Moving On

As I move on to the next phase of my life, it feels like it’s time to close down this blog.  Please join me at my new blog, Listening to Whispers.  Hope to see you there!

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I Hope I Never Have To Do That Again

Let me just tell you how ridiculous Comprehensive Exams are.  At least the way our department does them.  Basically, they want you to spit out everything you know about audiology, with no reference materials whatsoever.  Which is totally not like real life.  If I can’t remember the fitting range for a specific type of hearing aid, I would look it up.  If I need to look at the reflex arc to figure out my reflex results, so what?  I have it in my desk.  It’s such a fake situation, that’s fraught with anxiety, and fatigue, that there’s almost no way you can go through two days of writing without missing something or making a mistake.  Both of which I did.

That being said, it’s over.  Today was the “hard day.”  The most demanding professors who taught the most difficult subjects went today, so I spent the bulk of my studying time on this material.  And – surprise, surprise – I knew it like the back of my hand.  Twelve single-spaced pages poured out of my like nobody’s business, and I didn’t even break a sweat.  Yesterday was a different story.  I felt pressed for time, I panicked over the hearing aid question, each professor gave us not just one question, but an exam.  It was brutal and I left feeling wrung out and weepy.  Which lasted all night.  But I got up this morning, did my thing, and I’m done.

All done.

Except for my Capstone.  But let’s not think about that right now.

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Recovery and Studying

Not too much to write about lately.  I’ve spent my time either napping or studying.  Napping because it seems that the longest lingering consequence of the gallbladder surgery is exhaustion, and studying because on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week I have Comprehensive Exams.

What are Comprehensive Exams, you say?  Well, each professor asks a broad question about his or her area(s) of expertise, and I am expected to write about it for an hour to an hour and a half.  I cannot use any notes or references.  Just my brain.  The ol’ noodle.  So really, I have to remember everything I’ve been taught over the last three years, and be ready to write coherently, intelligently, and with depth and understanding about it.

I have never studied so hard for anything in my life.  Seriously.  I have reviewed ALL class material.  I have pulled out information I think I should know and information that I have to commit to memory.  I have reviewed every case study we were ever given.  I have tried to tie classes together into the “big picture.”  All in between napping and grading papers for my writing class (which I thankfully finished last night!).

So I can expect a question with a medical/diagnostic bent, which will probably combine electrophysiology and central auditory processing.  I can expect one about tinnitus, one about vestibular testing, one about aural rehabilitation.  Of course there will be a question about hearing aids and a question about cochlear implants.  There will be some kind of question with a pediatric bent.  I’m sure I’ll be asked about noise and OSHA regulations.  And then there will be some questions about the physiology and mechanics of the hearing process – something theoretical.

I can’t believe I learned all of that in three years.  I’m suddenly very impressed with myself.  Or – I will be if I pass!  Each question is being scored Pass, Low Pass, or Fail.  If I can pull off mostly Pass with a couple of Low Passes thrown in, I’ll be satisfied!

And then my new job starts Monday!!  Why is everything going so fast?!

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Not For Sissies

Surgery is not for sissies. How do I know this?  I had surgery on Monday to remove that pesky little gallbladder that’s been giving me so much trouble.   But wait, I was supposed to have a surgical consult on Monday – how did I end up in the OR?

Well, it happened like this.  Approximately an hour after celebrating my youngest child’s fourth birthday with a teeny, tiny, weensy sliver of grandma’s chocolate cake, I was doubled over in pain.  Moaning.  Crying.  Generally wanting to die.  Around 10 o’clock, I finally agreed that the emergency room was the only place I needed to be.  So, Nate’s mom graciously rushed over to stay with the kids, and Nate and I headed for the ER.

The ER on a Sunday night is quite the popular night-spot, let me tell you.  We waited for over and hour just to be seen.  Thankfully, they were quick with the pain meds and I finally got some relief.  I didn’t realize h0w much pain I had been coping with for more than a week until morphine took the pain away.  The doctor offered to call my surgeon to see what he wanted to do, and wouldn’t you know it, he happened to be in the ER right then, seeing another poor soul.

So, I got to meet my surgeon a little sooner that planned.  He said that I had two options.  I could go home, and we could schedule the surgery for Wednesday, or he could admit me and we could just do it.  He recommended the latter, given that I was basically in crisis.  Nate and I conferred briefly, and decided that papers and presentations and classes and work responsibilities aside, it would be best to get this thing taken care of – the sooner I could start recovering, the better.

