Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New article about me: "From Patient to Doctor: Life Rolls On"

Thank you, Chelsea Toledo, for this great piece!  Very well written.


Note: this is same article (with just a few changes) and video that is in Georgia Health News, which you may have already read here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It's already been 3 years?!

My, my, the time has come.  It's been three years since the date of my accident.

A few weeks ago, I was a little uneasy.  Actually, the past year has been strange for me.  I sit here uncomfortably now, as if someone is watching me.

Three years.

Someone the other day was raining questions on me regarding my accident and disability.  That hasn't happened to me in a while.  I almost never mind talking about things, except when the person questioning me is significantly older and is asking uneasy questions—like "if there's any hope" and things like that.

Sometimes, when I am thinking back to a memory from years ago (e.g., visiting certain places), I catch myself thinking about it from the viewpoint of the wheelchair.  “How did I get around?” I wonder.  Then I quickly realize that when I did that thing or went to that place, I didn’t have any physical disabilities.  Then I try to picture those things from the viewpoint of standing/walking.  I find that increasingly difficult.

Anyone who knows me knows that I never really get truly sad, upset, annoyed, or angry over anything.  There is too must beauty and too much to be thankful for to let any of that get in the way of enjoying each and every moment.

But maybe that’s what it is.  Maybe that’s why I feel so uneasy.

I remember the first time I had a dream where I was in a wheelchair.  For the longest time, my dreams at night would be of various things, but I would always be fully able-bodied in them.  It’s only over this past year that I had a few dreams where things seemed to not be normal or that I was in a wheelchair.

A few other times, I have had dreams of me standing, walking, and doing different things and I woke up with a strange feeling of emptiness.  Perhaps this feeling is akin to an amputee who loses a limb, or a mother who loses a child in the womb.  These dreams were simple.  One dream was of me wearing boots and kicking down a door for some reason.  I woke up thinking about how I miss wearing boots.  I had bought brand new black Rockport boots right before my accident, wore them maybe once, and then just gave them to my brother after my accident.  I would just look goofy in them now, for I have no real use for boots.  Another dream was just of me doing handstands.  I used to love doing handstands whenever there was an open space in front of me.  It’s the little things.

As I've said in more recent posts, I’ve changed a lot over this past year.  I have come to really value time.  I know people say this, but do they really?  Every moment we spend not pleased with our current state of affairs is a moment wasted.  I have always felt like this to a certain extent, and that’s why I’ve always been thankful and have never let myself or others stay upset.  But I feel like this past year has taken everything to a new level.   Now I find peace in everything.  Even when troubles came into my life a few times, I simply accepted them, dealt with them and learned from them.

If something hits you, you take the hit and keep going.  Why waste any moment feeling negative when we can just as easily smile? 

Time has passed by quickly, perhaps a little too quickly.  I know I can never relive those exact memories I made before and that the future holds new memories to be made—but what kind of memories?  I was completely different for most of my life, and now three years have passed by like this.  I have made great strides these past three years but I am unsure of who I will become.

When I see someone running, I remember what it was like to have my legs pounding the pavement and my lungs gasping for air.  When I go to the gym, I remember what it feels like having every muscle in my legs, back, and neck tense up as I deadlift the weight off the floor.  When I go to a friend's home, I remember what it was like to run upstairs or downstairs to see them.  When I see photos of people at the beach, I remember playing in the water, jumping over the waves, and walking barefoot through the sand.

I don't want to forget these simple things, even if they are bittersweet.

I never thought I would have made it three years like this.  Three years of paralysis and two years of medical school have passed.  Sometimes it doesn't seem that long at all.  Other times it seems like it has been forever.  It sometimes feels like I have lived two lives:  one life has passed away, and another one has started.  Now as each valuable moment passes by, I find myself experiencing them as I bear these disabilities.

And I shall continue smiling and valuing these moments.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tubes and stuff

As someone on Facebook commented, the lion and I have the same hair.

Last week we learned a few different medical procedures in preparation for our third year in the hospitals while on medical rotations. As I learned about why and how to insert a nasogastric tube into a patient, a few memories came back and things that I had experienced in the past started to make sense.

