Heart Midterm: Check!

February 27, 2013 § 4 Comments

The first midterm of the second semester lies in our fresh tracks and I am still buzzing from adrenaline, lack of sleep and too much caffeine. I had planned on getting a good night’s sleep before this one, but I ended up staying up until 2:30 a.m. practicing drawings and flipping through flashcards about the development. Skjalg stayed up with me for most of the night and headed to bed an hour or so before me. Until then, we quizzed each other and practiced presenting the drawings on the giant whiteboard Skjalg got from his group for his birthday in December.



For the first part of my midterm, I was asked to draw the development of the interatrial septum, describe its function in the fetal stage and then what happens to it after the baby is born. I was asked questions about the mechanisms behind its closure (first breath – building pressure in the lungs – higher pressure in systemic circulation).  I was really, really happy that I was asked this drawing. It was a drawing that I understood well enough to draw in different ways/from different angles and would therefore be in a much better position to answer any questions they had. In my first anatomy midterm last semester, I was asked to draw the facial canal and he didn’t like the way I was drawing it, so I had to redraw it using a three-dimensional diagram that he sketched on the board. Its something that’s easy enough to do when you understand it, but horribly unnerving when you don’t.


After my drawing was approved, I moved on to the heart specimens. At this point, I switched from being examined by the TA (a third year student) to the head examiner. The examiner has a reputation for being really tough, but fair, so I was more or less neutral in my preconception of him. Using several different specimens (two loose hearts, two cross-sections and one specimen containing the entire organ system) I was asked to identify the following structures:

  • ascending aorta
  • coronary sulcus
  • right coronary artery
  • terminal sulcus
  • right atrium
  • right auricle
  • pectinate muscles
  • approximate location of the SA node and the landmark structures
  • crista terminalis
  • coronary sinus – including it’s development and which veins empty into it
  • anterior interventricular artery
  • great cardiac vein
  • diagonal branch of the anterior interventricular artery
  • identify a cross section as the fibrous ring of the heart
  • left and right fibrous trigones
  • ostium of the aorta
  • posterior, left and right cusps of the semilunar valve of the aorta
  • pulmonary trunk
  • anterior, left and right cusps of the semilunar valve of the pulmonary trunk
  • hiatus for the bundle of His
  • conus tendon

That’s all I can remember for now…All in all, my exam took – what felt like – less than 4 or 5 minutes. The most time-consuming portion was the drawing, though that wasn’t as bad because I asked if I could explain it as I drew it. When I was done, it was like I had no memory of the last 12 hours. There was so much stress leading up to that point and it was over in just a few minutes.

I was the last person to be examined, so I was left in the room with the examiners and one other group mate while everyone else was excused. Being the last person is possibly the most stressful (since you are sitting there for an hour watching everyone), but this time it was really nice. There is a lot less pressure when you don’t have your whole group witnessing your exam. I ended up with a 4/5 – so I am one satisfied girl. The exam was much easier than I anticipated, so the only thing I am a little bummed about is that I could have passed without staying up all night last night.

The next one up is biochemistry on Tuesday. I have been staying on top of my topic list for that class, but am behind on the structures – a total of 64 that we need to be able to duplicate on the exam. Our Medical Professionalism lecture today was cancelled, so we gained 2 hours. Time might be more precious than gold to medical students.

We all have our different “midterm day” rituals. Some went out for beer and cheesecake, others straight to the bar, some home to relax for the rest of the day and others either home to study or prepare for classes they have later today. While I would love to just check out and watch movies and sleep, I am going to force myself to be productive and maybe head to bed early.

I’ve been compiling a little list of tasks I need want to have completed by the end of the day. A little overambitious, but I guess that’s my vice. None of them really have to be done by tomorrow, but I know that getting them done today will make the coming days much easier to handle. If I learned anything from last semester, its that I need to keep a strong pace during the semester and not let anything fall by the wayside.


Now, for my favorite post-exam ritual: closing all the tabs, windows, files, etc that I no longer need open. Skjalg says I am a tab-hoarder (because I never close my tabs when I am studying).


At the moment…

February 25, 2013 § 1 Comment

We’re still alive! Just buried under a mountain of information, trying to find a way through. Our first anatomy midterm is in 2 days and the more we study, the less we feel we know….

