. The essays had been written. The first wave of finals was over, and I was making my way toward yet another study group.

       "Hey, Susan!"

       I looked up. An elderly man in a suit in a wheelchair was at the top of a ramp/fire escape. Down in the plaza, a very stern looking woman dropped the books she was carrying. "Mr.Doe? What are you doing up there?!"

       "I've been meaning to tell you," he shouted as he took his hands off the wheels, "I retiiii..." His words were lost in laughter as he picked up speed, going faster and faster and faster, and finally shot out of the end of the ramp and across the plaza, his arms in the air, laughing joyously, while all of the students in the area dropped their bags and gave him a round of applause, and some chased after him to say goodbye.

Bandaid

Posted by Lucille on January 2, 2013 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Travis had a scrape on his arm that needed to be bandaged, so I went to the bathroom and looked through the first aid kit I made for babysitting. "Do you want Elmo or Big Bird?"

"No."

Bedbugs

Posted by Lucille on January 2, 2013 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

I knew something about the apartment had to be too good to be true. We inherited a bedbug infestation.

Seizure

Posted by Lucille on January 2, 2013 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

In lecture the other day, a girl a few rows ahead of me fell into the aisle, having a seizure. Within seconds, a few women had gathered around her.

       "Excuse me, I'm an EMT intern," one said.

       The girl she was addressing smiled. "Me too. You've got the clock?"

       "Got it," she said, while the other felt for a pulse. A third girl designated one person to call 911.

       I had always heard that people were not conscious during a seizure, but she appeared to be, and though she couldn't talk, her face and the tears leaking out of her eyes told me she was in pain. I finished moving desks and chairs away from her and edged closer, trying not to disrupt the others.

       "Excuse me, I'm a doula, is there anything I can..."

       "Me too," a girl across from me said. The others parted for us and we knelt by her head, one person putting their hand between her head and the ground and running her fingers soothingly down her arm, the other speaking slowly and softly, reassuring her that it would pass, just breathe.

       The professor hovered around us, wringing his hands. "Do I need to...I mean, should I--"

       One of the girls smiled reassuringly. "It's okay. We've got this."

      "Oh. Good." He dismissed the class and retreated back toward the podium.

       An ambulance arrived a few minutes later, and paramedics rushed in with a stretcher. They stopped, looking confused, when a student didn't move automatically out of the way. "Who are you?"

       "I'm an EMT intern," she said calmly. "Here's her ID. She has epilepsy, and this list of current medications was in her purse. Heart rate and breathing fast but slowing, and we have someone calling her emergency contact now."

       The paramedic paused. "Oh," he said in a much softer tone, "Cool." He abandoned the stretcher and grabbed a bottle of water from the ambulance, and the group of students parted so they could kneel in our place. After a few minutes, she was sitting up, talking softly, and taking sips of water. I exchanged numbers with some of the other students who had helped and left feeling extremely satisfied.

       If you're going to have a seizure, a room full of pre-med and pre-nursing students is the place to do it. Go team.

Consent

Posted by Lucille on January 2, 2013 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Remember when I heard, while in Africa, that pelvic exams were sometimes done on women under anesthesia without their knowledge by medical students? I expressed my anger and horror in a post, only to be told by family the next day that they thought that was an urban myth. I deleted the post, and wrote an apology for writing something like that before personally checking the facts.

       I finally got around to researching it. That's actually true. OHSU didn't change their policy until 2003, and in many teaching hospitals, signing that you know students will be involved in your care still counts as informed consent. For more information, see the sources below.

       It's a big, scary world out there.

OHSU Obstetrics & Gynecology Clerkship Guidebook

SOGC Clinical Practice Guidelines

Our Bodies, Ourselves Blog: Conversations We Shouldn't Still Be Having

CBS News: Pelvic Exams Without Permission

That Would Explain It

Posted by Lucille on January 2, 2013 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (0)

While walking through the basement of the science lab building, I passed a group of guys one of which was wearing a horse mask. He asked me to make out with him. 

I said neigh.

       It took passing a pirate and a singing big bird before I realized it was Halloween. When asked what my costume was, I said I was the ghost of Organic Chemistry exams past. My honors colleagues all scooted their chairs away from me, muttering, "Scary."


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HIPAA Disclaimer

Sometimes I have the privilege of being a part of intimate, powerful moments in other people’s lives. I cannot and would not share these stories, because they are not mine to tell. However, they touch my life and become part of my own story. When I share these moments here, you can trust that I have not broken anyone’s confidentiality. The characters are invented. They are not real, but could be. I take creative license to communicate the essence of my experience while respecting the privacy of others.