Masks Before Bandanas

“Going Green?” Reusing PPE for COVID19

Brown Paper Bagging Your Mask

In a Time of Emails Beginning with “I hope this message finds you safe and healthy”

A Hero of Several Masks

I started this blog years ago as a creative outlet and to poke fun at the weird but true lifestyle of being a partner to an emergency doctor.  I interviewed doctor friends for their most memorable ED foreign body cases and curled up the experiences of many doctor spouses for one of my favorite entries: “The Other Woman.”  A few years ago, I thought the worst part of being a “doctor’s wife” was dealing with his crappy schedule, or match, or having to run the washer on ‘sanitize’ one extra time.  But it’s 2020 and our world is being rocked by a pandemic that we weren’t prepared for and perhaps, jokingly, took too lightly in its onset.  I would give anything to go back to the days of fretting over Match or enduring surgical descriptions so palpable they ruin dinner…

I decided to open this blog back up one more time because I feel like I have something important to share.  First off, this is no surprise, but I am so damn proud of my husband and the countless medical professionals who kiss their family goodbye and go to work each day, fully aware that this might be the shift that they contract COVID19.  To the individuals who furiously scrub their skin raw, change into new clothes, and take that scalding shower after every shift.  To the ones going a step further and distancing themselves from their loved ones to keep them safe—sacrificing that last stronghold of humanity they have to preserve their home, their partner, their children… You are all heroes, and we are undeserving of your sacrifices.  Thank you for all that you do—not just during pandemics, but with every shift you work.

Okay. Here goes…

Do you see that picture up top?

Do you see the two surgical masks, the eye shield, and the cloth mask?  These have been on our kitchen table since about mid-week and I cry every time I see them.

Each day that my husband goes to work, he and other medical professionals are given one N95 mask for their whole shift.  They keep their mask in a brown paper bag and reuse it for every patient.  My husband’s work story is not unlike others around the country, but what broke my heart and finally made all of this shit “real” to me was when he told me that he is keeping his masks.

Each one.

He “cleans” them using a UV light machine available at one of his hospitals, and he will continue to do this because inevitably he will enter a shift where he is no longer handed a new mask.  He has reached a point of acceptance that one day, he will go to work and be told that he should use a bandana because that’s all that’s left now.

He doesn’t have an option to say “no” or back out of seeing patients.  This is his job.  He knows and recognizes the risks because he believes in helping others and wants to continue to save lives.  Even if it means he is repeatedly exposing himself to the virus.  Even if it means there’s a chance that he could bring the virus home.

But these masks?

These masks are all I think about now.

Every cough has me on edge.

Every mention of a full hospital or intubation makes me wonder how much longer we have.

There’s a lot that goes unspoken, because it doesn’t help to dwell on the “what ifs.”  But every so often, like last night, I completely break down and confess how scared I am for him.  For our family.  For our friends in the field.  He shares with me the honest projections—not to scare me any further, but maybe to reassure me that he’s not going into this blind, and like his masks—he’s preparing for the wave and paddling out slow.

We are trying to stay positive and strong for each other, for our son, and to preserve any semblance of what used to be “normal” for as long as we can.  We do this through wrestling matches with Atlas.  Walks in the park.  Late night movie rentals and two bowls of popcorn: mine with tajin and his with melted peanut butter (yeah, it’s gross.  We remain a house divided).  We’re continuing our marathon of The Wire and, as always, making travel plans for the future.  We want to do a food tour with Atlas and will probably begin in Portland.  We also want to see the trees in New England in October.  Plans to buy a house are getting real and at some point we’ll be able to celebrate my graduation with a big ass BBQ. You’re all invited.

I know that our story is not unlike others.  Like yours.  I know that spouses out there are terrified and maybe instead of giving life to those fears, you strengthen your reserve by sending comical COVID19 memes to your partner or simply sit with them in silence, holding their hand.  These are things that I find myself doing and I want you to know that it’s okay.  It’s okay to be scared and angry and wishing you could retreat for a few days to just “Netflix and chill” like your friends can and often complain of having to do.  It’s okay to find yourself unceremoniously pissed off at Facebook posts, news articles, and memes because they now directly impact you and your family.  It’s okay to feel.  It’s okay to fall apart.  It’s also okay to find the good and smile.  Even laugh.

I mentioned that the masks make me cry every time I see them.  You may be wondering why I don’t just put them away.  I don’t because they remind me that this moment is real, and its impact is greater than news headlines of rising death tolls and sarcastically lamented Zoom happy hours and dance parties.  They remind me that my husband is literally doing everything he can to protect himself, his patients, and us.  They’ve transformed into a tangible representation of life in 2020—synonymous with hope, pain, anger, and love.  They represent everything that is wrong with our country, presidency, and economic mindset.  They remind me that healthcare is a human right, but will never be treated as such, and that healthcare and proper PPE will continue to be denied because 45 believes that “We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem.”

