Hello 2014!!

December 31, 2013 § 1 Comment

It’s almost midnight in Budapest and the city is going crazy! At around 15, the noisemakers and party buses began. Then as soon as darkness fell around 17, the fireworks started. Since then, there have been constant – and I mean constant – fireworks going off in the park outside our apartment. Add to that screaming people, whistles, celebration honking, singing – you name it. It’s nice when it’s only for a little while, but after 5 or 6 hours, it’s not so nice… Skjalg and I both had to move into the office to study. It’s on the inside of the apartment, so the sound isn’t as bad. At least until some of our neighbors started sending off fireworks in the middle of the apartment courtyard. Hopefully it will tone down after midnight!

In about half an hour, we are going to head down to the river to watch the “real” fireworks. It will be nice to get out of the apartment and experience the city in all its celebratory glory. Then it’s back home to study!

Here’s to wishing all of you a big “Happy New Year”!!

Fireworks Skjalg NYE

Curious about Buda-B in 2013? Check out this cool infographic. We all know how much I love statistics 😉


Christmas past

December 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

Nearing the midpoint of cramming for my anatomy semi-final on the 7th and I think the last time I left the apartment was…Christmas. And sadly, no plans of leaving it any time soon! We had groceries delivered on Friday, so I prepped chicken, veggies, protein bars and protein balls to keep us going for a few days. The couple of hours it takes to prep everything feels miserable in the moment, but it is so worth it to have to ready later.

I was hoping that I would have time to write more of a detailed post about how we spent our Christmas, but considering how exhausted I am, this will have to do!

We took the three days after our physio exam off from studying – and it was amazing! It wasn’t really on purpose, we were just too tired to do anything else and felt like Christmas was a good enough excuse to rest a little. On Christmas eve day, Jannie came over and we watched movies all day on the couch. We took a break to head to the market and get food for a dinner party we were going to later that night. The original plan was that everyone would bring a dish, but with our poor planning, we weren’t left with many options. Every single shop in the neighborhood was closed, everything except…the Christmas market! So, we decided on a ham and cheese platter and plenty of wine. Everyone we met that day was so friendly and helpful that it really put me in the Christmas spirit. Once we got home, we found out that we didn’t need to bring our goodies to the dinner, so into the fridge it went!

Market Meatman SJMarket Skjalg

Christmas dinner was held by Victoria and Eline, two girls in our class. They did such an amazing job! The apartment was done up in full Christmas glamour and the girls were busy cooking a full Christmas meal in the kitchen. Being Norwegian, they prepared a traditional Christmas dinner: pinnekjøtt med kålrabistappe. Despite the Christmases we spent in Norway while I was growing up, this was my first time trying it. My thoughts: fantastic! I am so, so grateful that we were able to have a real Christmas experience in the midst of all this exam chaos. (Tusen, tusen takk Victoria og Eline!) By the way, I only managed one shot of the dinner before the first toast…and Skjalg decided his forearm should be in the picture too. Try to imagine it without 😉

Christmas dinner...and Skjalgs forearm Xmas dinner 2 Xmas dinner

And finally a group pic, courtesy of facebook:

Christmas dinner

Guest Post: Skjalg and the Roux-en Y Procedure

November 4, 2013 § 1 Comment

Hi everyone! It’s Skjalg!

Bianca asked me to write a post about an experience I had a couple of weeks ago. I thought “here’s my shot at glory and fame”, so here it goes. I apologize for the length. Apparently I had more to say than I thought.  🙂

Every week we have a class called Introduction to Clinical Medicine, which entails that we go to a different department of the hospital to see how they work and learn about a case or two. Since we had a very similar class last semester, it has begun to feel a little repetitive. Not because they don’t want to teach us interesting things, but sadly at our current level of knowledge, there are very few cases that are simple enough for us to grasp. However, the experience I am going to share with you was a little different.

It is no secret that I would like to become a surgeon after completing my medical degree, so I was excited when I realized that we would be visiting the Department of Surgery. I admit that I didn’t expect that I would get to see much, but nevertheless there was a glimmer of hope.

