March 2, 2018 § 5 Comments
Today marks nine years since I moved to Norway. Every year on this day, I take the time to reflect on everything that has happened. On who I was then. On the challenges experienced. On the memories created. And finally, on who I have become. This time nine years ago, a man seated next to me on the plane asked me where I was going and how long I would be there. “Norway. And, I have no idea.”, I’d replied. I remember getting lost in Heathrow during my connection. I remember feeling the most alone I’d ever felt in my life. As the plane passed through the clouds blanketing Oslo, it hit me. There was snow – everywhere – and I hadn’t seen snow in almost a decade. From that point, from that shattering realization that home was no longer a familiar concept, everything changed. I am no longer that clueless, hopeful girl with a one-way ticket.
It’s been quite a while since I wrote. It’s not for lack of caring – or lack of reflection or content – but rather lack of time. The weeks following USMLE Step 1 were extremely tough for me, as can be gathered from my previous post. I was exhausted and felt completely defeated. I set my focus on my trip to the states and any motivation I was able to muster up was funneled into preparing for my final exam in internal medicine (one of the biggest exams of our final year).
On December 13th, on my way home from the gym, I got THE email I’d been waiting for since the moment I’d selected “submit”. At that point, I had absolutely no idea how I was going to react. So, I continued home, where I started cleaning and organizing the apartment. After half an hour or so, Amir called me. It turned out he’d been waiting in my apartment building for the past twenty minutes. The results are released on the Wednesday three weeks after your exam at around 15:00. I’d initially wanted to be alone when I opened the results, but I invited him in and tried distracting myself with cleaning and meaningless conversation. He finally convinced me to stop avoiding it. If you ask him, he’ll tell you that the moment the result loaded on the screen, the look on my face told him I’d failed.
“Oh my god…. I passed.” Pure shock ran through my body.
Allowing him to be there while I got the result was the best decision I could have made. I had been so sure I’d failed, that I genuinely didn’t know how to respond. Having your best friend there in such a moment, celebrating you with such pure excitement, is priceless. It dragged me out of my state of shock and allowed me to start feeling the relief and happiness that one should feel after such an accomplishment.
After that moment, a certain confidence began to set in. Pushing myself through those months of studying, the countless hours spent going through questions and memorizing pathways and tables, had altered my brain. It took all the unfiled knowledge I had packed away in my mind after five years of medical school and put it all into place. It taught me how to think like a doctor. The first time I realized this was on a night shift in internal medicine. As we were running up the stairs to see a patient who had just been admitted to the endocrinology department, my doctor said, “Patient presenting with severe dyspnea and hyperkalemia. How do you treat hyperkalemia? Think about it and tell me when we get there.” Initially, I felt panic. I told myself I didn’t know and began to worry that I would look stupid. But then, I stopped myself. I pushed away the immediate block I’d put up, took a deep breath, and began to think it through. By the time we got there, I was ready.
T: Good. Another?
B: Mmmm, diuretic?
T: Which one?
B: Loop. Furosemide?
T: Good. And a third? (She gave me the hint that it was an ion)
T: Yes. Good.
Had I learned this in pharmacology? Yes. Had I been tested on it in my endocrinology exam? Yes. Was it knowledge easily accessed as a result of studying for school exams? No. Was it knowledge easily accessed as a result of studying for Step 1? Absolutely. Preparing for that exam has made all the difference. It took my mindset from that of a medical student to that of a clinician.
We left for Minneapolis the day after our final exam in internal medicine. What followed was three blissful weeks with my amazing family. I allowed myself a break from everything. After the year I’d had, I wanted to check out and live completely in the moment. I was going to need a rested body and healthy state of mind to tackle what lay ahead.
Sitting at the airport in Amsterdam on our way back to Budapest, Amir asked me how I felt about coming back. At that moment, it felt like I was heading into hell. While studying for Step 1, I’d pushed off everything I possibly could. Coming back meant having to finally deal with everything. My thesis (which I hadn’t started), applying for internships and summer jobs, starting the study process for Step 2 – all on top of my rotations, exams, and teaching.
