Sunday, December 5, 2010

RFL = READ THE LABEL!!!

Hello, procrastination! Welcome back, you sure didn't stay away long. Finding motivation to study is one of the hardest things about being in school. I can see the need to learn this information, but it often seems like test preparation is a total crap shoot. For example, one of our quiz questions last week was about the major adverse effect of tilmicosin, which is most frequently encountered in my world as the antibiotic Mycotil. What the professor wanted us to get from the reading was the tilmicosin can cause death shortly after injection...mostly in species that it is NOT LABELED for use in, or if it's administered intravenously, which is also a method that's not advised on the label. It's true that this is an important thing to be aware of, especially if you accidentally stick yourself and inject the drug, but the other thing they have hammered into us all semester is to follow label directions and try to stick to drugs that have been tested and labeled for the species we're treating. I wouldn't consider something primarily associated with not following the label directions to be THE major adverse effect, but I guess I'd better get over it and start trying to guess what they're going to want us to pull out of our overworked brains on the final exam.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November 18

I can't sleep tonight. For once it's not classroom stresses that are keeping me awake. I, like several thousand other Aggies, am waiting for 2:42 AM. That was when the stack came down. It happened 11 years ago. The only thing standing on the Polo Fields right now is the Memorial, but I can't sleep.

They say you will always remember where you are when devastating news hits. On September 11, 2001, I was at work when the Twin Towers went up in smoke. I was loping horses all morning and when I heard the news on the radio on a campus bus headed to class I thought it was a joke at first. On November 18, 1999 I was in Oklahoma City at the Quarter Horse World Show. We were at our hotel getting ready to go to the awards breakfast where we would learn how we had performed in the Collegiate Horse Judging Contest. I don't even remember how we placed. My memories from that morning are a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I endured what felt like the longest ceremony of my life. Eating eggs that tasted like rubber. Wondering if any of my friends were trapped under a pile of logs. The other teams attempting to express sympathy for a tragedy that they couldn't begin to understand. My judging teammates and coaches were family to me by then, but Bonfire had been my home the year before.

I came to Texas A&M a complete stranger to the Aggie way of life. I had heard a little bit about the traditions during Freshman Orientation, but I was far away from home and really knew nothing about what it meant to be an Aggie. That first year in the dorms, it was Bonfire that drew me into my new world and bonded me to the people around me. I'm not much on joining clubs, or even socializing most days. I had a good roommate that I didn't have much in common with, I swung back and forth between being excited about the journey I had started and terrified I would fail. I held no animosity for that little school over there in Austin, but I was intrigued by the idea of a gigantic bonfire and the co-chairs in my dorm were both girls that I liked and looked up to. So I went to my first cut. I saw girls that I had written off as prissy hacking at brush with machetes and swinging axes. I learned that we could work together and hump giant logs out of the brush to the tractor path. I got muddy and dirty, my hands blistered. I loved weekends when the football games were out of town, because that meant we could cut both Saturday and Sunday. I sent gifts to my Bonfire Buddy during the week. I made friends. I grew up a little.

Schoolwork kept me from participating in stack very much that first year, but I was hooked. Bonfire was not the only thing that made A&M special to me, but it was the defining activity for me. Even though I was gone most weekends at horse judging events in my second year, I knew it was only a temporary diversion. I would be back out at cut and stack for as long as I was a student. I would pass on what I had learned and do my best to help the lost little freshmen as they struggled to find their place in Aggieland. Then it fell.

Oklahoma City is a five-hour drive from College Station. On November 18, 1999 it felt more like fifty. We listened to the radio for updates, but mostly we looked out the windows, cried, and prayed. I didn't own a cell phone at the time, but even the girls who did couldn't learn much. The lines were so flooded with frantic friends and relatives that it was nearly impossible to get ahold of anybody. I was fortunate enough not to lose anyone close to me, but I'm not sure the sense of loss could have been any deeper. I will always be greatful for my Aggie family, and for the place that has made me what I am today. I've spent enough years here now that I'm ready to move on, but this place will always have a part of me.

I've been to the Bonfire Memorial once, shortly after it was completed. It's a beautiful and moving tribute to the 12 we lost and the tradition which has had to return to its non-University authorized roots. I feel bad for the younger students who will never have the opportunity to know Bonfire for what it was. I wish words could capture it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Crap Day

It seems like today has been a day of crap. Class was fairly awful, nothing to whine too much about, but nothing really useful gained and just generally mind numbing. Then it was home and the bad news started rolling in.

