Dec 30, 2011

We don't need no water... wait, yes we do

F*** indeed, neighbor.

Went to the scene today and chatted with some of the neighbors, including, I believe, the one that took this video, so we have some record of stuff.

Long story short, absolutely nothing left. I was captivated by the sound of the broken glass and tinder crunching under my new boots. My closet, I was told, fell outward, which sparked a brief hope of finding my bedbug costume, and one of my displaced neighbors, Superman, as we all call him, started climbing through the collapsed stuff to pick through the things that looked like clothes. Half of a pair of jeans, I think.

Lots of people were driving by to loiter, and I didn't really mind that, because it's probably what I would do. I gawked at the house on Rutledge that burned earlier this year. I took some pictures of my place just for the hell of it, not because I think I really need to document anything. But one of the landlords from across the street saw me and the neighbor and were like "do you live nearby?" and I'm like "I'm the third roommate". "Ohh... Was yours the red car? It was a trooper." "No, mine was the black nissan." "Oh... It exploded." "I know." "Do you have a place to go?" "Yup."

I went to the hospital today, one, because one of my attendings kept insisting that I do so, and two, because in an amazing show of foresight, I kept some of my insurance paperwork there, and the degree of support and concern was amazing and humbling. I've only been at my residency for six months but everyone rallied. I got hugs and offers and even though I immediately called a friend needing a roommate as soon as I heard, people were all "Where is she staying" and eager to make sure I wasn't sleeping in a Red Cross shelter. Despite everything, I feel really lucky.

I think that's one of the keys in a residency program too. Not "Who will hug me if my house and car burn down" because that is an oddly specific question to ask at the pre-interview dinner, but just how close knit a program is makes a huge difference in overall happiness. Our department has happy hours, parties, and an open door policy that nurtures an environment where someone could come home from vacation with nothing and find everything she could hope for, to get back on her feet, within her program's walls.

Family has also been absolutely amazing. Getting the news was surreal, and occurred around the small cousins, and it's difficult to know how to react in any appropriate fashion since presumably singing four letter words in the major and minor scales is not recommended for the TV-Y crew. I was helped out, taken shopping, given clothes, and perhaps really importantly, distracted so I couldn't dwell on it.

I'm safe and sound tonight back in Charleston. Things are moving along; I'm trying to release my car to the insurance company and get a lease agreement moving along. Good times.

Dec 29, 2011

Eulogy for Dexter

I realized I didn't post a picture of Dex in his prime of life, so here's one of his death. He's behind the mini cooper, who is also totaled.

He was a nice car. He delivered me to Maryland without murdering me and synced my ipod really well. He died in a blaze of glory that was dripped from my house, which was undergoing its own blaze of glory. RIP Dexter. Flights of angels, and the like.

Dec 28, 2011

A funny thing happened while I was in Houston...

My house burned down. And the car out front.

As ya do. As they say.

I'm not entirely sure what the proper response is. I'm trying for the dark humor. The "fire sale". The "blackened fish tacos". Everything I own is gone. My new car is gone. The roommate's dog, whom I love, is safe. No one is hurt. But there is decent coverage on all of Charleston's news outlets, that show my home, and everything I own, save the suitcases I have in Houston, up in flames. My neighbors talking about how hard it is on them, because the firefighters evacuated them before saving *their* homes. Not mine. There's only so much they can do. By the news report, I'm the "fifth person", after the Red Cross helped four, who is "out of town", as the news reporter says, "thank goodness". As do I.

I have family. I have friends. I have a general worthlessness to the things I owned. A Wii my mom got me. A regifted futon. An Ikea dresser I got in New York. A computer that was already on the fritz. A brand new car that was engulfed in the front. But I have friends, I have family. I have a job and a place to stay. I have a roommate's big sloppy dog that's not dead. I have... I don't know... a fresh start? It's not a fresh start. It's a charred start that hurts when I think of the emotional losses. The med school diploma. The pictures from Prague. The episodes of hell, Dexter, the show that named my car, who's dripping melted plastic in a parking garage downtown. My external hard drive. I had a flashing minute, before I left for Houston, where I thought "I should put that in my file drawer at the hospital" before I thought "nahhhh, what could happen". The blackmail photos of my roommate and my friends in New York. It's done.

