Monday, July 9, 2012

One Year in Wichita: Trials, Joys, Celebration

It is July SEVENTH two thousand and twelve.  As I step out of intern resident shoes and into junior resident ones, I reflect on the year behind me. 

Thought # ONE: I am one year older
Two Thousand and twelve continues to press on and we are swept along with it.  Have you ever climbed a mountain?  Taking step after upward step towards the peak of a stony mass comparable in size to a city?  Sometimes I get caught up in searching for the upper most spire, the goal of the day's march.  Sometimes I loose track of milage, geography and time pondering questions from back home.  Sometimes I plod along like a mule, too stubborn to be hindered by the next step.  And sometimes I pause, lay down my daypack, swig a gulp of cool, filtered stream water, and wonder at the beautiful wilderness.  Don't forget to live in the scenery sometimes. 

A curious marmot on top Mt Wheeler

Thought # TWO: Finished twelve rotations in family medicine
One year of residency has done tons to build the confidence, experience, and demeanor I need as a physician, but there is so much still to learn.  Very thankful for another two years of familiy medicine residency to build and fine tune knowledge and skills under the supervision of my faculty doctors. 

Thought # THREE: Deeper friendships
 I am thankful for my fellow residents and faculty who have been supportive this past year, whether in constructive criticism or just hanging out watching fireworks ( I have been to four shows this year!  Two professional shows at the start and end of River Fest, one quite admirable show put on by an army captain and neighbor of my residency faculty member, and the last was a-top the hospital on July fourth - the whole city was ablaze in red-blue-gold-green - kind of like that movie Independence Day with Will Smith ).  Also thankful for my room mates, the church in Wichita, family and friends outside of Kansas; I am confident God is using these to inspire and instill love and peace in me. 

Building a porch with church friends

Star Wars Exhibit in Wichita

Thought # FOUR: Developing Heart - Sahel Africa

Central/South America were the global regions most on my mind before residency, but this might be changing.  I'm running into many people here who are re-classifying my vision for service.  Many of my colleages here are picking rotations in north central Africa and central Asia, to help staff rural hospitals in desperate areas for a time and possibly return for longer.  The assets of these regions are minimal compared to the western world, the level of need is too grand for any person to "fix", both physical and spiritual, but I think it still worth while that someone in this world commit to serve those nations too.  I am currently looking into options for an international elective rotation in one of the Sahel countries and praying about what serving in the Sahel might look like. 

Thought # FIVE: Conflict and Resolution - Life is learning
Life and work in Wichita has not been a complete "piece of cake".  What I'm about to share has been a source of greif and shame which has been one of the few dark spots on my overall delightful year in Kansas.  I have received feedback from a few hospital staff, other residents and some faculty doctors that I come off as arrogant, not teachable and unconventional.  While many of my colleages and friends assure me that I'm simply "miss-perceived", I know there is more truth to this than I feel comfortable admitting.  Perception can be reality and I feel this is a grave issue to my ability to communicate with the medical team and patients.  What has hurt most?  The idea that I am a representation of Jesus in my work environment = Jesus is arrogant, unteachable and a poor communicator.  Uggh

A list of efforts in this area:
My program gives residents a free Life Coach to help improve public image, work out the crinkles/stains; she is a great lady.  My little church just finished working through a sermon series on the book Crucial Conversations which is geared towards handling coorporate relationship conflict.  I am in one-on-one mentorship by a residency faculty member. Prayer and a solo study in the Bible on these topics.

The cool thing about this experience?  The realization of my need for Jesus.  Whether perception, truth or both,  I can point to where I was... and where I am... and then point to how I want to be and how Jesus is changing my heart about it.  It is not by my "goodness" but by His power through me. The end result has grown me into a better person, a better physician and a better follower of Jesus.

Thought # SIX: New saddle to ride
Last Spring I finally returned my friend's bicycle and fixed up a few new hot rods.  One was a old Raleigh mountain bike from a local Wichitan whose son had been riding it to work and beat the junk out of it.  The second was a white commuter road bike from a chemical engineer moving to Houston... where he will likely never ride to work again.  In the end, the replacement bike is an old eighties model Centurion.  After adding flat resistant street tires and corke handlebar tape, I get to work faster than ever!  price tag? $200 US

Thought # SEVEN: Exploits in the Soil
In the last few posts I have been sharing pictures of my front yard garden which is a patchwork of bulb flowers, ground cover and weeds.... This front garden was a nice stress releiver, but a real garden has now taken its place!  A friend from class said I could have his extra seeds this Spring and that began one of the coolest projects I've ever followed.  The garden, begun in early May, is more mature than I ever possibly imagined.  It's not my green thumb either, it is God at work in nature.  Cool stuff.  I love picking produce and living off the Kansas crust! 
Three different types of tomatoes, yellow squash, zuchini, green beans, sweet corn, cucumber, Four types of peppers.  Whoop! 

Mom and Dad 610 feet underground.  The Kansas Salt Mine Museum

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Winter in Wichita and the Joy of Bicycles

(an old stone church in College Hill - Wichita, KS - Presbyterian..)

