Tuesday, January 04, 2011


I really do love winter.

I love the cold, crisp, biting air that rushes around me when I ride my bike across town, not wearing enough warm layers and always rushing to the next warm place.
I love getting up to Meadows on a bluebird day and surfing slowly on fresh powder or taking huge, careful turns on the groomers, pushing the laws of physics to their limits.

I especially love the closeness that winter inspires. Last night, before I was even introduced to Dave's friend at the bar, I grabbed her hands and tried to share my warmth. Reunion hugs tend to last a little bit longer. People linger in each others companies at the end of a night out, hoping to delay the inevitable voyage through the cold.

And finally, the sunrises. I particularly enjoy our summertime gatherings at the Skidmore bluffs, playing games and sharing drinks as the sun sets over Washington Park. But catching the reds and oranges swirling behind that majestic Mt. Hood on the morning bike ride couldn't be a more perfect start to a wintery day.

Up and Down

What goes up

Must come down.

Views from Timberline

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Woo Woo!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 14, 2009

We are the lump sum of our selves.

A few weeks ago, a classmate sent out an email about a clinical study that he was helping to conduct on the Hill.
I love clinical studies!
The purpose of the study was to determine the effects of nitrous oxide on intraocular pressure. Kids often receive nitrous oxide, known as “laughing gas”, to sedate them during these measurements. The researchers want to make sure that the noxious gas has no effect on the pressure. Enrolling kids in clinical studies does not really fly high on the ethics scale, so often researchers rely on information gathered from consenting adults.

Thus, I became a participant in the study: an hour off work, free nitrous oxide, and the added bonus of cash in the wallet.

Don’t get me wrong, I was a really good kid, but I definitely did my share of experimenting on my own accord. Adolescence is filled with curiosity about the human body, and as 13 year-olds, some of us became little scientists yearning for some questions to some answers. My friends and I would travel to the local Wawa for a few cans of whipped cream. One little hit of nitrous oxide lasted about 45 seconds; tongues went numb, arms went wailing, and giggles abounded. Later in high school, Dave Matthews Band concert parking lots were filled with people selling big balloons filled with the gas – the high lasted a little longer but it was of a similar caliber to the whipped cream experience. Yesterday I thought I knew what was coming to me.

After signing the consent form and hearing a little bit about the experiment, I was a little anxious but not too nervous. I had to limit my food intake by 8am in order to ensure that if I did feel nauseas, I wouldn’t actually vomit or aspirate (inhale said vomit).

THE PROTOCOL: lying on a bed, 5 minutes of baseline measurements, 12 minutes of 70% nitrous oxide (an extraordinarily high dose, I would later find out), 2 minutes of 100% oxygen, about 15 minutes of room air, and however long it might take to completely recover. Intraocular pressure measurements made every 2 minutes or so throughout the protocol.

[[[[[[[[[[[[THE GAS: According to the lovely wikipeople, “Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a dissociative drug that can cause analgesia, depersonalization, derealization, dizziness, euphoria, and some sound distortion.” It’s pharmacological effects are not fully understood, but it gets into cells fast and may block NMDA receptors while activating GABA receptors and potassium channels in neurons….it might also induce an endogenous opioid response. Said the chemist that first synthesized the gas, Joseph Priestley, “I have now discovered an air five or six times as good as common air... nothing I ever did has surprised me more, or is more satisfactory."]]]]]]]]]]]]]

I get into the bright white pediatric surgery room, lay down on the bed, and they strap me down with a seatbelt type contraption. “Patients tend to squirm a bit”. I’ve got my iPod in hand but I haven’t thought about which music to listen to – one coordinator recommends “something light and mellow”. They put some drops in my left eye, numbing medication so that I can’t feel when they prod at the center of my eyeball with the pressure measure. The drops make my eyes feel sticky and heavy. Some chit chat ensues, and the anesthesiologist ensures that I will have a “good ol’ time.” I put Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago on the tunes.

The mask with the nitrous oxide is put in place and held down around my mouth, and I start to feel a bit tingly, particularly around my mouth and my fingertips. My tongue starts to feel like cotton and I’m not sure if my mouth is open…but I’m talking nonsensically and the study coordinators can’t really hear me through the mask. Suddenly everything feels really heavy and the very beginning of the first song “Lump Sum” echoes in my ears with its dreamy vocals and catchy guitar riff. I mean really dreamy….so very echoey….so tingly and woah I’m tripping. Tripping hard and OUT.

