"We all live under the same sky, but we don't all have the same horizon."

"We all live under the same sky, but we don't all have the same horizon."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stuck in Africa...the ramblings ensue

A lonely time in the life of a girl is when she is halfway across the world from her friends and family without the ease of modern communication. It’s so easy to pretend you are tough when conveniences are close at hand. It pains me to say that I am not dealing with the situation of being alone in Accra Ghana very well. I mean, I’ve gone through the motions of getting a cab to a nearby hotel to wait out the hours until I can fly out again. Had I not had my friend, Samson, here helping me – I think I would have gone to pieces. We have spent the afternoon together shopping for good souvenirs to bring home to the family and then ate some street food before hopping in a taxi to take me to the airport. Our first choice in taxis proved to be poor when at an intersection we stalled. After an onslaught of honking the driver hopped out and pushed the car to the side of the road. I thought it was such a funny experience at the time, and of course, it will soon be again. I jumped out and took pictures of the event my thoughts towards blogging about the smoking taxi. But, even though we jumped quickly into another taxi I was still just 5 minutes shy of being able to board my plane. I begged and pleaded with the Ghanain ticket officers. They wanted nothing of my bargaining. When I had exhausted that route and was headed toward the airport door I spotted flight attendants and a few pilots that were from my flight. I ran up to them and solicited their help in trying to get me aboard their flight and to their credit they went above and beyond what I ever expected anyone to do for me but in the end, even with a call from the handsome Dutch captain to the airport manager, I still was not allowed on the flight.

So, here I am at 2am in an airport hotel in Accra. I feel stupid for being so careless with my time. I am beginning to get the slightest inkling of home sickness. And to know that at this point the trip could be 1/3 over and I have a long hard road of negotiation in front of me tomorrow morning and afternoon, the largeness of it is exhausting even in thought.

This morning has brought no advancement in procuring a ticket home. I know my friend Christian was working with Delta last night to put me on another flight but I have no way of knowing if she succeeded because the internet is down here and that is my only form of communication with home. I suppose, really, that I could make an international call, however, at $2 a minute to a country where everyone is asleep in their own beds isn’t the best of options right now. After grabbing 2 cups of Nescafe (I really had thought I was done with that stuff…I’ve lived on it and Star beer for 2.5 weeks..I’ll miss Star) and trying unsuccessfully to get online and smoking a cigarette by the pool that is under heavy and loud construction, I asked the front desk whether they had a toll free line to Delta I could call. They are all smiles when they talk to me and their expressions seem amused that this white girl is trying to solve an African problem with American solutions. “Okay” they say which is how most Ghanains start their sentences “okay, there are no free calls here.” “Like, don’t you have toll free numbers, 1 800 numbers?”

“um, Okay, no free calls, we will charge your room”

It’s not like they are being fierce because these people are the kindest population I have ever encountered. I have met a few swindlers like our last taxi cab driver last night who wanted to take me to a “very nice hotel right next to the President’s house” which had I been alone would have sounded great. Being that Samson was in the car and knew the area he said “No, boss, this woman is a guest in our country and she has missed her flight and we need to find her a place that is safe for the night. I do not like the neighborhood you are speaking of” The taxi driver switched on the dome light and turned around whilst driving down the street to look at Samson in disbelief. Samson laughed and said “You do not have to look me in the face to know that I am telling the truth.” Thus, the taxi dropped us at the Airport View Hotel in Accra and Samson went up to the front desk with me and through this amazing dance of negotiation got me a discounted room rate and free internet.

More people than not have been incredibly helpful. Yesterday, when my 2 other travel companions and I were dropped off at the STC bus station in the outskirts of Accra we were approached by a cab driver. I told him I was going to see a friend but needed to use his phone to make sure Samson was waiting for me. I let him call Samson so that they would understand completely where to meet and after dropping my 2 friends off at another bus station for their destination east, we headed through the crowded streets towards my friend’s house. Samson called while we were enroute to check on me. Then when we got closer the cab driver said “You call your friend when we are there to know where he is standing” “Oh, that’s alright” I said “I’ll find him, just drop me off” “Okay, you flash call him now” “No, really, just drop me off, he’ll see me” “Okay, you call so I am not dropping you off at the street by yourself” When I didn’t say anything he started looking through his phone and said “Is this your friend’s number? I’ll call”

So, he called and Samson apparently told him we had passed him by 200 feet because the cab driver said “He said to turn around” Which is what I thought we’d do but the cabbie put her in reverse and drove backwards IN BETWEEN on coming traffic until I said “There he is!”