Winter Prologue

I am a Texan by birth and have rarely lived in other places more than a month, especially in colder climes (except for a month in the Bronx, NY and East TN last year respectively). However, now my home is Wichita, Kansas where common winter temps range from the teens Fahrenheit to 40s. This sounds pretty chilly if you are coming from the South/Southwest and it actually feels quite chilly on my early morning bike rides to work, but a nice aspect of Kansas is our frequent clear skies and noonday sun. The warm rays often overpower any chill the winter season has to offer, at least during mid day. But watch out for cutting windy breaths from the north. It has really been a mild and dry winter season and I do have hopes for change. Everyone report of snow from last season has left me with unfilled expectations. Only an occasional bicycle ride through flurries and white dusted streets has been enjoyed so far, but they are among my sweetest experiences! Let me explain seeming absurdity: Residency in Wichita keeps one at least 5-9 hours from mountains and too busy for weekend get-a-ways. Therefore my outdoor adventures are in the form of bicycle commutes which simultaneously work the body and expose it to the natural elements, whether they be face numbing chill or soul glowing sun. And winter cycling is actually reasonable, just winter-guard yourself with wind/wet-proof proof gloves, hat, leggings, jacket and utilize driver safety devices with reflective vest/pants, tail and front light and winter riding can be quite comfortable.

(Old Town)

Cycle Climax
My ride to St. Francis for Pediatrics this January month has been approx 20ish minutes and my ride to St. Joe for other rotations is about 10 minutes (about 2x the amount of driving time). The longer route is my favorite: it begins in my “Hilltop” neighborhood of lower socioeconomic homes, then moves above highway 440 into one of my favorite Wichita neighborhoods, College Hill, full of Victorian and brick-artsy homes, an old stone church and a 1-way road/bike lane lined with some of the biggest trees in the city flowing up and down gentle hills. The route then flies under I-135 and past a commercial/industrial portion east of downtown. As the route crosses Washington st the pavement morphs to brick inlaid street and enter “Old Town” where old-time red brick buildings have been converted into mostly entertainment venues/pubs/etc. Next cross under an elevated railroad and past an upscale loft neighboring a rehab dorm for the homeless, then a quick side glance by some low income apartments next to one of our clinics and the route ends at St. Francis hospital. Pretty cool eh!?! Literally, just long enough to numb my hands during winter (even with gloves), but oh so satisfying.

Cycle Anticlimax

Retracing the bike route brings to mind one of the less fun experiences of this year and city. During the first week of Obstetrics in December, and night float at that!, I was happily adventuring to work daily, then tragedy befell my dear bike whilst I was in my own home. As I slapped helmet on head and hopped out the side door I noticed that Topanga was not in her normal resting position in the carport. Me thought, “Hmm, I had locked only the front tire to frame, perhaps someone had attempted to ride off with her and then given up, laying the bike down in the front yard”, but no. As I walked about in aimless circles, searching for my favorite two wheels on earth, a neighbor lady across the way yelled out that she had spied a young hooligan wheel the bike down the road on rear wheel. Oh, the despair that filled my heart! It was a black night at work that shift. Topanga and I had been together since sophomore year in college. My friend Jordan had sold it to me for $5, felt bad about it and later gave me $5 back. I had lovingly maintained her in good working order, even upgrading a few parts: smooth puncture resistant street tires, a torn seat from an REI dent and scratch sale, a new front rim. She was closer to me than any woman had ever been. For a short time I changed my jog pattern to criss-cross the neighborhoods nearby, hoping that kid had left it for some bike he could actually fit on. I made a theft report, hoping the cops would not ask for a Kansas driver’s license. All dead-ended. I was angry at myself for not bringing the bike inside every day. 6 months of parking in the carport had seen no trouble, but it only took the first event for my world to come crashing down. Thoughts passed through mind; “maybe inner-city living is not for me, not when they take my dearest Topanga”. But God traded my despair and anger with the sobering realization that our world, including the Hilltop neighborhood, is filled with broken people who have far less opportunity than I (a well educated physician with a loving social support) and who are not blessed with faith and a conscience that gives them hope in life enough to not steal other people’s belongings. I was left bicycle-less but with a bigger heart for people. I still have not replaced Topanga, but will be searching Craigslist for a junker to clean up soon. Until then a fellow resident is lending me his fixed-gear bike; it is parked inside every night J.

(my friend's fixed gear bike, which I am borrowing)

(my amazing red team nurses! we work as a team in the clinic)

(All Hallow's Eve - my attending is dressing the part )

( awesome Toyota Previa in the background - any man's sports car dream)

(I am getting ready to assist in the operating room on my surgery rotation. This surgery was probably for salvaging an infected wound)

(In this picture I am assisting Evan in the delicate art of dumpster diving. I believe we salvaged a few nice pieces of timber on this occasion)

Well, this Saturday morning after PEDS night call is almost complete and it is time for something else. Thanks for keeping up.

With Love from cold hands but a warm heart,