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Saturday, March 14, 2020

Locked down

The Polish government just announced a total lock-down yesterday. All stores except grocery and pharmacies are to close from tonight and all flights into and out of Poland will be suspended as of tonight.

Its crazy. But also necessary, in my opinion. The sooner we stop or slow the spread, the better. No country is really prepared for this sort of pandemic and Poland especially so.

But I'm not going to lie and say that I feel totally ok about it. The idea that the borders are closed and that I can't get out is a very uncomfortable feeling. The idea that my husband is away from us and can't come back for the foreseeable future is uncomfortable. That said, I'm not freaking out or panicking because thats totally unproductive and right now my main priorities are being there for my kids. I want them to remember this time as serious but not scary. I want them to feel safe and secure and to continue to be kids.

My next priority is trying to help my school sort their shit out so we can get credit for courses where we can. My school is woefully unprepared for this sort of thing. My oldest son's school (private though), has been exemplary and have a fully functioning and sophisticated virtual learning program that they will be implementing on Monday. At least his education won't be interrupted. But I can't sit back and wait for stuff to get done - I need to do something. I had a meeting with our Dean yesterday to discuss ways to help and this is where he asked for help. At the moment he doesn't want students to be volunteering in hospitals or doctors offices so I'm going to respect his request.

I'm also going to implement a home-schooling system for my younger two. Mornings will be devoted to school type work (writing, reading, math etc) and the afternoons for playing. My nanny will be coming mid-morning or noon and will take over and then I'll do my work (and I'll try and squeeze some in while trying to study myself) and try and get some exercise in.

In the meantime I'm just grateful that my family and I are safe and secure for the time being and fingers crossed we get through this ok. And to anyone reading this - please, please, please just stay home and only leave for true essentials (food or medical care).

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

So day one of the covid-19 pandemic is on the books!

Man, things escalated quickly. Today in Poland they announced that public gathering places like movie theatres, museums etc were to close and later in the day also announced that all schools and daycares are to be closed as of Monday, March 16th for at least two weeks. They asked everyone to treat it as a self-quarantine and not leave the house unless necessary. Since this means the kids will be home during this time, I'll probably be walking the dog a LOT just to get out of the house! Luckily my nanny will around to help. And luckily my oldest son's school is fairly well prepared with a virtual learning system, which hopefully means he won't miss any school. But in the meantime I'm going to have to rely on my other babysitters, aka Netflix and Disney +, to step in. I may also renew the Xbox live account (we cancelled it earlier because I was sick of the fights over the Xbox).

There are also rumours that all big stores - including grocery - will be closed as of Monday as well so I decided to pop into a shop this afternoon to grab some milk (that I was just normally low on) and pick up a few things. I'm glad I went when I did because some things were already low/gone (like chicken and most canned goods) and I can imagine how much worse they will look. My nanny came with me to the shop and in spite of me pleading for her not to panic and just be reasonable with what we should be buying, she agreed but at the same time was throwing in extra packages of butter and bars of soap and bulgar wheat into the trolley. I wanted to laugh. She also grabbed the last package of toilet paper even though I reminded her that we have a bidet in the house and can easily get by without it. Sigh.

My university is completely closed until March 29th, but they also told us not to leave Poland because when courses resume, if we had decided to leave the country, we will face mandatory quarantine upon return and if that results in us missing school that is already in session, we will not be able to make it up. Which honestly I think is totally fair even though I had been toying with the idea of taking the fam to Canada for a few weeks, it really doesn't make sense during a lock-down to do this type of travelling. It's irresponsible and totally unnecessary. From my end, I plan on following the rules and staying home as much as possible.

There is also talk of how we are going to make up the time. Either it will be cancelling our Easter holiday and our week off in May and/or continue classes in to July. It would suck but I'm at a point now where I'm just not caring about any of it. I'm going to accept whatever they throw at us and take it in stride because I feel like it will just be a more pleasant - or at least more bearable - experience.

Plus I really don't want to get upset because of the effect on my kids. I can tell my middle son is feeling anxious about it all. He is upset that he can't go to soccer. He's upset because I told him he may not have his birthday party in April (based on the chats I've had with some parents, they won't be coming). Today he started to cry hysterically over my older son's phone cover (seriously). He asked me what the end of the world looks like and if this is it. I should have a word with his teachers to see what on earth they've been saying to the kids.

But frankly what I'm most worried about is Poland's ability (or rather, inability) to handle this crisis. As one of the highest doctor to patient ratios in the EU and some of the lowest percentage of GDP on health care spending in the EU, they are going to hit their capacity really quickly. The average age of doctors in Warsaw is over 50 and average age of nurses is over 55. So basically the highest risk group of people are also the front line. I've already heard one ER got shut down because the doctor tested positive for covid-19 and as it is, that they are sending people with mild symptoms home without even testing them. I'm itching to get in and help and I really hope I get the opportunity.

