*Inhales* It’s done! As you may know, I sacrificed my Summer vacation this year to focus on one of the most important hurdles of my academic career– the MCAT. The Medical College Admissions Test was my endgame this semester and I was determined to practically drop any leisure activities until the test date. That day was today.
To put things in perspective, I live in Houston, Texas and stay up at the University of Texas at Dallas during the school year. This Summer, I decided to stay up in Dallas to take MCAT – prep courses and otherwise stay in a studious environment to help aid my preparation for my test. Of course, my scholarship does not work during the Summer session either so I took a job at the university’s Nanobiotechnology research labs (which I was very very fortunate to get into) for both the experience and the extra income to defray costs. Luckily, my room mate Charlie (who is also from Houston) also decided to stay in our apartment for the Summer as well so I had some company.
Not much can be said about studying honestly… It was a rather unremarkable experience. Let me tell you however, everyday life was great. I really feel sorry that not everyone gets to experience college life because it truly is an exhilarating experience. I’d say Charlie and I really bonded this Summer simply because of the monotonous, low-stress lifestyle. Wake up,work/study, cook, relax. One of my classmates even mentioned that those days “were the life” because all we had to do was eat, sleep, and study. By no means was the Summer such that I was lamenting its loss because it was, in its own way, a form of relaxation.
Keeping this mind set into account, you can imagine that it was sort of an adventure when Charlie and I got to face a few catastrophes this Summer that happened at the worst possible times.
As my September 10th test date grew closer, I grew a bit more tense. On Sunday, the 31th of July, I woke up the same as on any other weekend– close to Noon and ready to spend the day in my apartment studying. For my breakfast, I decided to have a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats, a special limited edition box that had three kinds of raisins in it. After finishing my meal, I got to work.
Around one or two o’ clock in the afternoon, my stomach began to hurt. It was concentrated around the region of my belly button and lower so I figured that it was gas or something else that would eventually die down. When the pain was not lessening, I took a shower a few times to refresh myself so I could keep concentrated on my studies, but the pain was becoming extremely distracting by the time evening rolled around. I ended up calling my parents (who had been aware of the situation more or less through my conversations with my brother on GTalk) to tell them what was happening and ended up driving (while in pain) to CVS Pharmacy to pick up some Peptobismol for my stomach. I was also advised to get some carbonated white soda too so I ended up picking up a 12 oz bottle of Sprite Zero.
By the time I purchased everything, I was at a point that I just took a dose of Peptobismol in the parking lot. Luckily, since our apartment was close by, the drive back was not too troublesome. A few hours later, I still felt terrible… Worse even. By then, I was just lying on my bed while surfing the Internet on my laptop and Android. I decided to take another dose of Peptobismol when the pain in my stomach subsided a bit and within a few minutes, I felt worse again. Around this time, I began to research a bit online about Appendicitis, which just happened to pop in my head as something worth looking into. I mean, Appendicitis tends to be one of those random diseases that you know exist, but are not sure how they come about. Looking at the symptoms, I definitely checked out for a few of them, but one warning stuck in my mind: “Eating and drinking may worsen the pain and cause the appendix to burst.”
Weighing my options with my parents over the phone, I had two choices. Either I could wait till the next day (Monday) and visit my physician, or I could go to the ER and get checked out. By the end of the phone call, I had pretty much decided that I would wait till next morning and tough out the pain through the night. Before ending the call, my mother mentioned that perhaps I should eat something high in Potassium, such as a banana. After a brief pause, I hesitantly responded, “Uhh… Well I read online that if it is appendicitis, eating and drinking can make it worse. Now that I think about it, each time I took a dose of Peptobismol, I felt worse.” After another pause, my father responded, “Go to the Emergency Room.”
As I left my bedroom, I asked Charlie to take me to the Emergency Room “whenever” since P.N.03 was on the television screen and I knew how enraging the game was. Being a good friend, Charlie turned off the Wii and began to get ready to head out right then and there, grabbing the DS at my recommendation. I immediately noticed the discomfort the car ride was bringing to my belly, but luckily, Methodist Hospital: Richardson was on the same road as the campus’ main entrance.
