Stitches and Sutures

I'm a 25-year-old second-year medical student living in Ontario, Canada. I'm pretty sure that the only way to stay sane in medical school is to have a life outside of medical school, and knitting is one of my chosen diversions.

Location: Ontario, Canada

Friday, January 05, 2007

Making the move...

I have moved! Anyone who has checked here in the last few months has probably noticed that I just ran out of steam around here. I was having trouble deciding which direction to go with this blog and hence didn't write at all. Fortunately, my good friend Laura, who lives on the other side of the country, suggested a joint blog -- and she even sat down and created it.

If you'd like to follow our adventures (and we'd love to have you!), you can find us at: Come on over!

Monday, September 25, 2006


There's really no good way to continue after a post like that last one. Thank you all for your sympathy and support. I still find myself reeling when I think about Robert, but I'm trying to move on and not dwell too much, because Robert would have hated to think that someone would dwell on his death.

To be honest, my surgery rotation has been a heck of a distraction. I'm certainly not bored, let me tell you. I am sick to death of bowels and poo, though. Blech. Surgery is SO not me. One of the hardest things is seeing people who thought they just had a stomachache, and discovering that they in fact have a huge tumour. Watching someone's life turn upside down in seconds like that is really tough.

That said, I've enjoyed the rotation more than I thought I would. Turns out that even though I don't want to be a surgeon, looking at guts is cool sometimes - and if nothing else, at my school where anatomy education is largely "self-directed" (my fiance manages to make that sound dirty, but really it's not, it just means that students at my school tend to be a little rusty about anatomy!)...anyways, surgery has been a good way to brush up on anatomy. Nothing like seeing it "in the flesh," so to speak.

I wish I could tell you some of the tales of things I've seen. Damn privacy laws. I will say that it is absolutely amazing how much will fit up one person's bum. It's even more amazing what people will put up there. Ouch.

I will tell you about one patient, though. He was one of those patients that for some reason resonates with me. He came into the ER with this vague history of abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, and intermittent fevers over the past few months.

The man is very, very Irish, and had this very Irish way of speaking -- a manner with which I am intimately familiar, because my whole damn family talks like that - they never answer a question directly, but instead dance around the question and tell all sorts of side stories until you're totally lost - at which point they finally give you a very indirect answer to your original question. In any other group of people, it would be called circumlocution. In the Irish (or at least the ones I know), it's utterly normal. I understand this. Unfortunately, the residents with whom I was working did NOT understand, and thus got a very poor history from the man. Fortunately, med students tend to have time that residents do not - so I went back and talked to he and his wife for almost an hour, and got the whole story - pretty much as described above, although I also found out an awful lot about him that had nothing to do with his medical problems in the process!

The whole conversation sort of built a connection. I "get" this man - we speak the same language, if you will. I could see that his nonchalant attitude that others were interpreting as a lack of understanding of the situation was in fact stoicism covering utter terror. He understood the situation all too well.

A CT scan was done, and it showed a big, scary-looking mass that no one could specifically identify, but that everyone agreed was cancer.

The poor man has stayed in hospital two weeks (and counting) while everyone tries to sort out what the tumour is, how to biopsy it, and how (and if) it should be treated. He's a man who has worked hard his whole life and only recently retired - the forced "rest" at the hospital is driivng him crazy. He wanders the halls all day, pushing his IV pole. I always make a point to stop and talk to him for a few seconds, because I know that he's lonely. That Irish craving for socialization is something I know very well.

He nearly broke my heart one morning when we stopped to see him on rounds and one of the residents commented that he was "looking very good." "Aye," he replied, "too good to die." It was heart-wrenching, because all any of us could think was that he was probably right - he was dying.

He also gave me a good belly laugh late one night when I was heading off toward my on-call room for a few hours' sleep. I ran into him a couple of wards away from the one where he is staying. As usually, he was walking the halls, pushing his IV pole. I joked that he was fairly far afield from his usual turf. "Aye," he replied, "I'm just gettin' my exercise. Thought I might as well do the Terry Fox Run while I'm here." He grinned.

Last week, someone decided to repeat his CT, presumably to make some sort of decision about treatment and prognosis. Imagine our shock when the "tumour" was half its original size! It turns out that he has diverticulitis (a condition that's more of a pain in the butt (literally) than an actual threat to life) and the "tumour" is in fact a huge lymph node that got inflamed from this ongoing diverticulitis that was causing crazy inflammation in his abdomen. How the diverticulitis was missed the first time, I do not know. But when I found out about the second CT, it made my whole day. I haven't seen him yet, because I've been at another hospital for the past few days, but I'm hoping to go visit him tomorrow. It's cases like these that make all the poo and bowels and sad stories worthwhile.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


My friend Robert's body was found in the North Saskatchewan River today.

