Guinea pig for a day

I’m so sorry for the gap between my posts lately. School, job search, apartment search, and grad school application (only one) have taken over and continue to rule my life. Yay. But I had to post about the wonderful opportunity I got this weekend.

During the week, my volunteer coordinator at the VA  hospital contacted us asking for participants on the weekend for an ultrasound workshop. One of the doctors who had spoken at our lectures a few weeks before was giving a workshop to current VA doctors on how to properly perform and read an ultrasound. My roommate and I immediately signed up, excited for something new to do. On Saturday we went down to the hospital, expecting the workshop to be a couple doctors, no more than four or five. Instead, we walked into a room of about 20-25 physicians, with the lead doctor giving a full-blown lecture on the anatomy of an ultrasound. Thankfully, there was another volunteer there, looking just as nervous as we felt.

This was not what the doctor actually looked like. But he was definitely this happy.

The lecture itself was awesome. The man is brilliant and good lord does he know his stuff. He was drawing cross sections on the board like it was his job. And it was so cool. I remembered him saying a few weeks ago that he wanted to look for a teaching job, because he enjoyed it so much. His joy for teaching was on full display here, not to mention he was really damn good at it. I was able to follow him through certain anatomy diagrams because of his repetition and teaching skills.

After the first part of the lecture, he came over and shook hands with us, thanking us for coming to help out. He insisted we eat lunch with the group before our participation began. After eating, we stood by nervously as three stretchers were brought into the conference room. The doctors gathered around, and we all slowly clambered onto the stretchers. The lead doctor began with me. This ultrasound was of mainly my neck, no further than my clavicle. By some stroke of chance , the monitor was to my left, and the doctor asked me to turn my head left so he could put the ultrasound probe on my outstretched neck. I was facing the monitor the whole time, and got a clear view of  different areas that he pointed out: the traffic sign (my favorite), the thyroid, some muscles, and several blood vessels. Fun fact: you can tell a vein from an artery on the monitor by testing if it’s compressible. If the vessel compresses, it’s a vein. If not, it’s an artery. The doctor stayed a while, making sure the doctors had a sense of where to go and what to look for. Then, he moved on to my roommate’s stretcher, and some of the doctors stayed with me to try their hand.

The doctors themselves were so much fun. They were in a good mood and had a great sense of humor, cracking jokes and talking to me to help me relax. I would have thought there was a scientific name for the goo they stick on you before an ultrasound, and I’m sure there is, but they all called it goo, so goo it is. It was also interesting to see the different doctors do the ultrasound. Some exerted more pressure than others, some had a hard time orienting themselves and talked it out with their colleagues, and others took their time alone, figuring out where they were with the monitor’s help. They were all extremely nice people, and some were most concerned with all the goo that was getting on us. The most prominent question was, “Did they tell you what you were signing up for?”

Then, after all the doctors had had a chance to try their skills with at least one of us, the lead doctor began the lecture once more. This time, it was shoulder/upper-arm anatomy, with certain nerves and vessels as the target features. The medial, ulnar and radial nerves were the ones he was looking at closely. Again, he drew cross-sections on the board like they were nothing, just pulled straight from his brain.  I had never been so thankful for a college professor in my life. I love anatomy so much, and one of the classes I got to take at school was a new vertebrates course, developed and taught specifically by one amazing, intimidating professor. It included, among many things, the  anatomy of major vertebrate organisms, and specific anatomical terms that were now flying out of this doctor’s mouth like a second language.

When he was done, we climbed back onto the stretchers. This time, a bit of the area around and under the clavicle was the first target. Once the doctors were done with that, they went to the main area that the lecture focused on: the armpit. Yes, my incredibly ticklish armpit. I have never been so happy that I remembered to shave that morning. The probe was all over that area, and on some of my upper arm, as well. But it was so totally worth it because I got to see my ulnar, medial and radial nerves, in addition to some really cool muscles. The doctors, knowing that us volunteers were pre-health professionals, turned the monitors so that we could see what was going on. As they oriented themselves with the probes, so did I. It was cool to try to test myself a bit to see if I could recognize anything on the screen.

Overall, it was a fantastic three hours that really helped make up for an otherwise shitty two weeks of school/life. Being the guinea pig volunteers for the day was the most fun I’d had in a while, and I really learned a lot from it. It’s also nice to have something remind you now and then why you’re striving for this crazy profession.

That’s how I know

About two months ago, when looking for a community volunteer position, I found a program that helps promote literacy and reading among young students. Having volunteered at my public library throughout middle and high school, I knew I loved working with kids and opening their minds through books. Books were my first love, and still are. The joy of reading a good book is really just unparalleled for me by (mostly) anything else, and I loved seeing kids learn and open their imagination through books as well.

The main program was sending volunteers to various public schools in the city to read to kids during their library period. But when I got to the orientation meeting, I learned about another program the organization had: newspaper clubs afterschool. I almost jumped out of my seat when I heard that. Having been deeply involved with my high school paper and college paper, both as a writer and editor, I jumped at the chance to impart my love of journalism to other students. I was so excited to hear that the organization was working with younger kids on journalism.

Today, finally, I had my first session at a middle school helping fifth and sixth graders with their articles. I met them for the first time, and I remembered why I love working with kids. They are so unassuming and full of infectious energy, and have so many fantastic ideas that they can’t wait to share with the world. It’s so refreshing. And working with them just makes me forget my worries for a little while, and the time passed so quickly because I was enjoying myself. But the young girl I was working with was so hyper and brilliant and full of ideas, she could barely concentrate on one. Getting her to finally focus and get her ideas on paper was great, and she was so clearly proud of her research and eager to share her work. It was so much fun to see. And it’s only the first week. I can’t wait for the sessions in the weeks (and I hope, months ) to come.