Day 3- Sister Vinita orphanage

So this morning started off slowly. My entire apartment apparently woke up early and everyone pretended that they were still sleeping. Eventually, I gave up, took a shower and went down for breakfast with one of my roommates. When we got there another was already there eating. Took a while at breakfast, talking and meeting people. And then there was time to kill.  I dozed/listened to an audio book. And then It was time to meet up.

At the meeting, we all introduced ourselves. We got a brief overview of the program and events, especially for the day, a cheat sheet on conversion rates 22,000 dong = $1 American. And we were given a map. I am sure my husband would be amused by the fact that they think I can follow a map.

There is no way, I can get from point A to point B with this.

Anyway, shortly afterward, we loaded up the bus and headed to the orphanage. My vision of Vietnam comes from Robin William’s “Good Morning Vietnam” and pictures from a war that happened 50 years ago, so not really accurate in many areas.

There are more motorbikes than I have ever seen in my life. I watched the bus make turns and some on the bikes go around them. Seriously, I don’t know how there are not more accidents. The telephone wires are thick and above ground. And the just add another wire when they need one. No telling how heavy it all is.

We get to the orphanage, and the area resembles more of what I was thinking. Not exactly, but it is not the modern Ho Chi Minh City, which would not be modern by the US standard.

We walk into a clean open area, and the orphans are brought in by their workers and Sister Vinh.  They are clean, many with visible birth defects, Downs, Acromegaly, but all loving and kind, and excited. The children sing for us to welcome us.

And while they are singing, staff is setting up tables for us to see patients, and the chaos begins. The kids are so excited by us, that anything that you don’t have control of they are grabbing, not to steal but to look at. At the end of the day, when I was going through pictures on my phone I found this one, taken by a child 

And so we saw patients, mostly children, but several of the staff. And most (there were a few screaming babies that did not appreciate the care) were so grateful and sweet. And then there were some that your heart broke because there was little we could do. In the States, these kiddos would have Mickey buttons and J tubes, and even then you would question their life quality. Here they are loved by the staff in the orphanage, but there is only so much that can be done.

Sister Vinh appears to be strict but loving with the kids and she (through translators)told us how we would proceed during this visit. But this visit helps to remind me why I became a doctor in the first place. Even with less resources than I have in the US we can make a difference.

At the end of the visit we were treated with another couple songs and hugs from the kiddos. And that alone makes it all worth it.


Day 2- 

Today is fairly uneventful. I woke up and went down and got some coffee. Talked to one of the people at the front desk who told me that I could keep my room until the new one was ready.  So I took a short walk around the block to an ATM to get cash, only for my card to not work. I had specifically went into the bank to make sure that it would, and it didn’t. Grrr.

I walked into the bank attached to this ATM, and changed $100 That I had in my wallet. Hopefully, everywhere will take my credit card. But I enjoyed walking around the block.

I was getting fairly hungry after pretty much not eating since the crackers, so I went to the Korean place next to the hotel. It looked clean, and ordered lunch.

I went back to the hotel and my key wouldn’t work in the elevator. Went to the desk and the person told me it was because it was afternoon. However, the new room was ready, and if I wanted to get my things they would get me the new key. Also happened to meet 2 of my 3 room mates for the week.

Walked around the block looking for pho with one of them.  I ordered a mango smoothie and then back to the room. I felt overwhelmingly tired, and so at 300 I went to take a nap. Only to wake up at 1130 pm, and the arrival of roommate #3.

Will now try to take something so I can go back to sleep and function normally tomorrow. The true mission begins in the afternoon 

Traveling day

So yesterday, or was it the day before… A bit confused here due to a long day of traveling. So anyway, at 2 am at central standard time, I awoke to get to Tulsa to check in at 330 am for my 5 am flight. Good thing that I did, because there was some difficulty with my ticket that took American airlines 30 min to fix,  well sort of. They could not check me in on the Japan Airlines portion. My bag was checked through however. 

After a first class upgrade and uneventful flight,  I travelled to concourse D, but could not find anyone from Japan Airlines.

 What I should have done was just wait, but instead I left security to find out that they don’t even open for an hour. With time to kill, I went to the Grand Hyatt for breakfast.

Anyway, they finally opened and I checked in with my printed out Visa, and then went back through TSA. Some time between there and the printed out Visa disappeared. 

