Sunday, August 31, 2008

Week One Done

So I am now officially through one week (and almost one weekend of medical school). The second day of class was much the same as the first: lots of information but useful information.

There came a point today for the first time (and I don't expect it to be the last) where I was trying with all my might to focus, but the information was coming so fast, I could not even follow what was being said. I've zoned out before, but that's just my being lazy. I think this is the first time my brain reached it theoretical limit. The rain came down, the reservoir filled, and then the water poured right over the dam. Let's hope its a concrete dam.

I had a spectacular day going to church, having a great lunch with friends, and then enjoying some good, quality time with God in a beautiful, secluded oak grove very near the center of campus. Here is what I had to deal with today (left). And here is who I spent the time with (right; I took the photo today at the Stanford Church). Can Sunday get any better?

Much less inspiring, but much more funny was what happened in Histology on Friday. We had our first Histology class (looking at slides of cells). We had an hour of lecture with example cells, describing what to look for. Then we got our microscopes and tried to find the cells on our slides that they described.

I thought, "Great! This looks really easy! I'm pretty good at identifying shapes! Gee Golly Gosh!" And I looked at my first slide. I had used a microscope pretty extensively in my old lab, so the controls were very familiar. I saw other struggling with their microscopes. "Amateurs," I thought. "I'll condescend to their level and help out the poor devils with the focus. So sad..." I helped out as I could with loading the slide, and focusing on the cells. Child's play. Then I sat down at my microscope, loaded the slide, then quickly and efficiently moved down to the appropriate zoom. And I didn't recognize a single cell.

My heart raced. I began scanning violently around the slide. "Where in the **** are the Neutrophils?! ****! For that matter, where the **** are the Erythrocytes. I can't even find the ****ing Erythrocytes!!" Thus was my thinking (**** represents, 'world', 'shucks' 'heck', and 'bi-concaving', respectively).

I turned to my neighbor (who seemed to actually know what the **** was going on) and asked if I could look at her slide and she could point something out to me. And from thence came my deliverance. It was a different slide. I could clearly see Erythrocytes, Neutrophils and even an Eosionophil on her slide (peripheral blood smear looks like left) . I talked to the TA and got my own slide. I waxed prideful again, able to easily identify every cell type on the peripheral blood smear. I confidently moved onto the bone marrow slide.

"****," I thought. "They all look exactly the same. Probably another mislabel." I checked again with my neighbor. "****," I thought again, "It's just like mine." I went back and tried harder to look for differences. There were no differences! They were all purple dots that looked exactly the same. And I was supposed to tell the difference between promyelocytes, early myelocytes, late neutrophilic myelocytes, and metamyelocytes, and I couldn't even tell the difference between a myocyte and an erythroblast!

I looked for help. The TAs were occupied. Some people were packing up. Finished! And I just started my second slide! "Oh no! I had expected to be the dumb one. And it begins now, on day two!" I bemoaned to myself.

One of the TAs had projected his slide onto a TV screen and began describing the differences. And he did a darned good job. I then was able to see the subtle differences and remembered them fairly well. And by the end of that hour I got pretty good at blood histology, and actually (but just a little) started to like it.

P.S. The photo is from Wiki public domain, so don't worry course administrators, I haven't posted course materials


  1. New time of life. Enjoy the ride. Good or bad... you take it with you in life. The friends you make, the habits you learn, the challenges you overcome will be a part of your tomorrow.

    Much time is consumed planning for tomorrow. Our education is especially focused on how we will better position ourselves to meet tomorrows challenges.... which probably is right. However, we have today. Most days we consume it's entire breadth without enjoying the storm we are in. The adrenaline is pumping and each minute is jammed packed with activity... except the time to thank God for the opportunity he has give us to live that moment.

    Lately, I have been trying to slow down enough to greet people like they should be treated. A nod of the head, the wave of the hand is not enough. Look at the elderly. The friendships they have are prolonged and true. They do not scurry here and there. They take time to greet and sit down and meet. They engage in a breakfast or lunch, if you ask them to. Why? Because values and priorities have changed.

    If I were to think this one through I might conclude to do the same. If I am going to end up there, why not start now?

    Because I too shove more in each day than I should. I would have to give up the 3 meetings, the 4 conference calls, the presentation and late dinner in order to slow down. This race I run I do so because I like it. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. A worth. Which is why people feel so horrible when they cannot work.

    Today you are learning to work hard. Enjoy the work. Learn to enjoy even the tough work. Medical school is very tough which is why most people do not do it, and very few enjoy the process. Paul wrote he could be content in any situation. It takes great faith. You will be continuously challenged like you never have been in collage. You will discover that even under the longest nights, you will get through it. Do this enough times and you will find you will not die. You will live to fight another day. And in some cases even enjoy the sun set at the end of the day.