The police don't suspect foul play. It would appear that, as we feared, he had some sort of accident and ended up in the river.

I'm a "fixer" by nature and don't quite know how to feel or what to do tonight. This isn't fixable. My heart just aches.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A missing friend

Wow. I've been quite the unreliable blogger these days. I've also been quite the unreliable knitter (not very productive at all). Both of these predicaments are directly related to the fact that I am spending somewhere around 90-100 hours per week at the hospital these days.

My surgery rotation is tolerable, and actually quite a bit better than I had feared it might be. And I do actually get to sleep once in a while on call, so while I'm tired, it could definitely be worse. That said, if there was any doubt in my mind about the fact that I do not want to be a surgeon (and there wasn't), it has been eliminated. Surgery is NOT FOR ME. Blech.

I've seen some very sad patient stories this week - young people, coming to the ER with some vague complaint (a bit of belly pain, say) and finding out that they are full of cancer. Swift referrals to oncology, but the prognosis looks grim. I've seen this story more than once this week, and it breaks my heart. Folks, for goodness' sake, get a regular physical done, mmkay? Annually is good...but at least try to avoid 12 years without a pap smear (if you're a woman, of course). That gives scary cancers a long time to grow.

The upside to sugery is that I've been spending time with a classmate who I've known and liked all along, but hadn't spent much time with until now. Turns out she is a very fun person who likes crafts just as much as I do. We've both been spending a lot of time musing about why we didn't just open craft businesses instead of getting into this medicine nonsense. I'm hoping these thoughts are a normal consequence of a surgery rotation. If nothing else, knowing that someone else is wondering the same thing is comforting.

Despite the depressing tone so far, I've actually had a pretty good summer. I did electives in ophthalmology (eyes) and otolaryngology (ears, noses and throats) back in my hometown for a few weeks and found them interesting. I certainly wouldn't want to work in those fields, but it was great learning for an aspiring family doctor. While I was there, I got to spend lots of time with my mom, and we did lots of wedding-planning, which was definitely a weight off my shoulders. Almost all the "months in advance" planning is done - so now I get to put the wedding out of my mind for a few months.

I have also had some rough times since you heard from me last - my dad was quite ill (but is now recovering) and my cousin was in a horrific helicopter accident and is lucky to be alive. One of my closest friends just moved across the country and although I'm thrilled for her because she is moving for an opportunity that she's been hoping for for a long time, I'm awfully sad to see her go.

The latest "tough situation" is that a friend of mine from my days at the University of Toronto vanished without a trace last Sunday and not been seen or heard from since. Robert was a first-year student who lived in the residence where I was a don. He is a gentle, kind, innocent guy and simply isn't the type to take off. Unfortunately, the longer he is gone, the worse things look - he hasn't used his cell phone or his bank card since he disappeared. I don't really expect anyone in blogland to know anything about his disappearance, but if you have a few minutes to check out the website his family has created, please do. And if you're into prayer or meditation or the power of positive thought, please direct some of that his way

Things like this certainly give me some perspective when school seems a little rough.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Love from London

We're having a blast in England! We've had a whirlwind trip so far and have tried to mix "touristing" with hanging out with family. We're staying in tonight to babysit our nephew while his parents go out to the theatre. A treat for all of us!

Turns out Canada Day in Trafalgar Square was a bit dull. Mostly just marketing for Canada. However, I still enjoyed walking around there and Leicester Square with Ella and the baby. And it was cool to see Canadian flags galore in the middle of London!

I stupidly erased my memory card on my digital camera on Monday morning, after having spent Sunday visiting Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and Westminster Abbey. I'm a dork. We had a fun day though, and you're just going to have to take my word for it!

We got all excited at Buckingham when we spotted the Canada gate, which is a gate around the traffic circle in front of the palace. It has the shields of all the provinces on it. We're such geeks. We met when we were tour guides in the Parliament buildings (in Canada), and anything that we can relate to Parliament gets us all excited.

We walked over to Hyde Park from Buckingham. I've been really surprised to see how busy all the parks here in London are. These people really use their greenspaces! There are people sprawled all over every green area. It's great. We went to Speaker's Corner and listened to some nuts rant and rave (our favourite was the Marxist who kept talking about the World Cup as a model for the struggle of the proletariat). We dangled our feet in the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. And we walked, and people-watched. Lots of fun!