Eventually it was time to board and I was given an upgrade to coach premium, which gave me more leg room and an aisle seat which turns out to be very important. I was also able to slightly recline the seat, not like business class buy more than coach and elevate the legs.

I have what I like to call “travel tummy” which was starting to kick in. Nothing ridiculous that I can’t handle. However, after eating the beef dish that they recommended things started to worsen.  When they came around offering soup/udon, I accepted, and then I was full out nauseated. Fortunately the bathroom was open and I vomited the beef dish and everything else up. I felt slightly better, but not fantastic. I opened up a vomit bag just in case, and cursed myself for packing my phenergan in the checked luggage. 

During the flight I watched several movies- Lala Land was boring, Battle of the Sexes was amusing and interesting. Suicide squad, and then I dosed to sleep with my mask on.  Was awakened by a screaming baby or 2 and very bright lights. We were being served breakfast. It was something called macaroni and cheese and clam chowder. Not wishing to have more stomach pyrotechnics on the plane, I just ate fruit and crackers. And finally it was time to land in Japan.

The airport at Japan reminds me of a high end American mall without nearly enough bathrooms. We didn’t have to clear customs as we were just passing through, but did go through security again. And I waited for the next plane on a rainy Japan afternoon. As I was munching on a cracker, my name was called on the overhead speaker. Apparently I had accidentally packed my spare battery in my suitcase and I needed to remove it. Good news, at least I knew my bag was in Japan. And so I removed it. Not sure why I didn’t grab the phenergan but whatever

Now Japanese Airline does not appear to load their planes in any sensible way, though it could be my lack of knowledge of Japanese. So we get on board, no upgrade here, no aisle or even window seat. The dreaded middle and I am 5’9″ and mostly legs.

So crunched into the seat, I put on my headphones and the movie It (the new one) and watch/doze until they bring the food around. They offer the same delightful dish that I vomited the previous flight. I politely refuse, ask for a coke, which I drink and fall asleep.  I wake up a little later, turn on Boss Baby to doze through. I know nothing that happens from when the baby arrives in the suit to when they save their parents. But I wake up feeling much better. 

We land and sit on the runway for 30 minutes. During which time my bladder has decided it needed to go. So once we are allowed off the plane, that is my first stop. The next is the realization that my printed copy of my Visa is gone.

Oh please let them use the copy on my phone

Fortunately they do, and I wander around looking for the correct carousel. Then it is time to get a taxi and head to my hotel. I am checking into one room for the night and then will check in with the group.

Not bad for a 12 hour stay…

Keep moving forward

So yesterday, I ran an 11 minute mile. Which is faster than I have ran since probably I had children. And while I am happy with the progress that I made, part of me, keeps comparing myself to 17 year old me who was running 6:30 miles, 13-14 minute 2 mile runs, and 5Ks under 30 minute. However, today me weighs 60 pounds more than 17 year old me. And that is where I get stuck. 17 year old me could also eat candy bars all day long and not gain any weight. 40 year old me, well I am losing weight by trying to star at about 1200-1400 calories, low carb eating. And snickers bars and cokes are not part of that diet. But overall, I am happy with my progress.

The next few miles were slow jog/walk. But I did it in 80+ degrees heat and probably 60% humidity.

Today, however was an easy walk. I did it with the hubby, who for the most part we walk, side by side, no talking. I don’t know entirely what he thought about. There was little need to talk about our day, as outside of bathroom breaks, we were together literally the whole day.

However, the fears from last summer, which prompted a bunch of changes, came back today. He walked the 4 miles comfortably, but news given earlier in the day was somewhat upsetting. I probably should have thought that we were only delaying things, but I moved to we aren’t going to have to go that direction at all. Except it is still a big maybe. And we were told in all likelihood, it is our future. How long down the road, who knows, probably not in the next couple of years, but one day.

And so as I try to wrap my head around it, and push it down, we walked in silence. We walked 4 miles in an hour and 10 minutes. Surely that has to mean something. And so we move forward. I training for a half marathon, him walking for his health.

Anyway, life is not guaranteed. And so we will move forward. Enjoying life. Spending time with the kids. Finding worth in experiences, not things. And we move forward, one step, one day at a time.

