I survived medical school and it wasn't easy. I had a bum knee, 8 straight months of clinical work and a massive research paper on deck to finish up school. We have this huge nfl draft-like process at school to pick clinical sites. I ended up with Lifecare Center Littleton for the first and Physiotherapy Associates Littleton for the second.
As the time neared for me to go to LC Littleton, I was notified that they canceled the affiliation due to managerial changes at the facility. Great. This happened for my second clinical rotation and I ended up somewhere I didn't really want (UCH outpatient pavillion) and it ended up badly. So the plan was for Physio to take me now for the first 4 months instead of second, and I had to go to the office and pick a spot out of a remaining list of 10 or so places for my final rotation - the leftovers nobody wanted...I really wanted a rotation in a SNF so I chose the only one that I didn't have any negative dirt on from my colleagues. Longmont. Oh, did I so NOT want to hang out in Longmont. Thinking about the past, the lost friends, my personality flaws again by being there every day was not sounding good to me in the least.
The first 4 months at Physiotherapy Assoc was stressful. I found quickly that they were not particularly interested in teaching me, rather they loaded up my schedule to bump up their census numbers and I found myself putting in 10-12 hour days with little to no guidance. For the first month I was in shambles trying to keep up and worrying that I wasn't giving people the best care, but then I decided to adopt the "fake it till you make it" attitude, and it went a little better from there.
I didn't have time to go to PT anymore for my knee (if I did, I'd have to make up the time-missed on the weekends according to the rules), so I tried to do some exercises with patients with knee injuries or over lunch. But, I could tell I was fighting a losing battle and as my knee was healing, I felt myself getting weaker and weaker physically. I couldn't do anything more about it. Most of the paper deadlines were due during that rotation as well. The paper was a case study about posterior horn tears of the meniscus...It was so stressful but luckily I had a great patient to work with and a flexible instructor (for the paper) that allowed me to extend some of the deadlines and I ended up doing well on the project. I thought about trying to get it published, but when I was done, I WAS DONE, and didn't want to go through the hassle of spiffing it up/protocol for who knows how much longer to prep for publication.
As far as Physio: it made me realize I don't want to be strictly an orthopedic therapist, nor can I physically tolerate it. It was a bit earth-shattering, since from the start I fancied myself as wanting a sports-oriented atmosphere for my job. At physio, you see 10-15 patients per day, piggybacked for 15-30 minutes of each 45-60minute session, and EVERYONE gets manual therapy. Not only did I feel that treating two or even three patients at a time raised an ethical issue and sometimes was sub-par care, but my hands were breaking down from doing so much manual therapy. Clicking in my joints became frequent, then aching pain came, then finally I had neurological symptoms in the form of occasional "stingers" sent from wrist to thumb. I went to the hand therapist and got exercises and wrist braces. I barely made it out of there alive...I was exhausted and so was my family.
We managed to sneak off to see the Rose Bowl in Pasadena since Michigan State was playing Stanford and Chad HAD to go. I just walked in to the office one day and told them I was going, and I didn't report it to the "absence committee" at school. Honestly, I didn't care if CU found out, I'd deal with that bus if it came to the station. But to cover my ass I worked on several Saturdays to make up the missed days. We loved the Rose parade and the game. We even spent a day at Disney Land during our whirlwind 3.5-day trip. It was a fun family trip, and I was amazed at how well the kids help up. I will post a few pics during the big catch-up posting.
Chad took me to Las Vegas for my 40th birthday during the week I had off in between clinical rotations. Some of our neighborhood friends went with us. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas...but trust me, it was memorable. Maybe I'll post about that in detail later...maybe not. My kids might read this someday. :)
Then I headed up to Longmont and met Claire, my instructor. Right off the bat, I was honest and told her I was beat-down, mentally maladjusted and running on fumes. I wanted to set the bar low as you never know how much these clinical instructors are going to expect from you and frankly, I didn't care what the reaction to that information was. She was smart, laid-back, we shared a dry wit, and in general she was just plain nice. I could tell she was a little bit burnt out too, so maybe that brought us together as we shared that sentiment. I think we both needed a break, and that is how it went. She was just what I needed, and I thank God for pairing me up with her for the homestretch. I now consider her a friend. Since she was so relaxed, I was only having to work 7-8 hours per day, and as most of the gruntwork for my paper was done, I felt it would be possible for me to sit for the board exam early in April as opposed to July, as most of my classmates would. It was a gamble, but I just put faith in the fact that I was a good test-taker, was attending a top-25 PT school and the pass rate was about 98% for our program.
After my stint at Physio, I immediately enjoyed the more relaxed pace of the SNF. In the past, I had no patience for the slow pace, but once I invested, I really loved working with this population, and hearing their stories. I met several WWII and Korean War veterans (among them a WWII paratrooper, a bomber pilot, one man even fought on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day), a Rosie Riveter (my grandmother Irene was one!), several gruff Vietnam Vets, and many wives of veterans (which has been a unique perspective to learn about). Also, many ordinary people just desperately trying to live their lives out to the end the way they would like to. I was faced with the brutal consequences of not living a healthy lifestyle. I saw great heroic recoveries with returns to loving families, and many tormented individuals with nobody to live for or with tumultuous or abusive families. I've had to learn to deal with death. Death of patients that were obviously dying and was expected, the unexpected deaths of those who seemed to be doing well, and death of those I had worked with so many times I even considered friends. One of my colleagues even dubbed me "The Angel of Death" as I had so many patients pass in a short stretch of time one month. It hasn't been easy, but I just try to view each day as a chance to make a small difference and to learn a whole lot about the human condition, medicine, and life in general.