This is the summarized topic list for our midterm:

  • Cardiovascular System
    • Morphology of the heart
    • Development of the heart
    • Vessels and nerves of the heart
    • Pericardium
    • Development of arteries and veins
    • Fetal circulation

The worst part about this midterm is that every one of our teachers and teaching assistants keeps telling us how easy it is going to be. We’ll see about that…

A view of me:

What I am listening to

How I feel

What I’ve been looking at for the past 15 hours:

Study spread

During my breaks:

Feeling good about: (applying for positions for nursing rotations this summer)

Screen Shot 2013-02-24 at 17.03.05

Must-see TED talks

February 18, 2013 § 5 Comments

Just a quick pop-in, both to share and bookmark these videos for myself. Skjalg and I are both obsessed with TED talks – if you don’t know about ted.com, prepare to be enlightened!

While I was getting ready for school this morning, I endulged in the following talks. I would love to take the time to explain why these were so interesting to me, but I’ll just have to let their mere presence on my blog speak for itself. The world is such a fantastically amazing place!

Alright, while you watch those, I’m off to tackle the rest of these bad boys: my biochem study plan topics for this week. Charlotte and Rina (friends from my group) and I have made a pact to send each other completed topic lists for the upcoming week every Sunday. As it is Monday, I am already behind. Can’t wait to meet my bed on the other side!

Week 3 Biochem Topics

8. Myoglobin. Structural features of the globin chain. Formula of heme, oxidation state of iron. Function of proximal and distal histidine.

10. Effect of altered amino acid sequence on protein function. Normal human hemoglobin chains, comparison of fetal form to adult forms. Abnormal human hemoglobins: neutral and harmful mutation. HgM. HbS and the sickle cell anemia.

9. Hemoglobin as an allosteric protein. Oxygen saturation curves for myoglobin and hemoglobin: a comparison. Function of BPG. The Bohr-effect and its molecular mechanism. Conformational changes during oxygenation.

11. pH and temperature dependence of enzyme activity. Effect of charged groups in the active center on the pH profiles of enzymes. Definition of enzyme activity, specific enzyme activity and turnover number. Clinical importance of enzyme assays (nonfunctional plasma enzymes).

12. Effect of the enzyme on the equilibrium and on the activation energy. Transition states. The active center of the enzymes (lock and key model, induced fit model). Acid/base and covalent catalysis.

41. Compounds of B-vitamin complex, Vitamin C and their biological roles. Thiamine, riboflavine, pyridoxine, cobalamine and their coenzyme derivatives.

42. Vitamins belonging to nucleotides (CoA, NAD(P), FAD). Their role as coenzymes in the hydrogen or acyl group transfer. Other water soluble vitamins (folic acid, biotin). Their structure and function as coenzymes.

“Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.”

February 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

I wish I had the same feeling about Sunday as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. For me it is more of a home run chance to catch up on any tasks remaining from the week. It is the last opportunity to press forward before more information is piled on to our already burdened shoulders. My Sunday is more a temporary plastic binding of an unorganized mass of rough drafts than a golden clasp on an ordered volume.

I slept in this morning, something that I regret today but will appreciate later this week. The first thing I did was make a list of things I want to do vs. things I need to do today. For example, I need to finish my physics lab report and pre-lab for tomorrow’s lab period, but I want to study more about the heart. My mistake last Sunday was spending too much time on wants and leaving the needs until late at night, when I was forced to do them.

It’s a cold day and the gloomy lighting and calm music tracks of my current 8tracks playlist are making me quite sentimental. It is so easy to get caught up in the now, to define the hours and days by a series of tasks. Sometimes a whole week goes by and I realize that I haven’t done anything pertaining to my life outside of school. It’s so easy to forget that you aren’t just “med student #213”.

I miss my family and am so thankful that modern technology allows for such facilitated methods of communication. We were lucky enough to coordinate a Skype call when Christian was visiting last weekend (sorry about the blurry quality, I am an unsuccessful picture-sneaker).

Family Skype

If all goes well, we will make our way over for a visit to the states at the end of the summer. It will be so nice to just be with family. It is very often the simplicity of presence that satisfies most 🙂

Back to my task list I go!