I'm in Houston. I'm not sure what the response is. I'm not sure how I should feel about the arsonist speculation (which I don't really believe) and they claims to my insurance company. I'm moving in with someone I really like. But I feel odd; I feel disconnected. I feel like never going back to pick through the condemned wreckage to see if I can find the necklace I bought in Venezuela, the luck dragon my boyfriend and I got in Chinatown when I was hammered, that I used as a puppet to order tickets to a midnight showing of the Dark Crystal, the few bills of Costa Rican money, my checks that couldn't spell "Union Street" correctly.

Is stuff important? I don't know. I've moved so many times. I frequently joke that every time I move, I want to pile up everything I own and light it on fire, and now that job's been done for me. When I talked to the claims guy for my car, he says "Is your address still on Nunan Street?" and I say "Not anymore" because it's not. The CAT-AT in our living room, the life sized Anakin Skywalker that scared the shit out of the roommate. The fridge with the door that would never close. I'm moved with a suitcase to a nice apartment in West Ashley with a new, different dog and a new roommate and a new life in the same city.

I packed a bunch of my clothes to Houston because I had to check a bottle of port for Christmas. More than I would normally. Dress clothes. An electric blanket.

I don't have scrubs. Those stupid throwaway pieces of cloth the hospital provides us, but we have to return them to the machine to get them back and mine are burned.

But stay tuned for us on the news. We're top billing. They don't know our names or the dog's name, or if the cat I never liked is alive. But they know about the smoke that actually changed the city skyline for a while, the neighbors that were so horrified by our loss, the possibility of the Arsonist At Large, or if you're me, more probably, the Squatters That Were Cooking.

Can I just stay in Houston?

Dec 24, 2011

Another month of surg path down

Why are there so many Christmas trees around?

Oh right, the holidays... so today was the last day of work; I raced home, swinging by Charleston Beer Exchange to buy my roommate a "thank you for ferrying me to the airport at the break of day" six pack hand picked by a man with a moustache that said he was up to the job, then home to do the *absolute* worst packing job I've ever done in my life, and now, en route to bed as I wash my last shirt.

Warning to cousins: I may end up wearing bathing suit bottoms and a winter jacket. Not a good packing day for me.

This month has been an interesting one. As I've mentioned, I'm feeling more "getting the hang of it" in surg path. This is partially related to learning how all the systems work and what's supposed to go to what, which is a far greater contributor to competence than... you know... knowing what's under the microscope.

There's a certain logic that's emerging that seems absolutely obvious now most of the time but just wasn't when I started. Example...

My first month on, I had a uterus with potential endometrial cancer. I asked for help and was told to submit as much of the endometrium as possible, since obviously, that's where the cancer is.

So I proudly scraped every bit I could find off to make sure there was no spot unsampled. Bring on sign out... "Do you have any sections showing the depth of penetration into the myometrium?"


"The most important prognostic criterion?"

"Uh... I scraped it off."


(Puppy frown)

Fortunately, the beleaguered attending was able to salvage some unmutilated sample from the specimen, but not a proud day for me. Looking back, I have no idea what possessed me to think that would be a good idea. I wrote some of it down in my notebook so that I never go fully butt wild on a noob because I'm already realizing how much of an idiot I was a whole three months ago. By the time I'm in fourth year, it's going to be insane.

Part of my increasing, let's say "comfort", with my current lot in life is only now realizing that other people are going through *exactly* the same thing I went through.

Ishie, having mastered the art of "track down the screwed up slides" is charging through the halls between the resident on yesterday and the histo lab, is stopped by colleague who looks close to tears.

Colleague: "Um... do you know anything about... um... pancreas?"

Ishie: "Ah... my archnemesis. Not really. Sucks macro; sucks micro, gotta go".

Ishie sees colleague later, who is on hour 4 of read out or what I like to call "staring impotently into a scope until someone either helps you or you panic and then stop caring".

Ishie: "How'd it go?"

Colleague: "I hate pancreas."

Ishie peers in scope... "Breast, eh?"

Colleague: "I have four more... is it bad... I feel like I just don't care."

Ishie: "Diagnostic inertia."

Colleague: "This isn't cancer. What is that?"