We wandered down to Westminster Abbey then - slowly, because my wonderfully comfortable sandals were proving that anything can become uncomfortable if you wear it long enough. Blisters galore. I got to rest while we listened to an organ concert at Westminster. It was kind of weird modern music, not what we'd choose, but still lovely. The Abbey itself isn't nearly as big as I had expected. I mean, it's large, but it's really just a big church. All kinds of awesome artwork and sculpture and such though.

We wandered around the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye, and had supper at a little Asian noodle place. Eventually we decided we were worn out and we headed back to Ella's house.

Phew. I'm all worn out just writing about Monday. I guess Tuesday and Wednesday will have to wait!

Here are some fun pictures, though:

The Boy claims this is "the best tourist shot he's ever taken."
Big Ben, the London Eye, a double-decker bus AND me, all in one shot!

As promised, the cutest baby in the world. We bought him the Hawaiian shirt.
Isn't he absolutely adorable?

My two favourite boys.

Friday, June 30, 2006


After a few delays (okay, QUITE a few delays), my flight finally touched down at London Gatwick and I'm here! Hooray! There was lightning in Toronto so we left over an hour late, and then there was an accident on the runway just before we got to London, so we had to circle for ages while they cleaned up the mess. We had a short scare when they told us we were going to London Stanstead to refuel and then BACK to Gatwick, but fortunately that idea seemed to disappear quickly.

I'm in London for nine days, visiting The Boy's sister and brother-in-law and our adorable little nephew, who you may remember from Christmas. Except now he's about twice as big, can sit up all by himself, is almost crawling, and smiles constantly. It is my completely unbiased opinion that he's the cutest baby in the entire universe. (Okay, maybe a teeny bit biased. But still. CUTE, I'm telling you.) I promise to ask his Mom if it's okay to put a picture up here and you'll all see what I mean. That is, if you're not blinded by cuteness.

So far, my visit has been pretty much 95% focused on the baby. (The other 5% was much-needed sleep. Overnight flights just aren't all that restful.) I didn't do any adventuring in the city yesterday as I was pretty pooped when I got here. The train in from Gatwick was fun, though - I kept meeting friendly Londoners who wanted to chat. I love talking to strangers (much to the chagrin of many of my friends, who I embarrass by striking up conversations in grocery store line-ups and pretty much anywhere else that someone will talk to me), and yesterday it seemed like every Londoner I saw was willing to chat! The Boy's sister claims that it's the Canadian flag on my backpack that does it.

This morning, The Boy's sister (let's call her "Ella", shall we?) is at the gym, the baby is at the creche (apparently that's Brit for "daycare") and The Boy's brother-in-law is at work. I am vegging out at their place. We're planning to head to "Canada Day London" this afternoon (a day early, but whatever, I'm always up for a party). The Boy arrives from Germany tomorrow to spend the week here, too. Can't wait!

Oh, and in case anyone was worried (see below): they did indeed let me on the plane with my (metal) circular knitting needles, no questions asked. Did I knit on the plane? No. But I liked knowing that I could if I wanted to!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Sad Tale

A haiku for Challenge #3 of the Amazing Lace:

Knitter: reads too much
Needles: idle, sad, lonely
Shawl: a lofty dream

I've been a pitiful participant in The Amazing Lace thus far. See, to participate in the challenges, one has to actually knit and have something to say about their project in choice. I, however, am completely stalled.

Well, not completely. I'm still working (s-l-o-w-l-y) on Branching Out. But I think I'm subconsciously stretching out the finishing of it because I know that once it's done, I won't have a lace project at all to work on.

That's right. The Icarus Shawl continues to be just a photo in IK. I thought I was ready to go, and I was itching to start it, just as soon as Branching Out was finished. Then my mom made a really good point: Icarus is supposed to be my wedding shawl. And since I haven't bought a dress yet, it's kinda hard to pick a yarn that matches the dress. I'm pretty much decided on an ivory dress, and a white shawl will look strange with that. Ivory, however, comes in too many freaking shadese for me to just buy some ivory yarn and hope for the best. So, I'm stalled on Icarus until I choose a wedding dress! (Hopefully something that will happen in July. I have been looking!)

The other reason for my pitiful lace performance of late is that I'm doing a "reading elective" at present, but my parents have been visiting for the past two days and my reading has been a little scarce. In theory, I'm supposed to spend five days reading around a topic of my choice and produce something (written) to show for my work at the end. My topic is obesity, and it's fascinating, but I really really need to read a lot more about it before the elective ends -- which is tomorrow. I've spent today reading like a fiend, and I plan to keep at it until my eyes cross tonight (with occasional breaks for things like blogging -- a girl's gotta do something to stay sane).

Oh, and guess where I'm going tomorrow?

Hope they let me bring my needles on the plane!