Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday Top Ten: Yay!

Courtesy of the "Zach Cam"

Yay!  The Thursday Top Ten is finally up!

Dang, is it almost 10 p.m. already? My bad.  It's been a busy week. I'm talking super-cali-fragi-listic-expi-ali-docious busy.  Deadlines to make. Commitments to keep. Things to do. People to see. You know. . . all that stuff that goes into being grown. 

Anyways. Despite my hectic week, I still found several reasons to say, "Yay!" throughout it.

Wait, huh?

Here's the thing: The word "yay!" is one of those things that instantly makes you feel good whether you're the yay-er or the yay-ee.  Man. . . . I "yay" at work, at home, at my kids' schools, while reading, over email, over text messages and just about anywhere else deserving of a "yay." I'm telling you. . .  There's something about that word that automatically forces you to smile. Go ahead. . . try it. . . .I'll wait. . . . .(deep breath and say it out loud). . . "Yay!" . . . .(this time with a gleeful clap of your hands). . . . "YAY!!"

See? Told you.

The range of possibilities are endless with yay. . .from the tiniest "yay" that you give a friend who secretly tells you at 5 1/2 weeks that she's pregnant . . . . . to the loud and obnoxious ("Yippee-yo-ah)YAAAAY!" Isaiah said tonight when I told him he could watch thirty minutes of weeknight television, it doesn't matter how big or small the triumph. . . a heartfelt "yay" will always do.

Top ten reasons that I said "YAY!" this week:
#10 -  My mom sent me a text saying that she loved one of my blog posts. Wait. My mom is an avid reader of my blog, but you must understand. . .she's an avid reader period. Her eye is keen and a compliment from her is a major, major compliment when it comes to the written word. It was like getting an 'A'.  


Mom, Pictured here with her virtual bff Judge Judy.

#9 - Talking to one of my bff's and fellow Grady doctors, Lesley M.

Today we were chatting and I realized how many times we say, "Yay!" when speaking to each other. This picture of her makes me smile because I'm sure that within twenty seconds of me taking it, she said, "yay!" about something.


#8 -- Two second graders from Fernbank elementary joined me for the weekly Fox 5 Housecall.

We're constantly discussing children being unhealthy.  These two represented the many kids out there who are, in fact, leading healthy lifestyles.  Yay!

#7 -- Zachary taking pictures of me and showing me that, "See? I got you, Mommy!"

I love the Zach-cam pictures because it allows me to see the love in my eyes for him. . .which isn't usually something a mom gets to see.


#6 -- Dinner with the Carlisles.

One of my student advisees is so remarkable that I have told him repeatedly that "I must sit down with your parents some day to find out how they raised you."  After four years of me saying that, he finally arranged it.  What a delight!

Now I know exactly why their son is the way that he is.  Yay.

#5 -- Rocky is still smoke-free!

Rocky works in our office building. He has been smoking for years and has been trying to quit for nearly as long. He recently stopped and I know how hard it's been for him.  Every time I see him, this is his way of letting me know how it's all going: 


#4  --  Opening up a gift from Hreem, one of my graduating med student advisees, that had this lovely scarf that she brought me back all the way from India!  Yay.

Wish this Zach-cam picture did it justice!

#3  --  Giving a speech to a room full of high school students about the life of one of my heroes: My dad. The theme? Let your life be someone's mentor. Thanks, Poopdeck.


#2  --  The final Small Group session with my senior medical students at my house tonight.  It was a full circle moment. Literally.

A perfect evening. Complete with "the ugly cry."



#1 -- The B.H.E. 

Sunday will mark seven years of wedded bliss for Harry and me.  Yeah, yeah. Roll your eyes and say, "Y'all don't know nothin' 'bout no marriage yet!" I'll give you that.  But even if I give you that, you can't take this away:

I have a good man.

Yeah, I said it. Matter of fact, it sounded so nice, I think I'll say it twice. That Harry? Shoooot. He's a good man.  Naaw, I didn't say perfect--I said good.  Because he is good. He's consistently good to me and good to people and good to us.

And to that I sho' nuff say, "Yay."

Hoping you find the "yay" in your day.


Happy Thursday.

Bonus shot:  Isaiah figures out the bubble wand. Yay!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hair-raising Tales Part I: The Long and the Short of It.

"Because it was time to change my life
and become the woman that I am inside. . . ."

~ from "I am not my hair" by India.Airie

Hair is a funny thing, isn't it? So many things are wrapped into how folks feel about hair. Childhood experiences. Cultural background. Gender and gender-identity. Religious beliefs. Geographic location. Access to competent hair stylists. All that.

Today I am reflecting on the story behind me and my short hair. . . .

May 2001. I remember vividly walking into this fancy salon in Cleveland approximately one month before my big move to Atlanta. In my hand was a picture I'd printed out of Halle Berry from the internet rocking her infamous pixie haircut. I'd always been known for my longish bob and had admired that haircut for a long time. I'd turned thirty earlier that year and had finally worked up the nerve to go for it.

"Cut my hair like this," I said, proudly passing the photo to the stylist.

I had chosen this stylist for two reasons. The first was that I heard that she was a short hair "master stylist" and was allegedly a wiz with shears. But the second was because I'd heard that she wasn't the least bit shy about cutting all of your damn hair off if you asked. Now. Let me clarify a few things for a moment. By now (unless you are visually impaired) you have probably realized that I am a black woman. And let me tell you--as someone who has the authority to say so--getting your hair cut all off (especially) if you are a black woman is kind of a big deal.


So back to the big makeover. I hand this woman the picture as she runs her hand through my then shoulder-length bob. "Is your hair chemically treated?" she asked. "No, I just straighten it," I replied. She studied the ends, ran a comb through it, and even looked at my scalp. Then she narrowed her eyes and looked perplexed.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Your hair," she answered while still raking her hand through my thick locks. "Your hair is healthy. And it's so thick and heavy. If I didn't have my hand in it, I'd think it was a weave."

