Senior year to now

I forgot to mention something important. Near the end of my junior year and right before I joined the SAR team my mom went to rehab for a month. My step-dad finally persuaded her to go under her own will. Within 30 minutes of her release, as my mom and step-dad walked in the door at home, my step-dad started complaining of severe chest pain. My mom drove him to the nearby hospital where it was confirmed he was having a heart attack. Soon, he was in cardiac arrest. My mom recounted hearing "code blue" being paged over the intercom and a flurry of doctors and nurses and techs rush into his room. They successfully resucitated him and he has returned almost completely to the state of health he was in prior to the heart attack.

In my senior year I continued my involvement in SAR and on the newspaper. I also started taking a "med prep" class which was pretty intensive... about half of my credit hours. It covered basics in health care like ethics, medical terminology, standard precautions, professional standards, sterile technique, etc. The teachers were two nurses, and unfortunately they sucked at running a class. The medical terminology and the sterile technique stuff was the only worthwhile part of the program for me.

I also took college anatomy and physiology. It was more difficult than I expected, but I loved the class. My professor was crazy: he was a single dad of 3, a neurosurgery resident, played in an orchestra, and taught at 2 different colleges. I don't think he slept, and he made the neurology unit really hard.

My relationship with Chris was on shaky ground. He found it difficult to deal with the fact that I was devoting so much time my own endeavors, and that one of those endeavors, SAR, involved me spending great amounts of time around men. I found it difficult to deal with his career as a music marketing rep and DJ - which required him to spend much of his time in bars and clubs all night. He felt like I was growing away from him and although at the time I denied it, it was true.

I started working at a drop-in nursery at a rec center about 1-2 times a week. The pay was awful, but the nursery was often empty so I just did homework.

I started my EMT-B class my second semester of senior year. It was every Saturday from 8 am - 5 pm for 6 months. I loved it. It was my one respite from the drudgery and inaneness of secondary education. I blazed through it too, having already passed my SAR team's emergency care class with flying colors. I fell in love with everyone in my class. They were truly great people and it makes me happy to know that they will be among the new crop of EMSers taking care of sick people.

I didn't attend any high school proms or homecoming dances. Simply put, I didn't see the allure in paying a decent sum to be in a dark room overcrowded with people I generally did not like dry-humping each other to obnoxious music. I was anti-social... but honestly only when it came to high school.

I was happy to see graduation come, but didn't romanticise it. I was still working hard in my EMT class and other endeavors well after my graduation, anyways. My mom didn't show up to my graduation. After I walked I checked my voicemail. She left me a message but it was so slurred I couldn't understand it. So I basically came to understand she was too high to come to my graduation. That pissed me off.

I broke up with Chris shortly after graduation. It was really hard to do, but I never thought about turning back. It just kind of happened. I felt like I had to experience the world more, date a few people, and live independently while I was young. Him and I are still struggling to keep this friendly relationship.

I passed my NREMT stuff with flying colors. I finally got my driver's licence in June, right before my SAR team's annual trainings. In my first month of having a driver's license I drove well over 500 miles, many of those miles were in the mountains. I hadn't been interested in driving until my senior year because I was happy walking everywhere or taking public transportation. I didn't see the need to spend all my money on gas. I had no real need for a car until that point.

Around this time I had a fling with a gorgeous firefighter who was the son of a high roller on the SAR team. I'll never get him. He came on to me really strong. He was the one who started it. I hadn't even really talked to him prior to his initiation of contact. We went on a date that ended pretty hot and heavy... and then another date that went similarily. However, I said no to sex at the time because of the politics that might erupt if the affair came to light (his dad was my superior at the time). A few weeks later when I felt that the situation was safe... no dice. "I don't know what I want out of a relationship right now," and this was his response to me saying that I wanted to keep things completely casual and avoid a serious relationship or commitment of any kind. Oh well. It still bothers me to this day for some stupid reason.

I also took my IV approval course in July with 2 friends. I completed the course, but didn't get enough sticks in my clinical rotation to get the approval. I could have scheduled another clinical, but got lazy. I have no real need for IV approval anyways.

My best friend A and I went on my first road trip ever to Cheyenne shortly after. I had been seeing someone stationed at Warren Air Force Base, so we stayed up there during Frontier Days. We managed to have a great time, despite the fact that the guy I was seeing was exhaustingly clingy and touchy-feely. We would be sitting on the couch and I would try to get up to go pee and he would be grabbing at me. That didn't last too long after we left Wyoming.

I started school as a pre-nursing major at a state university in the heart of downtown in August. Many of my friends from the SAR team attend school on the same campus, so I spend a lot of time with them. And as you may have noted, I'm completely enamored with one of them.

