Staying Alive for Dead Week

You all know dead week, right? It’s the week before finals.
For me, this is dead week and I am feeling it!

I am a little frustrated because I started this whole blog with the intention of sharing my lab logs to give people an idea of what it is like to work in a medical laboratory. I know this is a topic which needs addressing because when I went searching wordpress for other people writing about it… all that came up is my blog. Imagine searching wordpress for blogs about nursing and getting no results, it’s nuts.

Here’s the catch- I have the logs written and I want to share them but I am concerned about running afoul of HIPAA privacy laws, which are stricter than you might imagine. It is unlikely that a patient would stumble upon my blog and a set of results and recognize them as hers but in a small town it’s not impossible and it concerns me. [Specific] Age is also a protected identifier under HIPAA laws, though male/female is not. (Age and gender are the only identifiers I include in my lab logs because they are relevant to the clinical picture of the patient.)

So I’m working on it. I think I am going to talk to my lab manager and see what her take on it is. The TL:DR is stay tuned for lab logs, possibly.

The last two weeks I have spent dissecting the coagulation cascade and other topics of hemostasis. I have found that most of the diagrams of the coagulation cascade available on the internet are unintuitive and terrifying. When I show people the one included with my textbook, they throw their hands up and run out of my office before I can say another word. I fashioned a new one for myself and I like it better than those available on the net. Please feel free to use it and share it if it is helpful for you.

coagulation cascade

In case you are curious, the software to create charts like this (and the hematopoesis diagram featured in the last post) is called LucidChart. If you are a student or any sort of person who makes charts, likes charts, or wants to organize information in a chart-like fashion I highly recommend LucidChart. It is pretty intuitive, powerful, and has lots of cool fonts- which as a font snob I consider of the utmost importance.

Also neat is that it’s basically free. All of the features you really need to make a chart are free, anyway. There is a paid version which is what I am using because it is free for students. Anyone with an .edu email address can get it- though to be honest the only paid feature I am using is the google apps integration. Not exactly a make-or-break feature but it is useful.

I am now thinking I should write a post about all the cool software I use to do this college thing. Stay tuned- but not on the edge of your seat because I just used my entire free time allowance for this week to write this post!

The only other item of note is that I am now a member of ASCLS. It says so on my resume so it must be true. I am still working out exactly what sorts of benefits this confers to me.

Peace out!

Obligatory Geeky Linux Post

ubuntu

remember when this was not nearly so corporate looking?

I picked up Ubuntu 12.04 over the weekend. I’ve been a staunch Arch Linux/Openbox user for the last couple of years but they made some major backend changes and I was going to have to reinstall anyway so I thought I’d try something else for a change. Rolling release was only fun until I actually needed to use my computer for Grown Up Stuff.

I really liked the idea of Arch Linux (I still do) and still rather think Ubuntu is Linux for Stupid People™ but I just don’t have the time to administrate an Arch desktop in the midst of my classes and I was looking for something a little more stable. Mostly all the fanboys have been crying over Unity and anything that gets people so riled up I get curious about. I went with 12.04 LTS because for some reasons 13.04 doesn’t run on my computer.

Overall, I like it. I think it’s mostly an improvement on Ubuntu, which I haven’t used since Jaunty Jackalope (which was, what, version 9?). I seem to remember it as some Canonical employee telling me they wanted to phase out the command line and I stormed off in a rage of self-righteous fury. I guess that was when I decided it’s Linux for Stupid People. However, here I am at 12.04 and the command line is still there so I suppose I was being a little melodramatic.

Things I Like

  • Whatever this thing that pops up when I push my Ubuntu key and start typing (yeah, that’s right, I have an UBUNTU KEY)
  • With Ubuntu Tweak, relatively easy to configure themes/fonts/icons
  • Rhythmbox integrates with the volume control. I can’t explain why I think that’s cool but it is
  • Still looks lightyears better than anything Apple or Microsoft has ever come up with

Things I Don’t Like

  • Canonical’s obvious attempt to monetize the OS. There are PAID apps in the Ubuntu Software “Center”. Ick times a million
  • Plus dropbox gives you more free storage than Ubuntu One, so suck it Mark Shuttleworth
  • How it puts the software name in the title bar. If I wanted that I would use OSX, seriously
  • I have to go back and add words like myelophthisis and rubriblast to my Chrome dictionary

Things About Which I am Ambivalent

  • Unity overall. I don’t really see what everyone is screaming about, there’s barely any difference from Gnome other than the launcher is different

So my recommendation is try Ubuntu. Or don’t, it’s pretty much whatever works for you. If you think Ubuntu is too dumbed down for you and you have no life whatsoever, you could definitely give Arch Linux a try and you might like it. If you have given up on life entirely, then it’s time to try Gentoo (am I right, or am I right?).

And if you use Windows XP and don’t understand any of what I just wrote about, then stay tuned because I promise my next post will definitely probably make sense.

Changes

I said in my last post, now over six months ago, that life comes at you fast. Even then I had no idea just how fast.

This weekend is father’s day. I will not be celebrating, as my father passed away two months ago, just a statistic, the latest victim of a healthcare system that research suggests kills as many as 98,000 Americans annually through medical errors, misdiagnosis, and dosing errors. (1)

He did not have to die. It was my own home, my own people, my great love- medicine- that is responsible. A single laboratory test likely would have saved him, but perhaps we are not so far out of the dark ages of medicine as I thought.

But I am determined and this will not stop me. I spent the three months of his ICU stay travelling back and forth between Alaska and Seattle, a packed bag ready by the door for the call. I stayed in school, sometimes working on homework late into the night then getting up the next morning for an early shift. And when he died I went home, packed our house in a week, scored a 99% on my final exam, and moved back in with my mom in rural Idaho.

I don’t really want to make this post about my dad. Everything else in my life right now is. This post is about me and my journey. I believe now more strongly than ever in the importance of laboratory science and the power we hold to save lives.

I also have come to understand something to which I never applied much thought. Everyone has something to give, and it’s never too late to change the world. I cannot strongly enough encourage anyone who is reading this, if they haven’t already, to please sign up to be an organ donor. Donate Life America can help you with this, or it’s a simple box to check when you sign up for a driver’s license.

Now, on to other things. I have transitioned to being a full time student as there is not currently a position available for me at my new laboratory. This semester I am taking Principles of Hematology and Hemostasis and Microbiology. It was my initial hope through this blog to provide my first hand experiences of life in a clinical laboratory and admittedly, I’m starting a little late. However, it’s never too late to start, so keep an eye here for hopefully at least weekly posts about my adventures in hematology. I am required for my class to write a weekly log of my activities, and I have six backlogged from this semester so I may put them up at some point.

I also now have a twitter account on which I plan to try to share at least daily an interesting thing I have learned in my studies or research. I hope you’ll follow it and stay tuned for fascinating facts.

And of course, I am still baking. My new home has much more sunlight so I am hoping to get better shots.

I hope everyone has a lovely week and if you’re a father, happy father’s day.

(1) Medical Errors Kill Almost 100,000 Americans a Year. BMJ. 1999 December 11; 319 (7224): 1519.