Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Time Alottment

I've quickly learned that free time is few and far in between...but it is possible. However, every hour of every day is accounted for, my to-do lists and my planner are my sanity, and breathing techniques are really quite powerful tools!!

Today was the second exam of nursing school. True to form, I had a huge anxiety attack before our my first one last week. It's hard not to when you don't know what to expect and your future is "reliant" upon this exact exam. Ok ok, so that's really dramatic but that's how it felt before that first exam, knowing that I'm finally going towards something I care about, that my future resides on. And of course, I walked out with a 95% in the bag. Silly goose!!
My first exam grade!! That's right, important enough to take a camera pic of it :-) 

I walked out of my second exam with a 98% in hand. I know my exams will get harder but I'm pretty impressed and proud of myself currently!! The studying is actually paying off!! 
Like I was saying though, every hour of every day is accounted for, and I've never been so organized, yet so disorganized before in my life. Life is a pure and simple beautiful chaos of craziness right now with no hopes of slowing down anytime in the next few weeks. I have a planner to keep my time organized, a "to-do" pocket notebook to make sure I can keep my brain from forgetting too many things. And a calendar in my phone for highly important events with reminders (for those things that I know I'll probably forget but HAVE to remember). 

But the program is pretty good so far. I'm learning more how to relax and enjoy it rather than get frazzled by it. While some of the students know everything and are true "go-getter-em-all", I'm not that way and I'm very realistic about my expectations. I know I'm a slow learner. I know that no matter how many times I've learned the route of the flow through the heart, I simply can't memorize it. I'm aware that I'm a pretty horrible test-taker most of the time and get bad test anxiety. I know that I can't double-guess my answers without negative reprocussions. I know that I can't realistically can't memorize drug names as fast as other students (my brain just is not THAT detailed oriented). I know that I'm always a step behind in reading. I'm very realistic and because of it, I know my limitations and can therefore push myself yet enjoy myself as well. This is a journey that is meant to be reveled in, as much as possible, and not let it get the best of me. And that's what I'm going to do!! Even in those moments that I'm so completely frazzled!! 

There are also some ironies. Like having downed a half a pot of coffee and studying laxatives...

The next week of my life is pretty planned out, full of nothing but school and studying...tis my life, but it's enjoyable and fun, at least in my opinion currently :-) 

 I found a quiet and peaceful studying nook in the library with a great view of Main Hall. And it's obviously peeking out from the clock that resides over the main of the campus. Quite lovely!! Even on an oddly dreary afternoon spent studying for pharm.
 My desk is my usual study spot, and hence the place of attempted organization! A calendar with the major due dates color coded, my class schedule for the 1st 5 wk session, my stethoscope, my little Ethie presiding over, the library and fitness center hours, and of course my other miscellaneous planners, to-do notebooks, and my handy-dandy study aids!! (Complete with hydration of course)
Studying...as usual :-) And now this girl is ready for bed!!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Nursing School 101: Go With The Flow

The first two weeks of nursing school are almost done! In a program that is a mere 43 weeks long, that's pretty impressive. The last two weeks have gone by in a huge blur (ie way too fast) and yet they have also been incredibly long. The fast part is simply not having enough time to do everything I need AND want to do, the fast part is the sheer craziness that has been compacted into such a short amount of time.

Week 1: Started with an insane last-minute Broncos game (BOOM click here) with my roommates that was just utterly insane!! Not to mention a fabulous omen to the start of this program :-) I got injections the whole week and donated bone marrow on friday morning (donation day), which was incredibly awesome. My minigrams passed away and I was able to be there for her death, which was an incredible and intimate experience I'm glad to have had before experiencing death in the clinical setting. And along with everything else, I started this program that has with its craziness brought on a whole new lifestyle, environment, support system, and schedule. If that wasn't enough chaos for one week, I'm not sure what else would have done it!

Week 2: The program is even more chaotic. I'm almost positive that in these two weeks I have studied more than all of my senior year of college combined. And I'm not exaggerating. The chaos hasn't calmed down, rather it's just beginning. While I'm not dealing with injections, bone marrow donation, or the death of a family member, the chaos of school has only gotten worse. Our program is awesome and apparently effective with the number of students that come through it. But that's not saying it's the most organized program ever. And there's not much hand-holding. In fact, most of us are having to figure out what's going on by the help of other students. There's just way too much that the professors don't tell us that we find out via our support system of each other. But it's been wonderful!!

My first big exam is tomorrow. And do you think I'm studying?! Well I have studied a little bit today but I'm putting off the mass final overview. Hence why I'm here writing :-) I'm nervous but I feel like I sort of understand this stuff. But tomorrow we'll find out for sure.

I'm learning with this program that:
A) My life is completely in their hands...my schedule including sleeping, eating, going to the bathroom is determined by this program
B) I'm not going to ever fully know what's going on. There's just way too much we're learning!
C) Just go with the flow baby. It will all work out somehow, as long as I try my best!