I haven’t had a dull moment in Africa and that is a fact!

After our mission the group took a long bus drive down to the coast and stayed in a reasonably posh resort called the “Coconut Grove” in a town called Elmina. On the way down I was reading in my guide book and found that the CG had horse back riding on the beach. “How Cool”, I thought, and spread the word through the bus that we should get a group to go with us. Two other girls, Caroline and Jeanette, who traveled with me to Dixcove the next day signed up and off we went the next morning to find the stables. The front desk told us that the guide was sick and wouldn’t take us but we said “No, we are medical personnel here from America, we can give him medicine for his fever.” I thought they were just putting us on to keep from going out but one look at the guide said that he quite possibly had malaria. We gave him malarone and Tylenol and he saddled two horses with the only 2 saddles he had, English saddles, and gave one of us the option of riding bareback. I chose the bigger of the two saddled horses and although I could tell he was a bit feisty thought that I could handle him. I didn’t feel comfortable upon getting on – I had two different stirrups and one was rusty and my shoe once in wouldn’t easily come out. We walked down through the trees and onto the beach and I was having trouble controlling my horse. “Whoa” didn’t seem to work on this one. Walking in the sand seemed weird and I thought “What am I doing? I am in Africa on a beach with a lovely view, but I could get hurt and that could be a problem out here in the remote village” But then I thought “Yes, but where is your sense of adventure, Jocelyne…you’ll be fine.” So, we walked and I tried to gain confidence and when the guide turned around and said “Would you like to canter?” I agreed and off we started. Just as he said that I spotted our handsome Italian anesthesiologist walking toward us after having a swim in the ocean. I kicked my horse and he started following the guide trotting and then without warning breaking into a roaring gallop right towards the water in unsure sand “WHOA…WHOA” I cried while pulling tightly upwards on the reigns “Whoooaaaaaa” I cried as started to lean towards the left for sure about to fall and then that stupid rusty stirrup broke and off I went into the Gulf of Guinea and a bed of sand. I sat in the water for a few full seconds letting the shock wear off and the relief set in that I hadn’t felt a thing. I was thankful for the stirrup breaking as I could have been caught and dragged. Then, I remembered the Italian. And all I could do was laugh because I realize what an awesomely goofy sight I am sometimes and it’s better to embrace that than run from it….because, you know, I’d probably trip.

So,enough feeling sorry for myself. I am a grown woman and have had a great time in this country and people miss their flights all the time and I am going to work it out. I will let everyone know when I arrive back home. I can’t wait for you to see my fantastic winter tan! Thanks for listening to my ramblings, there was nothing else to do but write. Well, I have become interested in a Ghanaian soap opera….I am dying to know what happens to Efua because she was accused of stealing a large sum of money but I know she didn’t take it and now has lost her job.

After 3 hours in the Delta ticket office and with the use of big fat American tears I have a ticket in my hand that gets me out of the country tonight! I will certainly miss this place however, I can't get out fast enough. It's time to be at home with friends, family and coworkers. I can't wait to sleep in my own bed, shower do laundry! Long set of flights ahead of me - I'll talk to you guys soon.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Leaving Kumasi

It's about 2 am Ghanain time and I'm beat. We packed up our supplies at the hospital all day today in the heat of an un-airconditioned hospital. Today was so interesting because the group ended up meeting the minister of defense and it was big publicity for the group. It was also fun because we got to take lots of cool pictures with big military men and all the girls thought that was cool.
We had a going away party with the African people we've been working with. I've made a lot of fun friends these last few weeks and it was hard to say good-bye.
Tomorrow we leave for the coast for some fun and relaxation.

This last picture is of me looking very tired with my favorite patient of the mission, Christopher. He was 16 and so soft spoken but interested in what we were doing to him. ..... So much so, that he asked that I document every aspect of his surgery so that I could show him. His only request was that "you make me feel fine afterwards". I saw him and his mother this morning and Christopher was in street clothes ready to go home! He was a beautiful boy and I hope that he has a wonderful life!

Monday, February 15, 2010

One week down in Ghana

Well, it's been a little over a week and I still haven't figured out how to get my pictures uploaded. My little computer and the African internet are not friends I guess. It's a shame because I have some absolutely amazing things to show you guys.