It’s been a little over a month and a half and now I’m standing at the top of the mountain, looking down at everything I’ve accomplished and all the possible futures that lie ahead. My thesis is finished and my defense is scheduled for next Friday. I’ve submitted applications to the U.K. and Norway. I’ve registered for Step 2. The things that at one time felt so impossible are now just ticked boxes on a checklist.
So, what do I have ahead? Interviews. Step 2. Rotations and rotation exams. Boards.
After that? We’ll just have to wait and see.
June 20, 2017 § 4 Comments
So much has happened in the past two months that I hardly even know how to write this post. It makes me sad to think that there are memories that are lost or that will fade because I didn’t have the time to write them down here. This blog has documented almost every step of this journey – from applying to medical school to now. Though this year has a bit less documented than the others, I plan to continue it until the end.
The weeks after we returned from our trip to Ukraine were a complete whirlwind. I honestly can’t even organize my mind enough to put those weeks into words, so I think my only option is to describe these past months in photos.
Jannie’s 30th Birthday!
Huge day – LAST LECTURE EVER!!
Weekend of hell! I had 6 exams the following week and had already been cramming for weeks up until this point.
DONE WITH MY LAST EXAM PERIOD EVER! Still can’t believe I survived 10 exams in 2 weeks.
Dedicated Step 1 studying time – here we go!
What happened after all this? Well, a lot. After 8 years together, Skjalg and I split up. We love each other very, very much and will continue to be good friends. As he is off to Stavanger to complete his 6th year (and I am staying here), I’ve moved into a new studio apartment. The past two weeks have been a bit heavy, but now that the moving is complete and I am finally in my own space, I’m really happy. I whittled down all my belongings to the essentials, donated 3/4 of my clothes, gave away tons of my notes to one of my students. I tried to take only what I really needed. It is so utterly liberating to not be tied down by tons of things. With the recent changes in my life, my future is now a blank slate. I have no idea where I will end up after medical school, but I’m really excited for the year that lies ahead, for the challenges that await.
Here is my new place before I moved in:
And here it is “Biancified”:
Alright, back to studying I go!
July 28, 2013 § 3 Comments
Turquoise waters. Sunshine. Endless days. Family. Calm.
It’s a quiet Sunday morning and I am laying in bed watching the pilot for the show The 4400 while Skjalg is up mowing his grandparents lawn. We arrived back from Halsa – where Skjalg’s family’s cabin is – on Friday night. Since Kaja had returned to Bodø two nights earlier, we took the bus – which lasted for about 3.5 hours.
The original plan was that Kaja would join everyone in Halsa for a day trip, either on Tuesday or Wednesday. That soon changed to include Skjalg and I and an overnight stay. We thought it would be too hectic with 12 people in one house, but it worked out perfectly. Everyone got their space when they needed it and there was plenty to do to keep ourselves busy. We had planned on leaving Wednesday night, to make it back for Kaja’s return flight to Oslo on Thursday, but decided to stay for an extra two days.
On Wednesday the entire family took a trip out to Grønnøya (Green Island). It is about 20 minutes away from the cabin in Halsa and is possibly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life. Skjalg, Lindsay and I put together shish kebabs for the adults to grill out at the beach. When we got back, Skjalg took the kayak out while I sat out on the shore and knitted – yes, knitted!
On Thursday, we did something amazing – climbed a mountain! The mountain is called Helgelandsbukken and is one of the tallest, if not the tallest, mountain in the area. There were five of us that went: Vebjørn, Oystein, Skjalg, Lindsay and I. We were warned that it was a tough climb, but none of us had any idea of what we were in for. It was such an amazing experience! The entire trip took about 11 hours. Lindsay and I went our own pace and ended up stopping at Tåkeheimen, where there is a cabin for hikers to stay at. It took us 6 hours to climb up to that point and it was high enough that we didn’t need to do the last leg. At one point, we had to walk sideways along a rock while leaning in with a straight drop down to the glacier behind us. Today is the first day since the hike that I have been able to move around normally. I’m still sore, but I no longer have to use my arms to move my legs around. Our camera ran out of battery before the hike, but I will get pictures of the hike from the others and upload them as soon as possible.