We split into our usual groups and a nurse led us around. The first half hour of our tour was much of the same.  “Here is how an empty operating room looks like”, “here is the monitor for the ECG readouts” or “here is the machine that does this and that”. We were then asked to change into surgeon gear. This was first time we got to put it all on. We usually get a white or green coat, but this was the whole shebang. We were then led into a room were they were doing what appeared to be an appendectomy. It was a very dark room and the doctor did everything by looking a monitor. We were shown how the anesthesiologist had her equipment set up and after about 5 min we were led out again. It was fun but not overwhelmingly exciting.

Across the hall there was another operation going on and the nurse went in to see if we could pop our heads in there as well. After a minute or so, she had gotten the OK that a couple of us could come in and look for a short while. Two of my classmates quickly jumped at the chance and I was a bit bummed that I hadn’t acted more quickly. After they came out, she said two more could go in for a quick look. This time I didn’t politely wait – I jumped at the chance and got it. So did Chiara and Toni from my class.

The room was brightly lit and there were three doctors working on a patient. To each side and behind the chief surgeon were a couple of surgery interns looking over his shoulder. At first our view was mostly obstructed, but we could see that the abdominal cavity was opened from above the cloth separating the patients head from the operating area. Then one of the interns standing on a box behind the chief surgeon asked if I would like to take her place. It was perfect! I now had a full view of what the surgeon was doing.

The abdominal cavity was fully opened, the stomach had been removed and he was in the progress of removing large parts of the intestines. I was in awe. The surgeon moved so confidently, much faster than I would have expected. He burned his way through the tissues (as to diminish bleeding) and sliced off the part of the intestine that needed to be removed in a couple of minutes.

It was amazing to see how skillfully he sutured the parts together and checked every detail while doing so. He managed his assistants’ delegations with hardly any words and everything seemed like it had been done a thousand times before. By now, Chiara was standing on the box beside me and Toni, the taller one of us, was peeking over his shoulder. We all stood there mesmerized as the surgeon kept working. By now 20 minutes had passed; the others had long since left to switch places with the other group. I knew that if we left it would be a very long time until we had this chance again, so I told my “partners in crime” that we could sneak in with the next group as they came to the end of their tour. And so, we stayed for another twenty minutes. The surgeon was now past the hardest part and as he continued suturing, he explained what had been done and what kind of techniques he had used. We stood there like three groupies hanging on his every word. The remainder of the time flew by and before we knew it, the next group was there. We snuck out of the room and mingled in with the rest, although with conspicuously grins on our faces.

The surgery we saw was called a Roux-en Y. This form of surgery is sometimes used in gastric bypass operations, but in this case, cancer had started in the patient’s stomach and spread to the spleen and parts of the intestines. I was surprised enough to learn that we can live without our stomach and even more surprised to learn that it presents hardly any problem. If anyone wants to know more about the type of surgery, here is a short video with animations of the surgery and a longer video with actual video feed from a similar laparoscopic procedure.



These autumn leaves

October 19, 2013 § 4 Comments

I’m back! Alive and well, considering. I’ve been meaning to post something indicating my state of “alive-ness” after my last slightly mysterious post, but these past 11 or so days have been quite demanding. Immediately after publishing my last post, I found I was in fact too sick to go to school that day. Instead, I headed back to bed and battled the torment of being too awake to sleep but too sick to do anything else. I had hoped Wednesday would be different, but it ended up being one of the worst days of my flu. That morning, I woke up with an extreme case of nausea that lasted into the afternoon. At around 14:30, the nausea evolved into vomiting, which I proceeded to do 7 times in a row. It was a horrible climax to my incapacitation and pushed me into a slight state of self-pity. Skjalg took the rest of the day off from school to come home to care for me, stopping on the way for soup and water. Things improved later that evening and, though exhausted, I was able to bring myself out of the apartment for the first time in 5 days to study with Jannie at a nearby café. My first day back at school was a bit rough – beginning with an 8 a.m. biochem lecture and ending with two physiology quizzes and a long physiology lab. I’m still feeling effects of my flu – even after more than a week – but things have greatly improved.