Ishie: "I'd probably hedge my bets and call it sclerosing adenosis. It's probably wrong, but shows you were paying attention."

Female voice from dictaphone: "...Goodbye."

Colleague: "No!! You bitch!"


While grossing placentas, which is tedious.

Ishie: "Dammit."

Different colleague: "What?"

Ishie: "This umbilical cord inserts but then, it's membrane bound all the way to the edge, and I don't remember what that's called."

Different colleage: "Where's the actual insertion point?"

Ishie: "Central. What should I call it?"

Different colleague: "Central."


Other colleague: "This is case SP-76-7872, patient's name is Jane Doe. Preop diagnosis of missed abortion. Specimen A is received in formalin in a container labeled with the patient's name, medical record number, and... wait a minute" (presses rewind)

Dictaphone: "Please scan the bar code."

Other colleague scans bar code: "beep"

Other colleague: "GODS. This is case SP-76-7872, patient's name is Jane Doe." (presses rewind)

Dictaphone: "Please scan the bar code."

Other colleague: "I'm going to break this phone."

I have done every single one of these things. It makes me feel peaceful. It also makes me feel good to be the go to girl among first years for prostate. It's a weird source of pride but there you have it. I'm good at prostates. I looked at so many at Brooklyn Hospital that it just stuck, so now I can scan away on forty slides feeling downright zen despite getting twisted into indecisive convulsions at trying to phrase "This guy has a giant icky infected boil in his arm" into pathology speech.

But enough with that! No more surge path this month or this year, and I'm off to see my family! I haven't seen any of them since I took my step 2 CS and my uncle ironed my white coat for me while my aunt took me shopping and my cousins took me drinking. I'm full of awesome sauce for it.

Happy Holidays everyone!!! May your ovaries all stay manageable sizes!!!!

Dec 17, 2011

A Caribbean M.D. is Weird Enough for Me.

See what I did there?

If I had to use one word to sum up what medicine feels like, it would be "Imposter".

Things are weird. Not bad weird. Just weird weird. Sometimes good weird.

I'm not sure if I'm a hipster or a yuppie or just desperately trying to pretend to be one or the other. I scathingly referred to my new brew as "Nut Brown Budweiser", which seems to put me in the hipster category, but I spent the evening at an Aquarium party for who knows what while eating different select cheeses and staring at fish, which seems like the latter. I did that while wearing a seemingly ironic dead alligator purse, which seems hipstery, until it's known that I only did it because it's the ONLY purse I have that can double as an evening purse, and then we're just back at imposter.

My point being, when I think "I'm a doctor", I don't think this:

Hi, I'm a turtle. I have nothing to do with pathology

I'm not sure why this party was being thrown. It was supposed to be impressing something on someone, but I don't think that someone was us. So we drank Chardonnay and watched albino alligators and sea turtles and ate brie, and attempted to do the electric slide, while I fidgeted and adjusted the dress I borrowed from my roommate, pretended to be deliberately avant garde with my eBay dead alligator purse, and made that level of polite conversation you see in movies about social functions like this one. If this had been a movie, you would have seen me through a fisheye lens prattling at the protagonist about sales on purses at Kohl's because the media has taught me that this makes good conversation, and to be fair to them, it totally does.

While a bald eagle squawks in front of the whole purse/shoe conversation because... pathology?

I'm okay with it though. It keeps me in wine and free meals until Christmas.

We had a fancy pants party last week as well, though this one had a more discernible motive and involved our department, but still, everyone climbed into the Charleston finery, went out to a posh venue and sipped champagne and ate sushi and danced the macarena or whatever else uncoordinated white people such as myself do. Of course, then all the residents bailed and went to a dive bar (the hipster is strong with these ones, Obi Wan), but still.

If I were back in Blood Bank, this would be a more natural progression of "nice clothes with a white coat and reviewing charts and occasional (gasp) seeing patients, and feeling all real-doctory and stuff, but I'm not. I'm in surgical pathology again. I live in comfy oversized scrubs that I rank according to how much formalin-soaked uterus juice they have on them on any given day. I run place to place; my pager goes off constantly.

Weirdly still, I'm starting to learn the whole way of it. For visiting newbies, (hi!) this is a marked deviation from my previous coping methodology which was sobbing hysterically into an open specimen until someone helped me.

