Sunday, September 25, 2011


Today our friend Ryan Mack's mother passed away after a long and courageous battle with breast cancer. We were told that her passing was as peaceful as possible, surrounded by family, and that she absolutely felt the love in the room, and yet it still seemed wrong that the sun kept shining so brightly outside when we got the news. Jeffrey and I both wanted the world (the weather, the water) to bow its head with her passing, but instead, as it always does, life went on.

So those who didn't know the Mack family enjoyed their sunny September day, and those who did know the Mack family enjoyed instead the warmth of the hope that lives in the hearts of believers and reminds them of the better world that Sandy went home to today.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

-Emily Dickinson

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wasting Gas

Before I get to the main course of this post, I must publish a few pictures that got lost in the shuffle a few months ago...

This is Buddy, Radar, and Dixie sitting on my antique couch inherited from my great aunt.
(Sorry, mom. We don't usually let the animals sit on the couch, but they were just too cute that night.)

The next is a picture that I painted in a frame that I made. As it turns out, making a picture frame is waaaaay harder than it seems like it should be. Hopefully I enjoy this one, because I'm never making another one.

Finally, the story that spawned a reason for me to include the word "gas" in a blog post. I spent the last week of school on oral surgery rotation extracting teeth. For some reason, we had an unusually high number of patients with serious health problems come in for extractions. Usually when patients come in with health concerns we evaluate their ability to safely undergo the procedure and generally we proceed without any modifications to the procedure (except that I sweat more wondering if I will have to do CPR on said patient).

Occasionally a patient is deemed unable to proceed, so we will refer him to his physician for evaluation or labs before doing the extraction. Usually patients appreciate this level of care and concern, but occasionally they become irritated with the delay. Such was the case of my patient.

The patient had a list of medications and a list of potentially life-threatening illnesses. Most of the patient's maladies were controlled with medication, which generally means we can proceed with extraction, but there was a note on this patient's chart stating that there was a problem with his platelet count (platelets are what helps your blood to form a clot, say, after an extraction, and keep you from continuing to bleed) that had no diagnosis and was of concern. I spoke with my faculty about the situation and we decided that it would be best if we could wait to do the extraction until after the patient's platelet count was under control so that we could make sure he would safely survive the procedure.

As I explained this to the patient, he became irate. Before I even finished talking to him, he stormed out, yelling down the hallway, "Platelets?!? Who cares about platelets?!? You wasted my gas driving down here!!!"

My faculty and I sweetly shouted down the hallway after him, "Come back if you change your mind. We'd be happy to help you."

But something tells me that with gas costing $3.50 per gallon, we may have seen the last of him. So I guess all I can say is that I care about saving teeth and saving lives, but I've had to draw the line somewhere, and the line is right before your gas bill.

I'm so thoughtless.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cut It Out!

Ok, I'm sitting at Barnes & Noble trying to study a little bit for my Dental Board exam and suddenly my thoughts about gum disease and cavities are interrupted by a sharp, high-pitched, clicking sound. I look up from my flashcards to find that the middle-aged man next to me has started to clip his fingernails. In the middle of Barnes & Noble. In the EATING AREA. I have so many problems with this.

For those keeping count, this is the second blog post dedicated to anti-public nail-clipping. The last time we wrote about this it was because a man in front of us at church started to clip his TOEnails(!) during communion.

First of all, why is it that men can't seem to find room in their pockets for their keys and wallets (wives are always asked to stow these items in their purses), but they somehow always have space for nail clippers?

Secondly, what kind of freakishly fast nail growth necessitates carrying nail clippers on your person at all times? I think you need to see a doctor if this is something that happens to you.

Thirdly, since when is personal grooming ok to do in public? I'm sure I would get strange looks if I trimmed my beard in public...some things are meant for the privacy of a bathroom. (I don't really have a beard, guys, just trying to be funny.)

Fourthly, would it be too rude of me to make a barricade between myself and the offending nail clipper man from the People magazines next to us so that I can stop having to dodge projectile bits of fingernail heading my way?

Or I guess I could just say, "Cut it out!"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11--A Reflection

Undoubtedly at some point today, you were reminded it was September 11th--the tenth September 11th since the one that changed the trajectory of America’s history forever. The papers yesterday and today were heavy with human interest stories, valiant tales of patriotism, and tearful memories of lives lost. All of America, it seems, is eager to stand together again in the continuing wake of this tragedy. Even as I watch the Cowboys football game tonight, I see coaches and players on the sidelines paying homage to the Fire Department of New York by wearing hats with their insignia on them.

But perhaps no one has memorialized this tragedy better than Michael Arad, the designer of the World Trade Center Memorial. His design, called “Reflecting Absence,” opens tomorrow to the public. In my opinion, this is perhaps one of the most beautiful and poignant monuments ever made.

Rather than rebuild the towers, bigger and stronger than before, Arad chose to dig deeper into the rubble to create reflective pools. Around the pools, engraved into bronze plates, are the names of each and every victim of the September 11th attacks. Around the pools stand over 400 trees, including the Peace Tree, a plant that (like so many survivors) withstood the horrors of that day and now grows stronger every day.

