Thursday, August 30, 2012

Six year anniversary

I don't know the actual date I started this blog but it was right about this time in the breakpoint between August and September six years ago. I was a brand-spanking-new post doc in a country far away from safe home. And my life was about to change in so many ways and I needed some advice, a venting ground where no one knew me and could identify me.

Now, a few years out of post-doc life, still living in post-doc city working away with science in a newish format (more paper work adhering to FDA regulations, less writing and publishing papers). I’m more surprised by the notion that I still live in post-doc city (PDC) since this marks the longest time I have ever stayed in one city since I moved away from home at age 19… My university experience was broken up between undergrad and grad school, going away to another far away country and when coming back having a “natural” break with old undergraduate friends and finding new normal as a graduate student.

The most surprising realization after noting the 6 year anniversary of the blog? Living here in PDC for six years?! Never would have thought it. Didn’t plan it. Didn’t really want it. Having this blog as the longest one address, apart from my old email address from 1996, since I’ve moved several times these six years… and by far the longest I have ‘resided’ anywhere (my IRL longest experience in a house/apartment is 2 years). When you think about all that, maybe it isn’t too strange that I am slightly surprised about the course of my life?

But I wanted to rant about the blog today. As I said, when I started it was a turbulent time. Lots of venting about the harsh climate as a post-doc (those lab meetings…) and the more turbulent and confusing private life (alone in a faraway country), and even then a little trickle of sports now and then. The more years added on the blogging experience, the less obviously identifiable people from the world of science (no more blatant lab ventings) and more generic things. Maybe more venting emo posts about life and the meaning of friendship etc… in times when the loneliness and confusion were running high. I’ve erased some of the more pathetic ones, it’s like re-reading your journal from teen years, no one should really do that, and tried to keep in line with the more sciency/politics/world rants.

I wonder where I will go now. I miss writing these more thought out posts, with a point in them. And I have started to second guess the meaning/enjoyment of the posts… are they read? Funny, in the beginning I didn’t care that much. It was more like sitting down in a bar, having a drink and opening your heart out for any stranger who was unfortunate enough to sit next by listening… and then some days getting a comment with some nice words (or sometimes a more ‘get a grip and get over it’ type of sentiment) which still meant that I wasn’t alone in the whole world… yes, emotions and I go way back ;)

I’m thinking about doing a little chore for the next couple of weeks/months, setting up a schedule to write more regularly and maybe even with a little more intent to be interesting/relevant? I’ll mull it over on this long weekend as we have here in the USA, Labor Day weekend and I would be happy to see what you think, in the kind of comments and feedback from the fold....

Happy long weekend (soon!).

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fantasy Football League?!?!

It's almost the end of August and with that - FINALLY - comes a new season of American football. YEY for that! (I'm really not loveing the baseball season over here.... nor am I a basketball fan, although that hasn't been going on either so... And in  the football back home my team isn't doing spectacularly well either :( )

Therefore, I figured I needed to be slightly proactive and write this post about asking/begging to join in on a league. I want to play Fantasy Football with my fellow Science Bloggers as last year.... and the year before that... etc...  :)

However, I know that since many of you are on twitter (like Genrepair who were instigating a lot last time ;)  there might be something set up there, rather than through the blogs like previous years? If this is the case, and some of you nice people who hang on twitter and are going to be in a league have an opening for a person like me - I would love to join in again.

Email me or drop me a line in the comments section. please? (Yes, I might come off as slightly desperate but I really like the banter and the playing. I might even become a weekend twitterer if that would be a pre-requisite nowadays ;) .... [firewall at work]

(Yes, I can send an email to the old email-list but I figured I would do this less invasive begging first ;)

As for the NHL Fantasy I guess we will have to wait for another month or so IF the league gets a season this year...... I dare not think about yet another lock out season so for now I am ignoring that fear! And as far as people involved in the madness of ice I'm looking at you Cath, ScienceMother, Alyssa, and similar others for the ice loveing fun people :) Got to get that competition in there, even if I didn't come close to the top three last year either.

Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

the patient has expired

Ever so often I get reminded why I decided in high school not to pursue the MD dream I once had. I don't deal well with not being able to do anything*. Sure enough, I would love to help people get better. But on the off chance (pretty often in reality) when you can't do anything to cure the person... well.... not my best moment.

I had one of those clair moments while looking through my options that last year of high school when you decide where to go after school's out - the college choice. Back home, you sort of decide the MD route right away. It's not like in the US where you do an undergrad and then choose med school. Nope. You can choose the MD program right off the bat, which entails more than 6 years at uni, and more significantly - you decide when you apply right off high school that you want to become a physician. (Of course, many people apply to the MD route after doing something else after high school and there are alternative application processes; interviews and equivalents of SATS.... but still, it's the way it's not a "graduate studies per se" but rather a whole different program from the start I was trying to mention.)