I'm at 70 hours this week for the first time. And I haven't cried once.

Yesterday, I grossed. I've been getting faster and more efficient at it, so worked through my sheets as quickly as was possible and got it all on my run. This grossing day included some particularly juicy ovaries and placentas that sprayed blood, formalin, and unspeakable evil all over the place. But then... I have one attending whom I really like a lot but I feel like I've been letting her down a bit lately. Mainly because she's been following up cases that are in my custody while I've been attempting to score at least five hours of sleep a night. This is the same attending that's an amazing neuropathologist and has been trying to teach her knowledge to us. It becomes apparent to her through a few lectures that not a single damn person in our residency program has read the damn chapter(me included!) and she's beginning to get pissed.

So we end up with bonus unknown slides. This is essentially the pop quiz of pathology and consists of looking at tissue under a microscope while said image is projected onto a big screen and you have to describe the tissue and get the diagnosis (or something approximating it) while your colleagues stare at you, and the nice ones try to cough answers. Tres stresful. So I want to go home last night but I'm like "I can't even fake neuro, so I'm going to look at these unknowns", and try to cheat by pulling the patient numbers, which are obscured, which just serves to make me study. Two hours later, I realize I've been punked into reading the chapter I was attempting to cheat to avoid reading.

Morning came. 7:30 I'm there for frozen sections. Get a little breakfast. Go to neuro unknown conference. First two neuro cases go... for the second, I'm called up to drive the microscope. I do. My pager goes off after I get as far as "Uhh..." and I'm off to the frozen room. OR 8 needs frozens because their surgeon doesn't understand what frozens are for. I freeze lymph nodes in that time period, because I enjoy destroying diagnostically important tissue that doesn't freeze well. I go back to conference. Five minutes passes, during which I proudly have all my late night-compiled notes in front of me so I can act all gangsta about knowing that the nastiness in that person's skull is from their gonads. Beep goes the pager. Back to the frozen room.

The frozen room is where surgeons bombard you with spare scraps of their patients and expect you, in 20 minutes, to tell them what's wrong. This leads to conflict.

Some surgeons just call you to harass you. Some send an entourage of residents and fellows to come down and troll for blood. If they sense your weakness, you get overwhelmed and apologize profusely for the delay. If you sense *their* weakness for violating your territory, you adopt killer attitude and throw them out.

This used to be prime Ishie-cry territory, but I went with it. Describe the specimen, print the slides, freeze the piece, make the slides, run it to the attending. Rinse and repeat.

I get a tumor bank. No problem. I'm inking stuff and cutting into necrotic horrible looking tumor while the PA cuts other frozens in the background. I got this. I'm smearing awfulness onto a petri dish and dumping a piece of something else in cytogenetics material and running each to its proper place. It's good.

The morning hell cycle ends and I run to my mailbox, which is full of "special stains". My pager goes off three more times because the stuff I need deboned is coming out. Slowly and inconsistently. I grab those. All the stuff I grossed the day before starts coming out.

My attendings from the previous week all want something. Do you have the mesh? The mandible?" The Ki-67? Do you have the new levels? What did you think?

Meanwhile, I'm like... I spent 14 hours in a plastic shirt chopping uterus. Unless what you're talking to me about relates to being in a plastic shirt cutting uterus, I'm less than useful to you.

But I get it. I gather my old cases, start dictating addendums, and start making house calls. "Dr. S. I have the two decal slides that show infiltrating ductal carcinoma and I dictated them but..." etc. Then it's multi-houred "Benign Reactive Lymphoid Hyperplasia" (tonsils) time. I get those out. Throw in some transected fallopian tubes. A positive for cancer biopsy. A Vulvar lesion, grade 3. I dictate it off and keep going. I find myself minus one endometrium, and I wind up elbow deep in uterine fragments, wondering if I should be more worried about there being uterus on my upper arm or the carcinogens said uterus has been sitting in. I turf some stuff; I read up on the immunostains. I chat with the histologist, who calls me doctor.

I get it. Or, I'm finally starting to get it. This whole cycle, and I'm okay with it, hard as it is.

But then I'm running home to change into a cocktail dress so I can look at a bald eagle while eating homemade mac and cheese and drinking wine. Weird.