I snagged a student employment gig as a medical assistant at an ob gyn clinic operated by the university's hospital and med school. It's a perfect learning environment, and there's no nurses so I do a lot of nursing-ish work.

I go to school 2 days a week, work 2 days a week, and help teach my SAR team's emergency care class 2 days a week.

It's a lot easier to write about your life in a few years of retrospect. Writing all this stuff down has made me realize how young I am. I've only been alive a few years, really.


Sophomore to junior year

"Yay! Spinal immobilization!"

Things kept truckin' right on from there.

Chris and I became a serious couple, of course, and I stopped cutting and taking pills. Admittedly, I still smoked pot occasionally, but not nearly to the degree I once had, and I was no longer dependent on it.

I started seeing a psychiatrist who threw out all previous diagnoses and diagnosed me with ADHD. I'm really sick of this game of adding and subtracting diagnoses but the Adderall I've been prescribed has been the only the only thing that has helped me, although I do despise the idea of taking an amphetamine on a daily basis.

I transferred high schools to the one where most of my friends attended. I took biology with the most amazing teacher ever, Ms. Moore. She called all things microscopic and living "wee beasties" and took us for nature walks on a regular basis. I love her to bits.

I had earned a 3.5 + GPA by the end of my sophomore year and won a few awards. It felt great.

Things at home were as turbulent as ever. My mom was taking prescription pills so often that her normal state was complete incapcitation. My new step-dad Dicky had moved from California but was in complete denial of my mom's addiction. My dad was struggling to make ends meet and we even ended up living off a food bank for quite a while.

Chris provided an oasis for me. He treated me like a Princess and he was my best friend.

Junior year was much of the same. Chris and I started having a few tensions in our relationship, but that's to be expected; in general things between us were amazing. I started taking college courses like English and Anatomy and Phys. I loved being away from the superfluous, ridiculous, overly dramatic world of high school and actually learning at a purposeful pace.

I wrote for the school paper and became somewhat notorious for my out-there ideas and occasionally controversial opinions. I wrote news stories about the rise of meth labs in suburbia, the horribly inconsiderate attitude of the general student population towards one another, and the misuse of the term "African American."

I became aware of a local search and rescue team that was completely run by high school students. I became extremely interested and even wrote a newspaper article about the team, allowing me to interview a member of the team, Ashley, who turned out to be freakishly similar to me in goals, interests and attitude. She is now one of my best friends.

With plenty of enthusiasm I joined the team and prepared myself for Basic Training, AKA search and rescue boot camp. Little did I know the ass-whooping that would ensue. After hours and hours and hours of carrying out heavy people on litters and hiking over rough terrain with no rest, I was on the brink of collapse. No one thought I would last through the day, nevermind the rest of the weekend or the second weekend of basic training. I called my dad hysterically crying asking him to come pick me up. Fortunately, I soon changed my mind.

I barely eeked through the first weekend, but did better on the second. I realized that SAR is essentially back-breaking physical labor and a lot of hiking, and started getting in better shape. I was pretty low on everyone's list after I struggled so much through basics, but I would have my time to shine. When the emergency care class, a course with a curriculum somewhere between First Responder and EMT-B level, rolled around, I shocked everyone. I flew through the class, only missing 1 point on the final. I arranged study sessions, wrote study guides and worked my ass off to ensure everyone else passed too. I am proud to say that the emergency care class I was in had the highest pass rate in the history of the course.

I stopped smoking pot completely once I joined the team. SAR became my full-time job, and my friendships in it became increasingly more important. Because of all of these factors, I started drifting away from Vanna and my old group of friends.


A second chance

After my discharge from the mental hospital, things seemed to get even worse. The Lexapro made me feel empty. Completely empty. The habits continued.

Vanna opened up one night, about 2-3 months after my stay in the nuthouse. She told me about how I was destroying myself, that I was a complete slut and drug addict, and that I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and just change what I was doing. It was harsh, really harsh, but the thing that killed me most about it was how true it was. I was only 16 and this was the reality of my life. It hit me like a brick.

I couldn't take it.

I took every pill in my house, which was a cocktail of cold medicines, benzos, anti-depressives, antibiotics, sleeping pills and NSAIDs. I felt like it wouldn't be enough because there was only a small amount of each available so I started searching for an instrument to slit my wrists with but couldn't find one because my dad had thrown out all of the sharp objects while I was hospitalized. I found a dull knife but it didn't really do the job. It did leave me bloodied though. I laid on the floor defeated and in misery from all of the pills. I kept trying to close my eyes, and they were closed because I could feel my closed eyelids with my fingers, but I couldn't stop seeing. It was like my eyelids were transparent. Imagine trying to fall asleep but being unable to close your eyes.