I had put in all that energy, so it was natural to just keep it going when I graduated. I learned in early May that I had passed the exam. One of the happiest days of my life, and I still feel that I sorta beat the system somehow there. I don't feel that I studied nearly enough. I didn't really ask...but on my last day as a student at LCCL we set up a meeting for me to come back in and fill out the paperwork to work there after I graduated.
I graduated with my DPT on May 23, 2014. Yes, I'm a doctor. The whole process took a full 10 years and I am in awe of that, and relieved. I'm working at Lifecare Center in Longmont. I still have a husband and family, but I'm lucky we made it intact. No, I would never do it over again...I lost my physical and mental health for a bit and it was extremely taxing on any and all relationships in my life. I've lost some friends because of it. But I've gained some great ones too.
We went on an epic adventure in Europe in July. We attempted a summit of Mont Blanc and hiked 120 miles through the Alps from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland. I am left with a scar on my L shin to document how hard Zermatt parties. I am planning a whirlwind of posts to document before I forget everything, but I'm still dragging my feet on organizing all the pictures prior to my storytelling.
We also got to spend some time at home on the trip as the kids stayed in Ohio while we were in Europe. I had only seen my father in once in 2.5 years. My Dad! How could I go so long without seeing him being the Daddy's girl that I have always been??? I console myself by telling myself I really had no choice...It was survival around here.
Now I'm left back at the beginning. Unbelievably, I find myself asking what's next? I had a tougher time than I thought I would adjusting to "normal life". For weeks I sat around watching TV, reading magazines, taking naps, not really putting much effort into anything. I started working PRN (or "as needed") which meant I was basically on call when they needed help, and that was sort of a shock to the system. I never knew when I was going to get called in and that was chaotic. I was so used to having this strict schedule with no ifs ands or buts. Furthermore getting paid vs. working for free wasn't as gratifying as I thought it would be...Nice to know I really don't care about the money, but a little disturbing all the same. Chad instantly expected me to take over kid-stuff that he'd been doing for years. I found that the kids were also in shock...the disciplinarian was back suddenly, and was immediately re-instituting the rules that had become lax when there wasn't time or energy to enforce.
I got a new bike. It's a Scott Genius 730 and I love it. I've been riding every chance I get and I'm starting to get a bit of my former mtb mojo back. If you're going to burn up your lungs and legs, why not do it with the crisp air and smell of pine in the woods?
We got the kids all geared up and started downhilling at Crested Butte Mtn this summer. They make me so proud - they're little shredders! I can barely keep up with CJ, he's a smooth operator, graceful, in control, especially when he's riding my old full suspension Trek instead of his little 24" hartail. And Cam makes me nervous with his "bull in a china shop" style as he tries to keep up with his big brother - but he somehow pulls it off without consequences (so far), leaving me amazed almost every time I follow him down the hill. They can now ride some shorter XC trails in CB, which is fun. They have become decent fisher"men" too. Well, CJ has and Cam is more interested in finding shiv-like sticks along the riverbank half the time...but he holds his own when he puts his mind to it.
I've put a few full months in at work now, as their staffing was thin and census was high...and it's starting to come together. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed for a week or two because I wasn't ready to work near-full time. But, I've had more frequent days off again now lately and I feel more like myself. Chad is even going to Europe next week, I took the week off from working, and I'm actually looking forward to having some time just at home with the kids (which used to bring on a sense of gloom and doom).
I'm getting back into shape. My knee is fine and dandy. I've gone on some hikes, but have found them generally underwhelming compared to the glorious Alps. I know that this dissatisfaction will surely fade as all the images of grandeur fade from memory. I have been playing soccer for a few months with this clunky ACL brace. One surprise was that I thought I was whipped into shape from backpacking across the Alps. Nope. What I did, since I was mostly starting from scratch in the fitness department, was build a great slow twitch/endurance package with the long slow days of hiking. When I got my feet back on the dirt for trail running and back on the soccer turf it became painfully obvious that all of the agility and power was gone. I guess it wasn't a big surprise knowing what I know, but scary...the funny thing is that I still somehow feel that the physiological rules should not apply to ME, alas, they most certainly do, and I ain't no spring chicken anymore. I started straining muscles in my left leg, as it wasn't strong enough to handle the plyometric movements with the extra weight of the brace and general proprioceptive tardiness of my R leg. Anyways, its nice to have some time to work on that now too. Some lifting is in my future in addition to all of the outdoor cardio, as I need to redevelop the power for ski season. Oh man, am I looking forward to that! Both of the kids will be in the all-mountain lessons at WP and Chad and I will actually be able to ski together all day.
I've finally had time to think a bit too, and read something other than medical books and journals - refreshing...It's nice to have time to think but also scary the work I need to do in this department. At what point do you try to change your faults or just say hellwithit that's just who I am. At what point are you playing hypocrite by trying to act like someone you're not? What's the balance between putting effort into a friendship and staying true to yourself? Does it even matter? Not sure, and not sure I'll ever delve deeper into the subject.
One thing I have decided is to try to know people better. I abandoned this optimistic point of view a long time ago and have become very adept at just glazing by people, waving from afar, writing off, abandoning ship...after all, people - they're a dime a dozen, why invest in people when it's inevitable they are going to leave or let you down? One leaves, another inevitably shows up in your face. That's not a way to live life, everyone's got something interesting to add to the pot. Ignoring that is not living in the present moment, which is how I used to be and what was maybe my best attribute. Being present and involved in each moment. I've lived in a box knowing I did not have time or energy to expend on other people. I've brushed people off knowing it will just end up a mess. No longer. After all, I no longer have any excuses. I'm not stressed out. I'm just another normal person, like everyone else.