So, I was admitted.  I made it to my (very nice, private) room by 4 am, was asleep by 5, and awake for the day at 6.  I had no idea what time the surgery would happen, so when they came at 11 and said, “We’re taking you down to the OR”, I panicked.  I said a quick goodbye to Nate, hoping that we would see each other again.  They wheeled me down, I met everyone, I was a weeping mess.  The surgeon came by and asked, “How are you?”  I said, “Terrified.”  He said, “We have drugs for that.”

They took me into the OR, and the last thing I remember – only vaguely – is settling myself onto the operating table.  What seemed like immediately afterward, I was struggling to open my eyes and was in immense pain.  I heard, “Wake up!  It’s over! Everything went great.”  I thought, “Ow.”  Sore throat from the intibation, sore hoo-ha from the catheter, sore belly from the four holes they made to get the gallbladder out.  And of course, sore insides.  Youch.  I’m telling you – it’s not for sissies.

I ended up having to stay another night.  I was sicker than they thought, so they wanted to make sure I could tolerate liquid food, then regular food.  They had to make sure I could walk on my own, was making pee, etc., etc.  It was a far cry from the in-and-out day procedure that I had been expecting.

The good news is that even through the surgical pain, I could tell that the gallbladder pain was gone.  When my first liquid meal came, I was a little reluctant to try it.  It was stuff that I would never eat under normal circumstances – “strained cream soup” they called it.  It was like cream of something soup without the something in it.  But I took one taste, and it was like ambrosia.  And I realized – I can eat again.  I’m going to be OK.

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Gallbladder? Or Giant Can of Whoop-Ass?

Remember how I was sick last week, and I kind of felt like I was recovering?  Well, every time I ate something, I would be back in misery for several hours, and I started having chest pain, so on Monday I high-tailed it to health services to see if I was actually dying.  I described my symptoms to the doc, and he said, “Is there a history of gallbladder disease in your family?'”  Why, yes.  Yes, there is.  In fact, nearly everyone on my mother’s side has had to have that little organ surgically removed.

I had an ultrasound yesterday that confirms that I do, indeed, have a 1.3 cm gallstone in there.  I asked the doctor if he thought I could pass it, and he laughed and said, “Not a chance.”  So – it’s off to a surgeon I go.  I scheduled an appointment for Monday morning with a well-regarded local surgeon.  The good news is that his front office person has been really kind and on the ball.  That bodes well.

In the meantime, I feel pretty terrible.  Every time I eat I feel nauseous and get pain right under/behind my rib cage on the right side.  I’ve been told not to eat any fat at all, so my diet is consisting basically of small amount of fruit, vegetables, and plain bread.  There is no position at all that is comfortable, so sleep is elusive.  I got a prescription for Ambien, which seems to work for 4 hours.  After that, I’m tossing, turning, and whimpering.  I’ve started listening to my iPod in bed (Harry Potter!) to distract me.  That way at least I’m resting, and I do fall asleep in fits and starts.

The timing could really not be worse.  This is the last week of my last semester of graduate school.  Everything is coming to a head – paper and poster presentation, teaching my last class, finishing up my placement.  In a week and a half I have comprehensive exams.  I’ve already told my Capstone advisor that it’s not going to happen by the end of this semester.  Luckily, it doesn’t *technically* have to be finished for another year – but I wanted to have it done so that I could go out into the world and start my full-time job with the academics firmly behind me.  It’s not the end of the world, just a disappointment.

So here we are, facing a busy weekend with three baseball games (one for each kid!), a certain birthday boy who is turning four years old, and a mom who is eyeing the kitchen sheers wondering if she could just take care of this thing herself and be done with it.  I’ve been studying the anatomy – I think I might be able to do it.  At this point, I would give anything for 8 hours of restful sleep.

On the plus side, I have met and exceeded my goal weight, after 10 years of fitful dieting and occasional exercise.  There’s always a silver-lining, right?

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When the Mom Gets Sick

When my kids get sick – and I mean really sick, not a cold – I always feel like I would do anything to take it away.  I would take it on myself if it would leave them healthy and whole.  I dread those big illnesses.  Only slightly less dreadful is contracting one of those illnesses myself, and being physically unable to be the mommy.