It's been a very hard week for everyone. We are working on such sick patients with so little of the conveniences we take for granted in our respective countries. To our credit the things we have done with what we've brought is incredible. On the other hand, I'm struggling with the thought that perhaps we are overstretching our abilities and could almost be leaning towards doing a disservice to the Ghanaian people. I don't really believe that, I guess, I've been able to meet all of our patients and we've developed a close bond with them and to see that we will ultimately extend their lives is so fulfilling.

I am going so stir crazy here in the hotel. Most of the week has been a bus from the hotel to the hospital, work for 10 hours then bus back to the hotel to eat, drink and fall into the hardest bed imaginable. One night we had a group dinner at an Indian restaurant and then went to a real "disco club" where some people let off some steam on the dance floor. Not me!

Last night we had a case until midnight and it was agreed that today we would not operate until we were quite sure that everyone would be okay. I took the chance to get out of the hospital and went with a group to the orphanage. What an amazing day. When I first got into the gates I walked over to a building to take a tour and about 6 little black boys in the same uniform (navy shorts and a navy gingham shirt) ran out to meet us. One ran ahead of the others and for one reason or other ran right up to me and into my arms for a hug. I started filling out adoption papers right away! Then they all wanted hugs and they would stand around us yelling "obruni obruni" which means white person. We worked most of the afternoon in the baby girl's ward. We gave them baths and put new clean diapers on them and then put them down for naps. Then I and another girl took trash sacks out to the playgrounds and picked up trash. One little boy came and wanted to help so he lugged the sack around for me. Mind you, he was probably about 5 years old and he had an old terrycloth belt wrapped around his head twice as a sort of headband. He indicated (because he never spoke to me) that he'd show me where to take the trash so I followed him and the sack to a big smoking pile of trash they were burning and he and another boy climbed on the pile to unload the sack. I understand now why I see so many people in the burn units at the hospital and it makes me sick that these kids are working so close to the fires. But, as we've said often this week when there is just no other explanation "It's the Ghanaian way"
Four of us snuck out tonight and took a taxi to a restaurant. They are very overbearing on our whereabouts here and it was so rebellious to go out on the town. I had a blast. I was also able to go to a market and pick up some great souvenirs and I ate a fresh coconut from a fruit stand. Delicious.
Good night guys. Tomorrow, we do our last surgery and it will be a very difficult patient. He is 16 with severe mitral stenosis. When the operating is done we will pack up all the supplies we brought and that were left here from last year and store them in the hospital for the next mission. I am not looking forward to that work - bt then perhaps we'll have lighter schedules and can see some more of the area. And then, I have vacation time on the beach! I have completely forgotten that I'll be taking that trip because life here is so intense.
More soon - and someday pictures!
ps - ok so i got a few pictures to upload! The surgical picture shows me backing up my Ghana counterpart, Stella as she learns how to do cardiac surgery. The other is of some of the boys at the orphanage at playtime!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

ok, I'm here!

My biggest disappointment of the trip to date came on the night that we checked into our first hotel in Accra and I realized I was not going to have internet service to update my family and friends in real time during this trip. I have gone to a lot of trouble to procure instruments that would allow me to conveniently communicate with America and they are useless to me as of right now. However, I will try to keep a journal on this computer so that when I am able I can post this to whoever would like to read it.

The flights to Africa were long, good and uneventful. I met some nice people that coincidentally I saw later in Accra. I didn’t sleep well on the flight to Amsterdam having only taken a half sleeping pill and realizing too late that it didn’t cut the mustard and taking the other half only led to a half sleep state. Thus, I was very groggy when we deplaned in Amsterdam yet determined to start my mission of taking a train into the city. It was a process of changing $50 USD into 30 something euro’s and then finding the train station to purchase a ticket into the city. After this was accomplished I found the platform and waited a few short minutes for the correct train to arrive. I had only waited a minute or two when a girl about my age came up to me and asked if this was the correct downtown train. I told her that I believed so but I wasn’t from here and couldn’t tell her for sure. The next thing she said to me blew my mind and I think you’ll be surprised as well. She said “We aren’t from here either” gesturing to a group of guys behind us “we’re from Waco, Texas and we want to go see the city before we head to Accra, Ghana”. It turned out they were with a church group going to Kumasi to build basketball courts, the first ones ever in the city. When they found out I was alone they asked me to join them and they totally took me under their wing as we walked around the city. However, I was the only one who had researched what to do…so I was the one who told them where to go. It was so foggy in Amsterdam and I know it marred my sightseeing a little bit, but it gave the architecture of the city such a cool creepy feel that I’m not really disappointed in my time there.