Welp I guess it's back to the books for me. Life is chaotic but pretty amazing, as the possibilities are boundless right now. It's the beginning of another crazy journey of my life! And here I am with stethoscope in hand ;-)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Donation Day

Today was donation day!!

I got to the infusion center at PSL @ 0645, and was greeted with a flurry of medical personnel. First the doc came in to assess that I was indeed healthy and who I said I was. Then the medical techs started priming the machine and my veins. Rhonda and Sarah were absolute sweethearts! Melissa my RN was sweet as pie. They explained every step, walked me through each action, encouraged me, and made me as comfortable as possible.

The 5th injection was given and about 45 minutes later I was starting to get hooked up to the machine. An IV was started in my R arm, where the return line was also hooked up to. Melissa, the RN, gave me a little adavan upon request to help calm me down for the stick in my L arm. Once we were ready, I was stuck with the needle in my L arm that would take my blood from my body, through the filter (centrifuge) and run the blood back into the line via my R arm.

They filtered 22 liters of blood, to produce a half bag of rich blood full of platelets, WBC's, stem cells, mast cells, and all the other components that my recipient needed.

After five hours of keeping my L arm still, the procedure was done and the bag was whisked away, where it hopped on a plane about an hour ago to go somewhere in the US to my recipient. I know only that she is domestic, an adult female with acute leukemia.

Now I'm at home, completely exhausted, sore, my bones still quite achy, a little light-headed from having my body not only go through the procedure but also having my own HCT, platelet and RBC count drop! It was all well worth it :-)

 At 24 I still need my mama!!
 All hooked up to the "circuit"...my L arm was covered to keep the veins warm
 the machine
 the bag filling up during the 5-hr procedure
me with the bag before it got whisked off to go to the recipient tomorrow morning!! 

You can be the match!! 
Thank you to those at the National Bone Marrow Registry and the staff at the Infusion Center at Presbyterian St. Luke's who were so wonderful, caring, and compassionate during the whole process!! :-)  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

With Her Last Breathe

This first week of nursing school has been so insane for a variety of reasons. So much going on, packed into a very small amount of time, and so many big things! School has started off wonderfully. I'm not used to sitting in lecture for so long every day, but I am enjoying my professors and how real they are. In my first degree, a lot of the professors were people above me. My professors now are people who are well aware that soon we will call ourselves colleagues. Quite refreshing! The program is a little disorganized but at least it's a semi-organized chaos!

My injections for my donation have been going wonderfully. I don't mind getting poked in the belly I've found out. But these injections are making me incredibly sore! Tonight has by far been the worst. I just feel like I've been railroaded super hardcore; everything is achy and my body is just exhausted in a sense right now. I can't get comfortable to save my life and my lower back is throbbing/radiating pain. But even with this discomfort it still doesn't match what my donee has been going through and the prep she's going through to get ready for this donation. Tomorrow, I'm not so much looking forward to the big needle in my arm but it's still a small discomfort in relation to what my donee's going through. I believe all will be well!!

Bugs. Roommate freaking out and moving out because of bugs. That's been another crazy aspect.

Lastly, minigrams passed away last night.

She slipped into a comatose state Sunday evening. We knew it was coming, the end stages of ESLD, but mom didn't tell me when it happened as first day of class was Monday morning. I didn't go Monday evening due to my chaotic schedule. Tuesday evening I went over to be there for my mom. Wednesday I was expecting to hear grams had passed but was shocked when mom said she was still hanging on. Mom told me grams had what's known as the "death rattle" and that it was rather unpleasant but if I wanted to come she would really appreciate the support. So I went and sat with them.

Upon walking in the room, hearing the death rattle for the first time was a little unarming. The sound was comparable to an engine refusing to turn over. Grams breathing was quite labored and forced, the sounds from her lungs was excruciating loud for the room, her heart rate was quite brisk at 145 bpm, and her respirations were 45 breaths/min. Her body was quite dehydrated, having been in that state for 3 days and her body was on fire. At first I encouraged her to go if it was her time and we stayed out of her room. But upon returning like I had promised her I would with some coffee, I had the sense that she was fighting so hard simply because she was scared to die. She was a tiny woman in life, quite frightened of the world in many aspects. And honestly, I wouldn't want to die alone either. So I took her hand in mind and started keeping post.

As the nurses came in, they knew I was in nursing school and would tell me what they were doing. They gave her some medications intended to dry out the secretions in the lung that would make it less laborous for her to breathe, and some morphine, for any pain. The second round of medicines they gave, as they were administered IV, you could literally see, hear, and feel them take effect as grams body started to relax and her breathing became less laborous, the sound from her lungs more quiet, and her body more relaxed.