Since getting so sick, I’ve been trying to take it a little bit easier. I constantly remind myself that it is quality not quantity that matters – so an hour or two more of sleep is worth it if I work more effectively. As a girl in my group says “this is a marathon, not a sprint“.

It’s Saturday night in Budapest and cold fall air is seeping in through the cracks in our old windows and doors. Skjalg and I started the morning with an hour long walk around the neighborhood and breakfast at Starbucks (the one where I’m known as “Nina”). There was an event being held at the Basilica, so most of the street was closed off and the entire square was packed with folding chairs. We’ve been trying to figure out what the event was about, but have been unable to find anything online.

Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 16

After our walk, it was home to begin studying for the chaos that awaits us. These next 9 days will be the most challenging of the semester. Why? MountFujiOn Thursday, we will have our weekly physiology quizzes – the first at 14:00 and the second at 16:00. Then we will have our lab until 18:00 (and this week’s lab is the worst one we’ve had yet!). To close out the night, we will have our first biochemistry midterm at 19:00 – covering all of the material covered so far this semester. As if that’s not bad enough, we then have only 3 days until our next anatomy midterm, which covers the neuronal organization of the central nervous system. The only saving grace is that there are national holidays on Tuesday and Wednesday, so we won’t be having any classes. Still, this is going to be crazy!

I’m not quite sure how I want to do everything quite yet. I really want to refrain from prioritizing one over the other two, so I think I might try to balance my time between all three. There is no chance in passing the anatomy midterm if I leave studying to next weekend, so I don’t really have a choice. One thing that I am majorly thankful for in this moment is that I have kept up – even if only slightly – with biochem. I find I am less nervous because I know that I have been exposed to all the material at some point. I wouldn’t be able to be tested on it now, but I know there is something in there somewhere. Hopefully it turns out ok!

My plan for today’s studying was to start out with preparing for our physiology lab. Our lab this week is the biggest we’ve had so far and there are a whopping 24 questions we may be quizzed on during Thursday’s lab exam. The way is works is that we are required to read the lab and be prepared to answer 10-20 questions based on the lab material. Then, before we even do the lab, we have to complete a quiz, which will include a selection from the questions in the lab manual. Here is a taste of the questions for this week’s lab:

  • 1. Briefly describe the types of adrenergic receptors, and their signal pathways!
  • 4. Describe the NO pathway in the vascular wall!
  • 10. What is the purpose of creating a precontraction before studying a vasorelaxant effect? Which is the appropriate substance for this?
  • 23. Which of the following substances is capable of causing relaxation, if the endothelium is impaired? Ach, SNP, nifedipine? Why?

(Enjoy the use of punctuation? I still don’t like being yelled at by the school-issued manuals – even in the 3rd semester.) When I started, I had no idea what I was in for. Last week’s lab required maybe an hour of preparation – and that was enough to land me full points on my lab exam. Today, I spent nearly 6 hours reading through this week’s lab and answering the questions – and that’s still not enough to secure me a passing grade! I’m going to have to go through the questions again at least 2 more times. Unfortunate that we get landed with the most difficult lab on the same day that we have our biochem midterm. Luckily, Skjalg did the same lab with his group two weeks ago, so I’ve arranged a brain-picking session with him for tomorrow 😉

Skjalg and I went for another long walk before dinner. Budapest is so beautiful in the fall! I appreciate it even more now that Budapest is tied for the #2 spot on the Top 25 Cities of the World list, by this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards by CNN. I feel so lucky that we get to spend this chapter of our lives in such a city. This article has a few more photography shots of the city. Our apartment building even makes a cameo appearance in one of the photos!

Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 27

In other news, Skjalg and I celebrated our 4-year anniversary yesterday. I can’t believe how fast time has flown by! It is such an amazing experience to go through this chapter together and I appreciate him and our relationship more and more everyday 🙂

4yearcollageSkjalg and I are taking the rest of the night off to enjoy each other’s company and tackle a long overdue task of our’s: watching Lawrence of Arabia, Skjalg’s favorite movie. After 4 years, we’ve never gotten around to watching it – always too tired, to little time, etc. Tonight, we’re finally going to do it!