Meanwhile, stuff heard in the grossing room:

"Dammit, it looks like someone slaughtered a goat at my station."

"Wow! That looks like a honeybaked ham! Jamie!! Doesn't that look like a honeybaked ham?" "That's disgusting."

"Yo, Anna, you happen to see my dead twins around?" "Ah, the Carson kids. They're downstairs."

(after cranking at the cryostat) "Marster! Dinner is prepared!"

"Check it out; it's Godzilla's ovary."

My attending: "More blue." "More blue?" "Don't use the timer. Use the Force."

"Wanna see my carotid body?"

"I'm comfortable enough with my masculinity to wear a pink shirt, but to let another man run his hands all over me? No way. Let me see that uterus."

"Oh my god, I absolutely LOVE Florence and the Machine. Her voice is ama... SHIT, this ovary just exploded on me.

"There's a frozen from OR5." "Tell him to go away. Tell him Tyler went away. Tyler not here. Tell him the gate's closed."

"Can I put my butt warts on your run?"

Dec 15, 2011

You want me to tell what to whom?

"I bivalved the uterus. The endometrium looks normal."

"All right, let me come see. Okay, you're calling the OR."

"... what?"

"Call them and tell them."

(Deep breath) "Okay." (picks up phone)

"Wait! What are you going to say?"

"Uhhh... I... this is pathology."

"Do you have a name?"


"Do you have a degree?"


"So use it! Women, we always do this. You're DOCTOR Sancho and you have his results. Now what are you going to say?"

"Um... this is Dr. Sancho from pathology. The... uterus..."

"I examined the corpus and..."

"The endometrium appears benign. There are no polyps or lesions visible."


(Picks up phone) "Hello! This is Dr. Sancho from pathology. I examined the uterine corpus and the endometrium appears benign."

"Oh! This is his nurse. I'll put you on with Dr. ScarySurgeon."

"Hello? This is Dr. ScarySurgeon. You're on speakerphone."



Accessioner: "Ooh, that's Dr. ScarySurgeon? Tell him to call ahead on his frozens. I can't, but you can."
Ishie: "I'm a first year. He'll beat me up and take my lunch money."
Accessioner: "You have lunch money?"
Ishie: Dammit.

Dec 2, 2011

The elusive monkey

But just when you thought I had a big long blog post prepared for you, I'm back on surgical pathology! Mwa ha ha ha ha. And still without a home computer. I'm looking at a hard drive wipe, but I'm also looking at a device so buggy that it won't avoid the fatal errors for the two days it would take to do a full back up onto my external. Le Sigh.

I'm also left with the quandary of having that Dr. Horrible link come up as one of the first things I see, because I could probably watch Slipping and Bad Horse on repeat for as long as it would take me to fix my home computer.

But instead I'll say, I went to Costa Rica! Woo hoo!! After fruitless years as an anthropology major with an advisor who was a big primatology guy, as well as two years in Grenada and a trip to the Philippines, I'm finally gonna see some frigging monkeys!

Dammit. It's like they know. We went to this one beach where I overheard a guide say to a group "You need to be careful about leaving belongings on the beach. The monkeys will open your bags and rummage through them."

Monkeys are actually a *problem* in this country. But for me? No monkeys.

However, as I was walking through a particularly scenic rainforest, this guy nearly fell on me:

They're not graceful animals.

They also kind of look like Chewbacca and an orangutan had a drunken, regret filled night in Las Vegas. And died the result green.

I heard a cracking noise above me, and something crashed down out of the trees. When I saw it was a sloth, I had a brief insane moment where I whipped my camera out and was like "I need to get this picture before it gets away". Then I took like 25 pictures because... sloth.

We also stayed in a place that looked like this:

And I did this:

So I'm thinking f- the monkeys.

Anyway, I'm late to bed but the short of it is:
Costa Rica= awesome
Blood bank rotation= awesome
Having a week of Xmas vacation over surge path= awesome
Having additional source of income= awesome
Getting to go to Houston for the holidays to see extended family for the first time in forever= awesome
Seeing mom in Maryland over Thanksgiving and learning fun-facts about the Amish= awesome
Being back in surge path= This time will be totally different! What's that ominous music?
Dad back in hospital for Thanksgiving= unawesome