One of my favorite surgeons is leaving the practice I used to work for. He is an excellent surgeon and an amazing teacher. I think his leaving will be detrimental to the practice, as he is their only board-certified surgeon, and it makes it much less appealing as a potential internship after I graduate. I've still got time to explore some other options, but it's depressing that my opportunities to work with him might be limited. Surgeons are a different breed, and most of them are so brilliant that they aren't the best teachers for slow learners like me! This man is one of the best I've ever worked with as far as being able to explain things in plain English. The only silver lining in this is that I do think it could be a good career move for him, and I will hopefully still have chances to work with him in the future.

After that, I got word that one of my good friends has been diagnosed with a squamous cell carcinoma in his mouth. He had an infected tooth and has had ongoing problems with it for months. A biopsy done earlier this week came back today with the news that it was cancer. He and his wife are two of the nicest people I know. They have helped me countless times with anything I've needed. I am praying for them, and I know that that's a powerful thing, but I wish I could do something more concrete. It's hard to watch good people go through something so uncontrollable.

I feel like I should have something witty to say to wrap up some lesson to be learned here, but all that comes to mind are some ridiculous, overworn platitudes that we've all heard so often they've lost all meaning. All I can do is keep praying and look for opportunities to step up and support my friends.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Welcome to the Dark Side

So here's what I've noticed about vet students lately...we're not mentally stable. I'm not the only one of my classmates to have a meltdown in the time surrounding this celebration of knowledge we call "Midterm Madness." The madness doesn't just refer to the insanity of being expected to know everything about 100 genera of parasites, every category of the various nutritional components, and all the ways that the liver can possibly be damaged. I'm not saying that excuses us acting like wild monkeys, but it's nice to know I'm not the only one!

One of my classmates had a stage 3 meltdown this morning because one of her roommates used her toothpaste. She's nearly out and has been carefully rationing it so that she won't have to make a trip to the store until our exams are over. It's the little things...

A couple more of my classmates were discussing NSAID dosages, the conversation went like this:
"They don't list a dosage for goats. Do you think I should just use the cow dosage?"
"Sure. How many goats do you think are in a cow? Just divide by that."

We are the future of veterinary medicine. We throw tantrums. We say ridiculous things. We talk without thinking a lot of the time. We're stressed. We're sleep-deprived. Sometimes basic survival skills are a struggle for us. In spite of this, I think it's all going to be ok. We've got a few more years to figure things out. Even then, we'll still be human, just with "Dr." in front of our name. We have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders, we will make mistakes. Occasionally, our mistakes will have tragic consequences. Looking at my classmates, I think that most of us are the right people for the job. We are getting a quality education; not perfect, but in my opinion one of the best in the nation. Most days I can't wait for it to be over, but I know it's a necessary process.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just kidding?

I've noticed lately that people are starting to take me seriously. Something about being a vet student makes people think that you're able to mystically diagnose whatever obscure illness their pet has or had 12 years ago, based on the symptoms they happen to remember and describe in vague terms. Unfortunately, I have a rather dry sense of humor and a tendency to deliver improbable, random diagnoses with a straight face. I don't know if it's simply the fact that I'm in school, or the fact that I can use bigger words more often now that's lending me more credibility, but I've had to quickly retract smart-ass comments several times lately. It usually goes something like this:

Friend/neighbor/checkout person in Kroger: I gave my dog a rawhide chew 2 months ago, and last week she threw up on the bathroom rug. Then this morning my other dog's ears were droopy. What do you think caused that?

Me: (Insert scientific name of whatever I happen to remember from our most recent parasitology class, bonus points for me if it actually causes vomiting). It's most common in pigs, but you never know. Have your dogs been raised with pigs?

They then start fretting over the long, scary name I've just introduced. Never mind that neither one of us really knows much about the parasite, and the "problem" is most likely not parasitic. I sometimes forget that I actually have a certain amount of credibility now, and there are some responsibilities that go along with that.