Really? Coming from a "master stylist" (which was what her card said) that sounded like a good thing. "Well, that's good, right?"

"Well. . .I'm just. . .uuhhh. . .so why are you cutting all your hair off if it isn't damaged? I mean. . . .I am happy to cut it. But you have nice hair. I guess I'm just confused."

Of course she was.

This is where the cultural thing comes in. How dare you consider cutting hair that isn't "bad?"  It seems that if you are fortunate enough to have hair that a.) grows long, b.) has not been damaged by chemicals, c.) has not been strained by braids, oh, and d.) that you are planning on tryin' to wack all off, you'd better be ready to do some sho' nuff 'splainin' about why if you also happen to be a black woman up in a black hair salon. For real.

"I just like that hairstyle," I answered her matter-of-factly. Because that was true. I just liked the hairstyle. Simple as that.

"But to wear your hair this short in this style, you'll need to get it chemically relaxed. Your wave pattern would never allow it without getting a relaxer."

Hello? She wasn't the only sista in this conversation.

"I know that." I tried to keep cool but this was frustrating. Mostly because I had thought of all of that before. I had already shadow boxed in the mirror and pulled all of my hair off of my face and even palpated my head for lumps and bumps. I'd surfed the net, called my sisters, imagined what it would be like if I hated it and was forced to grow it back and all that. I had even practiced new makeup techniques and found a few cute pairs of dainty earrings. See? I was ready. Super ready for a new beginning and a new look. I was moving away to a new city with new faces and new adventures awaiting me. "Cut it off," I said emphatically. "Cut it all off."

Instead she just kind of stood there staring at me for a few moments. Then she cocked her head sideways and ran that comb slowly through my hair once more.

"How are things going in your life right now?" she finally asked pausing to fan my hair out under the comb.

Aww hells no! No she di-in't!

"Life is great. No, more than great. It's peachy."

"Gina says you are moving to Atlanta next month?" Yeah. Didn't you hear me say "peachy?" Get it? Peach-y? As in Atlanta?

My roommate, Gina, was the one who had referred me to this therapist, I mean stylist. Unless she had some Delta skymiles she was preparing to give me, I could see no reason for this line of questioning.

"Yep. Life is good. Got a great job in Atlanta. Can't wait. And am so psyched to get my hair cut today."

Take that. I ain't depressed. Just shut up and cut my hair, you "master stylist."

"Well. . . . " she finally said in this way that immediately gave me a sinking feeling. She lifted the comb and watched my hair cascade down toward my neck and shoulders. Like I was one of those Barbie doll heads. "That's a lot of life changes, don't you think?"

Aww, hell naw for real. This b*tch cannot be serious. (Yes. This is exactly what I was thinking.)

"It is and I thought of that. And while I appreciate your concern, I gave this a lot of thought. Do you want to cut me first or relax me first?" I figured I'd make an attempt to get this thing moving along before I ended up cussing her out for trying to psychoanalyze me.

She looked at the picture and then at my Barbie head again. "This is really drastic, sweetie," she finally said with a melodramatic sigh. I immediately considered dropkicking her for calling me "sweetie." I stared at her dryly and waited for the inevitable. "I mean. . . .okay. . .I tell you what, sweetie. If you come back in two weeks and you hand me this same picture and you still want your hair cut all off like this. . . .I will do it. But you need to be absolutely sure, sweetie. Come back in two weeks, okay?"


But I was absolutely sure. Right then. Right there. She was treating me like that thing on that Google instant messaging system the med students told me about that makes you answer a math question before drunk messaging someone. I was not drunk. I was not depressed. I was not going through a crisis. I was just grown, and dammit, I just wanted a new look.

Where was Tyra Banks and her top model make over team when you needed them?

So . . . .as the story goes . . . .despite my best attempts to convince her to go on and cut my hair anyway, in the end I left there with my tail between my legs and my (healthy) hair upon my shoulders. For two more weeks.


Two weeks later, you'd better believe that I marched right back in there and slammed down that picture like, "BAM!" Arms all folded, hip jutted out, lips all curled with my eyebrows raised like, Cut my hair, dammit. And that's exactly what the master stylist did.


And I'm sure you are wondering, "Why did you even go back to her?" Two words. Cleveland. Ohio. (Beggars can't be choosy, y'all.)


So that was the start of me and my short hair. Now, if this post hadn't already gotten kind of long, I would tell you about the elderly woman in the salon that day who threw the dryer hood up, got OUT of her chair and ALL UP in my face with her hair still in the roller set to wag her finger in my face and say, "You jest UNGRATEFUL!" She kept looking at my hair hitting the ground and then back at me with the grandmama version of the hairy eyeball. She poked her lips out, turned her mouth downward and shook her head so hard that I thought her neck would become dislocated. Then she repeated with extra venom and extra fire and brimstone in it--just in case I didn't hear her the first time. "You UN-GRATEFUL!! Jest UNGRATEFUL!!!" Straight up blasphemy, I tell you!

She sounded a lot like those poster-carrying evangelists on the corners of Bourbon Street in New Orleans. You know, the ones screaming at folks during Mardi Gras and informing them that they're going (straight) to hell? Yeah, like them.  As far as she was concerned, cutting all that "good" hair off for any reason other than illness was right up there with taking shots and doing those things folks do for beads. Oh, and that grandmama was serious, do you hear me? Serious as a heart attack.

Yeah. . .I would tell you about that part, but that's a whole 'nother story for a whole 'nother time. . . .

Short hair? That would be me.
"I looked in the mirror
and for the first time I saw that
Hey. . .I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am the soul that lives within. . . ."


Now playing on my internal iPod. . . . .


So. . . .what kind of crazy hair sagas have y'all had in your neck of the woods?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Something for e'erybody.

This morning in church we heard a message about "the kind of love that every family should have." I liked it because it was simple and perfect. And for everyone.

  • Every family should have love that is unconditional.
  • Every family should have love that is sacrificial.
  • Every family should have love that is eternal.


