Residential Space A creative outlet during residency, turned ongoing virtual soap box

Our move so far  0

Posted on July 6th, 2010. About Ramblings.

At this point, the move from Seattle to Charlotte has been fairly smooth. I finally saw Crater Lake, have had plenty of time to play with the kids, and I’ve run in both Oregon and Montana. For the past two days we have camped near Yellowstone National Park, and tomorrow we are venturing to South Dakota. I am appreciating Teddy Roosevelt on this trip, and respect his wisdom in setting aside so much of this land so that I might see it the way Americans viewed it over a hundred years ago.

Gabriel and me, taking in the morning at Crater Lake. He barely noticed the mountains and lake, instead focusing on the snow, rocks, and sticks.

Yes, Crater Lake is really this blue.

Caroline plays in the backpack after a hike in Montana. She has been such a delightful traveler!

Evan and Caroline, playing in the RV

Gabriel and me at Yellowstone

Twenty years ago on this date…  0

Posted on July 3rd, 2010. About Ramblings.

…a timber rattlesnake bit me on the foot. I was in my backyard in Chapin, South Carolina, and stepped near a bush surrounded by brush to gather my cat.

As a medical student years later, I found learning about the treatment of venomous snake bites completely fascinating. The snake’s toxin, immunizing horses against this toxin, and then harvesting the serum to infuse into humans who have been bitten. It made so much sense. Before I received my first dose of “anti-venom” I remember a small amount being injected subcutaneously in my forearm. I had this “A-ha!” moment when I realized that the ER doctor was assessing for hypersensitivity. Fortunately there was none.

I have felt sheer gratitude for my right foot ever since. It has served me well.

Farewell, Seattle  0

Posted on July 2nd, 2010. About Ramblings.

I’m typing this in the midst of my cross-country move from Seattle to North Carolina. My vascular neurology fellowship ended on June 30th, and with it the non-stop “schooling” that began when I was three years old. What to do now that real life is about to commence?

I’m reflecting on what I will miss about Seattle, and the answer is – almost everything. It is a fantastic place, and I have truly loved my five years there. In keeping with my need to write about everything, I will compile a list. What will I miss the most?

  • My colleagues from my Harborview/UW experiences who have evolved into friends
  • The amazing friends (outside of the hospital walls) I have been fortunate to make, and will hopefully keep for many years
  • My condo and its lovely view of the Olympic Mountains, Puget Sound, and the downtown skyline


  • The open-mindedness of the Pacific Northwest residents (and with this, progressive ideology – though minus the “analysis paralysis” that grips the city at times)
  • Snow skiing available at the conclusion of a 45 minute straight-shot on I-90
  • Speaking of I-90, running to Mercer Island on the I-90 pedestrian bridge while enjoying peeks at Mount Rainier
  • Two of my own doctors who have positively impacted my life (and presumably they will know who they are if they ever see this)
  • The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
  • Issaquah’s “Salmon Days” Festival
  • Speaking of salmon – the ready availability of Copper River salmon
  • Washington red wine!
  • Green Lake (and Super Jock N Jill – an awesome running store)
  • Walking to work, or chatting with random Seattleites on the bus while commuting on rainy days
  • The Starbucks at 23rd & Jackson in the Central District
  • Brunch at Salty’s on Alki, and along those lines – regular family lunches at Cactus after watching Gabriel play at Madison Park
  • Not having state income tax (while acknowledging that it’s probably coming/necessary)
  • Locally produced butternut squash in the fall
  • The International District, and the inexpensive monstrous plates of Vietnamise food only a fraction of a mile from Harborview
  • Theo Chocolate (though fortunately I have located a grocery store in Charlotte that sells it)
  • Floating bridges – there is something nifty about a bridge that is actually on the water
  • The Smith Tower – a reminder of what progressive people can accomplish
  • The Columbia City Bakery – the locale for many family breakfasts
  • The enthusiasm for conservation
  • 89.5FM – hard to believe it’s a high school radio station, but it rocks

I’m certain I’m forgetting something major, but this is what my tired mind can construct at the moment. On to the next adventure, but not without saying: “Goodnight, Seattle – we love you!”