Nearing the evening, my brother Marshall came to say his last goodbyes. On his way over, I started to become a little more concerned he wouldn't make it in time as I could hear her breaths getting more shallow and relaxed and heard her respiration rate decrease. As soon as Marshall came in the room I let him take her hand and as soon as he started talking, her breathing became more laborous. She knew it was Marshall. After a few minutes her breathing again began to relax and calm down. A half hour later, I could tell we were nearing the end. Her respirations had decreased to around 22, her heart rate had dropped from the 140's to the low 120's, and the interval between breaths went from being consistent to varying. I told my mom, brother, and uncle (who were all in the room) that the end was near and if they were comfortable, it would be beneficial for both them for closure and for grams to feel the touch of loved ones, in the very last intimate moments of life.

Less than a half hour later she took her last breaths. It was very peaceful, very calm, and very intimate as we sat there and embraced her hands and arms while she went from this world and into the arms of Jesus. With her hand in both of mine, I was able to monitor her heart beat and got to feel the last pump of her heart before her spirit was gone. In a sheer instant, she went from her earthly body to her spiritual body. And what a blessing and honor it was to be there. To comfort and love her in her last moments, to support my mother and walk my family through the dying process, and to experience such a precious moment in time that not many people get to witness very often.

Now I'm heading to bed, in preparation for my donation tomorrow, in hopes that I can give a second chance at life to a woman who needs it. How blessed am I for all the events that have transpired this week?! Truly blessed indeed.

Monday, January 09, 2012

BOOM! Starting Nursing School!!

What a way to start nursing school!!

Today was the first day of class. Seven hours spent listening to lectures on health assessment and pharmacology. Not too shabby. My professors are hilarious, supportive, and my classmates are hysterical!!

However, that's not what makes the start of nursing school so great. What is you ask?!

$30 tickets.

To the Broncos game.

For lower level seats.

Section 127. Row 18. Seat 3.

So being the only one of my roommates and that's from Colorado, I said we needed to find a place to watch the game yesterday. As we don't have cable here yet. One of my roommates threw out the suggestion that we should try to go and get tickets after the start of the 1st quarter. So we did just that. We got there, parked for free (hells yeah!) and found a scalper. His friend wanted to sell the tickets for $75/each. However, we said we only had $30 and this one scalper said sure, and once he saw our skepticism (ESPECIALLY after I saw where the seats were), he agreed to walk us all the way to the gate to see that we got in. With a ton of hesitance, sure enough, we got in. HOORAY!! We excitedly hurried to our seats.....only to find there were already people in them. We explained to the guys in the seats the dilemma and next thing I know guest relations was there to escort us all back to the ticket office.


We sat there for a little bit as there was a line (apparently this isn't a new thing at the stadium). After 10 minutes the PO had us all explain what happened. We all had bought tickets off a scalper outside of the stadium. He took all of our drivers' licenses and then separated us off into our separate groups. After a minute he beckoned us over. Double crap.

"Your tickets are legit!"

Dude, for realz?! We went and got beers, took our seats and proceeded to watch a playoff game on the lower level for $30/each. The game went to OT. Broncos scored a sudden death TD...Tebow threw a 80yd TD to Demetrius Thomas FTW!!! OH HELL YEAH!!!

Can you believe that?!??!?!?!?! WHAT A FLIPPIN COOL WAY TO START THE YEAR!!!

Today brought seven hours of lecture, a call informing me grams is now in a coma, a call informing me we have bugs (unknown kind) in our new place, and I got my first injection for bone marrow donation!! What a day.

Now I'm working on homework. Not right now obviously. Taking a break to blog before it gets too crazy hectic this week. And back to homework I go!!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Nursing Orientation

The past couple of days have been incredibly busy and full of stuff! Yesterday was the "big moving day". I made the decision to move into a place close to RegisU with three other accelerated nursing students. For many reasons...transportation costs, transportation time, and I just needed the stability of a place where I can guarantee when I come it's a space that I can relax, study, and get done all of the things that I need to get done. All of the other three are from out of state...Idaho, Oregon, Washington. We've all lived together less than 24 hours but so far so good...as time goes we might even learn that we don't need to dance around one another so much! ;-)

This morning was nursing orientation. Four hours filled with even more stress of talking about how crazy and rigorous and insane the program is going to be, of hearing people chit-chat about various things, and even more anxiety about starting this program on Monday. The next year of my life is practically written in stone. On the stone it reads "Nicole A Carr: Accelerated Nursing Student (aka that's all she's doing) 2012-2012." However, it was reassuring that the professors all recognize the rigors of the program, are incredibly supportive of us, and are just as excited as we are to start yet another crazy year.

I lost my phone about a week ago...and I got the new iphone 4S today. That's my newest struggle on top of everything else. At least I have a communicative device. An expensive costly little thing but eh, apparently that's what all that overtime was for.

So for now I am super stressed, but I'm trying to relax myself and remind myself that hundreds of students complete this program every year...therefore it's not impossible, just intense and busy.

Here we go!!