The flight from Amsterdam to Accra was so long! I was lucky enough, though, to spy an empty row in the Exit section and was able to sit in there after takeoff and stretch my legs. Landing in Accra was when the real action started. We had to exit on the tarmac and then take a bus to the terminal and as soon as I left the plane this intense heat and humidity hit me and I had to strip out of my coat and sweater that were so needed in Amsterdam. We were lucky to make it relatively easy through customs and then found the man from our hotel who was waiting with a bus to take us away. A strange situation developed, though, because there was not enough room for us all to go at once so three of us had to stay behind and it fell to me and two other girls. I’m not sure why, as were shouldn’t have been left alone in our first hour in Africa. The porters were very nice to us and there were about 5 guys who stayed with us, welcoming us profusely to their country. And then, they started asking for money. I gave them the only cash I had handy, which was 5 euro’s and he still wanted more. I knew that they were swindling us and I refused to pay more but the girl I was with ended up giving them $20 which I thought was pretty stupid. Eventually, the bus came and we got to our hotel, had an African beer, and promptly went to bed.

I met most of the group the next morning as we ate breakfast and then checked out. Checkout was hectic and confusing and took forever. It was my first taste of how slow and frustrating things can be here. After about 2 hours of us all trying to pay for our rooms we finally boarded a “bus”…(really a large minivan, type thing) and rode for a total of 5 hours up from Accra to Kumasi. I got to know some of the people in the group and had a really good time just viewing the sites and the people on the side of the road. It is amazing here. It’s just like the movies only about 10 times more fascinating. I will try but won’t come close to describing how wonderfuly different it is here in Ghana. People are everywhere even in the more rural areas. On our bus trip up t Kumasi there were constantly people on the side of the road. Some were walking and some had stands and were selling oils, cooking pans, fruits, etc. But a lot of people seem always just to be waiting and 4 days in I have yet to figure out what they are waiting for.

Our hotel in Kumasi is very nice. There is a pool and a nice restaurant where you can eat inside or outside by the pool. There are two bars which we use heavily. The group that I am in is comprised of so many interesting people. Most of the group is from Portland , Oregon. That is where the founder of Cardiostart operates and thus the bulk of the volunteers have had a lot of advertisement of the group. Some people are like me and have found the group through the internet. I am sharing a room with an anesthesiologist from London and I quite think I may have a spot of a British accent by the time I return home. There is another anesthesiologist from Italy who is practicing in London and that totals 3 from there because one cardiac surgeon also resides in the UK.

We take a bus every morning from the hotel to the hospital. It is only about a 10 minute drive and on the way we pass a school and it is so much fun to see all the children in their uniforms walking into class with their backpacks.

The hospital is very nice! The section we are in is only about 2 years old. There are four operating theatres (as they call them) and from what I can tell they do mostly small accidents and I have seen quite a few burn patients going in for surgery. The operating theatre we are in (#4) is not frequently used and was empty of supplies when we arrived. We had a storage room full of boxes that we had to unload our first day and delegate spots for them, either in the ICU or the OR. I think at the end of day 2 we are halfway through the room and have completely filled every spot possible with all kinds of donated items. And I shudder to stay that a large container has just arrived by boat today and some unlucky volunteers will be unloading it tomorrow. I will be scrubbing in on our first mitral valve, however, teaching my Ghanaian counterpart the in’s and out’s of cardiac surgery. I’ve also been told that I am in charge of showing the Ghana resident the proper techniques for assisting and that is going to be a fun challenge. I love bossing residents around!

We have stayed at the hotel for dinner the last three nights and I think tomorrow, Wednesday, we are going to go out on the town for something to eat because we are a fun group and are all getting antsy just drinking by the pool.

The only other thing of note I can think to tell you about what I’ve seen in Africa so far is that there are fires everywhere. Small fires on the side of the road that are just burning and nobody seems to care about them. The smell of smoke is always in the air but especially at night and I assume this is because of cooking fires. On the way to the hospital yesterday morning we passed a fire station. It was a large area of land with a fence around the perimeter and just inside the fence I saw three unmanned fires!!!!! I don’t know! Also, there are chickens and goats running free everywhere. I don’t know if they share them here, or they all know where to go to get fed.

Today is Thursday...I think and we have done two surgeries. Both were mitral valves, the first one we replaced and the girl today was a repair. She was only 13 years old and weighed about 50 pounds and was very sick. I want to write more and will give a better description but I can't tonight as internet time is short. I also have some great pictures to show you.....in a few days!!!

I love you guys and miss you but I don't think i want to leave here just yet! :)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

I hope my expansive readership has waited for me!