The Emergency Room was… Typical to say the least. Despite it being around 11:30 PM, the wait times were still there and as prominent as ever. The first thing the ER nurse did after check-in was to put a saline lock in my vein (or what I call, the valve). The valve was basically a little tube with an on/off lock that would stay in my arm and could plug in to any IV or medicine-feeding machine in the hospital. Through this valve, the nurse drew my blood for some preliminary tests since my symptoms “could [have been] appendix.” During this wait, I was given a bed (in some sort of shared room with multiple beds) and a hospital gown which was rather awkward to wear in Charlie’s presence. (I actually found that the gown could be tied from the back when a nurse pointed it out to me). A nurse eventually came back to interrupt my fanservice scene to inform me that my blood contained high levels of white blood cells, which could mean that there is an infection in the system. While this news was not the greatest, it did amuse me a little because their deduction was totally on par with a question that might be asked on the MCAT. The next step was to get a CAT scan of my digestive system so they could see my appendix.
In order for my innards to show up properly on the film, I had to drink contrast. The nurse gave me a cloudy drink that was mostly ice with a nifty little straw sticking out over the top which had to run through my body for about half an hour at the least. The drink itself was not too bad, but I swear that the ice and water was just a diversion until I got near the bottom where all the chalky substance was– that part, I did not enjoy. Throughout all of this, I was given a couple different IVs that were hooked into my valve, and about an hour later, I was transported via wheelchair to the CAT scan room.
Having had a CAT scan before when I was in the 2nd grade, I more or less knew what to expect, but this run was somewhat special since I had contrast inside of me. Apparently, I had to have medicine pumped into me which (surprise!) hooked into my all-purpose valve during the scan. Now it should be important to note that, when medicine is being dumped directly into your blood stream, it tends to take effect rather quickly. I was still somewhat taken aback however when the technician said that the medicine would make me feel hot and give me a strange taste in my mouth… and even more so when I realized that what he said was true. The room was a little strange too… the ceiling (which you would be looking up at when lying down) had a somewhat eerie palm tree backdrop on it and the CAT scan machine itself would talk to you, instructing you when to breathe and when to hold your breath.
When everything was said and done, I was transported back to my bed and had to totally go to the bathroom right away. Let me tell you, it was like a faucet had been turned on. I realized that all the IVs and medicine that were being pumped straight into my veins had to come out somehow, and that based on the fact that IV bags are pretty big, it made sense that a lot was going to come out. Even after my first run, I had to run back to the bathroom about every 10 minutes until everything was purged. Finally, after waiting a while, the nurse tells me that it was indeed… Appendicitis. My surgery to have it removed would be at 7:00 AM the next morning (01 August 2011). A part of me was glad that I diagnosed myself properly, but I was mainly just thinking, “What now?” The first thing I did was to call my parents, who were still up since they were eagerly waiting to hear back from me. Immediately, my father proclaimed that they will be driving over the next day which surprised me, but also made me happy.
With the surgery scheduled, I was moved to a personal over-night room. As far as hospital rooms go,my room was pretty nice! It had a television, a window looking down at the busy road, a call remote to bring the nurse, a bathroom (with a shower and everything!), and more. I also distinctly remember that at least one of my nurses was very pretty and that I was glad that she was my nurse… haha. By the time I was all settled, it was 5:00 AM. Charlie, being the most wonderful room mate a person could ask for, was still there. I instructed Charlie to call my lab supervisor to tell her that I would not be able to attend work and a few other contacts before bidding a good night. I never slept that night as I had a machine connected to my valve feeding in medicine at a set rate. Even when I had to go to the bathroom, the nurse had to help me bring the machine pole with me into the bathroom since disconnecting it would be too troublesome. Eventually, I called my nurse back in to draw the curtains since “I [had not] slept all night so I [could] at least pretend to sleep.”
When it was time for my surgery, the surgeon came into the room to quickly describe the procedure before wheeling my entire bed down to the Pre-Op room. The thing that was most different from my Tonsillectomy surgery in 2nd grade was the fact that I was the one handling the paperwork at this point. In the Pre-Op room, I had to verify my identity for the umpteenth time by reciting my name and date of birth before signing off on the operation. Finally, I was wheeled to the operating room itself, which I can still distinctly remember. The operating table was surprisingly cushy and had a little pillow for my head. After getting situated on the table, I recall the anesthesiologist telling me that he was going to inject something in my valve that will make me act drunk. The absolute last thing I recall before the operation was making some sort of retort about how I wouldn’t have known what it would be like to be drunk since I was 19 years old.
This was the second time in my life that I was waking up after an operation, and both times, it felt as if I was just napping for a few minutes. I remember my eyes fluttering open as they were wheeling my bed back to my room and asking “It’s done?” I must have finally fallen asleep in relief after hearing the nurse reply, “It’s done!”