I love this memorial because it symbolizes what our God does for us. When something truly evil strikes, He creates something beautiful from the scar, washes it with cleansing water, and breathes life back into tired limbs.

God bless the USA.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Boots and Biscotti

For the first time in almost 4 years of post grad education, Jeffrey and I had coordinating days off on a weekday. It was so much fun to have a Friday where we got up and had breakfast together, then got to spend the afternoon shopping and running errands.

During our day of fun, I decided I needed a new pair of cowboy boots. (Those of you who know me are wondering why I ever had cowboy boots in the first place.) Yes, it's true, when I think of boots I usually think of my favorite knee-high, Antonio Melani, black suede, classy, beautiful boots, but this year at school our new group leader declared Fridays to be boot days, and those wearing the incorrect footwear are subject to ridicule, bad grades, and being systematically ignored by Dr. Magness. (Honestly, it's all in fun...but he likes you more if you wear boots, so why not?)

The reason I needed a new pair is three-fold:

1. My old boots were purchased in high's probably time.
2. My old boots were purchased at Limited Too and have rhinestones on them...people make fun of me when I wear them.
3. I really, really, really wanted some.

As Jeffrey would say, "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." (So we bought me some boots!)

Even in a grainy cell phone photo, you can tell how pretty they are right?
Are you hungry for another grainy cell phone photo? (Or just hungry?) I made biscotti this week to help us survive a grueling chart audit procedure at school. Of the four boys in my group, three asked me what biscotti was and one referred to it as bruschetta. All four ate it and liked it, though.

So am I a boot scootin' cowgirl? Or an Italian chef?

Los dos. (That means 'both' in Spanish. I am a cultural enigma.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Worst Case Scenario

Sometimes in life, you just get tired. You get tired of saying the same things over and over again at your job (PLEASE FLOSS!), you get tired of saying the same things at home (PLEASE FLOSS!), and you get tired of saying the same things in your sleep (Just pretend you an orphan...actual sentence I told Jeffrey in my sleep one time).

When this general tiredness strikes me, I start to look for new, more exciting ways to communicate the same old information. Sometimes this is good, and sometimes this is bad. The following is a bad example...

Last week I was on Dental Emergency Clinic duty when a guy came in with a bad toothache. When I did my exam, I found that he had one tooth that was badly broken and infected that was causing his pain, but he had two other teeth that were similarly broken and badly infected, but weren't causing him any pain. When I informed him of these findings, he said, "I just want to get the tooth pulled that's hurting." I told him that I understood and that we would certainly extract that tooth to get him out of pain, but that he really should seek comprehensive dental care for the other two. (This is one of those speeches I repeat a LOT at school.)

I went to go get the extraction forceps and consent forms, and when I got back the patient was ready with a question.

"So, what's the worst that could happen if I don't get those other two teeth taken care of?"

Filtered through my mind, this question sounded more like this: "So, teeth aren't really that important are they, person who's spent 4 years studying them?"

Fed up with my usual speeches on oral disease being linked to systemic disease and tired of saying my speech about 'if you had an infection on your skin you wouldn't just leave it there, would you?' I decided to change it up a little.

I asked him, just to make sure, "Do you really want to know the worst thing that can happen?"

He nodded.

I said, "The infection could go to your brain and you could die."

In my defense, this is the worst case scenario and also a realistic outcome of untreated dental disease. In my offense(?), this almost never happens in generally healthy patients. Again, in my defense, why would you ever ask a medical/dental professional the worst thing that could happen? It's always death. Death is always the worst thing that could happen.

As inappropriate and probably unprofessional as my comment was, I wonder if that patient is frantically looking up dentists in the yellow pages right now to get those other two teeth taken care of...whatever works, right?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Clap twice if you can hear my voice

I always hated when I was in grade school and teachers did those obnoxious things like say, "Clap twice if you can hear my voice," just to make us stop talking. I had one teacher in bible class that used a cowbell every time we got too loud to signal us to quiet down. One problem with that was that it was just adding another obnoxious sound to the obnoxious sounds of us talking...the other problem was we were in 6th grade and waaaaaay too cool for that.

Nevertheless, the more times I help in the nursery at church, the more often I find myself wanting to say those same things or use those same tricks for behavior modification. I was really nervous to go to Harlingen for rotation because I knew I would see lots of pediatric patients so I was wondering if the teacher within would show up and start telling kids to sit Indian-style and clap twice if they could hear my voice. As it turns out, it's not really the kids who need behavior modification, it's the adults.

In Harlingen, I saw about 30 kids. Even as young as five years old, we could ask them to put their hands on their tummy and they would do so and leave them there for the entire procedure.

True story: Yesterday my friend had to tell her ADULT patient to sit on his hands because he kept flailing when she was trying to give an injection. Very dangerous...very annoying.

In the afternoon another friend had a patient who was (admittedly) in no pain but was feeling some pressure as the student extracted a tooth. Every time an instrument came near her mouth, even before the student actually touched the tool to any part of her, she would scream/moan/whine a little. She was so loud and so persistent that our faculty had to ask her to please use her inside voice because she was making other patients nervous down the hallway.
Let's get biblical...Jesus said, ""I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

But I don't really think he meant we should have to sit on our hands at the dentist...