I finally figured out how to get back into my blogger account! Expect more posts soon.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

It's a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I'm blogging about a table......

As the title suggests it is a gorgeous and sunny Saturday. You may wonder why I am inside chronicling something as boring as my kitchen table on a day like today. Well, two reasons. First I was on call last night and had to go in at 12:30am to do a case that lasted until 9:30 this morning. It was horrible - let me tell you. Having a career that requires call is a nuisance at best. You all know how much I love this new job and consider myself lucky every morning I wake up and get to go work with this group. However, it takes over your life to some degree no matter how much you try to make sure it doesn't. You can't plan anything - a simple weekend getaway or a night out with friends loses it spontaneity when you have to check the calendar and try to trade days with a co-worker, sometimes stooping to bribing or guilting them into taking your call. And like today - I'm not on call - I should be enjoying myself and the cool things going on this city as I had planned instead I'm recovering from an all nighter.

Second, concerning the table, I am so proud and happy to finally have this done. You may recall that when I first moved to Austin I spent a large amount of time refinishing the furniture that I brought to decorate my apartment.
I put many woman hours into the little wooden table I want to use for kitchen/dining. I stripped it not once but twice, sanded allll the little nooks and crannies with my new power sander and I painted it a cranberry red. A red that goes with NOTHING in my decor. I have stared at this table for the past 5 months and wondered what I could do with it to make it better. I spent weekends dragging friends around to Goodwill and antique stores looking for just the right chairs but couldn't make a decision, much to their chagrin. (they are troopers - i love them) But finally after tearing it apart one more time, sanding allllll the little nooks and crannies again (couldn't bring myself to strip it), stealing some cream paint from a previous renter and coating the little table with 3 coats and then using brown accent paint and finally just these past two days putting a coat of clear varnish on it a dining area is born.

It is so nice to have a place to call my own (sorta) and be able to decorate and make mine. I missed that a lot in the last couple of years and maybe THAT's why this table is such a big deal to me.
Nap time for me! Have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Experience Austin!

Hello everyone! I've been telling you all how much I love Austin since I got here but I really haven't put too many pictures of the city to show you just exactly why I love it so! This summer I mean to change that.
Exhibit A: Basically....this is my backyard

Even before I moved here when I would come to visit - we would drive over the Lamar Bridge or any other bridge taking you over Town Lake and I would see people kayaking and I would think - "OMG - someday I want to do that!" But it's harder than you would think getting someone to go with you. I finally broke down my friend Christian this afternoon. I got off work early - it was a glorious spring day and so we jumped on a canoe - the first time for both of us. It was fun and exciting and we laughed and got scared by some type of water snake. But we didn't fall in which is what I secretly expected to happen - so I give us an A+!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

It's raining - I'm bored

What a switch in weather I have this weekend. Spring has been here for weeks and it couldn't be more beautiful here in Austin, Tx. But today! augh a nasty cold front has decided to flub up Easter weekend and it is raining and cold and reports are threatening a FREEZE! Can you believe it?

I am all for a thunderstorm and as always am on the lookout for my first sighting of a tornado. Do you guys have a list for things you want to see and do before you checkout for that big vacation in the sky? I have only one thing on my list and it is to see a tornado. I'm not sure why exactly it is so important for me to see this dangerous natural phenomenon. When I was a kid I was terrified of being caught in any sort of bad weather. I can remember being very small - perhaps 4 or 5 years old and living in Gruver, Tx a block away from my grandparents. It could be my imagination cooking up images from stories I've been told but I seem to recall walking (or being carried by my dad) across the street in the dark to the house my grandparents lived in which has a basement. A very scary basement. Even to this day I can come up with a thousand reasons not to go down there. The only other thing I can remember about that night is sitting around in a circle with my parents, my grandparents and a few other neighbors in dim light most likely candle powered and I was SCREAMING and crying. I wouldn't have known to be so scared except by what other people were saying about the situation so I have to place the blame on the adults that were there. My grandmother tends to be real dramatic about the weather so
I assume that is where I get it. The storm passed in the night and I don't know what kind of damage the town suffered but I remember that the electricity was out for at least a day if not more. My terror for tornadoes may have subsided a little as I grew a little older but then my dad hammered the last nail in the coffin when I was a teenager by creating a whole new facet of weather danger to fear. By this time we were living in Dalhart, Tx. There was a utility closet in the back of the house which had a covered opening leading under the house. I never saw what was actually in the hole but one day dad crawled underneath there and came out all dirty with cobwebs hanging from his hair (again, probably more imagination than truth) and proclaimed that were we as a family to be in danger of a tornado then under the house into the tomb of terror we would go to hide. Nothing could have scared me more and from that point on I watched the clouds, I watched the news. I became an expert on weather patterns, what ingredients were necessary to create a supercell storm cloud. I knew every county in the Texas Panhandle by site. I used hook echo and dry line in everyday conversation. And when I heard even the lowest rumble of thunder I would get clammy and nervous, unable to sleep until the news had cleared me from certain death by tornado or claustrophobia.
Eventually I became less terrified and more entranced by the power of thunderstorms and tornadoes. Do you have any understanding of what enormous organization must occur for an anvil shaped supercell to form? A dance between positive and negative energy, warm and cold air, unstable atmosphere and how much moisture is coming up from the gulf. And so I was bitten by the weather bug and for 10 years now I have been on a quest that sometimes borders on dangerous obsession to come in contact with a tornado. I have driven on many a country road blaring Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (great thunderstorm soundtrack) risking hail damage and high winds to see a funnel coming down from the sky. And to this day all my efforts have been in vain but each spring I think "Is this the year?"