During these times, no matter how you define that word "family," that sounds like some good lovin' to have if you ask me.


I hope your day, your heart, and your family are all filled with a love that is unconditional, a love that is sacrificial and a love that springs eternal.

No matter what.

Happy Easter.

Look at fancy us dressed in our Easter Sunday best at our favorite fancy, highfalutin, after-church restaurant:
"La Gaufre Chambre"

(also known as "The Waffle House" for those who ain't quite as classy as us Mannings.)
Oh yeah, and happy family, too.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I think I know you .

*some details changed to protect anonymity.

image credit

Yours was an overcomer's story.  Life had you on the ropes, pummeling you with quick jabs and followed by a firm left hook to the jaw. A near technical knock-out.  First, it was just beer. Occasionally there was alcohol, too, but mostly beer. Malt liquor, to be exact.  Then came the Mike Tyson of them all--crack cocaine.  Your defenses were weakened against this opponent.  Brought to your knees, you were down for the count.

One! Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven! Eight! Nine. . . . . 

You stood up, all woozy, doing your best to regain focus.  And then you started swinging. And swinging. And swinging.  Until the ruthless tag team of Colt 45 and tiny plastic bags of white rocks fell bloodied and surrendering.  It had been almost a year, and you were winning.  The comeback kid, now in a recovery program and taking it "one day at a time."

So this was your story, your overcomer's story, told to me by this thoughtful intern in his careful and empathic tone. He wrapped your story up with a shiny red bow for me, such that I imagined you before I even made it into the room to see you for myself. The hard times you'd fallen upon, the periods of unstable housing and high risk activities you engaged in, not because you wanted to, but because back then, you were on the ropes.

The age on your chart was not far from my own, but I expected your struggles to have aged you. Like other overcomers I'd met along the way, I knew you'd have the light of someone reborn gleaming in your eyes and more than likely a body that yes, was still ticking, but that had clearly taken a licking.  Perhaps your teeth would be riddled and decaying from those years of neglect or your belly protuberant and taut with a cirrhotic's collection of peritoneal fluid.  Maybe your ankles would be swollen from the volume overload of alcoholic cardiomyopathy or your fingers scarred with burns from tiny glass crack pipes.  Maybe.

With every word the intern spoke, your image sharpened.  You. Now in recovery. For over a year. Now winning the welter-weight division. Taking care of yourself for the first time in a long time with a little help from your friends. You. The picture of the overcomer crystallizing even more in my mind. Would you have the freshly cut hair, those clean, clean socks they always issue, or be carrying a proud collection of Narcotics Anonymous key fobs? Or just maybe might you have a prominent crucifix around your neck and answer me by saying, "blessed and highly favored" when I ask how you are today or refer to your recovery from drug and alcohol addiction as "delivery" instead? Perhaps.

See, I am a Grady doctor so I already knew you. And I had heard your story before. See, yours was an overcomer's story.  And working at this place day in and day out, I've met you and been moved by you before.  I've shaken your hand and congratulated you for beating the odds. And sometimes on my way home from work, even prayed for you by name. Yeah. I knew you.

So even though I'd only heard your story rolled out like parchment paper by the young doctor who saw you first, I knew you already.  And since the younger doctor had now been at Grady for close to a year, perhaps by now, he knew you, too.

"Shall we go and see him?" I asked after listening to the assessment and plan.

"Sure, I'm ready," the intern replied.

This visit was a straightforward one.  A minor complaint and a focused visit with something easy to remedy. The intern selected a medication that wouldn't hurt your liver or get you in trouble at your recovery program.  I'd spend most of my time congratulating you on your recovery. You deserved to be congratulated, and because I knew you already, I figured you'd appreciate it very much if I did.

We knocked on the door and entered your room.  I smiled and introduced myself, arm outstretched to shake your hand.  Yours is a firm handshake, an overcomer's handshake.  I covered it with my other hand and said, "I've heard so much about you, and it's really an honor to meet you. Congratulations on all you've done."

And I meant that, because I hadn't been through what you have been through. Or overcome what you have overcome. So yes. It was an honor to meet you.

But then I look closer at you.  Surprisingly, you are healthier-appearing than my imagery; the mutinous body I expected had withstood that terrible beat down I'd just had described to me quite well. That part caught me off guard. But. . .like I suspected, you did have that light in your eyes. . .it was almost familiar. Our eyes lock for a moment.


Your easy smile and twinkling eyes take me somewhere I've been before. No, not to a hospital bed or a clinic room, but somewhere altogether different.  Then you laugh, a slow and confident laugh. Like a southern drawl kind of laugh, decidedly unique. And undeniably familiar.

Wait. I have heard this laugh before.

My eyes dart down at your chart again. I read your name. And read it again. I look at your age. And then at your face.

Wait.  Are you . . . . ?

I cover my mouth and gasp. 

Immediately, an uncomfortable feeling washes over me as it registers. I know you-know you.  No, not in the biblical sense, but in the we-were-peers-at-some-point sense.   

What the. . .? 

Whoa! This image is the polar opposite of the one I'd had just five minutes earlier. You. Standing on our college campus with a heavy backpack full of books.  Surrounded by your fraternity brothers and always by flocks of swooning and giggly undergraduates. You. With that same molasses laugh while giving "man hugs" and secret shakes to those same fraternity brothers, a satin stole designating your summa cum laude status at our university commencement. I was younger and not necessarily in your inner circle. But our college was small. Small enough for me to know you.

"I think. . . ." I paused for a moment, deciding whether or not to acknowledge knowing you, " I think we know each other."  I know my facial expression was awkward.  And okay, I admit that part of me was intrigued. . . .but most of me was conflicted. 

You study my badge for a moment and then look at me with squinted eyes.  "This is my married name," I added, "oh, and back then my hair was a lot long--"

"Kim?" you suddenly interrupted incredulously. Then you smiled, stood up and repeated it louder, "Kim Draper?"  Without a moment's hesitation, you reached out and gave me a tight and welcoming hug. The kind of hugs people who went to our small college give each other when they run into each other in airports or shopping malls.  "Hey, Kim! Wow! It's so good to see you! What a small world!" Your face is beaming.  And genuine. And not the least bit ashamed.