Pig Hearts and Valentine’s Day

February 17, 2013 § 1 Comment

Hello from the comforts of my bed! It is almost midnight on Saturday night and I am settling in after a long day of studying the embryological development of the heart (which is much less exciting than it sounds). I’m not as far as I would like to be in my weekend study plan, but am more or less satisfied with what I have done. Skjalg has a hand in that. There have been so many times that I have come to him in a state of defeat and moaned about how that past 5 or so hours I spent studying were a waste of time. He always finds some way to console me and convince me that nothing was in vain. He once told me something that I find I repeat to myself quite often: “if you have learned at least one thing that you didn’t know before, then it was worth it”.

Our first midterm in a little over a week away. Once that one is over, it will just be midterm after midterm after midterm until the end of the semester. On Wednesday my friend and groupmate, Jannie, and I went to the Central Market to pick up pig hearts to dissect at home. While pig hearts aren’t exactly the same as human hearts, they are very, very similar – and we need all the practice we can get! I wish there were more opportunities to spend time with the specimens at school. They open up consultations before midterms and exams, but it is almost impossible to get anywhere near the specimens. There are 4 small rooms for all the 1st years – about 600 students. The odds are not in your favor there…

Pig hearts for sale

Pig hearts for sale

There was only one butcher selling hearts (we went to at least 5 before finding him). When we told him we wanted to buy pig hearts, he smiled and said "Full hearts? Medical students?". It must be a good business for him - we bought 4 then and there and our friend Suvi ordered 10 to pick up on Friday (with the arteries and veins intact).

There was only one butcher selling hearts (we went to at least 5 before finding him). When we told him we wanted to buy pig hearts, he smiled and said “Full hearts? Medical students?”. It must be a good business for him – we bought 4 then and there and our friend Suvi ordered 10 to pick up on Friday (with the arteries and veins intact). 

It's not every day you hold a bag of hearts in your hands...

It’s not every day you hold a bag of hearts in your hands…


Before we started dissecting the hearts, we played a little dress up with our doctor gear. Skjalg makes such a handsome surgeon ;)

Before we started dissecting the hearts, we played a little dress up with our doctor gear. Skjalg makes such a handsome surgeon 😉


Skjalg getting started

Skjalg getting started


Trying to orient the heart, which was really hard to do with all the vessels cut off!

Trying to orient the heart, which was really hard to do with all the vessels cut off!


Necessary precautions - and they worked like a charm! No time was wasted taking the gloves off and on to search for heart structure info.

Necessary precautions – and they worked like a charm! No time was wasted taking the gloves off and on to search for heart structure info.


Grossed out by raw pig hearts? Jannie wasn't...cracker in one hand and pig heart in the other - snack-time, med student style!

Grossed out by raw pig hearts? Jannie wasn’t…cracker in one hand and pig heart in the other – snack-time, med student style!

The next day was Valentine’s day and Skjalg and I hadn’t planned to do anything special. We’re finding out that, as med students, special occasions and holidays are always going to be lower on the priority list than school and studying. After our biochemistry lecture, I headed off to first aid with my group while he headed home. It was wet and overcast and we got lost on the way to the building where our class was to be held. There are only 6 of us taking it, since everyone else is exempt. It’s an interesting class, but frustrating because it takes almost 40 minutes to get there from the main building.

By the time I got home, I was pretty miserable. I was feeling the weight of the week on my shoulders and trudging around in the rain for an hour was not the most ideal way to spend the afternoon. Skjalg met me at the door and took off my coat. He acted totally normal as he led me to the bedroom. When I opened the door, I was completely transported. The room was glowing with candles in every corner and a stash of Valentine’s goodies were carefully placed on the bed: a card from Skjalg, red roses, chocolates, champagne with gold flakes and sushi.

For the first time since since school started, we took time off. The rest of the afternoon, evening and night were spent picnicking in bed, while drinking champagne, chatting about our lives together and watching Monday Mornings and Patch Adams.

Valentine'sSurprise Champagnewithgold BedPicnic BandSValentines#4

Safe and “Sound”

February 11, 2013 § 3 Comments

I’ll warn you now that this post really has nothing to do with the common saying I chose as its title. I’m sitting and watching a video on sound in preparation for my biophysics lecture tomorrow and just wanted to give “sound” a little shout out. At the moment, I am covering a section on “piezoelectricity – piezoelectric and inverse piezoelectric effect, electrostriction, and magnetostriction”. Hence, my being here.

