September 30, 2006

How to keep the bastards from grinding you down

Wish I knew.
I'm pretty good at being optimistic, but chronic financial issues, long distance relationships, school related stress, and sleep deprivation have this niggling ability to grind down the most optimistic of us, from the inside out (I tell you, my impetigo flares up way before I feel stressed). Sometimes I want to shut the door, ignore parents, try to ignore my friends and boyfriend, bills, hunger, tiredness, other responsibilities, and just STUDY to get school overwith faster. But it doesn't really work like that, and even thinking that makes me feel beaten down because it admits that I can't deal with it all. I remember the day before the first day of school talking to students ahead of me who said they dropped their boyfriends and other friends because (in a snooty voice) "who has time for that shit when you're in vet school?!". I vowed then and there that I would rather be miserable and human than bitchy, disdainful and callused.

Ground down, but trying to exist constructively as a mushy pile of positive goo,

September 27, 2006

Death is part of every life

I came away from my PBL class (post below) feeling like there was an answer (maybe many) to be had, but that I just couldn't see it. I gave lots of thought to the matter, plumbing my feelings about what my responsibility as a vet will be. People look up to veterinarians not just for their clinical knowledge, but for their [supposed universal] compassion and insight. With this in mind, I asked myself what I would consider when presented with the task of helping my clients prioritize their decisions. Boiled down, I found lots of ethics and opinions of my own. Obviously, I should not allow these personal beliefs and conclusions cloud my consultation. So what insight can I offer? Again, after much consideration, I realized that this is what I can offer:

We in the west (as Mick has so poignantly pointed out in a comment below, and as Mom has reminded me this morning) are generally not okay with death. This leads to occasional circumstances (more common than one might realize) where inordinate amounts of energy, time, thought, emotion, and resources are poured into a situation than is necessary, or even significantly effective. That is, one can eat right and exercise as much as possible, and the person will still die. Similarly, we can ultrasound, blood transfuse, treat with antibiotics, and monitor an old cat with chronic renal disease, but the cat will still die (and probably sooner than an old cat without chronic renal disease). So, then, is it worth all the energy to try to keep it alive? Well, the worth is something that each person will have to decide for themselves. However, one point that we can always remind them (and ourselves) of, is that "death" in and of itself is a neutral essence. It doesn't matter if something is alive or dead. It really does not matter. That isn't to say that we won't miss a person or animal (or plant) if it dies, especially if it had a positive influence in our own lives (we will also miss them in a negative sense if they had a negative effect on our lives)--but note that we place that importance on the life; it is not inherent. Similarly, my life seems important to me while I'm alive, but if I'm not alive, then it doesn't matter at all. As long as I am able to contribute to the world, and enjoy the world myself, my life is worthwhile to me.
This brings us to the second point to remind our clients (and ourselves) of; suffering is something that is uneccessary, and it can be dealt with. Some suffering may be worth the sacrifice to get through to see the other side (vet school for instance). This sort of suffering may increase the contribution and enjoyment of self and others in the world. But other sorts of suffering are simply unneccessary. As doctors, we can attempt to alleviate suffering through treatment and care. This runs the gamut from prevention, to antibiotics or surgery, to euthanasia. As we consider what treatment or care to use, it is important not to keep euthanasia as a last resort, but as a method of alleviating suffering equal in viability as anything else. With this in mind, and truly accepted (DEATH IS NOT BAD), the options can be considered more clearly. Euthanasia is often not so much a question of "artificially ending" a life, but of determining when to cease artificially extending (via medicine) that life.
Worth can be measured in the ability of something (person, animal, etc) to contribute to the world around them, and (in the case of living beings) the ability to appeciate the world around them. As an owner, part of the measure of your own worth to the world around you is by how you distribute your resources. Resources may be allotted to your pet, or may be to your family, or your job, or charities, and so forth. Therefore, when presented with a situation in which euthanasia is a viable treatment alongside an expensive or time/labor-intensive treatment, it is not necessarily "selfish" to weigh the considerations of cost as a reason to opt for euthanasia. If your resources are better put to use in other realms and the ability of the animal to contribute to or enjoy life is compromised, then euthanasia may be appropriate. Not good, not bad, but appropriate.