Gabriel’s choice for U.S. president  1

Posted on June 10th, 2010. About Ramblings.

Gabriel will turn three next month (to establish the context for why I find this amusing). He has several child-friendly placemats for meals, and among them is one featuring portraits of the U.S. presidents, depicted in chronological order. He knows Obama is the current president. However, he has fixated on several of our former presidents:

  • Jimmy Carter – because he is featured eating peanuts
  • Rutherford B. Hayes – because Gabriel likes his bushy beard
  • William H. Taft – because he is pictured in the bathtub (bubbles covering from the neck down)
  • Gerald Ford – because he is holding a football
  • Millard Fillmore – no clue why

This morning, while at breakfast, Gabriel was disappointed that he could not eat Caroline’s baby food. I informed him that it was exciting to be the older brother and not the baby, because he will be able to do so many neat things before Caroline is old enough to do them. He wanted examples. For now, he can kick a soccer ball and eat watermelon; but I told him that in the future, he would drive a car before she does, and he would vote before she does. This spawned a discussion about what voting means, and I informed him (to keep it simple) that when a person votes, he is choosing the president. He seemed thrilled that I voted.

His response was: “I want to vote for Jimmy Carter.” Pause. “No, either Jimmy Carter or Rutherford Hayes.” A few minutes later, after the conversation had moved on, he said: “No, just Jimmy Carter. I am going to vote for Jimmy Carter.”

Farewell to Dr. Alvord, Dr. Spence, Dr. Bowling, and Dr. Lipski  0

Posted on June 7th, 2010. About Ramblings.

So far, 2010 has been a difficult year for me (and for medicine) as the medical community has lost four amazing physicians.

  • Dr. Ellsworth “Buster” Alvord was a senior neuropathologist at Harborview who enjoyed grilling me in front of colleagues as I would give presentations, and within minutes was taking the time to teach me a complicated concept. The following day he would come with a compliment. The man was larger than life in the pathology world, and in the club of great philanthropists. His support of the arts and of local hospitals in the Seattle area was tremendous. The halls of Harborview are definitely more silent without his presence.
  • Dr. Alexander Spence was one of the kindest people I have ever known. A prominent neurooncologist, Dr. Spence could not seem to give enough to the care of his patients. He encouraged residents to contact him at any time – weekends, midnight, whenever, and was always gracious during those calls. He also first described spinocerebellar ataxia type 3, “Machado Joseph Disease,” while still a neurology resident. When I assembled a talk for Grand Rounds on hereditary ataxias, Dr. Spence dug out his film canisters with moving picture footage of himself as a young man examining members of the Machado family, had the footage digitized, and gave it to me. What a generous gesture, and I’m so grateful to have this piece of neurological history. He apparently did not want an obituary or a memorial service. Ironically, after all of those mornings of observing Drs. Spence and Alvord sitting around the neuropathology table, discussing their mutual patients, Dr. Spence was gone within a week of Dr. Alvord’s passing. It was a tough week.
  • Dr. Andrew Bowling and I last saw one another the summer after I graduated from medical school as he was entering his fourth year, attempting to decide whether he wished to pursue family practice or psychiatry. We ran on the cross country team together in high school, and with this team enjoyed kayaking and rafting trips. His biting wit and great intellect are what I will remember the most about him. He could be gravely serious one minute, and tumbling from the couch from laughing so violently at a line in a Mel Brooks film the next. I envied his perfect verbal SAT score, and how effortlessly academic endeavors seemed to come to him. We had recently reconnected, and it was wonderful to learn of how happy he was to have time for his kayak, guitar, and other interests now that his residency had ended. He passed away at the age of 30 in February.
  • Dr. Greg Lipski passed away last week after a five year battle with acute lymphocytic leukemia. Greg was an electrical engineer, and returning to medical school served as a second career for him. During his second year of med school, he received this startling diagnosis, and nothing was the same again. He fought through chemotherapy, radiation, and a difficult stem cell transplant, and returned to school the following year, graduating in 2008. I had the privilege of serving as the senior resident on the inpatient neurology service at UW during Greg’s neurology clinical rotation and got to know him very well. During my late call nights, he almost always hung around, really just to chat as I awaited studies to return or patients transferring from outside hospital. He loved people, and wanted more than anything to spend time with patients, getting to know their stories, and providing hope to those on the oncology service through his own example. His leukemia relapsed during his intern year. I visited him in the hospital just after this, and his attitude remained optimistic. His emails to me, and to his colleagues, always guaranteed wisdom. I have saved all of them. While it is tragic to lose such a remarkable individual at the age of 42, I cannot imagine anyone doing more in this amount of time than Greg did.