There is nothing worse than lying in a curled-up ball in bed, listening to your family go on without you.  Having to give up my role as cruise director is painful.  I’ve been sick since Thursday night.  Eventually I put in earplugs so that I wouldn’t constantly be straining to hear what’s going on downstairs.  Whose voice is that?  Why is Aaron crying?  Sounds like they’re going out to ride bikes.  Is that Jake bouncing around in his room, or are we having an earthquake?

Luckily for me, I have plenty of support that allows me to lie in bed for three days.  Nate has things under control – everyone is clean, fed, clothed, sleeping when they’re supposed to sleep.  They’re getting outside, and playing board games through the rain storms.  Grandma came over to help dye the Easter Eggs, and Nate and Jake did the Easter set-up without me.  Honestly, it feels as if they don’t really need me at all.

Just as I am beginning to feel human, Jake is on the couch with a fever, so it’s time for me to exercise my mommy muscles again.  I think it’s going to take me a couple hours to ease back in.  Let’s hope the other two can steer clear of this dreadful bug.

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What would Disneyland look like if it were designed by Audiologists?  It would be the American Academy of Audiology’s yearly conference: AAA.

The industry presence was unbelievable.  Every company that has anything at all to do with audiology was well represented – the hearing aid companies, of course, but also earmold companies, equipment companies, etc.  Pretty much everyone had a demonstration of some kind.  The major players had several, and they were all giving away food.  One company was making milkshakes for people, right on the exhibit floor.  Another had a pizza parlor in their area, a third had waiters in tuxedos walking around with bowls of chocolate-covered strawberries.

While that was all fun, the real meat and potatoes of the conference was the sessions.  There were many famous names in audiology present, and many were giving sessions at the same time.  There were so many exciting things to see and do every session, that it was difficult to choose.  Often, I’d just decide based on where I was (the Convention Center in Chicago is HUGE).  The highlight for me was seeing Dr. Musiek’s three-dimensional trip through the auditory nervous system.  Yes, we all sat in the audience with our 3D glasses on, as a giant cadaver brain leaped out of the screen as we traced the auditory system up the eighth nerve, through the brainstem, and up into the auditory cortex.  It was amazing.

It’s also kind of like a reunion, because so many audiologists are there that you’re bound to run into someone you know.  I ran into all kinds of people – many more than I expected to.  There were former supervisors, students who have graduated and moved on, professors, our area’s industry representatives.

So next year it’s in Boston – much easier and cheaper!  I can’t wait!

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The city of Chicago is beautiful.  And historic.  And full of movie references.  We rode the CTA from Midway to downtown.  And I couldn’t help but think about Risky Business.  You know, on the train, with Rebecca Demornay, in the middle of the night.  Oh, Tom Cruise, you were so cute.  What happened?  Anyway, then we got off the train, and started walking around downtown looking for where were supposed to be to volunteer.   I’ve seen this scene a million times on the big and small screen:

The train whizzing by overhead, taxis speeding by underneath.  I thought, “I’ve been here before!  County General must be near here!”  For those of you who did not watch ER religiously for 11 years – that’s the hospital in ER.  Anyway, it was so exciting to walk around downtown and just take in the ambiance.

I had no idea, but one of the things you do at a conference is get up at the crack of dawn to make it to the 8 o’clock sessions.  Our hotel restaurant served oatmeal, yay, and also looked right out on Millennium Park.  Here is the sun rising:

In the evening, we walked around and looked for somewhere good to eat.  One night we walked to the right and found a neighborhood Thai restaurant that had probably the best Pad Thai I have ever eaten.  Delicious!  Next next night we walked to the left, which was toward downtown.  We had a lovely meal, but the most exciting this was finding “the bean.”  I had never heard of this bean before, but apparently it’s famous.  It’s really just a huge, smooth, shiny, bean-shaped structure that’s highly reflective.  Here is the skyline reflected by the bean:

After the conference, I visited one of my very best friends, Jane, who lives with her husband and cutie-pie daughter in Hyde Park.  We took a lovely Spring walk through the University of Chicago.  It’s huge, and beautiful, and coincidentally, plays a large part in the opening scene of When Harry Met Sally.

Nate and I are hoping to make it back to Chicago in the near future so that we can explore it together, without a conference taking up 12 hours of each day.  It seemed there was so much more to do, and no time to do it in.  We have two free airline tickets about to expire – do I sense a 15th Anniversary trip in the making?  I think so!