Here are pictures from the trip before the battery died. Believe it or not, I’ve already narrowed it down from almost 300 pictures – everything was just too beautiful! We’ll be heading back to the cabin in about two weeks and I’m crossing my fingers that the weather is as perfect as it was when we were there. There is nothing like Norway in the summer!
July 22, 2013 § 3 Comments
Just a little over 3 weeks since my last exam and I am just now starting to relax – and I mean really relax. I still have a slight nagging feeling that I should be doing something, but it’s easily whisked away when I remind myself that it is still only July.
Here are some pictures of our various escapades so far. Skjalg’s uncle Øystein and his cousins Lindsay and Tore are visiting from Tennessee. They are staying up with Skjalg’s grandparents and we have been visiting with them quite often.
Click on the pictures for a larger, scrollable versions.
March 24, 2013 § 3 Comments
This morning, Charlotte confirmed something that I have been trying to ignore – the fact that I have been blagging (blog-lagging). I’ve taken a bunch of pictures over the past two weeks in hopes that I would have time to write a new post at one point, but the time never came. Now it is Easter break, which means we have an entire week off from school – amazing!
Since my last post, we have had 3 midterms, a snowstorm, a visit from Christian and from friends from Norway, toured the pediatrics department of the university, discovered that our cadaver in anatomy had lung cancer, and attended a first aid course.
Now, to catch up the past two weeks in photos…
Grabbing lunch at a popular soup place before our Medical Profession lecture. This place is packed everyday! For only 800 forint (about $4 or 20 NOK) you can get a cup of homemade soup and half of a sandwich. Felt a little bit like a local grabbing lunch there.
Our friends Else-Lill and Emilie (mother and daughter) came to visit us from Norway. Christian was set to come up on Thursday (his birthday) but Hungary was hit with a huge snowstorm and the trains ended up being shut down. When he arrived the following day, he was met with a little b-day surprise.
Else-lill and Emilie brought us some goodies from Norway (thank you, again!): peanut butter, instant rice pudding mix, brunost, makerel i tomat (mackerel fish in tomato sauce), kaviar (Norwegian creamed smoked cod roe paste – Skjalg eats it with hard boiled eggs on toast), and assorted Norwegian chocolate.
On Day 2, we splurged on a guided tour of the city. We chose River Ride and it was well worth it! The first part of the tour was of some of the major tourist attractions on the Pest side and the second was a ride down the Danube, past the parliament.
Skjalg won a prize for knowing how many exits were on the bus 😉
The following photo is view from the river of the Shoes on the Danube Promenade. Here is an except from wikipedia:
The Shoes on the Danube Promenade is a memorial created by Gyula Pauer and Can Togay on the bank of the Danube River in Budapest. It honors the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank.
Café Gerbaud for coffee and cake:
On Wednesday, we had our first Medical Profession practical. For this course, the semester is divided into two parts. For the first 6 weeks of the semester, we had lectures in which we were introduced to various specialties within medicine, for example: neurology, surgery and psychiatry. During the second part of the course, we will visit each of the departments that were introduced to us during lectures. My group and Skjalg’s group have been paired for the visits, so we will be touring the same departments each week. This week’s department was pediatrics. It was honestly one of the first times that I felt like I looked like a med student, like the ones in movies.