Interesting exchange on the Seattle King 5 News blog  0

Posted on March 16th, 2010. About Ramblings.

Seattle’s local NBC affiliate, King 5, reported a story tonight about a woman and her eight year old son who have gone missing. I loaded the King 5 website because the child’s name is “Azriel,” and I, as a child of the 1980’s, could not help but think of the Smurfs (Wikipedia has informed me now that the cat’s name is actually spelled “Azrael,” different from this boy’s name). But anyway – I scrolled to the blog comments at the end of the story’s text on the King 5 site, wondering if anyone would be immature enough to post such a comment on a news station’s public blog.

Oh my. Here is the exchange I found instead. Disclaimer: I have merely copied and pasted this exchange from the King 5 website – all grammar, spelling, and content are exactly as they were posted there.

This writes itself.

inforelife said on March 16, 2010 at 3:21 PM

OK, Here’s My thoughts. She is Heavily Medicated, Could not take the Questioning from her Son after She got lost, And ended His Life. She Then Called Her Boyfriend, told him, Who in turn told her to hide and he will help her. Now, I am Educated In These Matters (Believe it or not) And This is Being looked at.

trojan33 said on March 16, 2010 at 3:27 PM

So you really are in for life. Must be nice to have free internet access.

inforelife said on March 16, 2010 at 4:34 PM

trojan33, Take the Condom off Your Head so You can Breath!

1beachperson said on March 16, 2010 at 4:46 PM

Inforelife – You can’t be that educated. You can’t spell, use appropriate punctuation, or know when to capitalize! Glad to know your internet access is used to such benefit – spouting theories you know nothing about. Go away troll.

inforelife said on March 16, 2010 at 5:15 PM

And You Can Do Better? Ok, Let’s Here it for Brains!

inforelife said on March 16, 2010 at 5:17 PM

And I suppose You think Shes Hiding under her Bed!

inforelife said on March 16, 2010 at 5:19 PM

Well, Come on! Tell us What You think Happened!

trojan33 said on March 16, 2010 at 6:21 PM

inforlife- Which head do I take it off of? Because, I don’t want to take it off the wrong one and make your Mom mad.

Dallas airport could stand to assist new mothers  0

Posted on February 26th, 2010. About Baby Dodds, Ramblings.

I am typing this from the airplane as I return to Seattle from San Antonio (after a stop in Dallas). I have had negative experiences in the past with Dallas’ airport, but I figured that a stop there was better than having to transfer to another plane. Dallas did not fail to incite my frustration, and now I compose this blog post to honor the airport’s not-so-outstanding customer service efforts.

After the flight landed in Dallas, I opted to leave the plane (with my carry-on bags) in order to locate either a lactation room or a family bathroom. I have a five month old baby at home. The Seattle-Tacoma airport, to its great credit, has spoiled me with a children’s play area and adjoining “mother’s room.” Prior to leaving Seattle on this trip, I was able to use this room just before boarding the airplane, and the seven hours of travel did not seem as bad (four hours to Houston, hour layover, 45 minute flight to San Antonio, and a cab ride to the hotel). In anticipation of a four hour flight from Dallas to Seattle, I thought it was a reasonable plan.