If you have the ability to help.  If you’ve been sewing cloth masks or have donated gloves and N95s to your local hospitals and med friends—thank you.  If you have petitioned your senators and local leaders for more #PPE —thank you.  If you are practicing #staythefuckathome –thank you.  Continue to find courage and act valiantly.  Continue to support your loved ones, especially those on the #frontlines, including farmworkers, food and hospitality staff, cleaning crews, and shipping teams who are ensuring that our communities continue to run and that we can still hang onto our small bit of “normal” during this crisis.  If you can, support a family or local business, and always, always, reach out across the digital divide to check in with your people and celebrate even the smallest moments.  Everything counts right now.  We’re all in this journey together, and it’s only just begun.


Kaona: A TribalCrit Juxtaposition

*Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with medicine, but instead, is a project for a course and has been created during the dark hours of early morning before Nick’s pager rages for an entire weekend of Call.


The experiences endured by the Indigenous tribes of North America under the forceful brutality and enslavement of colonizers can never be forgiven, and should never be forgot.  Reading through the violent accounts of millions that suffered at the hands of our nation’s “forefathers,” it was hard to turn a blind eye and not consider the parallels of Hawai’i’s recent history as well.  The seizing of our islands by early colonizers, the violent overthrow of our monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, the military overhaul, and facade of “generous” but forced labor on the Natives and Asian immigrants brought in to better serve the white settlers—it all rang too familiar.

Without the time to prepare a one-woman show like I have always dreamed of, I opted for a different medium instead.

Here, I present the juxtaposition of the works[2] we read this week and the history and glorified captivity for profit that is Hawai’i today.  The song is performed by my uncles, Makaha Sons and Friends, and it is a rendition of “Kaulana Nā Pua” written by Eleanor Kekoaohiwaikalani Wright Prendergast in 1893, to protest the overthrow of our Monarch, Queen Liliʻuokalani.  Most people, upon hearing this song, think of it as a love song—just as they once believed that “Aloha Oe” was a love song written by our Queen.  But neither is true.  Kaulana Nā Pua means “famous are the flowers” and it is a song written out of anger and heartache over the United States’ annexation of our island, our heritage, and our Queen.

In the true spirit of Aloha, Ohana, and TribalCrit, many (and more) of these pictures and histories were gifted to me for this project by Natives, Kama’ainas, and allies of the islands, so that we may collectively raise our voices to shatter the destruction and dishonor of what historic and present-day colonialism (read: tourism) is doing to our island and livelihood.  Please remember, that all performances, ceremonies, and gift shop courtesies are not a true representation of our Native heritage. They are not for your enjoyment and adornment.  They are pieces of our soul on loan.  They are profitable, but demeaning ways in which we serve those that come to our island to spend their wealth, while we struggle to survive the import costs and taxes to live in what others deem “paradise.”

We do this to live.  We do this to survive.


Lyrics[3] of Kaulana Nā Pua


Kaulana nā pua aʻo Hawaiʻi

Kūpaʻa ma hope o ka ʻāina

Hiki mai ka ʻelele o ka loko ʻino

Palapala ʻānunu me ka pākaha


Pane mai Hawaiʻi moku o Keawe

Kōkua nā Hono aʻo Piʻilani

Kākoʻo mai Kauaʻi o Mano

Paʻapū me ke one Kākuhihewa


ʻAʻole aʻe kau i ka pūlima

Ma luna o ka pepa o ka ʻēnemi

Hoʻohui ʻāina kūʻai hewa

I ka pono sivila aʻo ke kanaka


ʻAʻole mākou aʻe minamina

I ka puʻu kālā o ke aupuni

Ua lawa mākou i ka pōhaku

I ka ʻai kamahaʻo o ka āina


Ma hope mākou o Liliʻulani

A loaʻa ē ka pono o ka ʻāina

*(A kau hou ʻia e ke kalaunu)

Haʻina ʻia mai ana ka puana

Ka poʻe i aloha i ka ʻāina

*Alternate Stanza

Famous are the children of Hawai`i

Ever loyal to the land

When the evil-hearted messenger comes

With his greedy document of extortion


Hawaiʻi, land of Keawe answers

Piʻilani’s bays help

Mano’s Kauaʻi lends support

And so do the sands of Kākuhihewa


No one will fix a signature

To the paper of the enemy

With its sin of annexation

And sale of native civil rights


We do not value

The government’s sums of money

We are satisfied with the stones

Astonishing food of the land


We back Liliʻulani

Who has won the rights of the land

*(She will be crowned again)

Tell the story

Of the people who love their land

*Alternate Stanza




Brayboy, B. M. (2005). Toward a Tribal Critical Race Theory in Education. The Urban Review,     37(5), 425-446. doi:10.1007/s11256-005-0018-y

Brown, D. A. (2014). Bury my heart at Wounded Knee: an Indian history of the American West.   New York: Ishi Press International.

Osorio, J. (2009, August 12). Kaona cut. Retrieved February 18, 2017, from 

Zinn, H. (2003). A people’s history of the United States. New York, Harper Perennial.

Prendergast E. K. W. (1893). Kaulana Nā Pua [Recorded by Makaha Sons and Friends]. On Na Pua O Hawai’i [Audio CD]. Honolulu, HI: Poki Records.



[1] “Hidden meaning”

[2] Please note that due to the presentation format, some of the APA citations had to be abbreviated.  Please refer to the reference section if needed.


