Meh.

Just can't get excited about Christmas this year. All the family is scattered to Hawaii, Australia, and Vancouver Island. I'm on call for the next 10 days here on the frozen prairies.

Shift from hell yesterday. It was like the 12 Days of Christmas Emergencies....12 colds and coughs, 11 migraines ringing....5 abdominal painnnnnnnns, 4 chest pains,  3 hurty ankles,  2 broken legs and a post arrest resuscitationnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.

We have a tree, yes. I didn't go too crazy on presents this year, mostly donated money to UNICEF, CBM, The White Helmets and World Vision. I don't know how much those donations actually help or get to the people in need, but I have to tell myself at least a fraction of a donation is better than no donation at all.

Last year Audree (other ESS resident) and I had a big Christmas Eve dinner for all the orphan docs also stuck working over the holidays. It was a blast. Any dinner party that involves two-stepping in the kitchen with one of your attending's kids while others are attempting the final lift from Dirty Dancing in the living room, is a success in my opinion.

I just can't get excited about being here, stressed about being on call, and having no friends or family around for any celebrations. And because I'm on call I can't even drink at this little pity party I'm having for myself !!!


Merry Christmas to all y'all, enjoy a heavily spiked eggnog on my behalf. xx


Popcorn

I've been thinking a lot about my own mortality lately, which weirdly manifests itself in an anxiety around popcorn. 

I think this is because of the fact that I've had two palliative patients pass away recently and because I've been reading some books on stoicism and mindfulness. 

I was falling asleep a few nights ago when I woke up my already drifting husband,

hon...we only have ONE life....ONE. THIS IS IT!!!

He acknowledged this to be true and in his pragmatic way pointed out that it didn't matter because we wouldn't know anything when it ended anyway.

So, I go to work and try to be my best self and give my best self to my patients. And it's hard and stressful and some days I want to cry with them when they are crying, and some days I do. I mean I don't sob away and use their sleeve to blow my nose, but I let myself have that emotion. And then I get home and man, all I want is popcorn. Yes. Truffle salt and cayenne and nutritional yeast, please, you haven't lived until you've tried my popcorn. But it feels gluttonous and my husband is sliding the Obesity Code my direction with monotonous regularity, encouraging me to read it. He keeps telling me about ketogenesis and podcasts and really, I just want popcorn.

HMPF.

Because, we only have one life. I should enjoy this popcorn now dammit. I could be dead tomorrow. 

But then I get up, and get dressed,  and my jeans are tight.  And I am OFF popcorn dammit. I go to work and see human suffering, and I see this crap shoot of a hand that we are dealt and I have to wonder.

What if it were me that had the molar pregnancy 4 months ago which has now metastasized to my lungs. All of my worries and all these neurosis really boil down to sweet fuck all. 

Having your own mortality pointed out to you at work on a nearly daily basis can really put things into perspective or completely out of perspective, depending on how you look at it.

I didn't have any tonight. For the record.

 

What the hell happened in June?

So this is a weird thing.

I have kind of had the blog in semi-hibernation since starting residency. I wasn't really checking in, or looking at stats at all (for readers and viewers, etc).

But, something weird happened in June. I had this crazy spike in visits in June 2016. And I have no idea why. I can't go back now to see where the source was or if there was some link or story featured.

Just this:


Just wondering if anyone out there has any ideas on where this sudden surge of traffic came from? Was Dr. Grumpy's blog featured on The Daily Show or something? Did I get a shout out on CBC radio 2 ?

Just curious.

Letter To This American Life


Sometimes you need to just take the time. 

I have very little time for reading, even less it seems, for writing. But a recent episode of This American Life was so important to me I forced myself to sit down and write a letter. My mom always reminds me that we fill our days with urgent, unimportant things instead of important, non-urgent things. If you haven't heard the podcast episode, "Once More, With Feeling" especially act two. 
I received a reply today which gave me almost as many gifts as the episode itself. I'll post it later.

I am a huge fan and have been a dedicated listener for years. I treasure many episodes and hold some very close to my heart, but this is the first time I have been so profoundly moved by an episode that I feel the need to write the show.