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A Tale of Three Hotels

What is a trip without a little hotel drama?  Even before we left, it had started to go south.  I called to confirm our room reservation at the Chicago Doubletree.  I had booked this room when I registered for the conference, and thought everything was all set.  And then I called and they had no record of my reservation.  This was two days before the conference.  They asked for my confirmation number, I opened up my registration packet to look for it, and wouldn’t you know it – it wasn’t there.  My reservation had disappeared into the the ether.  So I kindly asked the gentleman to book us a room (this is for me and two friends from my program), and he just as kindly told me they were sold out.

“Lucky” for us, the Doubletree is part of the Hilton family, so he said he would gladly book us a room at a sister hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, just .6 miles from the Doubletree.  Not the best – we’d have to walk over in the morning to catch the shuttle, but fine – better than sleeping on a park bench, right?  So I specifically told him that we would need two beds and a roll-away.  Great.  Booked.  Fabulous.

Until we got there.  This was after a long day of volunteering, then going to the late afternoon conference activities, then taking the shuttle to the Doubletree and walking over half a mile with all of our luggage to the Garden Inn.  We go to check in, and we have a King bed with a rollaway.

“That’s not going to work.  We have three people, none of us are related to one another.  I specifically asked for three beds.”

“You asked for ‘Room Select’, which means whatever is available when you check in.”

“No.  I would never have asked for that, because it’s not acceptable.  I asked for two double beds and a roll-away.”

“Well, I could cancel the reservation for you.  I’ll be extra super nice and only charge you one night rather than all three.”

“No, you can cancel the room and only charge us zero nights.  You guys screwed up our reservation – twice!  I’m really angry about this.”

“You’re really angry?  Why are you angry?”

“Hello?  Have you been listening to this conversation at all?”

“Well, I’ll tell you what.  Since you’re angry, I’ll pull a double beds room from someone else and let you have it.”

“So now there is a room magically available?”

“Yes, when that person checks in, they’ll just have to make do with a king room.”

Sigh.  “OK, that’s fine.”  I hand over my credit card.

He’s about to run it through the machine when he says, “You know, we can’t fit a roll-away in a double bed room.”  I put my hand right back out and say, “Give it back.”  He hands me back my card.

Eventually, we stepped aside and used their wifi to get online and try to find something else.  Turns out, we found a cheaper hotel, closer to the shuttle, with an available room with two beds and a roll-away.  I went back up to the counter to argue some more.  I told him we had found a suitable room, and that I wasn’t going to pay a cancellation fee.

“Oh, yeah?  Where did you find a room?”

“The Congress Plaza Hotel, on Michigan Avenue.”

“Well, that place probably isn’t rated very highly.  Let me just check that for you.”  Tippy tappy on the keyboard.  “Oh, well, that looks pretty nice.  Well, I’m sure they can’t fit a roll-away in their double bed rooms.  Let me just call for you.”  Phone dialing. “Hi, this is [a butthead] from the Hilton Garden Inn.  I have a customer here who is looking for a room with two double beds that will fit a roll-away.  You guys can’t do that, can you?  [Pause]  Oh, I see.  Thank you.”  He hangs up. “So I’m just going to refund your entire deposit.  Thanks for your patience.”

Hilton family hotels – you’re on my list.

The Congress Plaza was actually really nice.  It’s a very old hotel, looks a little run-down, a little down and out, but it has a lot of character.  The doors are really thick, old wood.  The windows actually open.  It was very quiet because the construction is so old and solid – we never heard anyone clunking around above us or flushing toilets beside us.  And – we were only two blocks from the regular Hilton – another (closer to the Convention Center!) shuttle stop.

Lovely room, with PLENTY of space for a  roll-away!  Thanks, Hilton people, for leading us to a great, non-Hilton, hotel!

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It Seemed Like Such A Good Idea

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.   I’m off to Chicago tomorrow morning, to attend an audiology convention.  It’s not really an audiology convention, it’s the audiology convention.  Last year it was in San Diego, and I wanted to go, but Aaron was two and a half, and it just seemed too hard.  So this year, I’m really doing it.

I’m bunking with friends from my program, I’m seeing my oldest pal, Jane, I’m going to learn all kinds of cool stuff, and I’m going to get lots of free pens.  Hopefully that will be enough to offset the family upheaval, travel anxiety, and expense incurred.  I shall report.  Let’s hope the roof stays on the plane.

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