Surviving Match Day

Oh, Match Day. You incredible bastard, whose undue stress leads to months of cramped stomachs, cold sweats, unspoken feelings, rapid heartbeats, fake smiles, and often unnecessary arguments. As an applicant, Match Day is stressful enough—either you match or you scramble. Did you say the right things? Is your CV strong enough? Did you really like the program, or was it just the location that appealed to you? Most importantly, how will your partner (and kids) react to the new move? It’s taken you guys four years to adjust to your medical school locale, and now you’re about to uproot yourselves again for the sake of your career. Was this the right choice? Maybe mom was right. Maybe you should have been a lawyer instead.

And what about the significant other? You feel obligated to fully support your aspiring doctor’s dreams and goals, but deep inside, you have feelings and goals of your own too. Maybe you have put your own career on hold to accommodate his medical schooling, finances, or family planning. After finally adjusting to medical school, disgustingly vivid dinner conversations with his classmates, living in near poverty and still finding happiness—now it’s all about to change. Again. Some of his potential Match locations seemed amazing and exciting, but what if you don’t match there? What if you match at his last choice? Oh my God…What if he doesn’t match at all? What if we have to scramble? We could end up anywhere. The programs have emailed back positively, but that could mean anything, right? What if we don’t end up where he thinks we will end up? He’ll be devastated. And who needs to be the strong one here? The one who has the least control in the situation—the spouse.

Diary of Doctor’s Wife – #315

Surviving Match Day

  1. I would tell you that Rule #5 is to stop worrying about Match Day, because you can’t control it anyway, but that’s complete bullshit. If a tornado is approaching your house, I can’t tell you to just laugh it off. It’s impossible. So here’s Rule #5: allow yourself to stress and consider all of the possibilities. That’s right. You are not alone. I guarantee that every spouse out there is having the same thoughts, feeling the same stress, and are having similar internal monologues as you are. Embrace this and be honest with yourself. The more you deny your feelings and concerns, the worse you will feel, and the more MD will eat you alive. Accept it.
  1. Now that you have accepted the inevitable, it’s time to plan. If you’re a micromanager like I am, you feel the need to plan for all possibilities, regardless of the positive or negative emails your spouse has received from programs. Use the weeks leading up to Match to research things about each and every location that he interviewed with. Look up areas to live in, look up outdoor recreation options, the arts available in the area, and most importantly: the food scene. Think about what excites you about the area that you live in now. Maybe you didn’t like it in the beginning, but I’m betting that by year 4 you have grown accustomed to the place—you may even really like it. What do you enjoy doing there and what makes you happy? Seek that out in all of the locations that he has interviewed at. If it’s not a metropolitan area, you may have to search a bit harder. Check out Groupon offers in the city, Yelp recommendations, and FaceBook pages. You’ll be surprised at what you find.
  1. Call your mom/dad/sister/brother/best friend. Call the person, or persons, that are your rocks. Preface the conversation that this will be a severe venting session, because if you don’t share the crazy whirlwind spinning in your head, you will literally detonate. And neither you, nor they, can afford bond money right now. All of the qualms, concerns, fears, excitement, sadness, and anger that you have been feeling leading up to Match—unleash it. All of those silent arguments that you have exchanged with your spouse in your head, act them out over the phone (or in person for a better laugh). Got tears? Let them flow. Got nervous laughter, release your inner hyena. This person won’t judge your crazy, and though they may not fully understand where you’re coming from—they’ll still listen, and right now that’s the best distraction you can ask for. When you hang up, treat yourself to wine and chocolate. Because that combo cures everything.
  1. Take your doctor out to dinner. He is just as stressed as you are. I don’t dare to say *more stressed out than you are, because everyone’s pain is relative, but he’s probably worried sick and playing calm—just like you. So treat each other to a date—whatever time of day works for your schedules, and make sure that you get out of the house. Do something fun, find opportunities to laugh, and make an agreement to NOT talk about Match for the entire date. It’ll come up. It will STRIVE to enter your conversations—but you both owe it to each other to not discuss the cursed day. Enjoy each other. Remember why you love and support each other. Remember what it is to genuinely laugh. Hold hands. Kiss. Skip. Share a gelato. Take silly selfies. Be young and carefree again.
  1. Just breathe. Match Day is coming whether you want it to or not. And even if you don’t get your number one choice, just know that you and your spouse will end up right where you need to be. This may not make sense right now…but once your doctor gets into his program, starts collaborating with colleagues, and you have an opportunity to explore your new surroundings and connect with other SigOs, you’ll feel at home. Everything will fall into place, and you *may even find yourself saying that Match was the best thing to have happened to you guys. I know, right? Give it some time, and just trust me on this.


Congratulations, and welcome to the final stage of your medical school initiation as a spouse. We have all been there, and have survived. You will too. You’re ready, and you’re going to make this Match Day look GOOD!

