I love babies. I really do. On my last day of newborn week I got some good final squeezes, er, exams in. It was a good time. Now on to the deliveries! (I will miss the softness though).
Oh yeah, and fun times with a free show in the park by the excellent, and local, Sleepy Vikings. I even saw a few other med students there. Go figure.
Today was my one assigned day to spend in the NICU. There are a lot of sad stories in the NICU; there are a lot of happy ones too. Honestly, it wasn’t the most riveting day ever. I did nothing but shadow because the care is so specialized in this part of the hospital that you have to posses really specific knowledge in order to contribute anything significant. Per a resident’s advice, I sought out the smallest babies in the NICU. They look nothing like the healthy babies I had been working with earlier in the week. They are alien like with tubes and wires coming out all over the place and sterilized in their heated space ship incubators. They look like animatronics from an amusement park with the way they flex some of their extremities but can barely move their heads and trunks. I don’t say that to be mean or dehumanize them; it’s just an honest impression, a shocking contrast. I did marvel at how detailed their tiny fingers and toes and facial features were. It was like they were sculpted, hand crafted, immaculately created by some artistic, mechanical genius. I think the scale is the most impressive thing. It’s like watching a model train display and seeing a miniature version of yourself sitting on a park bench waving back at you. They are the smallest organisms being cared for in the hospital yet they are still so incredibly human in all of their fragility and complexity. They are tiny miracles, each one of them. The ones who make it and the ones who don’t.
I got out early today which was nice. Apparently, not that many babies were born last night and me and my friend Conrad became pretty quick at examining the ones that were. Although I admittedly take a little bit longer to squeeze, er.., assess them thoroughly. The great thing about doing a full physical on a baby (besides how soft and clean they are) is that I almost never forget to do anything because it’s all right in front of me in a little space the size of my forearm. It’s like a fleshy check list. Of course you always have to play the “lets see how long I can keep this baby from screaming” game. But surprisingly, it usually ends up going pretty well. Turns out, babies like to sleep as much as possible even when you are poking them and they really like to suck on your gloved pinkie.
This morning we attended the OB/GYN grand rounds where one of the godfathers of OB gave a funny little presentation on how medicine has changed over the years. He told us we were living in the best age yet to practice medicine with all of the tools we have at our disposal to cure disease and a work week limited to 80 hours in the hospital (officially). A good part of his speech was a pep talk to make us all proud to be doctors (or soon to be doctors) again. He said that we’re not just health care providers, we’re doctors, and we should be proud of that, not pompous about it because we can’t do what we do without the help of all the other people who work in the hospital, but proud of it and proud of the legacy we have of physicians who have gone to amazing lengths to find new ways to combat the suffering of countless people. He said we are in the top 2% of intellect of all people in this country and we have the responsibility to use it to help people. It sounds kind of cliche but it was actually somewhat inspiring. The profession has really been emasculated over the past decade or so. It’s nice to hear someone say we should be proud of what we’re doing. Then he went on a rant about how we need to be more active in politics (which I half heartedly agreed with) and what we can do to fix the healthcare system (which I barely agreed with). There is another godfather of OB who actually works in our hospital. I hope I get to work with him in the next couple of weeks. I heard he’s a hoot.
Man, babies are the best. I’m having a blast squeezing, I mean, examining them from head to toe. It’s so nice to work with mostly health newborn humans all day. The rest of medicine deals with sick middle aged people who are infinitely more gross and less cute. They all have a lot more hair than I expected too. I wonder if it’s okay to write “adorable” and “soft” under the general assessment portion of my physical exam notes.
The above are a few images from a new photo set called Brass Ring. Click on the link to check out the rest. I took these of my friend Jean back in January and hadn’t gotten a chance to finish them up until now. Jean has played all the trumpet on every song that I’ve ever done that needed it. Like myself, she constantly lives at the intersection of art and science. She’s graduating with an engineering degree and has racked up some serious internships and scholarships. She’s a standout student in one of the biggest universities in the country. But more than all that, she’s been a great friend to me over the years and it’s been incredibly encouraging to be around her. There is a certain lightness in her that makes you believe the world is not such a bad place after all.
Least I forget, today was the first day of my maternal newborn rotation! This week I’m on the newborn team which means I get to play with adorableness all day long. Actually it consists of writing a bunch of complicated notes but we do get to do newborn exams which I relearned today on two beautiful infants who were only a few hours old. Our residents and attending are awesome. The attending had us stick our ungloved pinkies into the baby’s mouths to feel for their palate and suck reflex. It was kind of weird but fun.
I love me some babies.
I had some great conversations about the songwriting process with my friend Bethany today. Later, I went downtown to take some graduation photos of my friend Katie and came to the conclusion that I need to step away from the ambiguous portrait photography I’ve been playing around with for the last couple years and return to the urban landscape and macro shots I love. There is one building in particular I am dying to capture. I have two sets of portrait work that I’m finishing up now though and will release soon.