It’s been almost a week since my last post. I don’t have a set “blog” day, but I try to post a couple times a week. I just came across a cache of photos spanning the past three years of my life so I am currently very thankful for documented memories – and this blog is a big one! I have a half written post from last week that I will post soon enough. Hopefully you won’t mind the backdate.

Here is one of my favorite photos of Skjalg and I, from when he took me up to his hometown in Northern Norway for my birthday. He and I had been dating for only a couple months and I had just turned 22.


Otherwise things here are going well. Skjalg and I are studying non-stop, trying to stay ahead of the rush of information. Christian came up to visit for the weekend and joined us for a two-day study marathon. I feel so lucky that we are only a train ride away from each other. It is really interesting to hear about the differences between the schools and compare our materials (C is at University of Pécs). I’d like to say that we did something exciting this weekend, but it was literally just studying from when we woke up until we went to bed. There were of course some breaks to catch up or work on some inside jokes.

C studying

Spring has been pushed back quite a bit and the city has been blanketed with a fresh coat of snow. It really is beautiful when everything is covered with fresh, white powder, especially when compared to the brown, grey mess that’s left behind in the days following.

Snow school

Alright, break time is over! Back to piezoelectricity I go…

“It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined.”―Henry James

February 5, 2013 § 2 Comments

It’s the end of our second day, the craziest of the week. One Hungarian language class, three 1.5 hour lectures (medical sociology, medical biophysics, and medical biochemistry) and one 3-hour seminar on the biochemistry of carbohydrates have left my brain a pile of mush and my writing hand a mangled mess. In keeping with my plan to stay ahead of all my classes, I stayed up until 2 a.m. last night reading about amino acids – so I was beyond tired!

Our seminar on carbohydrates was good for the first 45 min and after that I got totally lost. It could have been because of lack of sleep, or that it was the end of the day, but most likely because I had never heard about 70% of the words she was using. In prepping for the seminar, I had only had time to review a summary in the lab manual and flip through an old lecture. If I had had time to review it fully beforehand, I think it would have been a much different experience. The chapter on carbohydrates in my textbook is 45 pages, so I have quite a lot of reading to make up (and it’s not like those pages are easy to read and process).

As for my lectures on signal processing for physics and amino acids for chemistry, I was happy to find that my reviewing of the topics before the lecture really paid off. Instead of scrambling to note down terms I was hearing for the first time, I was able to process what I had already learned from a different perspective and note down anything not mentioned in the book. It felt like the knowledge was undergoing a sort of “functionality” upgrade, if that makes sense. Going through it on my own gave me a basic understanding and attending the lecture made the information more accessible.

Rina, Charlotte and I had discussed maybe grabbing a bite to eat after the biochemistry seminar. As I was feeling too tired to do anything other than go home afterwards, they headed on as I waited for Skjalg to get out of his lab. After a full day on our butts, we decided to walk home and let our bodies loosen up a little bit. It’s still quite brisk in Budapest and there are some days with snowfall, but I can feel that spring is around the corner.

Tonight is going to be an early night, at least compared to last night. I’m going to review some heart anatomy for tomorrows dissection and lecture, and then hit the hay.

Oh! Before I forget: Skjalg entered one of my photos from the Christmas market in Budapest in a contest by ANSA (Associated Norwegian Students Abroad). Students spending the holidays abroad were asked to submit a photo that described “their Christmas” for a chance to win a gift card worth 5000 nok (about $915) with Kilroy.

ANSA Julebilde konkuranse

Celebrating Christmas abroad? Then you could win a travel gift card from Kilroy worth 5000 nok! Join in ANSA’s contest for the best “Christmas pictures from abroad”. Send us your best picture of Christmas from wherever you are in the world – before January 1st, 2013.
Happy holidays!

Then, today, Skjalg got this email:

Hi Skjalg!We apologize for our delayed reply. Congratulations, your picture reached the top of the Christmas picture contest we had on facebook.Please send me your address so that we can send you your prize.Have a nice day!

Hi Skjalg! We apologize for our delayed reply. Congratulations, your picture reached the top of the Christmas picture contest we had on facebook. Please send me your address so that we can send you your prize. Have a nice day!

I can’t believe it won! We took it as a reward for our hard work 😉 It goes well with the quote I chose for the title of this blog post. I chose it not as a motivation mantra but rather an acknowledgment that I feel, in this moment, that I am living the life I’ve imagined. Here’s the winning shot:

Mulled Wine

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