Disney Unlocked My Brother’s Voice

I was listening to a podcast about a mother of a man with autism.  She was trying to prepare for her own demise—not at all concerned or fearful about her death or what comes after—but about her son.  How would her son get along? Much like most individuals with autism, her son is not capable of taking care of himself without help.  He doesn’t communicate well, and has a very difficult time socializing outside of his family.  In many ways, he is still a child.  She was able to buy a house for him across the street from her own, and he decorated it with his favorite stuffed animals and new themed throw pillows.  Again, much as a child would.  Luckily for them, the story ends happily.  Mom is still alive and well, and the neighbors are starting to pitch in and help to look out for him.  He has a community where he finally belongs and has the opportunity to experience living on his own with guidance, and under the careful eye of his own mother and caretaker.

I was listening to this podcast on my long commute and it set me in a pretty bad mood. I’m glad that their story ends happily, and I pray that ours does too…but where are the stories of struggle, and pain, and anger, and embarrassment?  Living with a family member with autism is taxing, it’s a full time job, and the worries never really end.  Growing up, I was terrible to my brother.  I would yell at him and take my frustrations out on him because it felt like he was never listening, or that he took pleasure in destroying my things, or flooding the house late at night, or running away only to be hauled in by the police.  My family was always stressed, and every decision made was centered around Mikey and what would be best for him.  I rarely invited friends over, and the few that I did had to be really close to me and understanding of our situation.  I couldn’t bring just anyone into my house—I had to trust that she wouldn’t spread my business all over school.  How do you explain why you have locks on all of the windows and doors to your house? Or why your family only has pizza, bologna, Top Ramen, and Beefaroni in the cupboards? Or why your brother sometimes smears his feces on the wall for fun and refuses to wear clothes?  How do you describe autism to a child, when the only reference up until then was Rain Man? How do you convince someone that Michael is not ignoring or staring at them in a rude manner—he just can’t explain what he is thinking or seeing?  How do you explain why  he is dunking a potato in water, holding it over his head, and humming the theme song to “The Addams Family” show for a solid hour?  How do you explain that his sudden screaming outbursts and head poundings are totally natural?

I made up lies at school about how much money we had and the perfect life we lived on the weekends when my school friends couldn’t attest to the real truth.  I never denied having a brother, I never made up additional family members or anything like that—trust me, the thoughts crossed my mind—but I didn’t go that far.  Instead, I would concentrate on the better stories, leaving out the destruction, and chaos, and quirks that my brother created in our house—stories that happened long enough ago that we can only now laugh about them.

Mom and Mikey, just after moving to California.

Mom and Mikey, just after moving to California.

Teenage Michael, Grover, and some music

Teenage Michael, Grover, and some music

When I was younger and got my ears pierced, I was so proud of the sparkly pink gemstones in my ears, showcasing how “grown up” I now was.  Then the inevitable happened.  They got majorly infected and my sister spent the better part of an evening draining them and patching up the backs of my ears.  It was one of the few times I remember crying, and I’m not sure if it was out of sorrow for losing my first rite, or if it was because of the pain, or both.  Michael came into the room, took one look at my face, and he too started to sob.  It stunned me into a quick silence, and then the women of the house began laughing.  Something about my situation moved Michael enough to cry on my behalf, or at least with me—and this was the first sign of emotion or empathy he ever really displayed.  He was seven years old.

Teeny, Tiny, Mikey and Robinski.

Teeny, Tiny, Mikey and Robinski.

One of his earlier, more destructive rituals, involved a hanging potted ivy plant in the corner of our apartment.  He would walk over to the plant, stare up at it, and start chanting.  No real words, or at least not words that we could understand, but his focus was real enough.  Then he would walk over to me and start trying to beat me.  I mean, seriously tried to kick the crap out of me.  Luckily, I was stronger and faster than he was at the time, and he only got a few hits in, but after the first few times, I learned quickly that I had about 20 seconds to get behind a locked door.  I don’t remember what stopped the ritual eventually.  I don’t know if it was my non-participation, or mom throwing the damn plant out, but it stopped eventually…and he never chanted his intentions towards me again.

When we moved out of the apartments, we moved into small duplexes or houses on Maui.  These were some of the greatest years of my life.  And Michael’s…it was like we both found a new freedom beyond Harbor Lights.  I was finally allowed to play outside, and Michael thought he would get to explore as well.  Late at night, on several occasions, Michael would wake up and quietly exit the house to go across the street and visit our neighbor, Mr. Wong. His door was always locked…except for one night.

I remember his last visit, he left his slippers outside of Mr. Wong’s house on the front stoop, as if a sign to say, “Hey guys! I’m over here! No worries!’  The only way we knew something was wrong was that our dog, Indiana (named after Indiana Jones, Michael’s favorite hero), was yelping and straining against his leash trying to go after Michael to bring him home.

Michael spent God only knows how long, quietly turning on appliances and lights, and Mr. Wong would never have known that a naked little autistic boy was in his home if Michael hadn’t pushed his luck and started jumping up and down on Mr. Wong’s bed.  Can you imagine? Mr. Wong must have been terrified! He had never really met Michael before, probably just saw him once or twice outside his window—and now here he was, naked, and jumping up and down on his bed. Luckily, he was very understanding, and we were able to laugh about it later.  Much, much later. Like, the day we moved out.