On the other hand, I've gotten used to people ignoring my advice, so maybe I'm not fully to blame for my sociopathic conversational tendencies. I was recently approached for advice about a horse that I had been asked about 3 years ago when I was a lowly vet tech. At that time all signs and use history pointed to a hock-sore horse. He belongs to a friend of mine who used to rope calves with him, now his girlfriend is using him for a barrel horse. I asked if the owner had ever gotten his hocks checked out like we had discussed years earlier, only to be told that he hadn't because he didn't think that hock injection was safe. In spite of numerous conversations with my friend, this was the first I'd heard of his misgivings about joint injection. He had sought my advice, ignored it completely, and now they were asking me again...after having tried various voodoo methods to treat the signs of soreness that the horse has. I adore and respect these friends, and I always will, but I'd like to see them run in a track meet every weekend with a broken ankle, while offering them treatment for their sore muscles. Ok, it's a weak analogy, but seriously, treat the cause of the symptoms and you can stop treating the symptoms! And, if you seek advice but are uncomfortable with the recommendation, let me know what you're unsure about so I can at least try to justify my suggestion!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Green beans!

I would just like to announce that I added green beans to my Hamburger Helper tonight...I am officially an adult! Score!

OK, so that might not exactly seal the deal, but it's progress, and tasty progress, at that. I'm taking a night off studying tonight and watching some brain-rotting television. I figure since I'm eating "healthy" it will balance out, right? One conclusion my channel surfing odyssey has led me to is that chicks are crazy. I'm a girl, but seriously, chicks are crazy. These wedding shows are out of control. How do these girls justify spending so much time, energy, and money on one day? And really, does it matter? If people put half that much effort into maintaining the relationship after the ceremony, the divorce rate in this country wouldn't be nearly so high.

Not that I'm any authority on relationships...I handle them about as well as I handle healthy eating. Once in a while I throw the green beans in there, but most of the time my "go-to" food groups are Cheez-Its and Mountain Dew. Pretty darn tasty, but eventually you crash and burn.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rebuilding

This blog is in danger of becoming another abandoned project in my life. There's not anything particularly heinous about that, but I'm not ready to quit just yet. I'm trying to make some changes in my overall lifestyle this year and I think that making myself keep up with the blog will help me stay focused with the more important things I'm working on. I survived 1st year, and 2nd year is off to a better start. My head was in a bad place last May. I need to make some changes to make sure I don't end up back there.

I'm getting older and it's time to grow up. In some ways I've always been mature for my age, in others I'm still just a bratty kid. I don't want to ditch everything childish, but really, if I don't start taking better care of myself I'm going to become a cautionary tale. I don't sleep enough, I don't maintain personal relationships well, I never go to the doctor, and I eat absolute crap. While I don't plan to start scheduling annual check ups until I can afford health insurance again, I do need to start taking better care of myself and the people in my life. The first big step that I've taken in the right direction is to limit my alcohol consumption. I wasn't exactly a skid-row drunk, but I had built a pretty good record of binge drinking that was starting to creep in on my everyday life a bit too much. I've seen alcoholism close up all my life and it pisses me off that I almost let myself go down that road.

Next, and perhaps more challenging, I've set a goal of eating healthier...not that I'm going to become one of those grilled fish and salad every night kind of folks, just going to get better about keeping fruits and veggies around instead of living on Chef Boyardee and microwave pizza. Jalepenos are a fruit, right?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Yes.

It seems that school is robbing me of my desire to pontificate... It's tough to find a happy medium of productivity; it seems I'm usually either wasting my time completely or scrambling to get things done at the last minute. There's a bit of denial involved. Discipline is something I'll probably never get quite right! This semester hasn't really been better or worse than last so far. Some things are easier because I know the routine and what's expected for the most part, but we have one more class this semester than last and it's definitely not something I can get through on auto-pilot. I've heard that 2nd year involves a lot fewer hours in class so I'm really looking forward to that! Now I just have to get through the rest of this year without failing out.

I'm already looking forward to the summer. That might be a good thing or a bad thing! I'm hoping it will keep me motivated. I'm planning to go do some breeding work on a big ranch over spring break, and maybe go spend a few days with a good friend who works in a small-town mixed practice. Then this summer I'm going to be all over the map! I'll get to spend some time where I used to work before vet school, hang out with a friend who works mostly on bucking bulls and whitetail deer, and make a round back home visiting family and working with local vets. I'm also pretty excited (but a little nervous) to spend a few days with a rockstar bucking horse vet. I e-mailed him my resume about a week ago asking if I could come follow him around and look into coming for an externship later...I got a reply quickly, but it was very succinct. All it said was "Yes." I guess that's better than "No," but I had asked some questions in my e-mail that weren't yes-or-no type questions! I'll call his office next week and try to find out what's up. I've heard he's a bit eccentric but pretty much a genius at what he does, so it should be worthwhile.