I'm curious to see how the next few weeks unfold. Like I said to some of my friends today, I'm sure we will all have stories about the mad coronavirus pandemic to tell our grandchildren!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

COVID-19 - the fun begins

Great. Just found out that all my clinical classes, lectures, seminars and basically all events, have been cancelled by my university. We officially have nothing until March 29th. I'm planning on just studying myself in the meantime and hope and pray that my kids schools aren't closed, though I think its just wishful thinking. Thank God for my full time nanny, that's all I've got to say about it!

Anyway, I've been sort of expecting this but not so soon. I'm annoyed, of course, but honestly, because there is absolutely nothing that I can do about it, I'm not stressing. People are getting sick and dying and thats much worse than the inconvenience of having 3 weeks off (for now - chances are that it will be extended).

Frankly, at this point I'm mostly wondering if there is something practical I can do to help, like volunteer at a hospital to help with triage or something. I've heard that things got so bad in Italy they DID recruit retired doctors and students to help. I want to if I can. The only issue for me would be logistical if I do come in to contact with a positive COVID-19 person or get sick with it myself. Then what? Would I have to self-quarantine myself at home? Would I have to do it outside my home? Would my kids be allowed to be quarantined with me? But hey, I guess I'll deal with it if it even becomes an issue.

For now I'm just going to try and be patient and hope it works out.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Its Sunday afternoon and I really wish I could be doing something other than (trying) to study for the pharma retake, which is now just 6 days away. I've be studying pretty diligently for ages (pretty much since the day after I failed the first one) but at a much slower pace than I should have. It was a great lesson on how much more enjoyable  it is to study small chunks at a time instead of the same topic for hours on end, but now I'm behind where I hoped to be and it's frustrating. So the next six days will be pretty full-on.

On the flip side, I started my pediatrics rotation last week and I LOVE it. We are splitting our time between pediatrics and neonatology and both have been wonderful. Great doctors, interesting patients, getting to learn physical skills, practicing history taking and differential diagnosis. The hardest part though is watching children suffer. We had one especially who didn't even have anything majorly serious (hopefully) but seeing him in the situation he was in made ME wish I could take the sickness from him. Luckily he had the most loving and caring parents, which I was so glad to see. So far, the kids and babies we've seen had wonderful parents. But I know that there are kids with parents who are not so nice, who abandon them, who can't cope. I'm dreading meeting them because I swear, I'll just want to swoop in and adopt them all. Seriously, my husband even said he is fully expecting we will leave Poland with an adopted child.

Another challenge is that my husband is looking for a new job now and is doing so in Canada. He quit his previous job 6 months ago and took some time off, which was great for him, but now it's back to reality and the reality is that he may be away for a while and it sucks. I miss him and not only that, he did so much of the childcare stuff that it's going to be a hard adjustment with him gone. Luckily my nanny is super flexible and will pick up the slack to some extent but still. He's hoping to find something that will allow him to work remotely from Poland or at least be flexible about it. This should be possible given the nature of the industry he is in and because he finally has that "10+ years of experience" that opens doors for him. So keep your fingers crossed!

Monday, February 3, 2020

The first semester of third year is over and I'm on term break now. And I have to admit, I'm feeling super...blah. I never seem to feel relief after an exam session. It takes me forever to unwind.

It was a tough end to it, I must admit. I ended up failing the pharma exam. I was just shy of passing by two points, but a fail is a fail. It's the first exam that I've failed since starting med school. Actually, its the first exam I've ever failed in my life, period. So it was a bit of an ego bruiser, though if I'm honest, I just wasn't prepared like I should have been. Luckily the re-take will be at the end of the month and luckily it was just a term exam and not a final, so it doesn't really affect me.

My other exams went fine. I did really well in my pathology test and radiology final. I did ok in my parasitology exam, though I did worse than I expected so I'm going to go in and have a look at my exam because I'm confused on where I went wrong.

But I've still been active with trying to improve our program and met with the Dean again. I brought some concerns I had to his attention and he told me he had a great solution and I am so happy that he is taking it seriously. We also discussed some plans and opportunities for students to prepare for the USMLE and to do electives in the US. I'm still undecided whether I'm going to pursue the US as an option for residency but I still plan to take the USMLE prep course if we manage to get it off the ground because learning more stuff can't hurt. One great thing that came out of the meeting though was that the Dean told me how much he appreciated my pro-activeness and hard work, which was nice to hear. He also said I could come to him if I ever needed a favour for anything and its nice to know that I have that in my back pocket. And nice to know in general that he appreciates what I'm doing.

In spite of everything though, I'm feeling a bit drained at the moment. A part of it is the frustration I'm feeling at not doing that well on my exams in spite of having way more time to prepare. Only one kid to take care of - though I did have to spend a bunch of time driving to hospitals and doctors offices to deal with his leg that he broke two days before we came back from Poland and because we had another strep throat scare. And had to make sure he stayed on top of his school projects.