DREAM SEQUENCE: I’m pretty sure everything was a hazy black lasting about 2 minutes or 2 days. We were going to a rave to get wasted and dance our butts off. We had to plan the rave and then go to it….it seemed simple enough but whoever I was with….whoever inhabited that dream with me….we were all struggling to make sense of the world. The world stopped making sense….and then BOOM.

WAKING LIFE: The room became clearer and I guess that’s when my 12 minutes of nitrous was up….oxygen filled my lungs but my brain was still so hazy. At least I was present in the room though. I knew at that point that I was back in that bright white room, surrounded by study coordinators, my mouth still covered with the gas mask. I think I was in and out of clear consciousness at that time and I started to believe that the study I signed up for was not about measuring intraocular pressure. No, it was a study put on by a cult of nitrous oxide users, perhaps some underground hippies using this drug to get high and forget about their troubles. Yes this must be some psychology experiment examining the effects of a heavy dose of the sedating gas….I can’t believe I signed up for this! They totally tricked me….this is why people become anesthesiologists….so they can take dips of nitrous after a long hard day at the office. I know I had a string of other semi-paranoia based ideas about the world, about psychology, about psycho-active drugs. I think I have been reading too much Vonnegut. I think I combined “The Euphio Question” and “Welcome to the Monkey House” into one story about drugs….this all happened in a matter of minutes, too.

I became more aware of my thoughts and I started to giggle uncontrollably – “wow I’m such a sucker for signing up for this! They really tricked me, ha ha ha!” At that point I was okay to take part in this weird psycho-analytical study, I wanted to do my part to figure out some of the hallucinogenic effects of nitrous oxide, anything to help.

I’m not sure when my awareness peaked, but suddenly I became very self-conscious and I thought I was drooling. I said aloud several times that I was concerned and sorry for my drooling. They assured me I wasn’t drooling.

THE AFTERMATH: After about 3 or 4 more rounds of intraocular pressure readings, my consciousness was fully intact and I felt almost back to normal. What had just happened? I inquired with the study coordinators. They told me that I giggled a lot, repeatedly stated “I’m having a good ol’ time”, shimmied my way a foot up the table, and acted “awake” the whole time. My headphones had fallen off, I stopped hearing music after about 40 seconds but I’m not sure if that was because I moved around too much or because I was in some other consciousness that Bon Iver couldn’t penetrate. I was in shock, in awe, I was self-conscious that my body and my mouth might have embarrassed or betrayed me. I rambled on about my subtle paranoia as I was waking, and they had mentioned that I was not the first person to bring that up. What about nitrous oxide would make people believe they were sharing the same experience - the experience of being under observation to determine the disconnect between my mind’s consciousness and that displayed by my body while under the influence of the gas? I thought of my friend who is quite the intellectual and has shown an interest in psycho-social aspects of science. This experience would be perfect for him! I really wanted to sign up all my friends, get all their experiments on camera and then interview them afterward! Why did I repeatedly state that I was having a “good ol’ time”? I believe it was because the doctor said that multiple times to me before I went under – “most people just have a good ol’ time”. Afterwards I was told that some people did not have a good time, but rather felt increasingly paranoid and admitted that they would not do the study again if they had the choice. One participant had to be stopped because he or she had flashbacks of previous drug trips.

Well I would definitely do the study again. I was completely out of my mind for more than 10 minutes…completely blacked out and in another world. In the realm of disassociative personalities, nitrous oxide brought out two of my own selves – one was awake on the table having a good time, while the other was dreaming about partying….both equally positive mindsets, though slight paranoia set in when the selves were forced to conjoin as the nitrous oxide wore off. Different selves within a single person - the lump sum.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


input: St. Vincent
output: Radiohead - Let Down.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

v.p. of the bad luck club

i thought my aunt would live until at least 100.
she ran and biked and ate healthy.
she did not smoke or drink.

but sometimes life has other plans for people.
we can only do so much to maintain good health.
we are a product of our environment and
our genetic code.