September 26, 2006

Unexpected Emotion/Ethical question

In PBL (problem based learning) today, we were discussing a hypothetical old, skinny cat who had an infection and renal disease and who couldn't stand up. Medically, we spent the past couple weeks figuring out all the things that were wrong with it and what we could do for the animal. Good medicine meant taking an ultrasound of the kidney, giving it fluids, keeping it in the hospital for 5 days, doing a blood transfusion and checking in on the animal every couple of weeks thereafter, and keeping it on antibiotics, high blood pressure meds, etc. All in all if it were a real animal it would have cost ~$2000-3000. The animal had gained weight and seemed bright and alert and was doing better a month later.

As we discussed the case, I just broke down inside, wild confusion in my head, "This medicine is exciting, how neat that we can actually help the poor cat. But it still has renal failure and is an old cat. Is it worth two or three thousand dollars to try to fix an animal that will never be a perfectly healthy animal again? Two or three thousand dollars plus all the resources that go into my education to be able to work up this case, plus all the physical resources to do the medicine (plastic, plastic, plastic, ultrasound technology, lab work, blood work, more plastic...)---it seems so wasteful; there are so many more pressing issues in the world that would benefit from those resources than an old cat with a chronic disease. Things like conservation/ecological education, starving people, political corruption, alternative energy sources, stopping genocide, promotion of peace...... Yet, to that single person that owns the cat, this may be just as important. Or maybe not. And as the veterinarian, the doctor, what I present to her will make the difference in how this is handled. So do I tell her to just euthanize the animal? Do I go ahead and do all this medicine (that most clients, especially in states like Kentucky where the health and wellbeing of the people is fairly degenerate, and animals are a far second in priority) or just maybe a couple of the treatments which would cost significantly less but not give the animal as great a quality of life?"

I brought some of these issues up to my classmates, frog in my throat, tears welling--and they took my concerns seriously. But they also were quick to rationalize it. Which made me confirm that they are made for cat/dog work, and I am not. I simply can't see working in a field that seems based on luxury. Owning pets and feeding them is a luxury that we in this country take almost for granted (I have had poor clients not pay their electricity bills in favor of their animals' antibiotics, so I see how important it can be for people to have companions, but this is an extreme case). Owning horses is an even greater luxury (though I wish we all owned horses rather than cars at this point). And therefore I can't see myself working as a small animal or horse vet. Cows, goats, sheep, llamas, etc---these are owned by people for sustainance and clothing which seems more basic a need. Of course, in this country, the way cattle are "grown" is deplorable and I'd have even more problem working in a field that supported that industry. Sigh....

Just 2 nights ago I was saying that I could maybe work as a feline vet since I love cats so much (petting 6 cats in a day=good day for Alyssum) and seem to have a "way" with them. I just didn't expect to get so upset about this, it came out of nowhere, I didn't see it coming.

Back in the Saddle

After a week of stress and not much productivity at all, I have finally hit a stride (that I hope will last) with schoolwork. Pacing myself is not really an option, but staying constantly productive helps to keep the moving target of exams and reading from moving further away. I have been steadily working on an hour of material at a time, doing the best I can to not let myself get overwhelmed with the pressure of it all. I wish I didn't get exam scores back and that they could just tell me if I passed or failed. Because passing is all I need, but low passing grades are SO stressful for me with the reality of what it's like to have to repeat a year behind me. Sigh. Just plug away, plug away!

September 20, 2006

Takes All Types

Just a follow up from yesterday's post, reminding myself that it takes all sorts of people to make this world of ours go 'round. We need single-minded people to be as dedicated to one thing like many of my classmates are--because otherwise I doubt there'd be as many veterinarians in the world. And there's already a shortage. I venture to say the same about most hell-long professional paths. Just because my "worthwhile" is not their "worthwhile" doesn't mean they are bad people. In fact, they are very good people. It's not worth putting effort into worrying about.