And so those are my thoughts on this rainy day in Austin - which I intended to be a post about the going's on for the past few weeks but instead turned out to be why I am a nerd and a secret closet meteorologist.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Do you have an "ah"ccent?

I have traveled a bit in the past 3 years all across the country. I have heard many accents! When I was in Massachusetts it was such a shock to hear these new inflections given to old words that I felt like I must be in a different country listening to a foreign language. Massholes (which goes into a whole other facet of the East Coast experience - and is a term taught to me by my friend Barb) put r's in places that aren't there for the rest of the country - such as aorta - it's a term I hear several times a day - in the east it's pronounced aorter, idea is idear, deer......ah, it's dea. Anywhere I have traveled people always ask where I come from (even here in Texas it's a common question) and when I tell them I'm from the Lone Star State (and proud of it) it always surprises the questioner and they always say "But you don't have an accent". I guess it would be fun to have an accent that binds you with your community and gives a hint to others your origin. Anyway, I thought this quiz was kinda fun and reminded me of all the different accents I encountered on the road.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West
The South
The Inland North
The Northeast
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Changed the title to: PLEASE don't tell my grandma

Listen to what happened to me yesterday morning! I had a case that didn't start until 10am so I decided it was the perfect oppurtunity to walk around Town Lake before work. I waited until 7am when it was light outside and started down the trail. There were several people out jogging and walking, not as much as in the afternoon, but plenty to make me feel safe. I took the hour long route and was about 30 minutes in when I met a guy walking the other direction. I noticed him because he was in jeans and a jacket and was obviously not walking for fitness. On I walk, with headphones in my ears and my hood pulled over my head because it had started to sprinkle, when I hear footsteps in the gravel behind me. I noted that it was a walker and not a runner which irritated me because I try to keep a fast enough pace not to be passed by a walker. But nobody passed me and I thought I had sped up enough until I heard it again but this time the footsteps were more of a jogging pace. But STILL nobody passed me so I decided maybe I should turn around and check out what was going on. I turned a little to my left and the guy I had passed earlier in jeans was RIGHT behind me - arms length away. I startled him, he startled me and he started jogging away. "WHAT THE $%*@ are you doing?" I yelled and he ran away even faster. My only thought is he must have been trying to snatch my ipod which was in my right front pants pocket.
I have heard the advice before: always be aware of your surroundings, carry mace, look people in the eyes etc.... and for the most part I do those things but this just goes to show that no matter where you are or what you are doing you really need to be conscious.
I don't write this to scare anyone or to cause anyone to worry. Really, it was a very ridiculous situation with this little pipsqueak trying to sneak up behind me and then to run away. But I will definitely be using a little more caution from here on out.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The truth is out there

Every night when I go to sleep I turn the radio on to Coast to Coast. I listen to the weird program and drift off to sleep (unless there is a particularly scary topic being discussed). While I was traveling the country it was the one constant in my constantly changing lifestyle. A reminder of home if you will. The show was started by Art Bell to bring light to paranormal topics usually skipped over by mainstream media. C2C covers everything from highly scientific findings to UFO abductions, conspiracy theories, psychic experiences, bigfoot sightings - if it's weird or new age chances are Art is going to do a story on it. In 2001 Art took a lighter schedule and George Noory became the host Monday through Friday. Don't get me wrong, I know that 85% of this show is BS but it is good entertainment and some of the guests are really intelligent and have interesting ideas.