When we moved to LA, Michael found new rituals, but some of them still involved running.  On our second night in the house, we still hadn’t bought a padlock for the front door–something we resorted to after his previous escape attempts—so we took turns sleeping.  I don’t know what time we were woken up, but we were woken up by Whittier Police officers and shown a mugshot of a withdrawn, skinny, little Michael.  Apparently, he waited until we had all fallen asleep, and then took the opportunity to explore the new neighborhood—and please bare in mind—we lived in the BAD part of Whittier. Below Mar Vista.  Yeah.

Our porch, and Michael's intricately build lego house of OUR house.  Not pictured: the rooms and layout of our house exactly as it looked...just made out of legos.

Our porch, and Michael’s intricately build lego house of OUR house. Not pictured: the rooms and layout of our house exactly as it looked…just made out of legos.

So Michael left the house, and placed our broom sideways in the front doorway with the porch light on, again, a sign to us that he left, but knew what he was doing.  He then proceeded to walk three blocks up the street, buck ass naked (always), and enter an apartment building.  I don’t know if he instinctively knew which door would be unlocked, or if he tried a few handles, but he found an apartment that was open.  He went straight to their kitchen, turned on all of the appliances, and then jumped on their computer to start playing games.  YES! Seriously! The tenants came out, and saw a naked little boy sitting at their computer, refusing to look them in the eyes or answer any questions.  They immediately thought that this boy must have been abused and ran away, so they called the police.  The police picked Michael up, and took him to the station.  One officer gave him a pair of briefs that were tied in the back to stay up, and another gave him a T-shirt.  Other officers combed the neighborhood to see if they could figure out where this kid came from—and which house had the door wide open, porch light on, and a random broom standing sideways in the door?  7726.  That’s who.  So they entered the house, woke us up, and drove us down to the station.

When we got there, it was obvious that none of them had ever dealt with a kid with autism before.  Seeing his age, they figured he could probably entertain himself.  And he did.  He stopped up the drain to their water fountain and patiently flooded their office, while no one was looking.  That is, of course, the same moment we arrived.  Needless to say, the cops kept Mikey’s mug shot and we were escorted quickly off the premises with strict instructions on getting Michael an ID bracelet.

The next week, Michael spent hours each day, creating an intricate map of our neighborhood.  It stretched all throughout the house on typing paper, stitched together  with lengths of scotch tape, and drawn in blue and black ink.  He marked the streets, the cars parked on the road, the houses, and all apartments that he passed including the number of stairs each complex had, and the doors to the individual apartments.  His map finally ended (as he reached his destination), and his escape attempts continued to increase.  I can’t tell you how many times I have run barefoot down our street after that damn boy.  It’s probably around this time that my insomnia got stronger.

On our way into Disneyland!  Though this is me, pleading with Michael to keep his laughter down.  It was scaring a tram rider.

On our way into Disneyland!
Though this is me, pleading with Michael to keep his laughter down. It was scaring a tram rider.

Years after we finally settled in LA, we took Michael to Disneyland.  He became instantly obsessed, and with the blessing of the handicap pass, we were able to visit all of the major rides in about four incredibly exhausting hours. Being terrified of roller coasters, mom and I did not take Michael on any of the “scarier” rides, but he loved Indiana Jones (of course!), Star Tours (we went several times), Space Mountain, and the Matterhorn. Much like his late night excursions, Michael came home from that trip and instantly sat down to map out the park.  He would stare at the copy of the Disneyland brochure that he had kept from the woman at the entrance kiosk, and even created little Disney posters on his KidPix computer program.  He would chant “Disneyland” every single day with a slight vocal inflection to turn it into a question.  He would write the name over and over and over again on slips of paper, or typed out across his computer screen, along with the names of all of the rides he wanted to go on again.  He started planning our next trip.  A trip that would take a very long time to save up for, and didn’t happen for a couple of years—but when it did—Michael had his course mapped out (Indiana Jones first, then Space Mountain, then Matterhorn, then Star Tours, then Pirates…), and his faded and well-folded brochure ready to go.

My brother doesn't willingly hug anyone.  He went straight up to Sully (past the line of people) and gave him a "Big Squeeze."

My brother doesn’t willingly hug anyone. He went straight up to Sully (past the line of people) and gave him a “Big Squeeze.”

Then he found Baloo and hugged him too!

Then he found Baloo and hugged him too!


The day that my husband joined us for a trip to Disneyland was a game changer for Mikey.  “Big Magic Dr. Nick” (Michael’s nickname for Nick when he was in medical school) wasn’t afraid to go on the scary rides, and a whole new world opened up for my brother.  Michael went on the Tower of Terror, California Screaming, and others.  He was absolutely elated.  He looked to Nick like he was a hero, the gatekeeper to all that was fun in life.  A year before Nick and I left for San Francisco, we were finally able to afford park passes.  We took Michael regularly and relished the outings with him.  Michael flourished on these trips.  He was active, he was smiling, he exercised patience, and tried really hard to control his outbursts, and rocking, and shrill laughing when he was waiting in line.  He started to create more art and type more to communicate, though he never typed full sentences or said more than a couple of words in a conversation.  He has never had the capacity to articulate his feelings or ideas in words, until January 5th, 2015.