We landed at the A terminal. I spent almost ten minutes searching for a family bathroom or “mother’s room.” All I found was a large restroom with multiple stalls and busy traffic in and out. No good. I asked an American Airlines rep where the nearest family bathroom or lactation room was (I used the words “lactation room” to illustrate why I needed some degree of privacy). She informed me there was no such place in the A terminal, but to go to the C terminal. I carted my bags to the C terminal (a nice hike), and found the family bathroom with the sign on its door: “Closed for Renovation.” Hmmm…that’s frustrating.

I asked another American Airlines rep the same question, and she suggested (I am not fabricating this) that I try the A terminal. When I explained that I had just been there and was told there was no family bathroom there, she said, “Oh, maybe there isn’t one there then.” My frustration was peaking when I noticed the American Airlines Special Travelers office, and I thought: Maybe I’m a special traveler. I have a special need, right? A need that many, many, MANY women have at some point during their lives. This is not unheard of.

I asked the woman at the desk the same question. She told me she didn’t know where a family bathroom or a lactation room was. I then clarified: “Do you have a private bathroom with an electrical outlet that I can use?” There was a children’s play area behind her (completely empty – not a soul there) with an attached family bathroom. She took me around the corner to a small bathroom. I waited for the occupant to exit, and once she did, I entered, only to find the lack of an electrical outlet. I returned to the desk and relayed this information to her. She said, “We don’t have anything then.” I asked specifically about the family bathroom behind her. She replied (again, this is what she actually said): “That’s an area for kids and families so you can’t use that.” When I told her there were, in fact, no kids and families back there, and I was trying to take care of a need for a baby at home, she told me again I could not use it. She then explained that there was a bathroom in the area for people staying overnight with them, but I could not use that either. So basically – nada.

So that was it – I returned to terminal A, reboarded the plane, and that was that.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding. The benefits at this point are not disputed, even by companies who produce formula. It is good for babies. It benefits the mother as well, not just financially and emotionally but physically (lower risk of developing breast cancer). All we need is one small room with an electrical outlet. While pumping in the bathroom is kind of gross, I sought anything. Had I been in Seattle perhaps I would have thrown my jacket over my front and pumped at the gate. However, because I was in Texas (whether this is rational or not) I did not want to be arrested should one of the other passengers or employees decide he/she was uncomfortable with this.

I’m sure the city of Dallas does not care that I will not fly through its airport again. I’m even more sure that American Airlines would remain indifferent to my dilemma, even if I wrote to the CEO (which I am contemplating). But it makes me feel better to write about it anyway, because I think the more that is out there about this topic, the better in the long run. Hopefully by the time my five month old daughter has children, she will be able to find at least a dark storage closet to pump milk for her baby, should she choose to do so. 

Not getting the Super Bowl commercials…  1

Posted on February 11th, 2010. About Ramblings.

Okay, I should say that I “get” the Super Bowl commercials in that I understand why they are supposed to be funny. The problem is – they just aren’t. Or, at least as my Facebook status update stated just after the Super Bowl this year, I must not be the target audience of Budweiser or of Doritos. The Bud Light commercials were predictable and passe – sorry, but if I were stranded on a deserted island, and had the choice between radioing for help or running for Bud Light, I think I would choose the first option.

While Budweiser’s ads lacked charisma, I found some of the Doritos ads just downright offensive. One Doritos ad featured a man coming to take a woman on a date, and the woman’s young son observes this man eyeing her. When the woman leaves to finish getting ready, and the man reaches for a chip in a bowl, the boy slaps him across the face, telling him to keep his hands off of his Doritos AND off of his mother.

I spoke with many other parents after this, and we all agreed – if our children slapped an adult in this way, they would be in so much trouble. I know Gabriel would be in a timeout, would have toys taken away, and would have to apologize to his target, at the very least.

There were a few good ads, though. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the Google ad featuring the French love story. It was clever – no spoken words, it requires the viewer to read in order to follow along, and it brings one in to the story. It was not predictable – the final line has you thinking that the person is searching for “how to assemble a wedding invitation,” but instead he writes “how to assemble a crib.” Evan and I both let out an “Awwwwwww.” Very sweet! Of course, this ad was only voted the ninth best of the game. C’est la vie.