I immediately relaxed, too.

"You look good!" I responded. And not "good" in that "you've been to hell and back and considering that you look good" kind of way. But good, for real, in that "you're forty-something and you don't have  a pot belly, a receding hairline, or seventy-five extra pounds" kind of way. 

"Thanks, man!" you replied still smiling as you took your seat again. "I never would have recognized you with that short hair.  Wow, man. . . . it's good to see an old friend."

I looked over at my intern who looked totally confused.  "This guy was the man when we were in college," I said to him with a chuckle. "And he was super smart.  You know I dropped Math 107 three times before finally passing it?"

"107, Kim? Damn!"  We both laughed out loud.

And so we got on to why you were there.  I reviewed your complaints. Repeated the intern's examination.  Discussed the plan, referring to you as "Mr. ___" the whole time during that part. Despite your reassuring laugh, I tried to keep the details of your time on the ropes as vanilla as possible; I wanted the mood to stay light. Like homecoming.

You referred to mutual friends of ours, and then asked about my sisters. "They're great," I told you.

"Tell them I said hello, will you?"

Your shoulders didn't coil inward once nor did your eyes become defeated a single time.  Nope, not once.  Of course, they didn't. I should have known they wouldn't. You were an overcomer.

"Hey, listen, Kim. . .it was good seeing you all in the doctor-mode and everything," you said to me as we wrapped up the visit.  You gave me this approving nod as I stood near the door in my stiff white coat. "Dang, K.D., I'm really proud of you, man."

I smiled and then said exactly what I was thinking. "Man, I'm really proud of you, too."

You get exactly what I mean by that, and so does my intern, which was really cool.

As we left your room, the intern looked over at me and said, "Wow, so you knew that guy?"

I recounted all my preconceived ideas of who I thought I would see before entering the room, took a deep breath and smiled.

"Yeah, I knew him," I replied, "but not like I thought I did."


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday Top Ten: A Thousand Words.

Yes. That is a grown man inside of that crib.

The wise person who said that a picture speaks a thousand words was preaching the sho' nuff gospel.  This week's top ten is dedicated to the top ten images, new and vintage, that made me smile this week. . . .


#10 -- These gnarly matching outfits courtesy of Mom's Singer sewing machine totally made me smile.

#9 -  This picture of Pa Pa and Isaiah taking an afternoon siesta made me smile.

 #8 --  This dreamy snapshot of Isaiah and me looking at jellyfish in the Georgia Aquarium made me smile.

#7  --  The "Gooooo Cheetahs!" snapshot taken at the end of soccer last weekend brought a smile to my face.

#6  --  This picture of me with my friend and fellow Grady Doctor, Ildefonso T., made me smile.

#5 -- This snapshot of Zachy in The Incredibles costume makes me laugh out loud. Every time he used to put that thing on, he'd make this face and morph into a madman.  This photo captures it perfectly! Please tell me you've seen anything more adorable so that I can tell you you're lying.

#4 -- This snapshot of Harry's best friend Shannon at his promotion ceremony to Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army being hugged by his daughter. . .also named Shannon. . .made me smile. Shannon is currently serving our country in the middle east. (He has been home for a few weeks and timed it perfectly for the birthday celebrations of his wife, Michelle, and this gorgeous little gal who turned eight this week.) 

Thank you, Shannon, for all that you are doing--doesn't this photo remind you of all that our men and women in uniform sacrifice for us?

 #3 -- This week I had my second year medical student small group over to my house for our session. Seeing this picture of their smiling faces as they prepared to leave made me smile. . . wish I had that small group kind of experience in medical school sometimes.

 #2 --  This picture of Isaiah and Zachary playing in a pile of leaves never fails to make me smile.

#1  --  This picture of the four of us during the pre-car seat, pre-minivan era makes me smile . . . and then laugh.  In order, that's my brother, Will, older sister, Deanna, yours truly, and younger sister, JoLai. Oh, and if JoLai and I look scarily close in age?  Uhhh, that would be because we are ten months apart. Yes.  

Ten. Months. Apart. 

I would tell you that the youngest child was a little post-vasectomy surprise. I would tell you that, but you know, I don't like spreading other folks' business like that. Ah hem.

Bonus shot:

Having a bad day? Relive a few memories with photos.  It always works for me.


Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Puppy Mafia: An update.

Seen outside of my house at the crickety-crack of dawn this morning. . . .

Okay. So no one seems to know how Pup-Pup made it onto the bushes at 6:45 in the morning, nor do they have any idea how long he's been out there. Hmmm. Sounds real, real shady if you ask me. I think it was an inside job. . . .

But hey. . .that's the risk you take when you become a part of an organized stuffed doggy crime mob. I'm just sayin'.

By the way, Puppy remains AWOL. Sigh. I do appreciate all of the well wishes and votes for his safe return. As I have told y'all before, he was once lost for an entire year, so all is definitely not. . well. . . lost. 

Wait, huh?

If you have no idea what any of this means and if you have kids, grandkids, or are a kid at heart who is interested in having a nice, hearty laugh, start by reading this post. If you are interested in even more of the Puppy Mafia saga, continue by reading this post. And if you aren't completely bored, go ahead and follow up with this post. 


Happy Wednesday

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


"And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
. . ."

~ The Fray "How to Save a Life"

I was really tired when I woke up yesterday morning. Atlanta has one of the highest pollen counts in the U.S. and it's been a rough spring for me. I've been spraying my nose with steroid spray like a good patient and taking my antihistamine, too. The itchy nose and eyes are somewhat better, but like clock work, that post nasal drip always gets me in the middle of the night. From about three that morning until the alarm went off, I hacked and hacked. This dry-ish, annoying hack. My only solace was sitting almost fully erect to keep the phlegm from rolling down my throat and triggering my cough reflex.

Gross, I know.

Anyways. Isaiah made it out to the bus in good time. He was in high spirits and he shook my hand hard telling me that "it was going to be a great day and you can bet on it!" right before he stepping onto the big yellow kid-mobile. He gave the busdriver an effusive "Good morning!" without me even having to tell him to do so through a clenched smile. Maybe it was going to be a good day.

I came inside and made some coffee. Daydreamed for a few minutes. Wrote a three line blog post, the kind that makes my dad say, "Hey, did I miss something?" To which I say, "It's haiku, Dad!" To which he retorts, "Hai-what?"  "Haiku!" I say. "Uh. . .okay," he says. And then we both just laugh.

I got a bit behind the eight ball once I came back inside. I'm not sure what I did to waste so much time (I mean that blog post was only seventeen syllables!) but next thing I knew I had ten minutes to get myself dressed for clinic and make certain Zachary was ready to leave with Harry. Zachy was standing by the door and "ready to rock and roll" as he puts it, and I had three minutes to spare.

Not too bad.

"My backpack is not heavy today, Mommy!" Zachary proclaimed, which reminded me that, "Damn!" I had forgotten to pack him a lunch. Into the kitchen I scurry; quickly putting something together that would not lead to a text message from his teacher. (Have I mentioned that Zachary's pre-school mandates that the lunch is healthy? Send a bag of Doritos, and you can count on getting them right back.) Anyways. Get the dude's lunch packed and run to my room to finish getting myself together.

At this point, officially will be late. But not late-late so I put as much pep in my step as I can. Try to put my contacts in three times, and they feel itchy. Very annoying considering I am convinced that my vision is better in my contacts than my glasses. I refuse to admit it is because my left eye is so bad that my left lens for my frames is super thick and that this is really just vanity.


A few moments later, I'm arming the house and preparing to leave. . .  and what do I see on my bed? Aww, hell no!  Zachary's LUNCHBOX.  Ugghhh!

Harry and Zachary were long gone, which meant one thing and one thing only. I would have to take the lunch to Zachary's school. Which is technically very, very close to Grady Hospital, but considering the fact that I was already late, stopping anywhere would be sure to cross me from late into late-late.


For no purpose whatsoever, I call Harry to alert him of how inconvenienced I was about to be to which  he calmly replied, "You want me to just order him a pizza?"  Which made me say, "A pizza isn't healthy!"  I decide then that I am annoyed by this "healthy lunch" clause that seemed so rad when I was enrolling him there, and, again, for no purpose whatsoever, tell Harry that this is what I am feeling about this stipulation. He just kind of holds the phone and says, "Tell you what? How 'bout I meet you on Dekalb Avenue and Boulevard to grab it, okay?"  I smile and tell him that he is the B.H.E. which is my text message speak for "best husband ever" but I say the three letters any way, kind of like people say "LOL" or "OMG."

Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. On my way to work.

I was now teetering on late-late. The lights were in my favor and after our quick hand-off, in a snap I was pulling into the Grady parking garage.  I had fairly decent parking lot karma this day, and the minute I parked (4th level!) I sent a quick text to my colleague in the clinic to let her know that I was minutes away.  Like in the parking lot even. Fortunately, she was cool about it which this particular colleague generally is.

I power walk across the street and finally into the hospital. Arms pumping, bag on my shoulder, super hurried head nods and "hey theres" to people along the way, but giving off body language that clearly, clearly lets them know: "No time for small talk."  Even my friend from the gift shop, Ms. Renee, who I always stop and talk to didn't act annoyed when I waved at her and then said, "You doin' alright?" while walking backwards.

I needed to hurry up. No time for my normal chit-chat and blogworthy moments.  Down the hall, through the atrium and into the clinic corridor.  8:43 a.m. Late, yes. Two minutes shy of late-late.

I start jogging toward the stairwell in the clinic hall. Finally I reach for the handle, panting from all of the rushing.  As I pull back on the heavy door, I hear:

"Ex-ex-excuse me! Excuse me, do-doctor!"

A heavy set woman wearing a bright orange shirt with a matching necklace is scuffling toward me. She seems out of breath, her buxom chest moving up and down as she caught her breath. "I-I-I knnn-ow you are in a," she paused to find her words carefully, "hur-hur-hurry."

She was right. I was in a hurry. Like a big hurry.

"Yes, ma'am, I am in a huge, huge hurry. . . are you looking for something in the hospital?" I offered. Her language was that slow and careful speech often seen in people who have suffered strokes. I needed to give her a yes/no option since I had less than 90 seconds before the late-late bell tolled.

"N-n-n-no. I-I-I am n-n-not lost."

Ugghh.  So much for that. I parted my lips to tell her that unfortunately, I had to go. But. Something told me to just stop and listen. This woman was walking with a slight limp, and despite not appearing that old, had obviously suffered some kind of a neurological event. I had no idea what could be of such urgency that she would need to chase me down, even with her residual weakness and obvious expressive aphasia.

Something told me. To stop.

I remembered the last time I'd received such a nudge and didn't listen. It felt like that. I looked at my cell phone--8:45.  Then I looked at her, eyes glistening, face genuine. I let go of the door. And of my chance of making it into the Green Clinic before being deemed late-late. This time, I would listen.

"Yes, ma'am?"

"Y-y-y-you saved. . .my-my. . .l-l-life," she spoke.

Wait, huh?

I remember people. In fact, one thing that Isaiah inherited from his mother is an excellent memory. He always says, "We have good brains for remembering things, right Mom?" And I always say, "We sure do, me and you." I do have a good brain for remembering. I remember names. Details. Places. Numbers. But especially, I remember people. I had never seen this woman in my entire life. I had no idea what she was talking about.

Even if it sounded good.

"Have we met?" I asked her. "That's such a kind thing to say, but I am wondering are you thinking of another doctor maybe?"

I combed my mind for another physician in our hospital that she could have mistaken for me. I could think of many with my complexion, but not a single person with such short hair or oddball personality.  And seeing as I and most of my friends of all races don't believe in that old saying of "all black folks looking alike"--this is just that much more odd.

"N-n-no. I. . . .s-s-saw you .  . . . on Fox 5. . a-a-and," she exhaled at the exhaustion of having to work hard to find her words,"y-y-you said. . . to. . t-t-take care of YOU first. . . b-b-because if . . you. . .p-put . . .YOU last a-and lose Y-YOUR health. . . you. . . you. . .are no g-good to a-nyone. Y-YOU first is l-like putting th-them first."

Was she for real?

I cocked my head sideways at her incredulously. Wait, did I even say that? Okay, here's the thing. Once per week, I scoot over to this local TV station to do a two to three minute health segment live on the air with an anchor. I've been coming over there for a few years now, and admittedly get pretty relaxed during the segments. I couldn't then and still can't remember saying those exact words, but it definitely sounds like the kind of thing I would say.  Hell, I say all kinds of things.

I reached out and grabbed her hand and squeezed it, feeling slightly ashamed for trying to ditch her.

"I'm sorry that I was rushing away from you. I really appreciate you stopping me to say that. . .really."

She went on with her testimony. "I-I am a s-s-single mo-ther of three k-k-kids. A-a-and I was n-n-not tak-ing care of m-m-me only th-them. Then I h-had a str-stroke. My blood p-pressure was s-s-so high and I even h-h-had dia-betes and d-d-didn't know."

I kept gripping her hand, hanging on her every word. The moment felt divine. I was so glad I stayed to listen.

"Th-th-this s-side of my b-b-body was not e-even work-ing," she went on as she gestured to her right side, "I w-was feeling s-so sorry for m-m-my-self. That's when I sss-saw you on the t-t v that day. I knew I h-had to d-d-do something."

"Wow," I replied.

She refused to let the speech impediment stop her from finishing. "And at-at first I couldn't e-e-even talk, either. But I fought. F-for ME. I h-have lost almost forty p-pounds, doctor. Fff-forty pounds! And I keep a-a-all my doctor's appointments. I am t-taking care of M-ME so I can t-take care of them." She patted her chest emphatically. "Ff-for ME."


I wanted to cry so bad.  I know. I'm always wanting to cry so bad at Grady. But the thing is. . . I had started that day off feeling sleep deprived and then by blogging these words at 7:07 a.m. :

"Another Monday
Another chance to become
the me I strive for."

See? All morning, I had been asking myself who that was.  Like who is the me I strive for, even? Like what did that mean even?  I'm still not sure. But I am thinking the me I strive for would be one who stops and listens to someone. And this moment is making me think that just maybe the me I strive for is doing something really close to what she is supposed to be doing in this life. . including encouraging someone along the way, even when she doesn't know it. That plus this woman standing in front of me telling me her story is why I wanted to cry so bad.

Man, oh man.

"Thank you. Thank you so much for telling me this. You have no idea what it means to me," I told her. "No idea."

"Th-thank you for saving m-my life," she responded, her eyes now fresh with lacrimation.

I shook my head. "No. You saved your own life."

She smiled at me wide and kind and like she meant it.  And I did the same back.

We hugged tight, almost like we knew each other. I asked her permission to tell this story and take her picture. She obliged. I told her that maybe her story might save someone else's life.  Or one day, even mine.

Thank you for sharing.

Isaiah was right. This was going to be a great day. You could bet on it.


Happy Tuesday.


My take on medical media. . . .guess you never know who's really listening. . . .

Sunday, April 17, 2011


The Dansko clog: PTSD culprit
These are my weekend hospital work shoes.

My husband thinks they look like scary orthotics. And if I am not mistaken, he also has suggested that if he only saw one of them, he'd bet money that they belonged to someone with asymmetric leg lengths.

Ain't that some mess?

The good news is that I don't wear them anywhere other than the hospital on ultra-long inpatient rounding days. The man hates them, yes. But they are ridiculously comfortable, even if you have to stand for a gazillion hours in a row, which is why I purchased them in the first place.

Oh--let me clarify. I don't not wear them elsewhere because of Harry's opinion about them. The truth is that I pretty much agree with him for the most part. On most days, I'm not a "clogs" kind of girl at all, and the girly-girl in me is often willing to commit shoe-icide for fashion's and for husband's sake. What can I say? A good pair of it-girl high heels makes me happy. Which is fortunate considering I sho' nuff married a see-his-wife-in-some-car-to-bar-scary-high-heels kind of man.


Now, here's the funny part:  since work on the weekends is just about the only place I rock these hand-stapled Danish atrocities, it has created a Pavlovian reaction for Zachary who hates it when I have to round on weekends.  If I so much as take them out of the closet, the dude hits me with the sad-face.  His bottom lip gets to quivering and he wails:

"Not the shoes, Mommy! Not to work, Mommy!"

Well just tear my heart right out of my chest, why don't you?

Okay, so is it bad that every time I had to round on weekends last month, I left the house wearing my Ugg boots (which I am in 24-7 around the house and that Harry calls "grounds for divorce") and then changed into the Dansko's in the Grady parking garage? Shoot. It was either that or see a four year old cry.

See? These are the kinds of important dilemmas I face before going to stamp out disease every day. I'm just sayin'.

What kind of crazy things are y'all dealing with in your neck of the woods?


Happy Sunday.

Four sticks.

*names, details, etc. changed to protect anonymity. . . you know the deal.
image credit
Middle-of-the-night, Pediatric Ward - Internship 1997.

"I just wanted to go over the procedure before we do it, okay?"

She nodded quickly as she sat in the bedside chair next to the empty bassinet. Her youngish face was pretty, even without makeup. The over sized sweatshirt that she wore clearly belonged to someone else; her tightly folded arms were lost inside of it, barely offering a glimpse of her trembling fingertips. Two moments later, a man came scurrying inside with car keys jingling in his hands.

"Hey. . ." He looked at her first, immediately grazing her cheek with his lips. Then he faced me, fully alert. All business.

"Honey, this is Dr. Draper. She was just about to tell us about the procedure. You know. . .for the fever."

He gingerly sat down next to his wife but kept his eyes focused on me. With a tight-lipped smile he raised his eyebrows and gestured for me to carry on.

I nervously shifted the three pagers clipped onto my lopsided scrub pants and cleared my throat.

"Hi, sir," I extended my hand to introduce myself. My hand is shaking. Why is my hand shaking? Relax. This is a straightforward procedure. We do this all the time. Poke out your chest. Look confident like your resident always looks.

I cleared my throat to fight of my building nerves. "Okay. So the thing, I mean, the procedure that we are going to do on baby Jasmin is called a lumbar puncture. Have you ever heard of that?"

They looked at each other for a moment and then back at me. He spoke first, but more to her than me.

"Kind of like when you had the epidural, I'm thinking?"

"That's what I was going to say," she added.

"Umm, well yeah. . .it's kind of like that. Since she has a fever, we need to get a sample of the fluid that bathes her brain. . ." I realized that this sounded kind of macabre, so decided to revise that statement. "Since she has a fever and she's less than a month old, we like to exclude all kinds of infections. We check the blood, the urine, do a chest x-ray, and then we also look at the spinal fluid. Just to be, you know, safe. We start the antibiotics and send all of these tests to the lab to see if there are any germs that could be causing a serious infection."

"So this is why she needs the . . .what did you call it?"

"Lumbar puncture or spinal tap," I answered the father. "To make sure everything is okay. If no germs grow, we will be a lot less worried."

"So . . . .is it. . .does it hurt her? This test?" the mom queried. "Like, should I be in there with her?"

I internally recoiled at the thought of this worried mother being present as we folded her firstborn child into a fetal position. I saw my wobbly intern hands trying to obtain a sample of spinal fluid and shuddered, hoping they didn't catch it. "Um, well. . .you. . .well, usually we would just have you wait, you know, here in the room."

"How big is the needle they use?" the Dad asked.

I hated these kinds of questions. There was never a right answer or an answer that I felt was authentic. I was thinking, It's a big ass hollow needle with another smaller needle inside of it. But I didn't say that. Instead I simply said, "The spinal needles are special ones for this type of procedure. The ones for grown ups are pretty large, but the one we are using for Jasmin is the smallest one we have available." There. That wasn't so bad. Even if I never answered his question.

Dad rubbed Mom's shoulder and kissed her hard on the side of the forehead. Her nose was red on the edges. She looked like she was going to cry.

"We need to have you sign this consent form before the lumbar puncture, okay?" I slid the sheet over to them on top of the nearby tray table. "There is a very, very tiny risk of infection, uhh, bleeding, and. . yeah. . .mostly those things but it is really, really rare." Based upon my extensive experience. Um, yeah.

They both just sat there staring at the paper with all of that tiny writing on it. Finally, Mom took a pen from her purse and scrawled her signature across the bottom of the page. I wish I could say I felt anything more than relief. Relief that this would be moving on along and that I didn't have to page my upper level resident. Relief that she had signed the consent and especially relief that she wasn't demanding that she be there while it was taking place.

I know. That's terrible, right? I mean, how could even I admit that? How dare I? But the thing is. . . . it was true. I was more than half way through my combined Internal Medicine and Pediatrics internship at this point and I had spent more than nine months trotting behind an upper level resident and working obscene hours. The senior residents had the added complexity of supervision; backing up every failed procedure and emergency and being the one who told their haggard interns to "go ahead home" long before they could. What that means is that my main role models were often emotionally and physically exhausted, so they taught me to value things like efficiency, persuasiveness, and pseudo-confidence.

So that's why I felt relieved. It meant that I would be able to get into that treatment room quicker. That I would get a chance to "get" the L.P. on this baby. And just maybe, if I was able to do it in "one stick" and if the lab reported that the fluid was free of so much as a trace of red or white blood cells, I'd get a three A.M. high five from my senior resident--and a cold ginger ale from the patient nutrition room in celebration of my "champagne tap."

I peeled myself away from that room with those worried parents and then into a pair of sterile gloves, size six-and-a-half. As my senior sat nearby on a stool while eating a bag of microwave popcorn, I coached away the tremor in my right hand before starting. I made eye contact with the nurse who was helping me by holding baby Jasmin in position.

"You ready, hon?" the nurse asked me while tightening her grip around Jasmin's lower legs and nape of neck.

"Okay. I'm ready," I said.

And then, after numbing Jasmin with anesthetic, I commenced to advance the spinal needle into Jasmin's three week old vertebral space. With my resident coaching me from his perch, I forwarded it until I met resistance.

"Pull it back and go up a little. You have to kind of head for the head a little bit," he smacked. Pulling a grease covered hand from his popcorn bag he demonstrated the "proper" technique in the air for me while squinting his eye for effect.

So I tried again. And again. And again. Until finally, my resident was forced to dust of his salty hands, wash them, and then put on his own pair of sterile gloves. Eventually, he pulled out that inner needle and clear spinal fluid dripped from Jasmin's tiny back. I then took his place, collecting four separate tubes of the water like liquid to send to the lab.

The nurse strategically placed one band-aid over the four tiny puncture wounds just above her gluteal cleft. One bandage for the four "sticks" that Jasmin endured.

I still remember following my resident out of that room and to the nurses' station where he went right on chomping on those kernels while dictating how I should label the specimen. The main thing I felt was disappointment with "not getting it"--that is, needing to have the upper level step in and successfully complete the procedure. Not so much as a thought about the fact that somebody's baby just had just gotten stuck repeatedly in her back. That was my concern--not Jasmin. So much for that high five and that ginger ale toast.

Jasmin was handed back to her parents swaddled tightly; she had fallen fast a sleep after her marathon of high pitched crying from being held into a jackknife position by a nurse vice grip and being prodded with a needle. Four times. Mom and Dad hugged her and kissed her. And later thanked us even. They were none the wiser.

After that, we went to go eat the Chinese food that the medical student had squared up during our jaunt in the procedure room. I'm pretty sure we didn't speak much of Jasmin again. That is, with the exception of a reference to her being unusually chubby for a three-week old, explaining why "maybe you found it tough to feel your landmarks."


Today Zachary was playing "hide and seek" without notifying us that we were supposed to be seeking. He was crouched under a blanket on the bedroom floor, and my two hundred-plus pound husband unknowingly stepped right on top of him causing him to let out a high pitched yelp. As soon as Harry realized what happened, he quickly scooped crying Zachary up rubbing his face and repeatedly kissing the tiny finger that he'd trapped beneath his shoe. I scooted beside them on the couch and joined into the consolation. We both hate seeing either of our children in pain.

That's what got me thinking of Jasmin.

Today I am reflecting on how different my perspective has become on caring for human beings now that I have children. I feel sad when I think of how often during my training we habitually depersonalized ourselves from our patients; especially during procedures. I'm not saying that we didn't care. We did care. But somehow the culture during those days of unmonitored duty hours led many of us to operate outside of ourselves; going through the motions when we were tired and compartmentalizing the people from the procedures. Even children.

I have cried on more than one occasion while watching my kids get immunizations. When I imagine those parents and their worried faces, and then when I recall how easy it was to separate them and Jasmin from that lumbar puncture. . . . I cringe. I cringe even more when I recall the countless other Jasmin's I encountered along the way. I'm ashamed of that to this day.

Oh, and that horrible consent process I subjected them to? Uggh. That's an entirely different and equally disturbing story for another time.

All I can say now is that I am really happy that this part of medical training has evolved. A lot more time is spent humanizing our patients and respecting them as people more than objects. I recently read this reflection written by a current Pediatric resident blogger and knew it for sure.

And thank goodness for that.

Yeah. Zachary's smushed finger ended up being fine. But I still wonder how those parents felt when they took off that band-aid and saw those four needle marks on Jasmin's back.

My baby: Puts a lot into perspective.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday Top Ten: The Slammer.


Today's top ten is based upon (one of the many) random discussions that I had this week with my five year old son, Isaiah. As many of you know by now, we have a lot of random conversations. I knew this would be the top ten the minute he started off with this question-- live and direct from the Volvo:

"Hey, Mom? What are, like, ten reasons why somebody might get arrested and have to go to jail?"

Um, yeah. This is what the dude asked me from the back seat on Monday. Just out of the blue. Why ten? I do not know.

Okay. Now at first, I must admit that I was bothered by this question. I hit him with a barrage of queries exploring what would make him ask me such a thing. But then I had a change of heart when two very simple truths popped into my head.

1. Does the kindergarten backseat question ever really have to be for a reason? (Answer: No.)
2. My sweet, angelic manchild just happens to be born into a demographic of folk who disproportionately get faced with the answers to that question. (I mean it is what it is,) So as far as I'm concerned, this might be a good conversation to start early just in case it comes up later.

Therefore. . . .I plunged into answering his question. And those who have or have had or have been around kids this age know first hand that the first answer to such a random question is:

"Well what do you think?"

Aaaahhh. . . .which brings me to this week's top ten: The top ten reasons (according to Mommy, Isaiah, and Zachary) why somebody might get arrested and have to go to jail.

(In case you didn't really know.)



Mommy: "You might get arrested if you walk out of a store with something you didn't pay for."

Isaiah: "I think that's called shoplifting, Mom."

Mommy: "Oh, uh, yeah. That."


Isaiah: "What if you crash your car into somebody and just drive away!"

Mommy: "That'll get you put in cuffs for sure."

Zachary: "What if you are driving a Batmobile?"

Mommy: "You'd get a pardon."

Isaiah: "What's a pardon?"

Mommy: "Like an extra chance to not have to do something if you did something bad."

Isaiah: "Or like when you get to watch TV on a school night."


Mommy: "If you don't take care of your kids, you can get arrested and go to jail. Like not feeding them or bathing them."

Isaiah: "Did we take a bath last night?"

Mommy: (thinking about it) "I think you guys didn't."

Isaiah: "Hmmmmm . . "


Isaiah: "If you deface school property they could put you in jail, Mom. For real."


Mommy: "If you have taxes and you don't pay them, they might put you in jail."

Isaiah: "What's taxes?"

Mommy: "Something that you'd better pay when you grow up so you don't get put in jail."

Isaiah: "Oh."


Isaiah: "If you call 911 and you are just joking, they can put you under arrest, Mom. For real."


Mommy: "If you are being violent and you don't keep your hands to yourself you might get arrested and go to jail."

Zachary: "For fighting?"

Mommy: "Yep. That's why fighting isn't such a good thing to do."

Isaiah: "No, you can fight. Just don't start it."

Mommy: "Or you could just avoid a fight altogether by walking away."

Zachary: "Daddy said if somebody hits me I need to hit them back."

Isaiah: "Right, Mom. As long as you don't start it. For real."

Mommy: "Uuuhhh, okay."


Zachary: "Hey! What about a wobber?"

Isaiah: "It's robber."

Zachary: "A wobber would get arrested."

Isaiah: "No, a robber would, though."


Mommy: "If you break the law you can go to jail. That's why you have to follow rules. Laws are like rules for everybody. Like stopping when you see a red light."

Isaiah: "You sometimes turn when the light turned red, Mom."

Mommy: "Okay. Well I'm talking about other kinds of rules and laws unrelated to that arrow on Briarcliff that turns red after like, five seconds."


Zachary: "Hey! I bet you if somebody had a wet bottom and slid down the slide and then everybody kept going really, really slow on the slide after that they might get arrested."

Mommy: "Or at least they should be, Zachy!"

Zachary: "Yeah, Mommy. Because sliding down the slide when you knew that you had a wet bottom is NOT COOL!"

Mommy: "So not cool."

You never know when you might need this little card.


Happy Thursday.