I was conquered by the Gauntlet

So I have started training for a half marathon during the past two weeks. And yesterday, I attempted the Conquer the Gauntlet run in Tulsa. I completed it for the medal, but not all the obstacles. I found out before the starting line how lacking in upper body strength I truly am. To get to the starting line you have to make it over a 6 foot wall. Fortunately with my husband’s help I got to the starting line. (I was not the only one requiring help however)

So when the gun went off, we started, and the trail was terribly rocky, easy to roll an ankle. And then we get to the first obstacle. Another wall, which I attempt, but cannot do. So I go around. It was probably 12 feet high.

The next obstacles I do. I don’t remember up from the grave, but I must have done it, the rubber roadblock almost made me vomit, due to the effort to get to the other side without falling. At that point I saw my husband, cheering me on. That was nice that spectators could go along the path. So I kept going, without vomiting. And then there was an ice bath. WTAF? And you had to go completely under, as there is a board in the middle. However, as the cloud cover seemed to disappear with the starting gun, the ice cold water was a bit of a relief.

As we are trying not to fall on the now muddy ground, a guy behind me says, “how many people do you think peed in that water?” Well thanks for bringing to the open what I was in reality thinking.

I jogged/walked to the next obstacle which is a series of walls, with help I get over the first, but realize if I continue I will not be able to finish the race, so I go around the rest.

And then finally mile one is completed and there is a water stop. There is another obstacle there, that I am blanking on, which may be the one, I fell trying to climb down the net and ring the bell. Really more of a drop, but then I am on my way.

I then climb over a bet, which did not make me nauseous and do other obstacles that I don’t remember, and get to the high part of the course. I take a brief glance at the city of Tulsa, apparently from its highest point and move on.

I skip the Pegatron due to the lack of upper body strength, and continue moving forward, most likely due to the inability to think any longer, and forward is the only way to go. Plus we had hit the halfway point of the course distance wise.

I do remember the next obstacle of carrying 50 pounds of sand around a circle, just concentrating thinking, “one more step, one more step.” I got through it, and right after that, a fellow runner was vomiting. He declined help and said that he would be ok. So I moved on to the next obstacle

At this time there is a crank that you turn with a bucket and sand attached, that you move up towards yourself. Once you have them, you grab the rope or bucket and take it to the other side. I remember my husband there cheering me on. And I remember thinking that this is not as hard as others are making it look. Who knows?

I know I didn’t do the cliffhanger, a psychotic version of money bars, which I have neither the grip strength nor upper body to do.

I don’t actually remember the next obstacle. The one after was a rope climb that I skipped. I remember swimming across a pond, and feeling some relief, and then trying not to fall as I ran through woods.

The next obstacle I could not balance on very well. So in addition to upper body strength, balance needs help.

I was able to hit a block with a hammer, fairly easily, to start with, on the way back I definitely felt muscle fatigue and the darn thing seemed to come off of the track. Ugh, but once completed off again.

Then there was a more normal version of monkey bars, which I completed until the handle became a rope and dropped off.

I skipped the next one with 5 walls, because I definitely did not have the upper body strength.

The boardwalk I attempted but fell in due to the balance issue. I had to have 2 volunteers drag me out, and now this morning, I have a beautiful bruise on my right knee.


For whatever reason, I had decided in the beginning to try stairway to heaven, despite the lack of upper body strength and upper body strength, and into the water I go again. This time I am able to drab myself out. And then I am almost done.

The torpedo is the final challenge. You climb up this netting to this ridiculous chute that drops you into some deep water. I sit down and climb in at the top as directed. Legs in correctly, and taking off my sunglasses I push myself down. And whoosh, I hit the water, and after going down what seems like forever, I start to paddle up. I break through the water, a volunteer asks if I am ok, and I nod, climb up the rope ladder and drag myself out and across the line. I turn in my chip that was attached to my ankle. I had done in in just less than 2 hours. And then the lens to my sunglasses pops out.

I get my medal and my shirt for completing the course. And don’t see my husband. He apparently did not see me skip the last wall obstacle . So I go to bag check, get my phone and call him. I have finished the course.

From this I realize 2 things. I need more upper body strength and more balance should I do this again. Might start working on this while training for the half, or may start in November. I have not decided yet


Before pic

I have conquered the Gauntlet

My finisher medal

A new year without alcohol

So, I want to blame the events of June 3 on my increase in alcohol intake for the year.  And while they did help to cause me to drink more, my intake had been increasing since at least March

  While my husband’s myocardial infarction helped me to rely on alcohol more and more, the fact that I hated my job and contemplated ending it all before that, started the spiral.  I have never told anyone about the night that had it been for a promise made 14 years prior and my kids, I might have ended it all.  I had just royally screwed up a job interview for a job that I didn’t really want, but it was an escape from the situation that I was in.  I didn’t do it, but 3 weeks later the panic attack cale because of how close my kids came to becoming orphans.  My hubby didn’t die either, but for 3-4 months it was a hope and a prayer as to whether he would need a heart transplant.  

