Friday, April 14, 2006

Things Are Heating Up

Just finished another test block this week, so I thought it would be a great time to post some updates on how things are going. Classes are going well, although for the most part I find the lectures intolerably boring. It must be my own dwindling attention span though, because I usually enjoy reading the material from textbooks and review books later in the day. As a result, I've started going to fewer and fewer lectures (they aren't mandatory) and now pretty much only attend lab sessions and my physiology class. That amounts to an average of about 2 hours/day in lecture. I still end up putting the same amount of time into studying at the library, but I find myself retaining the information pretty well, which is certainly not the case with most lectures.

Now with that infomercial for "home-schooling" out of the way, I thought I would share a nice little story about this test block. This experience helped put things into perspective for me during a time when school can seem like an all-consuming affair, and reminded me that life can interrupt you at any old time it feels like to say "hi" and maybe give you a good kick now and then. With that being said...

'Twas the day before the Neuroscience exam, and all through the school not a studyroom was open, and the library was packed. Seems no one remembered to study for this (horrific) class after our spring break (which fell smack dab in the middle of this block of material) and everyone was scrambling like mad to learn the material before the notoriously difficult neuro test. The problem was compounded by the fact that the day before the neuro exam we had taken our renal physiology exam, which we all expected to be extremely difficult and were all overpreparing for.

I had settled in to study for the foreseeable future after finishing the physiology exam, when my wife called and asked me if I wanted to grab some food and have a picnic with her as a study break. We hadn't seen much of each other during the past week as I had been studying late at the library every night, so I was more than happy to take a break from studying before making the final push for the neuro exam. I figured I had another 12 hours of studying time available after supper and before the afternoon exam on Tuesday, so this wouldn't ruin my study schedule.

Wrong. We had to make a quick stop at Walgreen's prior to grabbing supper, and just happened to hit the height of rush hour traffic in our little Milwaukee suburb. As a result, we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for a half-hour trying to reach the store that was probably about a mile or two out of our way. "No big deal", I thought, "as long as I'm back to studying by 7, I'll be fine." About 3 blocks from finally reaching the store, my wife commented that something near us smelled nasty. We were not really all that surprised though, as large semis and construction vehicles were around us on the road, and we are living in Milwaukee, after all. Suddenly, the smell seemed a lot more pertinent to our situation, as I noticed that there was a good amount of smoke billowing out from under the hood, on the passenger side. I calmly alerted her of the situation, and commented that it might be in our best interest to find a good place to pull over as soon as possible. For the next five minutes we wove our way through traffic with a smoking car, hoping that we weren't doing permanent damage to the engine that, according to the temp gauge, was overheating.

Finally we made it to the Walgreen's parking lot, where we popped the hood and let the car cool off. It looked like the smoke was coming from the reservoir tank for coolant and was probably a result of antifreeze boiling off. Antifreeze boiling was a new concept for me, but we both maintained a calm demeanor. Luckily we have family in the area that was able to come get us and help us limp the car to a local garage after we let it cool, but in the end the evening was shot. Not only did we not really get to spend any quality time together (and certainly not any stress-free quality time!) but we were both exhausted by the time we made it back to our place at 10 pm. I threw the neuro notes in the farthest corner of the bedroom and passed out immediately.

Even the next day I had difficulty focusing on studying, as I was on the phone with the mechanic and my wife trying to coordinate getting the keys to the garage where we had left the car overnight (we only have one car between the two of us) and deciding what work needed to be done on the vehicle to get it functioning again. By the time I looked at the clock, it was time to get to school and take the exam already. Somehow I managed to get into my mind into the state of "exam zen" (a topic I should probably describe more fully in another post) and completed the test without any major issues.

Checking the exam key the next day I was surprised yet again, as I had done better on this exam than any of our previous two in the class, which had both gone well. It could have been the extra hours I spent on the subject during spring break (like a loser) while my wife was at work. Or maybe it was just luck. But I like to think that it was karma rewarding me for somehow managing not to turn our car problems into a massive argument based on my academic stresses and perceived need to study incessantly during exam weeks. For perhaps the first time this year I was able to keep things in perspective when "real life" interrupted my studies and have faith in my ability to succeed without the overpreparation that most of us med students depend on.

Maybe it is possible to live life outside of medical school?


At 4/27/2006 10:56 AM, Blogger Dr. Underdog said...

You can always rely on cars to remind you that there IS life outside. Good luck!

At 5/11/2006 9:29 AM, Blogger Dr. Underdog said...

When's the new entry coming?? Looking forward to it!

At 10/19/2006 8:35 PM, Anonymous Swimming said...

Wow, that's so great you pulled this off! Just started reading your blog and I've really struggled in similar situations including the sudden car failure - marriage - exams combo! I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog.


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