Here are some photos from the last week and a half, to catch you up on a little of what I’ve been up to since I last posted. And here’s my favorite fall song to listen to while you browse:

Plenty of action can be seen from our apartment. Some of the marathons pass right below.

Plenty of action can be seen from our apartment. Some of the marathons pass right below.

Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 05

Some welcome HONY wisdom

Nina strikes again! My alias at the local Starbucks. The same girl is working there everytime I go. She's never asked my name, I've just been Nina since day one :)

Nina strikes again! My alias at the local Starbucks. The same girl is working there everytime I go. She’s never asked my name, I’ve just been Nina since day one 🙂

Chocolate flight from last Friday's date night. Picked up some specialty chocolates from the local chocolatier. Sour apple, coconut marzipan, strawberry and chili, violet and a last one that I can't remember.

Chocolate flight from last Friday’s date night. Picked up some specialty chocolates from the local chocolatier. Sour apple, coconut marzipan, strawberry and chili, violet and a last one that I can’t remember.

Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 08

“Nina” spent last Saturday morning sitting outside at Starbucks, watching passing tourists and preparing for her biochemistry presentation 😉

First sign of fall on October 13th

First sign of fall on October 13th

Skjalg on one of our neighborhood walks

Skjalg on one of our neighborhood walks

The beautiful October 6th utca, named in honor of The 13 Martyrs of Arad, executed on the same day in 1849

The beautiful October 6th utca, named in honor of The 13 Martyrs of Arad, executed on the same day in 1849

On one of our walks, Skjalg and I stumbled upon an English bookshop. Now I have three paperback books to add to the 11 half-read books on my iPad ;)

On one of our walks, Skjalg and I stumbled across an English bookshop. The kind bookkeeper informed us that he can order any books we ever need – even ones that are out of print. I picked up three paperback books to add to the 11 half-read books on my iPad 😉

Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 13

Fall colors spotted after anatomy class

An extremely inspiring and inspirational HONY post

An extremely inspiring and inspirational HONY post

Sushi dinner for our anniversary celebration. We enjoyed a quiet night in with some shows and sushi :)

Sushi dinner for our anniversary celebration. We enjoyed a quiet night in with some shows and sushi 🙂

Lastly, some shots from today’s walks

Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 18 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 19 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 20 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 21 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 22 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 23 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 24 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 25 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 26 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 27 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 28 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 29 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 30 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 31 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 32 Bildedryss - Oct 2013 - 33

Ready to get back in the game?

October 8, 2013 § 2 Comments

Four days, 60 hours of sleep, and some bottles of cold/flu medication later, I am more or less back on my feet. I’ve allowed myself to sleep in today (“sleep in” being until only 8:15) and am missing Hungarian. It feels horrible missing any classes at all, but this is not something I can drag with me. I have no idea what I caught, but think it was a common cold or flu coupled with exhaustion. I have never in my life slept so much in such a short amount of time. It’s honestly pretty surreal to think about. My only symptoms now are a headache, stuffy nose and heavy “cold-breathing” (you know when you are sick and breathing feels heavier? that). I’m hoping that, with some nose spray and ibuprofen, I will be able to make it through the day.

My first class of the day will be biochem lecture at 12:30. Then I will have 4 or so hours to study before our physio lecture from 17:20-19:05. 7 hours is a long enough day to spend at school on my first day back, so missing Hungarian to save myself from an 11 hour day is worth it.

Yesterday was the worst day for me because I was starting to feel better and have more energy, but was still too exhausted/sick to do anything. That left me bed-ridden, yet unable to sleep – torture! Skjalg ordered me over the phone to relax and watch movies, but after already missing 3 days of studying, I was too anxious to enjoy my time of “forced relaxation” (as my mom likes to call it).

In the afternoon, when I was feeling particularly bad for myself, Jannie called and said she was coming over with coffee and muffins. She stayed for a couple of hours, which was perfect to get me out of my funk. After she left, I had enough energy to sit and “study” for a little while. I say “study” because it was more of me looking at the paper and reminding myself that this is what I need to do when I get healthy. It might not have been the most effective use of my time, but lowered my anxiety a bit.