I don't know how to illustrate my gratitude in a way that gives justice to the insight given to me by this episode.

I have two retired infantry soldiers for brothers. One has done over 10 tours of duty, initially as a mine disarmer and then as a post-blast forensics specialist. He has served with NATO, the UN and the Canadian military in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cyprus, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and many places he could never tell us about.

I listened to Once More With Feeling this week while driving to one of the communities in northern Saskatchewan that I work in. It's a long and lonely drive. Several hundred kilometers with no cell reception and it's -35 Celsius right now. I drive with a satellite phone in case of a breakdown. It's dark too, so the podcast keeps me awake and keeps me company.

When it got to Act 2 I was listening with intrigue as I know my brother struggles with PTSD and integrating with normal society now that he's retired. I know that when he got his first holiday in Greece after a few months in Afghanistan he just sat on the beach and didn't speak at all for several days. I know my sister in law has found him sobbing in their closet. I know he vomited once while crossing the lawn of a friend's house in Ottawa because a flashback made him think he was walking, without care or attention, across a minefield.

I drink scotch with him when I visit and he tells me some stories, which my sister in law knows verbatim. And some mornings she'll say, "I never heard that one from last night before". I know he told a story once at a work Christmas party about shooting an Afghan soldier in battle which left everyone speechless and uncomfortable.

As Michael Pitre spoke, it was like I was finally able to see and understand a tiny fraction more of my brother's struggles and his coping strategies in civilian life. Some of what Mr. Pitre said seemed so obvious once he described it, I wondered why I hadn't understood, or picked up on those patterns in my brother before. So there I was, driving and crying and finally understanding things about someone who is so close to me but so hard to get close to on many levels.

My brother is getting counselling now, and his wife tells me he's getting better and better, slowly. But I still feel so much fear and sadness when I hear stories of Vet's who commit suicide or harm others once they are home.

It was such a powerful and important piece for those of us living with friends and family struggling with re-integration. It wasn't exploitative, or indulgent, or sensationalized. It was a beautiful, succinct snapshot.

I am deeply grateful for this episode, and for all the hard work that the staff at TAL put into their work every day. You may never realize how far reaching, truly valuable and life changing the work you do can be for listeners. I hope this shines a little light on that reality for you.

Thank you again.

Sincerely...

If several trees fall in the forest…

We had a huge snow storm in October. 

On the first day heavy wet snow came down in giant flakes. It fell fast and the trees which hadn't yet lost their leaves were weighed down by the sticky clumps. We had a day of respite where the trees stood, just a bit hunched over. The orange and red leaves still clinging to the branches. It looked like frosted sugar icing over all the fall colors.

Snow with that degree of commitment doesn't usually come down so early in the season. Usually we have at least a few weeks of bare branches, frozen grasses and grey skies before snow fall.

But, on the third day it really came down. Again the same heavy giant flakes fell for hours and hours and hours without letting up. It fell all day and continued into the night. The trees became more and more burdened.

During the night the snapping and cracking of bark could be heard throughout the town. Many of us were awoken by the sounds of huge trees giving into the winter weight. The power went out. So many trees had fallen onto power lines that over 10 000 residents of the province woke up to a cold house and a back yard of destruction. Including us.

This weekend we volunteered to work on clearing the cross country ski trails. It was my day off and for once I wasn't on call so I dragged my arse out of bed and then dragged my hubs and pups along.

It was such a fantastic day.

It was the perfect temperature. The dogs were in heaven. It
was exhilarating just to spend a physical day outside, breathing in the scent of pine needles and spruce gum, mixed with the exhaust of the chainsaw.

Brings me ring me right back to skidooing as a kid, being pulled on toboggans, screaming with laughter and forgetting how cold my cheeks felt. Then heading home, warming up, and having the best sleep a kid could ever imagine.

Here are a couple before/after shots of our work (with Monty photobombing, of course). We finished up the 3km and the 5km loop, for now.  Nothing like a day in the woods, working until you're muscles ache, to let you forget about all the work that needs to be done everywhere else in your life.