Until then, it's just a matter of keeping my head down and hitting the books. Several big exams are coming up in the next few weeks and I don't have any clean socks so it must be time to get back to work!

Friday, January 29, 2010

It doesn't all have to be profound, OK?

It's the little things that get you through...right now I'm getting ready to go to bed and jamming to Coolio on the radio. We had our first anatomy exam of the spring semester today. I think/hope it went ok but I won't be reassured until I get the grade back. I don't know what it is about anatomy that just kicks my ass, but there's sure something.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Always wear gloves and eye protection when streaking!

I've mentioned before that vet school is like a cult... It's also a lot like junior high, only I don't think we have quite the same bully problems, because obviously we're ALL nerds. Today in our micro lab Dr. M was going over safety and technical procedures for bacterial cultures. He mentioned something about "streaking in lab" that cracked the class up, then he took it a step further by saying that we should only streak when wearing proper safety attire! Sometimes I think the phrase "professional school" is an oxymoron.

Nearly every vet I've talked to had told me that my classmates would become some of my best friends. I didn't disbelieve them, but I don't think I really "got it" until quite a way into last semester. We are forced together for around 8-20 hours of nearly every single day. We annoy each other, we make fun of each other, we compete with each other...but there is also a big sense of camaraderie. Older students pass down notes and study materials, we share everything. I think a couple of my friends were more worried about my grades last semester than I was (and trust me, I was worried).

I'm not an exceptionally social person. I used to be very shy; I've outgrown most of it and realized that I really don't care what most people think of me because I finally have enough respect for myself to get me through. I do miss out on a lot of socializing at school because I usually study alone. (Too ADD for group study...nearly too ADD for solo study...it's a struggle!) I'm 5-8 years older than the majority of the class. A lot of them are financially dependent on their parents and haven't ever had to support themselves. I'm an oddity, but I still feel very much like part of the group. I have some amazing classmates, and I got to wrestle a goat yesterday. Maybe I will survive this after all.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hello, Insomnia. What are you doing back here again?

Since I've started back to school I've fallen back into some old patterns from the end of last semester. Some of them are good, and some are bad. One of the worst is staying up way too late, doing nothing in particular. It's not unusual for me to look at the clock and think, "It's 2 AM...why aren't I in bed?" It hasn't been as bad as it was for the last month or so of last semester. I usually crash by 2:00 or 3:00 at the latest nowadays. Last semester it wasn't unusual for me to stay up until 4:00 or 5:00, sleep until 7:00 or 8:00, and drag ass all day. What throws me is that I REALLY love to sleep. I don't know why I'm avoiding it. I know I'm stressed, I know I'm busy, but I've never had problems with insomnia before. I could always take something, but the words "could be habit-forming" keep scrolling across my brain when I think of it.

I think I need more structure. When I was an undergrad, my grades were actually better when I was taking a full load of classes and working 30 hrs a week than when I had more time to study. Scheduling a regular job hasn't worked out with vet school so far, but maybe I need to find a way to get myself on more of a schedule so I'm not piddling away all my time. I have started running again, and I think that will help. It makes me a lot calmer, and I have more focused energy when I'm on a regular running program. I might even do a 1/2-marathon with some of my classmates...if I don't come to my senses first. I've only got 7 weeks left to prep and I'm nowhere near in shape to do 13 miles. That ought to be a structure challenge for me!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Back to the Grind

It's the last day of winter break...I've already started gathering the books and note packets I need for this spring, though I'm far from ready. The break was a good one. I got some good experience, did my first (pretty much) solo horse castration, caught up with friends and family, slept, read some non-academic books, and just generally enjoyed myself. I didn't get everything done that I wanted to, but then I never do...I have a fairly optimistic sense of time when I'm planning things. This semester is going to be rough. I'm braced for it but I know it'll get to me sooner or later. Time to go wring all the freedom I can out of these last few hours!