For Christmas this year, I decided to take Michael back to Disneyland.  Due to the price, my mom has not been able to afford these trips with him, and I thought it would be a fun way to get Michael out of the house for some bonding time.  After breakfast, we headed to the park, and Michael instantly lit up.  We were not granted a disability pass as we were in the past, and this was a difficult concept for Michael to understand.  He has never had to wait long for a ride.  He has never had to map out his course according to Fast Track time stamps.  It was all very new for him, but he did pretty well nonetheless.  We hit up all of the major rides except for Tower of Terror (we had to wait three hours before we would be allowed in, and Michael would have had a meltdown waiting in the actual line), and California Screaming which was shut down.

Michael holding still (barely!) while waiting in line for The Matterhorn

Michael holding still (barely!) while waiting in line for The Matterhorn

Almost at the entrance to The Matterhorn!  Though he towers over me, he will always be my little brother.

ALMOST at the entrance to The Matterhorn! Though he towers over me, he will always be my little brother.

Our last two rides were the Matterhorn and Star Tours.  Though he was grinning from ear to ear, and his shrill laugh echoed off the walls of each mountainous tunnel, there was nothing about this trip that stood out to me as being extremely special for him.  Don’t get me wrong.  He had a blast.  He was exhausted from walking so much, and his critically laid-out plan of rides to experience had been upset by the new rules—but otherwise, he had a great time.  I just didn’t realize how much the trip meant to him, until after we got back home.

Just two dudes ready to save some Jedis.

Just two dudes ready to save some Jedis.

A few days after our Disney trip, Mikey was in his adult day art class at WAPADH, and he painted a picture.  Upon first inspection, it looks like an old muddied watercolor  picture of hills.  Not much to write home about.  But in the upper right hand corner, Mikey had written a two sentence poem and signed his name.  Two.  Complete. Sentences.

He wrote:

“Being at the mountains

makes me feel free, happy and

higher than everyone else.

The wind is the only sound out here.”

– Michael Kasahara

When my mother sent me this text, I couldn’t believe it.  I thought someone was playing a cruel joke on us.  My brother doesn’t talk.  He doesn’t write in complete sentences with proper grammar and punctuation. He doesn’t express himself.  Why would someone do this to us?  I spent two solid hours Googling the lines of the poem, trying to find an explanation.  Were they song lyrics that he had heard?  Was it a line from a movie?  Was it someone else’s poem that a worker was trying to pass off as Mikey’s?  After two hours, Google failed to find me a solution.  These really were Michael’s words.  But what does it mean?  Michael’s never been to the mountains.  He’s lived just above sea level his entire life.

Two days later, mom texts me again:

“Did you go on Matterhorn with Mikey?”

Um…yep, why?

“That’s his mountain.”

My heart stopped.  For the first time in his life, Michael articulated his feelings in real words.  He painted us a picture, and wrote a poem to describe his time at Disneyland, on a ride that I didn’t realize he loved so much.  I began to cry.

Disneyland is a park of magic.  It brings cartoons to life, families together, and gave my non-communicative brother with autism a voice.  This trip, this park, and this ride meant more to me and my family than my own words can describe.  For 29 years, I have been waiting for Michael to fully express himself beyond a single word, and here, the Matterhorn, unlocked his voice.  I’m not one to believe in miracles, but I am now one that believes in Disney.

The Matterhorn at Disneyland helped to unlock my brother's voice.  Here is his watercolor picture and poem about his experience.

The Matterhorn at Disneyland helped to unlock my brother’s voice. Here is his watercolor picture and poem about his experience.

Dinner Conversations #17

Foreign Bodies
Vaginas Are Kind of Like Purses
“I fell on it…”

A common occurrence during seemingly pleasant, casual, and yes, especially formal social gatherings is the subject of foreign bodies. These conversations usually happen around the dinner table, or over coffee and a moist, gooey, dessert dripping with melted chocolate and caramel swirl. I think it adds a little special nuance to the overall topic when it’s discussed at length over dessert or at an afternoon potluck when the visual inspiration is so strong and appealing for the good doctors to reference.

Since medical school, I have prohibited my husband from talking about any of the stories he reads about when we dine together. Moreover, he is also forbidden to use food descriptors when sharing his medical stories. To tell me that a bad abrasion looked like raw hamburger, or excreted an ooze like chowder, is wonderfully vivid–and though I would normally applaud and slap an “A” on an essay that was turned in with such imagery—I just can’t handle it when I’m around food. I love food. And these discussions ruin one of the few things that I love in this world. I just can’t. No.

Which is why I have this blog. To share and unfold these delicious stories for your personal enjoyment and sensory sadistic tendencies!

On shows like House, Grey’s Anatomy, and ER, fun foreign objects are usually found: tiny toys in the nostrils of a toddler, condoms in vaginal canals, small vibrators or beads in other canals—you know—the usual. But those get old after a time. They’re almost not even worth bringing up after the first year of medical school. No. The dinner conversations I am referring to are the FBs in colons, behind the cervix, or even in the cavernous, dank folds of fat and skin that apparently suck in everything in the environment like a Dyson. Can you imagine it?!? Look to your right. Now, look to your left. Someone’s side stomach just sucked in a pen, a paperclip, and possibly Whiskers, the cat. Then some poor Resident/Med Student/Intern soul has to get a headlamp, some gloves, and go diving in to retreat those articles…Who signs up for this shit willingly? (Really, I think that medical school and residency are akin to pledging a heinously illegal and morally insidious fraternity).