We were first led up to a large lecture hall where we were told to leave our things and handed sheer, green scrub covers. We were then led through some of the hospital’s different wards: rheumatology, pulmonary and oncology. In the rheumatology department we met a teenage boy suffering from coxitis (inflammation of the hip joint). We looked on as the doctor spoke with the patient, examined him, and relayed his symptoms to us in English. In the pulmonary department we met a baby girl, maybe about 5 or 6 months old, with di George syndrome. She was so beautiful and sweet and looked so healthy, yet… she wasn’t. She had a scar on her chest from heart surgery and was quite pale in her face. The doctor showing us around the hospital explained how to examine a baby and how to involve the mother in the process. The oncology department was more difficult than the first two. The doctor took time to prepare us and reminded us to smile at the patients , to remember that they are still children. When we entered the ward it was so surreal that I felt like I was in a movie. All the children had shaved heads and pale skin. They were hooked up to IVs and laying in bed watching cartoons. But they were still children. We met a beautiful young girl who, though shy, showed no sign of insecurity as she lifted her shirt to show us her central line. She was nibbling on candies from a pez dispenser and was more concerned with the single candy stuck at the bottom of the dispenser than the 15 foreign medical students standing at the foot of her bed. It is such a surreal and amazing experience to meet real patients and get a taste of what lies ahead.
Here is a picture of us putting our scrub covers on in the lecture hall. The second photo is of Jannie and Martha after the tour.
So many people showed up for this past Thursday’s biochem lecture….Easter break fever hit early!
Friday was our last day before our week break. We started out the day with back to back anatomy lectures and then headed over to Hungarian. Our Hungarian teacher didn’t want to hold class (she used the excuse that many of us had gone home for the holiday – even though we were all there). We got our midterms back and I was happy to see that my studying had paid off. After our tour of the pediatrics department, I am more aware than ever of how much I want (and need) to learn Hungarian. After looking over our midterms, we were free to go.
I spent my free period in the library and then headed over to the anatomy building for my 12:00 lab. Our teacher began the lab period by continuing to open the thoracic cage of the cadaver. Normally he gives us a sort of lecture as he dissects, asking a couple questions every now and then. This time was a little different – possibly because we had some visitors (Jannie’s two sisters from Sweden and Christian’s – groupmate and not my brother – girlfriend, Ingrid, a first year vet student at Szent Istvan). Our professor began asking us a series of detailed questions about the digestive tract. I don’t know if we were all just tired from a long week or if it was pre-break laziness settling in, but none of us were able to answer the questions. He looked around at us over the top of his glasses, searching our faces several times before resting his eyes on me.
“Bianca, please draw the celiac trunk and its branches.”
I had drawn it earlier that week, but I hadn’t committed it to memory – and now the pressure was on. As I approached the board with 20 sets of eyes on me, I asked if I could use my notes as reference. He said no, told me I could only use Martha and Christian for help, and then relayed this experiment to us.
I was able to complete maybe 30-40% on my own. My groupmates were nice enough to help me while our professor continued his dissection. At one point, I had to step aside so that my professor could plug in the bone saw. “Are you going to cut open my head?” I joked, as it passed by me. He smiled and joked in return, “no, but I’ll cut off a finger for each wrong answer.” Gulp.
When I was finished with the drawing, I presented it to the group. My professor made it tougher by asking me which organ each branch supplied. I tried to mask my insecurity with false confidence and I think it worked because I got a “good” and a nod from my professor. I’ll be ready for him next time!
After lab, Skjalg and I attended the histology consultation from 14:00-17:00. It felt good to stay after school on the day before a break. It’s so easy to check out when you know you have 9 whole days off ahead of you.
To close out the week, I attended a first aid course on Saturday. The course was normally scheduled for Thursdays, but we were given the option of taking the entire course in one day. It lasted about 8 hours and we learned how to identify and treat asthma attacks, burns, bleeding, strokes and heart attacks, as well as how to perform CPR and place a casualty in the recovery position. As a first responder, there really isn’t much you can do in terms of treatment, but we at least learned how to keep the casualty alive long enough for the proper help to arrive.
Now it’s off to bed for a couple of hours before getting up bright and early to snag a spot at the histology consultation. We have our histology midterm the week after we get back from break – and it is going to be a tough one! We will be there from 8-12 and then it’s back home to tidy up. Skjalg’s Mom and sister are visiting this week and his sister, Kaya, will be staying with us. I am so thankful that we have a place with a guest room!