Anyhow, I decided then that I was not the kind of person who would do well with "trying to save someone and then see them die". I might know now, after my training and work in the hospice care that things are slightly more complicated, but still.... the main feeling remains. My inability of dealing well with my inadequacy of not being able to fix the situation. Although, my hospice care work with older people is giving me wonderful perspective on life and not only because many of them give me such wonderful stories about their lives.

I guess it's rather ironic that I find myself working in a place where we deal with patients on a semi-regular basis. After all, that's part of the job of being in a Phase I and II place. It's not really that much of a "patient based touch" - for the person outside we're simply testing some stuff from the trials, making sure all is ok and say "go" to the clinical people and then give them the drugs. Then again, for someone who thinks too much - it's more than that.

It's the time when we have a "transfer scheduled", early mornings and odd times, samples and tests to run and then we go for lunch or dinner... we never really know what happened straight away. We don't give the drugs to the patients, we just test it all out. But we do know when we have a scheduled transfer and it gets cancelled - usually only a few days prior the whole thing - and that the underlying reason is usually that the patient isn't fit enough to undergo treatment.

Sometimes though, we find out that the patient we have been a part of treating has expired. In layman terms, they didn't make it, they died. And since we are dealing with children most of the times, it a child who has passed. A child who is no more.

Today was a slightly different day since it wasn't "just an unknown patient". It was someone I've met, a family I've comforted (or what to call it since I highly doubt I made that much of an impact but I will always remember them) and a child I've seen up close and personal. They were so brave. They smiled every time I met them. I only wish I was that brave but after I've walked away from the ICU or their other room I usually cried. I couldn't do much to help. I could only wish that they would get better. That the tumour could go away, and that the drugs would help with that.

Well, as a little dark part of me thought when I read the chart a long time ago, the miracle didn't happen. They expired - that's to say that they died - today. I don't have anything uplifting to say. I couldn't make a difference. Nothing we did helped. It was all out of our hands.

And on a theoretical plain I realise that it has nothing to with me. It wasn't to me to fix, I could've never done that. But in my heart I feel that I failed. Oh so I failed. They will never grow to be 5 years old. They will never see their parents' happiness when they started school that first day. Or having a first love as a teen. Or what have you.

I guess on a smaller selfish scale I should count this as a blessing for me. I should take this as a reminder that I need to live my life to the fullest since you never know when the physican will say "we found a lump/mass/tumour" but today I'm not feeling it. Today I'm only feeling a large sense of failure and sadness. I really wish our treatment would've worked.

I don't want to see more dead children.

And I would have like not to feel bad about having these feelings since in the end, I didn't lose a child. Nor a family member. I'm just a working trying to help and maybe it's expected of me not to feel this sad and affected. I don't even know anymore. Am I supposed to just leave it as a "work thing"? As for now I've decided that it is alright to grieve for a day (or night) for a child who died and the family who was left. I won't dig any deeper, and it's not my loss to have. But just for tonight, it's hard to feel anything but sorrow and frustration that another child has died, just in the beginning of life.

*anything - what I now would refer to "fixing it to be all good"

Friday, August 03, 2012

Planning fail...or "All days are the same, right?"

First premise: bacteria grow on the weekend (all days are considered the same from the bacteria's point of view)

Second premise: cell cultures grow on the weekend (all days are considered the same from the cells' point of view)

Third premise: certain assays have set times, i.e. "take out sample after 72 hours" (all days are considered the same from the assays' point of view)

Fourth premise: A planning tool with a calander function is needed to make things organised and great.

Conclusion: Choose a planning tool where a 'week' is defined as five days since that's the definition of a work week.


This leads to interesting things, considering that a "week" is seven days and not five* least from a bacteria/cell culture view of things. I know, even if 'we humans' don't 'normally' work on the weekend (here in our work place). 'We humans' sorta kinda need to look and consider those three things I listed in the beginning. Promise. It's not because I'm trying to be complicated or a know-it-all or a stick-in-the-mud.

Regardless of this, since it's another part of the fun, I don't really think Thursday the 22nd of November** will be a good day to start that Part F on. Just sayin'....

* it's even more complicated once you reliase that there might be confusion if 1 day=24hours or 1 day=the part with sunlight=12hours (aka 'work day'). I think there might be a whole post in the potential pit fall in using "days" when talking about assays. Especially if you don't recognize the difference in "sampling/injection/infection day is Day=0 and not day=1... Yeah, it's a whole heap of fun with definitions.

**it's called Thanksgiving. And it's sorta kinda big around here in the US....