For your reading pleasure, I have collected my top 5 foreign body object stories from over the years. If you have your own foreign body story to add, please grab a triple chunk brownie and leave a comment below to join the conversation.

*Please note, that no patient names, timing of events, or specific scenarios are ever discussed at the dinner table, or here in this blog. All situations are general and seemingly common as corroborated via internet articles and global professional and spousal discussions. As an occasional patient of the medical community, I fully appreciate and support HIPPA policies, and the same goes for our verbal roundtables with loved ones and colleagues.


Top 5 Foreign Body Stories

5. Pet Bird
Region: Anus.
Reason: It wouldn’t stop singing.
Outcome: Bird did not survive the extraction. Patient admits that this may have not been his best plan.

4. Glass Eyeball
Region: Vagina…waaaayyyy up there…
Reason: Woman was about to get into a brawl on the street and wanted to keep her eye out of harms way, so she stored it. You know. Up there. Where else would you put your favorite glass eye?
Outcome: Successful, but patient was advised to wash the glass orb before proper insertion.

3. Buzz Lightyear – wings splayed out
Region: Anus.
Reason: None. He fell on it. Of course.
Outcome: After an incredible x-ray of Buzz’s silhouette with wings fully spread in the patient’s colon, patient was admitted to surgery for Buzz’s next moon landing. Patient is advised to wear proper shoes and be more careful when…um…walking…

2. Glade Plug-In
Region: Vagina.
Reason: “It smelled bad. I thought it should smell like clean linen.”
Outcome: Successful extraction in the emergency room. Unsuccessful cessation of malodorous downstairs.

1. The Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John
Region: Vagina (after several weeks of stewing).
Reason: “I wanted to feel the word of God.”
Outcome: Patient is fine. Doctor is scarred for life after being curious enough to read what the fine print was in the finely rolled pages of the Biblical tampon.


The Other Woman

I think my husband is cheating on me. I do. He’s gone at all hours of the day and night. There are days where we literally don’t see each other at all. Like right now, his schedule is such a mess, that I have stopped going grocery shopping, because I don’t even get to see him to share a meal together. Sometimes he’s so busy at work, I won’t even get a text from him until he’s leaving the hospital. But that’s weird, right? I mean how hard is it to check your phone? I know your hospital is the 3rd busiest hospital in the state (Yeah, I looked it up. He wasn’t lying on that count). I know you’re a doctor, and I know you’re probably busy with the patients in the rooms, in the hallways, in the extra chairs that are lined up to fill the empty wall space, and the patients who still haven’t been seen…but come on! Check your phone!

And when we’re out with his coworkers, and they mention how much he’s been working, they always give me that smug, sympathetic smile… Or worse, when I meet his coworkers for a dinner date, and my husband hasn’t arrived yet, because he’s still “at work.” Oh! The looks I get! I think they’re in on his little affair. Always making excuses or quickly changing the subject about his “long hours” in the “E.D.” His shifts at “work” should only be 9 hours long…but he comes home far later than that, sometimes working additional hours on the “notes” that he should have written while at work, but was too “busy with patients” to complete.

Sometimes his pockets are brimming with folded bits of paper and yellow stickery things. I bet those are love letters. Yeah, see, because I keep hearing him talk about this “E.D.” person. I bet that’s who he’s spending all of his time with. It’s not the Emergency Department. No. It’s code. It’s a whole different type of proper noun. I think he’s seeing a woman named “Eddy” (rhymes with beady.  Like her eyes).

I’ve been looking her up too. I won’t be fooled. I bet her real name is something boring and old like Edwina or Edith, or—oh my God—what if she’s a stripper named Eden? The nickname Eddy is Hebrew for pleasure and delight (I looked it up)—I bet that’s it. I bet this “Eddy” is a stripper from Fresno whose stage name is Eden, and she can always be found lurking around the hospital.

Hang on to your doctors, ladies. That Eddy is a bitch.


Diary of a Doctors Wife: Riddikulus

My husband embarked on a rather interesting topic of conversation the other night: whether he should apply for a tropical medicine course in Peru for six weeks, or in London—-at OXFORD—the Hogwarts of the muggle world—for an entire year. Are we really having this conversation? There’s no contest.

I’m currently imagining him as a giant tropical spider on eight wee roller skates.

In all seriousness though, I think that the work my husband is doing and the plans that he is making are tremendous.  He’s passionate, and driven, and dedicated to making a change, while exercising every option to travel and explore and find adventure.  Currently, he is torn between several different fellowships ranging from Toxicology to Wilderness Medicine to now…Tropical Medicine.  You know.  The kind that involves large flying bugs, venomous snakes, and little air conditioning if his cards are played really well.

Back in medical school, his drive to work in the outdoors and summit the highest peaks led to me joking that some wives end up in palatial houses, while I’m going to end up living in a tent. When Nick and I first met, there was not a day that went by where I wasn’t dressed up and in heels.  Now, I find myself typing at a restaurant by a lake wearing REI khaki cargo pants, a t-shirt, and running shoes.  Granted, my hair and makeup are done, but really? Khaki REI pants? And the worst part is—I now fucking love these pants.  They are my go-to travel pants on any trip.  What has this man done to me?