My blind-siding cold could not have come at a better time. Both Jannie and Skjalg have reassured me that no one they have talked to did anything this weekend. After a heavy week of both physio and anatomy exams, I think everyone was pretty much left for dead by the time the weekend came. First year was hard, but this is twice that – if not more. People walk around like zombies and no one seems to have any true grasp of the material we are covering.

Physio comes in first on the priority list for most people (which is natural since we have weekly quizzes) and anatomy takes a close second. Though, since the topics for this next anatomy midterm are quite obscure and really unlike anything we’ve studied before, I won’t be surprised if people start to draw away from anatomy more and more. Our first midterm was general macroscopic gross anatomy of the brain – surface features (what are all the bumps and grooves called) and internal structures (what’s that artery/dark spot/white band etc). Our next topic is “Neuronal Organization of the Central Nervous System”, which is pretty much how the neurons in our spinal cord and brain are organized and connected. We get to look at pictures like this all day:

As for the neglected child, biochem, I’m not sure much anyone is spending time on it. I’ve overheard people asking each other if they have studied anything for it and many saying that they haven’t even opened a biochem book yet this semester. It makes sense since it is definitely the least demanding of all our classes. Plus, our biochem professor is so relaxed that it makes it almost a given that it falls by the wayside.  The attendance at the lectures says it all. This was last Thursday’s lecture. I didn’t count, but there couldn’t have been more than 20 people (out of 220 registered for the subject).

Uh oh, not feeling as good as I thought I was…might be time for bed again.

Sleep Debt Collector

October 6, 2013 § 2 Comments

While following the news of the US’ approaching debt ceiling, I didn’t consider that my own debt ceiling was right in front of me. I’ve been struggling with sleep for the past 2 weeks, usually clocking in 5-6 each night – even on the weekends. It’s not that I don’t want to sleep, it’s just that I can’t get myself to stay in bed, no matter how tired I am.

I noticed that I was approaching a more dangerous level of exhaustion on Wednesday night, when I wrote my last post, and put aside studying for our weekly physiology exams to sleep. On Thursday, while at the library at school, I noticed that my throat was getting itchy. By the end of the day, after our two weekly exams, my whole throat felt swollen and it hurt whenever I swallowed. It’s pretty common for me to get sick immediately after a stressful day/event. I think I push myself so hard beforehand, that when I finally relax, whatever cold/virus I’ve caught takes over.

Even after sleeping 9 hours Thursday night, Friday morning found me completely demolished. I was feeling dizzy and foggy headed, with constant pain around my eyes and in my throat, and even still, I pushed myself to go to biochemistry lab. I sat through our teacher’s introduction to gene therapy, followed by a group mate’s presentation on the “suicide gene” technique for cancer therapy. Then, during the break, I admitted to myself that I could stay anymore and asked my teacher for permission to leave early.

Since then? I’ve been sleeping against my will (or so it feels). As soon as I got home at 13:00 on Friday afternoon, I slept for 3 hours. Then I slept 14 hours during the night, followed by a 3 hour nap and then a 2 hour nap, and finally slept another 12 hours last night. For the first 26 hours of the weekend, I didn’t even get out of bed except to use the restroom.

I’m still in disbelief that I’ve slept 34 hours in the same time period that I usually would have slept 14. The worst part is that I still don’t feel better. I’m at least well enough to get out of bed for a short while, but other than that, all I can do is sleep (which is not like me at all!). I’m having a hard time because there is so much I had planned to do this weekend. Skjalg keeps reassuring me that out of all the weekends, this is one of the best ones to take off. I’m still not entirely convinced, but I don’t have much of a choice.

Alright, been up for half an hour now…that means back to bed for me 😦

Studying doesn’t get better than this

September 28, 2013 § 1 Comment

It’s a beautiful day and I’m in the perfect mood – good thing since I need to be on my A-game this weekend. I’ve been sitting in the sun for almost two hours, there is a cool breeze flowing through the apartment, and the park is bustling with Saturday family fun – there is even a sort of petting zoo! With Andrea Bocelli playing on my spotify, I can’t imagine a better study set-up 🙂

Study spot

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