September 19, 2006

Smart does not equal Intellectual

Vet schools are really good at getting "smart" kids to come join in. Good ACT, good SAT, good college grades, good GRE score, good writing skills for the entrance essays--impressive enough to convince college professors to write good recommendations. These kids are pretty much really smart (then there's a few like me that were good at convincing people that they were smart, but really, they were just good students. There's a difference). However, being smart is not synonymous with being intellectual. Something I miss in many (not all) of my classmates (future collegues) is a certain maturity that comes from self-reflection, reflection on the world around them, innate curiosity, interest in things they're not good at as well as those they are good at, genuine care for things like history, literature, politics, the environment, epicurean endeavors, art, and so on. And most of all, discussion--real conversations about these kinds of things.

September 17, 2006

13 hours

of straight, hard-core, good studying!

Microbiology 9-10
Respiratory Physiology 10-12
(took a shower, ate lunch)
Epidemiology/Biostatistics 12:30-2:30
Resp. Phys. 3-4
Pharmacology 4-5:45
Micro. 5:50-7
Holistic Club presentation 7:20-10:40
(talk to Ben til 11)

September 15, 2006


Our housewarming party included a fire and fire-play (and glowing hulahooping) next to the pond in our back yard. Good new home.
[Dave and Illysse duet with poi, Mitara and I play around the fire, Good ol fashioned drum circle, Jessamyn with upright posture and poi, Ursula in her silvery galaxy girl hoop attire]

Reformatting My Time

Ben introduced an idea to me from the book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People". Basically, things can be divided into combinations of Urgent/Not Urgent, and Important/Not Important. The idea is to do important/not urgent things so that things don't become important/urgent. Even more so, the idea is to cut out things that are not important whether urgent or not. This totally makes sense, and I think my tendency has always been to confuse "urgent" with "important," thereby wasting hours filling out forms or picking at zits that'll go away if I don't get them right now or vacuuming the house again because there is another cat hair ball in the corner....
In an effort to change these ways, I am cutting out many things that not urgent or not important in favor of studying. This includes nearly all phone calls. I am seeing the fruits of this change, though making the change has its consequences too--it's not like me to ignore friends! So if you are on the brunt end of this change in my life, please respect that this is neccessary for me to do to get through school, and that I will be here for you--just maybe not Right Now. I'm just asking for patience. I'm someone who is generally there for other people, no matter what. And saying "No" is difficult for me because I love my friends and WANT to be there for them. But to be an effective student.....sigh.....I have to be just as dedicated. And I really am dedicated to becoming a vet, despite my creative and recreational callings. So, for now, creativity and recreation are on the back burner with occassional allotted times to be dabbled in. Okay.

September 13, 2006

The Reasonable Person Principle

Can we all just abide by these simple principles?

*Everyone will be reasonable.

*Everyone expects everyone else to be reasonable.

*No one is special.

*Do not be offended if someone suggests you are not being

[Reasonable people think about their actions, and the needs of others, and adjust their behavior to meet the goals of a common good for the community, i.e., expressing what you want to say, but accepting and accommodating the needs of others.]

Delayed Gratification

Back in the thick of it (Tufts Vet School), and happy to report that having new material (instead of repeating a year's worth of info) is greatly satisfying. Interesting, too. And I felt today, after a parasitology lab (in which we got to stain and look at 8 deadly parasites) and microbiology lecture (in which we talked about deadly toxins like Cholera--heh heh, not even an animal toxin), a smidgen of gratification for all the years of taking chemistry classes and biotech classes against my nature's will. I never have to take them again if I don't want to. Professional school is all about Delayed Gratification, baby, and I am starting to smell some of that gratification! Granted, I still have 2 years of weekly exams, enormous lists of memorization, approximately zero time for myself, and all the stress that goes with it, plus a year and a half of clinical rotations....but there's a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. And I'm moving toward it!

September 3, 2006

Evil Suz

Any similarity to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

September 2, 2006

William Blake's "The Tyger"

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Mom visited

On a whim, Mom decided to come up here and help me organize my new living situation with Jessamyn before things with school got really hectic. Result? I got to perform with her in Boston at the Middle East, and then for the next 3 days she turned our place into a fairy-infested hookah lounge. Right on! [Mitara, Mom, Me; Jessamyn flashing peace; swanky TV area; a veritable forest]