About a month ago I read that George Noory is going to be in Austin. I did some research and found that 590lbj - the radio station I listen to at night is hosting a "Talk Fest" and joining George is Neil Boortz and Clark Howard. So last Saturday even though it was a gorgeous warm and sunny day in Austin, Tx I went to the Convention Center to listen to these guys do live programs. It was an interesting experience. Neil Boortz did his program first and although I have never listened to his show he had some great things to say about the Libertarian party and the Fair Tax plan. I guess I was put off a little by his attitude which seemed to me a little pompous and if there is one thing that turns me off it is a self important, egotistical radio host.

Next to do his 2 hours was Clark Howard. I also listen to Clark's show nightly because he precedes C2C. Clark's motto is "Save more, spend less and avoid ripoffs". He deals with getting people out of debt, into good investments and other general financial help. My favorite idea of his is to keep from running up your credit card (in lieu of cutting the sucker's up) is to place the card in a glass of water and putting in your freezer - the next time you are tempted to use the card it's a block of ice - and hopefully you leave it there but if you think you HAVE to use it you'll have to wait for it to thaw out and by that time maybe you can talk yourself out of the purchase.

Last but not least to grace the stage was George. He got a standing ovation from about 400 people (although I heard him fib last night and say that "thousands of people showed up") and one alien who may or may not have been just a guy in a painted rubber suit. George is a very intelligent and soft spoken man. He admitted to the audience that most of his guests and callers were probably delusional but it wasn't his place to make that judgement and he wanted to show everyone the same respect.
At any rate - I highly recommend the show - I know I have at least one fellow faithful listener out there reading this. I wish he could have met George with me but I took this crappy picture just for him:

Friday, January 26, 2007

Heart to Heart

Today I experienced my first ever (but first of many, I'm sure) heart transplant surgeries. It was SO AWESOME! I was not able to get much history about the person who received the heart, however, I know that this day will change her life forever. This woman had been implanted with a ventricular assist device in October. Although the new pumps are more mobile than they were in the past (the device is implanted into her body and a cord runs from the device and into a machine that is in a rolling suitcase) it must be such a heavy burden to not only be chained to a machine that is doing the work of your heart but also to be waiting for a chance to get a new heart and not knowing if and when that will happen.
I was on the team that got the recipient ready to receive the new heart. Another team flew on a helicopter to the city where the organ was harvested. I also do not know the history of the donor of the heart but believe that this person had been in a car accident. Our two teams kept in close contact through phone calls so that we could time each step to insure that as soon as the heart was brought to the OR we would be ready to transplant it. Getting the woman's old heart and VAD out took about 3 hours. We went on cardiopulmonary bypass to do this. When the team came in with the heart we packed it in ice until the doctors were ready to inspect it and begin the 5 anastomosis that would give this woman a brand new lease on life.
The recipient was in her 40's and the donor was 23 years old. The donor heart was beautiful and after all the tissues had been sewn together and we let it start to beat it took off just like it was the most normal thing in the world.
I was really amazed at how adaptable our bodies and organs are. The doctors I worked with were aware it was my first time and took extra care to tell me exactly what they were doing and why they were doing it. They were very patient with me and it was evident that they were excited to be doing this type of work and cared very much about this woman's outcome. I just love my new job and the people I work with.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Yoga class