And so I drank.  At first it was wine, and then ot was vodka over mixed frozen fruit, and then ot was plain vodka.  Not enough to get drunk, but enough to numb the pain.  And never during working hours.  Usually right before or after I put the kids to bed. 

Since my last day of work, intake has lessened significantly, but it still happened. My last drink was December 23.  I promised my husband to walk away from it in the new year.  

Will it be forever?  I don’t know, but it has to be done.

Everything is going to be ok

That is what I hope, and I can even believe it most days.  Here I am at the island of St Thomas.  so close, yet so far from St Johns where I go to recharge.  Where I fear it will be a couple of years until I go back.  Life has put up barriers and the boy is starting high school next year.  Yet, I will get back, eventually

The problem with alone time

Everyone needs alone time.  There is no doubt about it.  The problem is when you have too much of it.  Too much allows for all of your doubts and fears to slowly overwhelm your thoughts.  It allows for the anxiety to sit at the pit of your stomach creating a knot of nausea that you are not sure that you will be able to keep at bay.  

It allows for all of your perceived inadequacies to surface.  It yells out at you that you are a fraud. “I can’t believe that you have lasted this long!  How has no one noticed what a lousy —— that you are?”

Challenges become larger and ever more looming and you start to doubt every decision that you have ever made.  

And then you start to go into full panic mode.  Womdering whether or not you can get through this journey.  Maybe the destination is finally in sight, but just out of grasp.  

And the panic continues to build.
I know those that are more religious than me, will say, “Just put your faith in God, there is no need for worry or anxiety.”  And while I agree in theory, it is difficult to just stop worrying.  

I have read a lot of self help books, this past year. And while I don’t disagree with them, sometimes it is easier said than done.  

And I know that I have a pretty good life, and I should be grateful, but still the worry sneaks in

So today I slept

Sometimes one gets so overwhelmed, and they are in danger of being overwhelmed by their demons.  And lately I am realizing just how many demons that I have and that I can’t outrun them anymore.  

I wish that I could say that I was fantastic, by my soul is tired.  I am exhausted.  The past year has taken everything that I have to give and with my energy spent, I did not pack like I should have.  I didn’t do abythunf that I was supposed to do today.  I slept.  I didn’t pack.
If it were Roman times, I would rail at the gods for fucking with me.  But today, this year 2016 was just a cosmically bad year.  I am just trying to get through it without any more scars.

And now it is over

Just under 3 years ago, I sold my medical practice.  I had a variety of reasons, but I made the decision with my husband in an attempt to be there for my kids, have a steady paycheck, and not have to deal with the day to day stress.  And while even today, I can’t say that it was the wrong decision, it did almost kill me. 

I ended up working for the largest hospital system in the coubtry for 34 months.  I don’t know how it is the largest system, because it is so poorly run, and money orientated that care of the patient seems to have gotten lost.  And within the first year, I was told a ridiculous amount of times how, family medicine doesn’t matter and that equipment needed for standard of care shouldn’t be expected as I didn’t bring them the money that specialists did.  Excuse me?  Do you even understand the concept of how patients made it to the specialists?  This organization also moved me twice in under a year (362 days, but who is counting?) and helped to cost me valuable patients and forced me to drop down to 2.5 days inside of the clinic, as my husband and I went from sharing 6 rooms down to sharing 3 rooms.  Which we could no longer see 35-40 patients a day, each.  And yet, this was my fault per the corporation. 

And when I started looking around for other positions, looking for an escape, all escape routes were paying a minimum of $50K more, and while my need for escape was not all about money, there is a thing about realizing that you are so undervalued where you are.  Some of my scars are still too new and since I have my family to consider, I will not go into it.  Not right now, maybe later to another.
I can say though, I don’t believe that I would have survived another contract with this organization.  They almost destroyed me.  This last 6 months, knowing my parole was imminent, were better.  And now I am free and maybe a little shell shocked.  And maybe during the next 6 weeks, I will write more, because I couldn’t write over the last 3 years.  There was too much I couldn’t say.  Too much that had to be hidden.