I have been told my family and friends that immediately after my accident, I had a multitude of tubes attached to my body.  As I awoke but was still in a daze, I kept trying to pull the tubes out, so the nurses strapped my arms down and severely tightened the mask on my face.  The scars that the mask left were visible on my face for over a year.  One of my good friends said that I seemed very uncomfortable being strapped to a bed, so she told me that she would loosen them up as long as I didn’t try to remove my tubes or make it obvious that she had liberated me when the nurses were around.  Although I didn’t know what I was doing or how I agreed, I obeyed her guidelines after she loosened the straps for me.

After I was moved to the Shepherd Center, I finally regained conscious awareness of my surroundings.  Why were all these tubes in my mouth and nose?  I had no idea.  I remember the medical team took out a few of the tubes fairly early.  They removed the last tube after a few days.  I believe one of them was a nasogastric tube—a tube that is inserted through the nose and ends at the top of the stomach for feeding purposes.  Removing that was not a pleasant experience.

I can’t remember if it was before the tube was removed or after that I had tape on my nose.  I remember seeing it in the mirror after I regained consciousness and thinking that my nose had broken in the accident, too.  “It’s okay, I’ll just get plastic surgery,” I told my mom and my friends.  They had no idea what I was talking about.  I remember thinking I looked like a chicken.  I kept picturing a strange cartoon chicken with a white puffy nose.  It only recently occurred to me as I remembered that period that what I had mistaken for a “chicken nose” was probably just tape that was there to secure one of the tubes.

While we were learning these procedures last week, I also thought about how I wasn’t able to breathe properly during the initial weeks of regaining consciousness.  My punctured lungs as well as possible irritation due to the tubes made my voice raspy and I was only able to speak a couple of words at a time before I would have to take deep breaths to breathe properly.  “I sound like the Dark Knight,” I kept telling my friends, referring to Batman’s hoarse voice in The Dark Knight.  Later on, my friend told me that because I sometimes had to take breaths between each word, he thought I sounded like Stevie, the asthmatic boy from Malcolm in the Middle, instead.  I still tried to make all my visitors in the hospital feel welcome and talked to them as much as I could when they would come by because I appreciated their thoughtfulness.

After the tubes were taken out from my mouth and nose, the next things to be removed from my body were the staples from my neck.  The staples that had been put in to close off gaping lacerations in my lower head and neck pulled on my skin and hurt me whenever I slept.  I woke up every morning with blood on the pillow.  I asked my nurses when they would be taken out and they were surprised that I still had them in me.  This went on for about a week.  The morning the staples were to be removed, a nurse applied a local anesthetic that would take effect in one hour.  By the time the doctor got around to seeing me, it was already sometime in the mid to late afternoon.  The anesthetic had worn off.  I held my cousin’s hand tightly as I explicitly felt the doctor remove each staple.  For this reason, I became wary of anyone coming close to my neck and I got in the habit of cutting my own hair, which I still do.

I still had the neck brace and the chest brace that had to be removed.  They dug into my skin throughout the day and gave me a lot of pain, no matter if I was moving or sitting still.  But it would take another month and a half to two months before I was allowed to remove those.

I am not sure why I remembered these things all of a sudden.  It’s been a while since I thought about them.  But as I said in an earlier post, I think it’s good to not forget these in order to gain perspective.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New video + a thoughtful blog post

This morning, I told myself that I needed to write a post about how I haven't posted anything in a while and that the next couple of months may not produce many new posts.  We have our big medical board exam, the USMLE Step 1, this summer so I will be--or at least should be--busy preparing for that.

During the day, I received an extremely nice email with a few links. One of them was a new video with parts of the interview I did last month.  The other link was to the blog post by the creator of the video.  I was very touched by what she had to say in her own recent blog post, which you can read here.  Thank you, Chelsea, for the heartfelt words.

The video and a few others were screened today during a thank you lunch that my med school had with the Health & Medical Journalism program of Grady College of the University of Georgia.  This video can be seen here:

The previous video from fall 2010 can be seen here: