Thursday, December 3, 2009

Geri, the elderly cat

During my second year of medical school, I adopted a cat from the animal shelter. Because I wanted a cat to sit by me while I studied, I avoided the kitty route and looked for an older cat. At the shelter, a long, grey-haired cat, with big green eyes looked at me, rubbing against the bars. I fell in love instantly. When the cage door opened he walked to me, and I picked him up and he started to purr.
I could feel every vertebrae on his emaciated body and could smell his butt, but I knew that he was the cat for me.

When I brought Geri home, he explored his surroundings with confidence. I gave him a bath and fed him. He ate voraciously, getting food everywhere, then opening his jaw wide in a silent roar between bites. In the morning after I showered, Geri would wait for me on the toilet and reach out and place his paw on my arm as I sat on the tub edge brushing my hair, looking intently at me.  He reminded me in many ways of my deceased father, and sometimes I wondered if my father's spirit lived inside him.  He would meow hideously when he was alone in a room. The shelter said Geri was 11, but the veterinarian I took him to said that was a “kind estimate”, and that he was likely 17. The vet thought Geri had serious health problems and would likely not live a full year. Geri’s lab work showed hyperthyroidism.  I took him home and fed him all he could eat and gave him anti-thyroid medication.

Geri gained weight started playing. His favorite toy was a pair of earplugs connected by a wire dangling from the back of a chair. I originally let him out in my backyard because he was unable to jump very high, but one day I looked out and saw him walking by on the fence.
I didn’t let him out unsupervised anymore. But those golden days were over much too soon. Geri started having bathroom problems and trouble breathing.  I took him to the vet.  Geri’s lung x-ray showed congestion, and a fluid sample showed cancer cells.  My vet said it was time to let him go.  I agreed. Geri had been letting me know he wasn’t enjoying his life, retreating to a corner of the room in solitude, gasping for breath.

I only knew Geri for three months, but I felt loved and understood by him. He would greet me at the door when I came home and follow me when he was well.  He was dependable.  I loved him more than I thought I could love a cat.  Before Geri, I thought people who mourned their pets were silly. Geri made me realize that animals have souls, and that people who love animals are not lonely people looking for a substitute for humans, but loving people making a connection with a fellow being.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cat invasion to Come

After careful consideration and analysis of how much time I'll spend at home next spring while I study for step I of the USMLE, I decided to get a cat.
Me, with a cat? I've always hated pets. Well, over the summer, I spent some quality time with a dog named Bear who changed my mind. Bear belongs to a pediatrician I worked with over the summer. I borrowed Bear to hike with me.  After when I went to visit the doctor, Bear wanted lots of attention. It was endearing. I like dogs, but eventually rotations will start, and I won't have time for a dog, but a pet at home will be fun. So I decided an elderly cat will be best.

I went to the Albuquerque animal shelter and picked out a lovable 11 year old female cat, or so I thought. This morning I received a phone call informing me that what they thought was an un-spayed female is actually a neutered male. Kitty has lots of fur, mistakes can be made. And the cat has advanced dental disease. Bummer. I have decided to pick him up anyway because he was so friendly. He looked out of his cage at me wanting my attention, and he purred when I held him. He is a grey bundle of hair, skin, and bones, with intelligent green eyes. At the animal shelter, if things don't work out with your furry friend, you can take him back within 30 days and get the adoption fee credited toward the adoption of a different animal. Cats over three years old are currently only $10, which pays for vaccinations, fixing, and a microchip for identification, and you get a referral for one free veterinarian visit. What a bargain!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Where do you begin?

How much of our past defines who we are as people? You can know a person very well, and not know what they did before they met you. Do you know their past self? People change.

Yet, if you killed someone, people who were close to you would want to know. What past actions define us, and what are we obligated to tell new people in our lives?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Frozen yogurt everywhere!

I went to San Diego to visit friends, and they told me about a fad centered in southern CA, frozen yogurt. This isn't TCBY or Golden Swirl, though I liked their yogurt. This new trend features tart yogurt, yogurt that still smacks of bacteria, although I don't think acidophilus is an extremophile, so I don't think it survives in frozen yogurt. We sampled three places: Pinkberry in Hillcrest, Yogurt World in Clairmont, and Yogurt Land in PB. Among the three places, the nutritious value of the yogurt, calories, and the amount of sugar was consistent, ranging from 11-20g of sugar for various flavors. Surprisingly, the plain yogurt has the most sugar. Alegra explained this adequately, pointing out that dark chocolate is often higher in sugar than milk because more sugar is needed to overcome the bitterness. The same is true for the plain yogurt. To cut to the chase, the winner was Yogurt Land.


Pinkberry had the best tasting, but most expensive yogurt. They featured three snobby flavors: green tea, pomegranate, and plain. The yogurt was creamy and tart, but it was not self-serve, so it lacked what I now think of as the "frozen yogurt experience". The toppings were very high quality, and included kiwi, blueberries, strawberries, and candy and nuts.

Why so big for so little, cup?

Lovely yogurt and toppings behind the counter.

Small portions, but tasty and enjoyable.

Yogurt World

Yogurt World had many flavors, including taro, bananas foster, birthday cake, and green apple, and they have large signs proclaiming the health benefits of yogurt, including making the lactose intolerant lactose tolerant. Some of the machines did not have yogurt, but ice cream. This was not labeled, so it was slightly misleading if the customer only wanted yogurt rather than custard ice cream. Also, the toppings were not as high quality as those at Pinkberry. But at 38 cents/ounce, you can fill your cup. I recommend chocolate Pebbles to top your yogurt.

The orange decor, signs, and self-serve machines of Yogurt World.

Got ailments? Get yogurt.

Yogurt Land

Yogurt land has the best-priced yogurt: a mere 30 cents/ounce! They had about a dozen flavors (their tart blueberry is delicious) and they are self-serve. You can pig out on samples because the shop is run by college and high school students who don't give a rat's ass about the business. The toppings are nicely arranged and labeled, and they are also self-serve. The place was hopping at 10pm on a Monday night. Yogurt Land also claims to "build better skin". I believe yogurt can also fix our economy. Probably indulging in lots of samples will not.

A blurry treat.

The full shop.

Both Yogurt World and Yogurt had tasty yogurt, although the plain tart yogurt was not quite as good as that at Pinkberry. However for the price difference, Pinkberry loses. Yogurt Land has good yogurt and toppings at a great price, and Yogurt World is worth a visit for good yogurt and funny signs.

Crazy concoction for < $7 at Yogurt World. This would have been ~$5 at Yogurt Land. Only the wealthy could afford so much yogurt at Pinkberry in our bleak financial era.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


For any readers I still have out there, I know of at least two, what gives your life meaning? In medical school, we had an old NY lady lecturing us on palliative care and death. In our first lecture she actually said, "We get meaning from having children. If you don't have kids, let me tell you, you'll be questioning your value." Okay....I may want to have kids, but if we don't believe we ourselves as people have value, why would other people, our kids, give us value? Because they depend on us? Are they our legacy? Do they simply satisfy a biological urge?

I spend most of my time studying and entertaining myself. Once in a while, I visit my sister and her children, but I try to focus more on my life now. I went to medical school because I want to be a doctor. I like meeting people and hearing about their lives and health problems. You'd think that this would motivate me to study more, and it does, and I do feel it's meaningful, but I still spend a lot of time thinking about television shows and other people, or looking for books to read or reading them. I really love the show Lost and feel that watching it is a good use of my time. The creation of characters and an ongoing plot can say a lot about our human experience. It gives us a way to reflect on our lives and world events, and it makes us feel connected to other people. I get a lot of satisfaction out of following a storyline on television or in novels. I'm sure the people who spend time creating these stories appreciate my appreciation of their efforts. But it doesn't result in much, from a productivity standpoint. Is it better to spend time creating something rather than enjoying other people's creations? Kind of pointless to make a TV show with no audience.

If I think about having kids, I think, "If I work and feed myself and have kids, I might not have time for TV or books." One time I read an article by a smug journalist with four kids writing about how wonderful it was to be busy, and how, sure, she didn't have time to read novels in the park, but who cares, since she has four kids! Isn't she terrific! But creating new people to give meaning to your life seems kind of pitiful...what makes those people think their kids have meaning? I think they just like having kids. The value of having biological children seems to be getting to see what your own genetic pool can create. Adopting kids seems meaningful, because those kids are already here. I am curious to have a baby for the experience and to see what comes out, but I don't know if that will give me more meaning, it seems more like it will give me responsibility and obligation. And you are only caring for what you produced. Is that productive?

Right now, I study, interact with patients, spend time with friends and family, watch TV and read. I wonder if I am benefiting other people enough with my life. How do you guys feel about how you spend your time? What gives your lives meaning?

Monday, February 9, 2009

New Adventures in Med School

Last week, I performed a neurological exam on a real patient in a real clinic, alone! The situation was quite surreal, involving over-age adoption and a blind monk, but I cannot go into the details due to confidentiality. I was allowed to perform the exam by my supervising physician's assistant, primarily because it was not necessary.

On Sunday I witnessed several autopsies. Being a fan of the X-files, I have seen Scully carry out several autopsies, however this situation was completely different, very smelly, and also rather surreal. I would not recommend viewing one.

I'm now in the third week of neuroscience, and I'm starting out this block much better than previous blocks. Who knows, maybe it will continue to go well!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bikram's Yoga

I tried out Bikram's Yoga for a month. I did feel like it worked out my muscles and made me more flexible, but it is too freakin' hot! Bikram's yoga is a very regimented yoga, consisting of a series of 26 moves performed in the same order in a room heated to 104 degrees F. During my last session, a woman lost her balance and fell down, and the instructor didn't even stop to inquire if she was okay until the natural break in the routine, about 20 minutes later. This despite the woman laying down and not getting back up, and saying "ow ow". It left a sour taste in my mouth, which is unfortunate, because it was only the red-headed instructor with short hair that works at Bikram's downtown in Albuqueruque. The other instructors were quite nice.