in the past 6 years I've lost so many people.
first my aunt Joyce.
and then my grandma Drop.

when my dad died a few years ago,
I thought perhaps life would let up a little.
thought I had my fair share of bad news.

i got into medical school - that was a good thing.
i spent last summer traveling in Europe.
though it's an everyday struggle, school is going pretty well.

but i feel like the bad still outweighs the good,
for when I got a call from my aunt Ritz last week,
I knew there was another blow coming.

i didn't know that people could die from anemia.
somehow her body just started destroying her bone marrow.
and the only therapy,
is poison.

the treatment kills the immune system.
and a fatal infection spread throughout her body,
took the last bit of life straight out of her, though she was a fighter.

we had become very close in the past few years.
when my father passed away,
she nurtured me and took me as her own.

she was supportive and caring,
thoughtful and giving,
generous and understanding.

this story does not end in optimism for the future.
for we all know that our fates are sealed.

this story ends with the request that maybe death
will ease up a bit on my family.

i'm not sure I can take any more bad news right now.

some things i did over winter break.

yes, winter break was a long time ago.
but i made some cool earrings and drank some spinach smoothies.
and it's easier to post pictures than to type out feelings.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A step forward for Healthcare

Portland Obama Fans, Pioneer Square Election Night!

Last night, my roommates and I ran through the streets banging pots and pans in honor of a momentous occasion – Barack Obama has been elected president.

When I first started paying attention to the democratic candidates, one of the first things I looked at was their stances on health care reform. Barack Obama appealed to me on so many levels, but his ideas for health care, though they are a step in the right direction, are not radical enough in my mind. He proposes that we build on our current insurance system and leave Medicare intact. He also wants to mandate health care coverage for children and require that employers contribute to coverage or contribute payroll toward a national plan, which would include coverage similar to the kind that members of Congress receive. But I believe his proposals are not getting to the root of the problem: the insurance system.

Our country is in dire need of health care reform, and to me, there is only one solution – a single payer system. So when I was researching the democratic candidates for president, I realized that Dennis Kucinich is in favor of a single payer system. He said, back in 2004, that his “proposal shifts the whole system into a not-for-profit system. It eliminates these corporate profits and stock options and executive salaries, the advertising, lobbying, marketing costs.” Funding for the single payer system will come primarily from existing government healthcare spending (more than $1 trillion) and taxes on employers. The employers' tax is less than the 8.5% of payroll now paid on average by companies that provide private insurance. This type of system -- privately-delivered health care, publicly financed -- has worked well in other countries, none of whom spend as much per capita on healthcare as the United States.

I know that this is not an easy solution and it probably will not be possible in our society in the near future (not to sound too despondent!). Sometimes I think that our priorities as a nation are slightly skewed. Why is it that we are required to have insurance for our cars but not our bodies? I believe that health care is a right, not a privilege to those that can afford it.

I think a large part of the problem is our reliance on prescription drugs. Patients often want quick fixes to problems or illnesses they have, and doctors all-to-often whip out that prescription pad. I think that a lot of pharmaceuticals are very beneficial, and often they are called-for, but paying $30,000 for a year supply of an anti-cancer medication is absolutely ridiculous! I used to work for a pharmaceutical company, and it would often make me shiver to think about how much money is spent on research and marketing. My benefits were pretty good, my salary was sufficient, and yet the executives were riding and dining in luxury, receiving six-figure bonuses. Another problem in the current system revolves around the administrative costs of insurance companies. According to one of our reading assignments, about 20% of money spent on health care in the U.S. is just going to overhead costs. If we could only funnel that money towards actual health care (or perhaps incentives and scholarships for medical students entering Family Medicine!!), our system would be better off.

Whenever I hear Dr. Saultz speak, I am inspired to become a general practitioner and contribute to the revolution of health care in this country by providing primary, preventative care. I think that he summed up our future health system nicely – as a nation, we need to promote universal access, define health of the public as our goal, create a way to deliver better care at lower costs, and partner with others to define and promote core attributes of a new care model. We need to partner with our patients, increase spending on primary care, mental health and public health, which would hopefully decrease overall health care costs.
Yes, I am excited to have a new president and though I know he won’t be able to change the course of health care immediately, we are making a great leap forward.