I love yoga. I have been doing it now off and on for 5 years. I first began by signing up for a class through Amarillo College. It was held at the Polk Street Methodist Church and when I went in for my first day I realized that, not reading the fine print, I had signed up for a 55 and older age group. A lot of the people did the poses in a chair. But, the teacher, who was an older woman herself let me stay and I learned a lot in that class. I loved those old people and I didn't mind their farts or their veiny wrinkley legs. Eventually, though it was time to go. Then I moved on to a group who predominately held classes at the Downtown Athletic Club. I loved that teacher, too and really learned a lot about proper alignment and the reasons for each pose. But then I began to feel like I needed a more advanced class because I had been going for a couple of years and these classes were still geared toward beginners. So I moved on to Terry Rudd who is a naturopathic doctor and teaches tai chi as well as yoga. I loved his classes the most. He had a way of working you out hard but leaving you energized instead of tired like you would think. I think I was in the best shape of my life when I was doing his style of yoga. But around that time in my life I started traveling with my job. I was so excited to be able to go to actual yoga studios instead of church meeting rooms or health clubs. I tried one studio after another, advanced classes, kundalini, hot yoga, ashtanga, ayurvedic and I never found a studio I liked in Albuquerque. Worcester, MA had a wonderful studio right down the street from me and that has probably been my favorite of any place I've gone. The teacher was very kind spirited and you had such a good feeling when you left there. I also went to a very well known yoga retreat center in the Berkshires while in that area and had a great time. It is so beautiful in that area.
So, on and on I'm searching for the perfect class but it's so hard to find. I just finished a one week trial at a yoga studio here in Austin. It is a style (Baron Baptiste's power yoga) I've liked in the past and it's a "hot yoga" class which means they heat the room anywhere from 90 to 100 degrees and it seems as if you can get more into your poses if you are well heated. I went to 4 classes in 7 days. Each class was harder and harder. Not because of the physical exercise but other factors. Such as: the person next to me ALWAYS has a cold and they sniff and clear their throat or get up to blow their nose a million time leaving tissues between my mat and theirs. There always has to be one loud person who breathes loud and grunts to show that he is achieving a higher level of enlightenment than the rest of us. There are always a few people but at least one person right next to me who doesn't know what personal space is - so maybe they are in front of me and when you lay down their feet are in my face or when you are kicking your leg up you have to dodge to not get kicked in the head (incidentally, I have had someone fall on me in Tacoma, Wa). The heat and the workout make a tiny room so stuffy and smelly. You never know from one pose to the next what you are going to be inhaling. Maybe you think that yoga is supposed to make you more open and forgiving of these little annoying traits that people bring to class. I say give me a Fellowship Hall with the Senior Citizens any day of the week because yoga studios are on my bad side today.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Good News

I spent good time with a lot of friends and family over the holidays. One of my very best friends, Andy Hopkins (that's Srgt. Andrew Hopkins officially) was visiting from Germany where he is now stationed after spending a year in Iraq. I have known Andy since the 2nd grade in Dalhart, Tx. Then, when we were in high school, Sierra moved to town and we've all been best friends ever since. We call ourselves the triangle, mostly because we are dorks. This visit marked the first time in 6 years we 3 have spent time together and it was as much fun as I had anticipated. However, what I did not see coming was an engagement of 2 out of the 3 of us. Andy and Sierra, finally after 13 years of friendship came clean and are now waiting for Andrew to get out of the service and come home so they can start a life together.

It's just one more detail that has fallen together so perfectly these past 3 months. I've never felt this way in my whole life. A perfect contentedness that every little thing is exactly how it is supposed to be. I am 100% certain that I am in the right city, living in the right little apartment, working in the most suitable job. Life is so grand and I could wax philosophical about how timing was everything here......was it karma, is it destiny, is it dumb luck....but WHO CARES about the cause , I just want to enjoy the effect. All I'm really thinking is "It's about damn time."

Happy New Year

2007! Around work during the first week of January I heard many people saying "oh, I just can't believe it is 2007 already!" My thought was "Why?" Didn't those people go to the same math class I did. The 6 always seemed to precede the 7 (not that I claim to be a mathematical wizard) so a new year didn't come as a surprise to me. Then one night last week I was laying in bed thinking of that exact subject and it dawned on me....."7, hmmmm 7 I was born in a 7, 1977...oh my gosh that makes me 30...crap I'm 30!" And then I joined the ranks "I can't believe it's already 2007"

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Something new: I have been working at Seton Medical Center for the past 2 months. It has definitely had it's ups and downs. The OR is huge and there are lots of different people, personalities and attitudes to deal with. For the most part I have enjoyed the hospital and I have some fun co-workers and doctors to work with. I am through with my orientation process and am currently working in the cardiovascular service, which as you all know is my preference. However, I have taken a new opportunity that came up out of the blue and I am really excited about it. I have joined a group of cardiothoracic and vascular surgeons as a private scrub tech. I am one of 6 scrubs, 6 PA's and 17 doctors who work at 6 area hospitals around Austin. Here is a link to their website if you want more information about the group: http://www.ctvstexas.com/
This is an unbelievably big step in my career which brings a lot of new experience and responsibility. I will work exclusively with this group doing only their cases. I will be learning how to do heart transplants and pediatric heart surgery. I will get the chance to assist in these surgeries as well as pass instruments and down the road I will learn to take the saphenous vein out of the leg to be used for bypass grafts in CABGS (coronary artery bypass graft surgery). I know that this will be an awesome job but I also know that I have a big learning curve to face and the next few months will be stressful but in the end I am going to do well in this position. I will keep everyone posted (or try to anyway).