Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It all started last week Wednesday... or "How I had a year of my life hacked off in three days"...

It all started last week Wednesday when a rumor tore through the school that the board results were in... then we all received a cryptic email from one of the administrators at our school- he said that the results for the national board exam had been received in Des Moines and we should be receiving our letters within the next several days. This of course plunged the entire student body into a frenzy of speculation and general misery... what it meant if you got a large packet vs a small envelope, whether it came certified or first class, whether it was a good thing to get your letter early or late... on and on ad nauseum went the discussion... the dull ache of uncertainty only alleviated temporarily each day at 5pm, that sickeningly wonderful moment when all vet students would race for their mail boxes to see if today was "the day". Ok, you may be thinking that we were all acting a little silly, and we probably were- but keep in mind that most of us had been waiting for almost 2 months to hear the verdict... and a worried vet student can do an almost interminable amount of second guessing in that great a period of time. After all, for all the NAVLE's (north American veterinary licencing examination) faults, it does have the rather unique authority to render all your aspirations of becoming a practitioner mere pipe dreams if the fateful number doesn't clear the hurdle. So anyway, I of course was not altogether immune to this stress, and like everyone else, I too was only to glad to rush home to my mailbox each day. But Wednesday came and went with no word, the same was true of Thursday... and Friday... by this time I was getting nervous, since heather and I were due to head north on Saturday to await the impending arrival of our second child. Saturday morning came and we faced the decision... should we wait until noon to see if the letter would come? No, we finally forced ourselves into the van and tried to put the issue from our minds. That evening, we were tooling along an almost deserted interstate 29, the moon casting stark shadows of our mirrors on the cement whizzing below us... suddenly the phone rang- it was my friend and colleague, an able fellow whom I had entrusted with the responsibility of getting my mail in our absence. He told me that my letter had come, as had his- and his was the same size as mine (generally regarded as being a good omen, or so went the local buzz). Did I want to just wait, he wanted to know, or should he open it, or what did I want to do?? This of course presented me with a quandary... what if I didn't pass? Did I want anyone to know? Should I just wait until we returned to Ames? I'm sure my pupils were about twice their normal aperture as the sweat beaded up on my forehead as my poor overwrought sympathetic nervous system attempted vainly to support the colossal weight my emotions were bestowing... finally I decided to just wait. Arrrrgh. Suffice to say within five minutes I had heather call him back, to listen to a mirthful Dean relating how he had just predicted to his wife that we would be back on the line within a very short time... oh well, he'd have known anyway if I'd failed (or so I finally rationalized). I drove along grimly, waiting for heather to show some sign of emotion that would belie the gist of what my friend was saying... aaaaaaaaaaaah... I was truly dying. Suddenly the darkness of the passenger seat was vanquished with the light of a triumphent relieved grin from my mate... the news had to be good. And so it was- I had passed the NAVLE, and my suffering was all for nought. Such stress simply cannot be good for the constitution. We found a Chinese restaurant at which to celebrate... after I called everyone I could think of to relate the good news- after all, you only pass boards once. Ben

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Simple Life

At long last I feel as though I’ve enough mental energy to actually write something. Not much mind you, but my life has definitely slowed down at least a little. This year has been one of frenetic activity for my family, as Heather has kept you updated we’ve traveled all over the Midwest and seen a lot of new country, couple that with the crazy pace of hospital rotations and I wonder where the year went. I’m sitting here in my living room writing this just after composing a little paragraph that not too long ago seemed an eternity away- the For Sale ad for this little trailer house we’ve called home for the last 4 years. As I look at this last semester of mine rapidly drawing to a close I’m astounded at the changes that have taken place in my life over the course of my tenure here in Iowa- my transformation from a green, single, eager first year vet student, to a happily married father of one (soon two) children, higher education weary, almost veterinarian has been a whirlwind that almost seemed to happen while I wasn’t looking. I remember a wise friend saying years ago that vet school would be over before I knew it, and was she ever right. I’m realizing daily the importance of treasuring every moment- I think experiencing the exponential development of a young child does that to you. This year has been difficult for me in some ways- I don’t enjoy being so preoccupied with activity that I don’t have time to think about anything else. I’ve learned that the study and practice can be so consuming that unless you’re careful very important things can fall by the wayside. I have to say though, that this whole thing has taught me at least one very important lesson. Not terribly long ago I was part of the Anesthesiology team at the hospital, and a wise old Anesthesiologist, just months from retirement, told a group of us nervous young anesthetists something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. We were discussing various monitoring techniques for critical patients with some of the younger anesthesiologists: Intra-arterial blood pressure measurement… Esophageal cardiac auscultation… Capnography… Expired gas analysis… Pulse oximetry… ECG monitoring… Blood gas analysis… on and on went the dizzying array of various wires and tubes and digital readouts and beeps and alarms and gauges we were responsible for… some of us must have been looking a little concerned because the good old guy interrupted the discussion: “Now just a second… Don’t forget- when you have a patient asleep and the alarms start beeping and the gauges are swirling, and you can’t remember which hose hooks to what and what wire goes where… get back to basics, dive under that drape… is the patient breathing? Are the gums pink? Do the capillaries fill normally? Is there jaw tone? Everything else is secondarily important to the basic stuff you already know how to do.” I don’t think it was until later that I realized the other applications of what he said… I was reminded of Micah 6:8, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” I realized that so often I would get so overwhelmed with what I though God wants me to do that I forget the absolute rock bottom basics. I think that this verse is really the foundation of Christianity, as my prof so succinctly put it, “everything else is secondarily important to the basic stuff you already know how to do”. Then I wondered… do I really know how to do “it”? It’s pretty easy to spend so much time learning how to handle the fancy new information and issues that we lose focus on what the simple tasks God has always had in mind for us. No wonder Jesus referred to his yoke as being easy. Leave it to us to complicate such a simple concept. Ben