All I feel like doing right now is lying on the couch and watching reruns of Grey's Anatomy and drinking tea. But I need to start studying for pharma...yet I need the rest (and by "rest" I mean do my tax returns, book some medical checkups, take my son to the ortho, register my middle son for school, finish some projects at home and spend some time with my little kids). Ugh, I don't mean to come off complaining because I'm grateful every day for what I'm able to do. I'm just a bit tired.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

As always, I seem to be drawn to blogging when I *should* be studying for an important exam (this time its for pharmacology, dear God help me). But it's been ages so I thought I'd do an update.

I'm still really enjoying 3rd year a lot. Before Christmas we started proper clinical classes with internal medicine being my group's first one. I really enjoyed it however my group's teacher was a little over-enthusiastic about sharing his knowledge, that we didn't really get as much chance to actually practice ourselves. For example, when practicing taking a patients history, he pretty much just did it himself instead of letting us. I also got annoyed when he told me that he thinks I'm really smart but to "not let" my husband see this because "men don't like it when their wives are smarter than them". Ugh. I did respond though and I said luckily my husband is a smart guy and in any case, he is secure enough in himself that he wouldn't be threatened by a smart wife. I wasn't sure if the prof was joking or not, but either way, its was inappropriate. Reminds me of how far we still have to go.

Christmas break was great. We went to New Zealand to spend some time with my husband's family. My husband and kids went earlier than I did and he and our youngest two are staying till the beginning of February and I returned back to Poland with our oldest son (he also had to go back to school).

The only thing that kind of keeps me up at night is wondering where we will end up. I discovered that if I get foundation programme training job and finish the first year, I can move to New Zealand and continue my training there. Which would be much better than spending 5 years (minimum) in the UK. Part of me likes the idea of the UK because I just like it there but the realities of living somewhere with no family or close friends around is something that I know would be hard on us. Granted that may be the case if we end up moving back to Canada and end up in a province other than Ontario.

But at the moment everything is up in the air regarding the UK and Brexit and how that will affect my prospects there. My main goal is still somewhere in Canada with my hometown's residency program being my top choice. I can't wait until I get to apply to the elective rotations, but I still have to wait a year.

Still, time is forging ahead - I'm almost 2.5 years done and after next semester I'll be half way through medical school. It's crazy when I think about it. How far I've come, how much I've learned and how much I really love this crazy profession.

But first I have to get through my pharma mid-term, a pathology test and finals for radiology and parasitology.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

I'm sorry, I can't

This is a phrase that I'm required to mutter often as a medical student that is also a parent. It's a struggle sometimes to have to turn down events because it means missing out on time with my kids, but thats the reality of being a parent and when your family is your priority. Saying it would cause me to feel a pang of guilt in the past but honestly it doesn't anymore. Frankly, I don't even like to say "I'm sorry", because I'm NOT sorry. But its a habit I'm working on - not apologizing for things that I don't need to apologize for.

But I digress. Because my family IS my priority, however important my medical education and career are, and I do make a conscious effort to balance them. There are times when my family time has to be sacrificed, like when I need to study for an exam or have a mandatory class that clashes with one of my kids school performances. Sometimes I make the decision to sacrifice my family time for non-mandatory, but important to me events. But there are other times that I choose to forgo opportunities in order to spend more time with my kids. I'd love to join the surgery club, for example, and be able to attend a surgery last minute, however I just know it wouldn't work. I'd also love to join a uni sports club but that too is just too rigid for me and can't justify an evening a week for sport when I have plenty of other time available to workout that doesn't take time away from my kids.

I think that sometimes people forget that I have kids though. I try not to bring it up too often, and I really try to not use my kids as an excuse for not getting something done (which rarely happens) - even when they ARE the reason. At the end of the day, I choose to pursue medicine while having a family and there are some costs to that, like less time available to study or take part in extra curricular activities. It is what it is and I'm not bitter about it at all. I accept it and I also try to be as organized as I can to minimize my time away AND be able to fulfill my academic obligations. But what does sometimes frustrate me is having to justify it. Like not being able to attend a club meeting on a weekend. People are understanding, but I often get challenged on being asked "but couldn't you come for just an hour?" Not, not even for "just" an hour. Because its never "just" an hour - I have to arrange it in advance with my husband (who may have planned on me being there to get something done), I have to commute, I have to find parking, the meeting will likely go over because no one else is rushed...and it ends up being like 4 hours or more of my precious weekend time.

This problem won't go away. It's going to follow me for the rest of medical school, through residency and beyond. And even though my kids are getting older and more independent, it doesn't mean that I will need to spend less time with them (and of course my husband). Plus I LIKE to spend time with them. They are great kids. And people will just have to get used to me saying "I can't".