The next few moments are blurred together a bit in my head. At one point, I remember waking back up to see Dr. Ru, my laboratory supervisor entering my room. I was very surprised to see her since she must have ended up finding my room herself after Charlie told her that I would be unable to come to work. At the same time, I was so, so, happy that I had people to care for me in such emergency situations. Dr. Ru basically told me that everything would be fine, and wrote her number on a whiteboard in my room in case anyone needed to contact her. (After I had recovered, my friends would joke that Dr. Ru was coming to make sure I was not slacking off, but in truth, she is really a very sweet and caring lady). The next time I remember my eyes fluttering open was when my dad walked in through the door. That moment… I clearly remember because it was like a dream sequence. My eyes opened and slowly focused in time to see my father walk in through the door.
The rest of the day was spent recovering. The surgery basically drilled three holes in a vertical line down from my belly button and glued them back using surgical glue– no incisions needed. (The nurse before had actually told me that they would make four holes, but I never found a fourth). I was initially on a liquid food diet but I progressed to a full orange chicken meal by the end of the day, which was prepared absolutely magnificently… Far better than our own dining hall. The nurses (who had changed rotation, but were just as warm and friendly) also had to make sure that I was able to walk before leaving the hospital since my abdominal muscles had been traumatized. Luckily, I was able to leave the same day, despite some recoveries taking longer. Let me tell you though… when one has painful feedback whenever they use their abdominal muscles, they really get a sense of how often such muscles are used. The absolute worst thing however at the time was sneezing. Even if you stifle a sneeze, the shock wave goes straight to your gut… very dreadful.
After leaving the hospital, my parents stayed an additional day in Dallas and completely cleaned my room, did all the dishes, and did all my laundry (which took up 3 washing machines) before leaving… God bless them! I was choked up and nearly cried when they were leaving as I said “Thank you for coming.”
Recovery was fairly smooth and the painkillers (basically a low level form of Morphine) were fantastic and fast acting. The medicine gave me some really strange dreams within dreams however… After three days though, I already weaned myself off the medication and basically relaxed to heal up enough to study again. While relaxing, I could not help but think that this was the second time in my life that I made a “good call” and decided to go (or tell someone else to go) to the hospital just to be safe. Why take chances with life?
As I was just getting back into the groove of things and about a week before the Fall session started, Charlie and I woke up to the smoke detector beeping. Charlie dismissed it, figured that it was just another fire drill, and proceeded to take a shower. I got up and walked out into the living room to see… Water.
Pouring down through the ceiling. The first thing I did was to unplug Charlie’s Wii and television stuff since they were dangerously close to the water and then proceeded to enter Charlie’s bedroom since my demands to answer me went unanswered. At this point, I was not aware that Charlie was showering and was worried that, being a deep sleeper, Charlie was sleeping through a dangerous situation– I was not sure how structurally safe the building was from the water damage and whether we would have to evacuate or not.
Putting on a shirt, Charlie joined me to start spreading out towels and moving furniture away from the leaks. When emergency maintenance arrived, they took one look at the situation and ran upstairs. We were eventually informed that the boiler between the second and third floors had ruptured and that everything was coming down. At this point, I was determined to not disturb my MCAT preparation any more than it already had been and began packing all essentials to put into my car. Charlie had to go to work and I left for the 24 hour honors lounge on campus to avoid distraction. While maintenance worked on the problem, I stopped first at the leasing office where there just so happened to be some booth about Muscle Milk. Hungry since I did not have breakfast, I decided to ask for a free sample. After hearing my story, the guy gave me two bottles of the stuff and a free T-Shirt… I was so grateful!
To be honest, the rest of the day was spent with me studying and/or complaining to my friends about the bad timing of this new catastrophe. The apartment had holes cut all over it to replace the water-damaged sections and had air blowers inside it to super-dry everything. Can you believe it? Two legitimate disasters happening before my MCAT. I was really quite upset.
In the few weeks left until test day, my laptop charger died, school started, and the homework started piling on. I was becoming increasingly frustrated and stressed about the test as September 10th approached, but my friends also did an awesome job supporting me, for which I was very grateful. On the day of the test, I woke, ate breakfast, and left the rest on God. However, the testing center was pretty hardcore and was not too kind on the nerves… Every break, whenever you enter or exit the testing room, you need to get fingerprinted, ID’d, and stand in front of a body scanner– I was impressed at the excessiveness of the whole ordeal. The test itself though… really did not have any real surprised. I felt it was pretty straightforward, but we will indeed see in 30 days.
For now, it’s time to catch up on leisure activities that were begging for me to take part in!