New National Parks documentary well worth watching  1

Posted on October 22nd, 2009. About Ramblings.

Ken Burns has to be my favorite documentary film maker at this point, and I say that having never seen his well-known piece on the Civil War. Gabriel was born just as Burns’s World War II film, The War, was being shown on PBS. As we endured many throughout-the-night feedings during that newborn period, I watched this film in 20-30 minute bites and felt sheer amazement at the amount of research and the organization required to sift through so many photos, video clips, and tracking down witnesses sixty years later for interviews. Well, days after Caroline was born, I saw Burns interviewed on The Colbert Report, discussing his newest film on the U.S. National Parks. I finished the final segment in the wee hours of the morning today, and it was AWESOME.

I just cannot find a more sophisticated way of saying it – it is an awesome film. It is well-researched, elegant, educational, inspiring – after twelve hours of total viewing over a three week period, I found myself disappointed that there was not even more. It got me excited about the latter half of the 19th century in U.S. History/early 20th century, and I found myself browsing online for books about John Muir (about whom I knew nothing until this film experience), Theodore Roosevelt (why don’t I know more about him than I do?), Stephen Mather (of whom I had never heard until this film), Horace Albright – the list goes on and on. There are so many very pivotal figures in our nation’s history, responsible for preserving much of our native biological heritage, who are overlooked in high school history classes.

What have I been doing for the past few months?  1

Posted on September 8th, 2009. About Ramblings.

I have neglected my blog since the end of June, and I confess – I have missed it. The major highlights of this period of time have included:

  • Experiencing Gabriel’s second birthday and watching him grow into his newly acquired “two year old” title. The language acquisition from week to week is astounding, and now he sings along (real time) with his music. The only thing he wanted for his birthday was “ice cream and cake.” He has also transitioned to the “big boy bed,” but still does have some difficulty remembering to stay in it. This will come. Overall, it’s a great age!
  • Beginning my vascular neurology fellowship in July; so far it’s a very worthwhile experience. I know I’ve really made it because I have an office and a desk. I don’t mind the lack of air conditioning or sharing the office with two lovely other people – just having a place to keep my stuff rather than carting it back and forth to the hospital each day is extremely satisfying. I have clinic two half-days each week, which tends to spill over into other days as I return patient phone calls, complete paperwork, and follow up on studies. I have also already seen a lot of stroke cases and am developing in my subspecialty. I am pleased to have stayed on for the extra year of training.
  • Growing a new baby! Our second child is due at the end of September, and we are becoming more eager to meet her (and more desperate to get our place organized in anticipation of her arrival).
  • Traveling to SC for my brother, Tim’s, wedding. The weekend started at the beach; Gabriel had a blast in the waves and building sandcastles (or rather, just doing a lot of digging while we showed him how to fill the sand molds for castle construction). After a few days, I settled into my role as a pregnant bridesmaid, and we enjoyed a terrific experience as Gabriel gained an Aunt Channing and I got to see my brother truly happy.
  • Enjoying a month-long visit from Evan’s sister, Catherine. She is in her fourth year of medical school in NYC and spent the month in Seattle doing a dermatology clinical rotation. It was wonderful to get to know her better (we’ve always been separated by significant geographic barriers), and for Gabriel to bond with his aunt. We indulged in many blackberry-heavy fruit salads after picking them by the buckets behind our building – what a great crop this summer for Seattle!

I’ have also been reading voraciously over the past six weeks or so and have fallen short in posting my usual reviews. Here are my reads with reviews of five words or less for each one:

  • The House of Hope and Fear by: Audrey Young – great read; the Harborview experience!
  • Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by: James Clapp, MD – ehhh, so-so.
  • The Telephone Gambit by: Seth Shulmann – intriguing possibility!
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by: Michael Pollan (still in process of reading) – excellent and infuriating
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