What little semblance of my old self is left, I would like to preserve her and try to pretend that she exists below the layers of Deet, Keens, and Osprey backpacks.  Living in the rural jungles or islands of the Amazon, Asia, India, or other vowel-inspired areas of the world might strip that part of me away, as it did in Thailand on our last international visit.  There were so many bugs and terrifying toilet scenarios that to go back, I imagine myself cringing, rocking back and forth on my heels, flapping my hands and wailing in terror at the giant roaches that surround our future home, or the cicadas that try to burrow and kamikaze dive into our mosquito netting.  Am I really built for Tropical Medicine? Am I built for Wilderness or Mountain medicine—camping at elevation in a tent? Cooking over a JetBoil.  Before I met Nick, I didn’t know what in the hell a JetBoil was.  Now we own three.  Am I ready for this adventurous life he is mapping out? Realistically?  Probably not.  I am built for a year in London where bugs can be annihilated with sprays and pest control instead of large tennis rackets.  Where I can walk around with my caucasian husband and not feel like a prostitute or mail-order bride.  Where heels would not be out of place, and where I can catch a show or visit a museum and reflect on a beautiful countryside, a bowl of fruit, or a naked lounging woman.  These things I can easily and happily see myself doing.  Playing bocce ball with critters, slathered in sunscreen and bug juice, and purifying all of my water on the daily is not something that I can actually imagine.  At least not without nervously laughing.

But in truth, I would follow my husband to the ends of the earth.  I may not always be happy about the destination, but the experiences that we face, alone, are always worth the moments of grimace or food poisoning.  I think that’s one of the greatest and hardest things about being a doctor’s spouse.  Every marriage has its own struggles and compromises, but being married to a doctor leaves a lot of unknowns out on the table.  A lot of moves.  A lot of debt.  A lot of friends come and gone.  A lot of jobs that may never earn tenure.

But they also bring a lot of possibility. And I’m banking on that gambit even more.


Bleeding Hearts

Diary of a Doctor’s Wife: Bleeding Heart

*Disclaimer: I wrote this when I was in a very negative mood with very little sleep. Love you, honey!

My husband is an incredible man. If you need a place to stay, you’re staying with us—no question. Are you in our zip code? Come on over for dinner and a beer. Are you going out of town? We’ll sit your dog. You have two? Cool. You’re not coming back for two weeks? No problem. I love this about him. As a doctor, his bleeding heart when it comes to his friends knows no bounds, and though I would probably help you out myself…I just wasn’t raised to actively seek others to help, host, or feed. You have to be a best gay for that kind of love to happen.

Fast forward to this morning: 6:47am. We have been hosting friends, family, and fellows for over a week. Which has been incredible. I love meeting new people and going out, and I especially love any dates that include food which I don’t need to cook, coupled with dishes that I don’t need to clean. But this week also includes hosting their dogs…which has now led to a new nervous disorder in my cat…who now pees blood when the couch surfing dog stresses him out too much. Which is currently all of the time.

This wouldn’t be so bad if my partner were around to help me chase after bloody piddles, call the bounding beast back to bed, and throw pillows at the yelping fur ball at 1:30am so I can get some sleep before facing my students for the last long week before summer begins.

Have I mentioned that I work with a high risk population? Do you know how long this “week” is going to last? It’s going to last months, and will result in many referrals and possible physical altercations. Especially if the weather heats up again. Note: it’s currently 72 degrees at 6:50am.

But instead, he’s on an overnight shift. And either his phone has run out of power, or he’s extremely busy on a shift (though he was planning on studying, since it hasn’t been busy at all), or he’s ignoring my texts (quite possible since they haven’t exactly been rays of sunshine), or….HE’S BEEN SLEEPING. Yes. Sleeping. Whereas I’ve been awake for six hours and am now just getting to work. In fact, I am currently typing this blog on my iPhone in the empty parking lot of my school, because he still hasn’t returned my texts. My students are going to regret their attendance today.

Lesson learned: bleeding hearts need tighter sutures.

“Sanitize” is Such an Unclean Word

Real Tales of a Dr.’s Spouse #502: Wife wakes up for work and notices that the washing machine has been running. Then recollects that her husband came home late from a shift in the emergency room, threw his clothes in, and set them to SANITIZE. Wife then sadly realizes that this sanitation process probably has nothing to do with the snake he was asked to identify, and then modeled “eating” in a photo early into his shift. Too scared to ask for details, she just runs the cycle again, and hopes it doesn’t taint the machine…then remembers that she never heard the shower running last night before the Dr. crawled into bed and hugged her.

This scene then leads to the wife now heading for a scalding hot shower and praying. Lots and lots of angry praying.

Dinner Conversations #235

Listening to the good doctors chatting about their work. Subjects range from Ebola, to getting stuck with infected needles, and now disimpacting patients. Yep. Blood, shit, and fingers in dark orifices. My wedding vows did not come with a Hazard and Disgust Clause.