I crawled into my room and eventually got up the strength to hang a sloppy noose of shoelaces from the rod in my closet. As I slipped my neck into it and let myself collapse into it... I started blacking out and felt so relieved... but the noose slipped from the bar and I fell to the floor. I pawed the laces loose from my neck and finally fell asleep. My dad tried to take his medications in the morning but they were all gone. He found me in my closet bloody, sick and with a shoelace around my neck. I went back to the ER, and back to the same mental hospital yet again.

The EMT who rode with me to the nuthouse was unbelievably sweet. He gave me a teddy bear and didn't treat me like a dumb ass for what I had done. They actually let me keep the teddy bear with me while I was in the nuthouse.

One of my favorite nurses from my first stay admitted me. The look of disappointment and sorrow on his face when he saw me coming back in absolutely crushed me. My roommate this time around was a girl my age who had also tried to kill herself. We were very similar and became good friends. They had given her charcoal in the ER because she had ODed and I remember that she was pooping black for her entire stay.

On the second day I was sitting in the commons when a new patient came in. Instantly after seeing him, I thought to myself, "for all I know I could end up marrying that guy," I don't know why that thought came to mind. He was pretty cute though, and something about him intrigued me.

His name was Chris and he was 19. He threatened suicide after his long-time girlfriend cheated on him and dumped him. Him and I became friends quickly and I had a serious crush on him.

This time around I had a new psychiatrist. He threw out the borderline personality disorder and depression diagnoses, and instead diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder and placed me on an anti-psychotic. I didn't believe the diagnosis but didn't really care.

One day in my stay I suddenly realized the only person who could fix me was myself. I stayed up all night and wrote out a list of everything I wanted to do, see and accomplish before I died. This was my revelation. I woke up the next morning a different person and have never been the same, in a good way, since.

Chris was scheduled for discharge that day also. It saddened me. Patients weren't allowed to exchange any contact information and were strictly forbidden from making any effort to make contact with each other after discharge.

I was sitting in my room when all of a sudden Chris came in. I was shocked because this was huge violation of the rules and a nurse could easily see down the halls at all times. He hugged me and slipped a piece of paper into my hand. It had a little love poem and his contact information. I almost fell over from excitement. I didn't think the feelings were reciprocal until then. I couldn't wait to get home.

I went home a day after he did. I called him immediately. We talked for hours and scheduled a date for the next day.

We did a lot of things on our first date, but the most memorable was when we sat on top of this tiny man-made waterfall in my favorite park and kissed. At that moment I fell in love, and as if reading my mind, he said "I think I love you."

Freshman year

(PS: I've added a few pictures to some of the older posts in the series.)

Me at 15 years old.

My dad moved into a new apartment. I decided to go to a different high school than Vanna. I thought it would help me refocus my energy on my studies. It didn't.

I was smoking pot almost every day freshman year. My dad either turned a blind eye to it or joined me. I was constantly cutting myself and abusing benzos, especially Xanax. I also started drinking at parties.

One night while hanging out with Vanna and another friend, I took at least 7 mg of Xanax. The dose prescribed to my dad was 0.5, and the maximum daily dose for anyone is supposed to be 4 mg. I have very little memory of the night, and I woke up with a lip piercing, which I barely remembered giving myself with a safety pin. I kept the piercing for several months.

Unsuprisingly, I continued to do very poorly in school. I eventually decided that I would be lucky to get my EMT-B at a community college. I didn't have any aspirations beyond that because I didn't believe I could achieve any more than that.

I had flings with several random guys, many of them quite a bit older than me, and never while I was sober.

Vanna was starting to get concerned about me, but she was still right by side doing the same things.

I celebrated my 16th birthday by getting drunk with Vanna, her boyfriend, and another guy at his house. I had about 1/4 of a handle of vodka and completely blacked out, vomited on the guy's bed, and the 3 of us got kicked out onto the street in below zero temperatures. I don't remember any of that, but I do remember waking up in my apartment's stairwell. It's a miracle we made it there. Somehow I looked back at nights like this with some sort of wishful reminiscence.

My dad finally started getting concerned about my behavior. I was constantly intoxicated, and rarely came home on weekends. My grades were the worst they'd ever been. He's always been a person who expresses any and all of his emotions with anger, which only made the situation worse. It was constant anger at home.

When my dad found a large blood stain on my carpet and bloody x-acto blades in my room, he confronted me. It was really hard to hide the hundreds of cuts and scars on my legs when he started catching on. He cried and it broke my heart. I let him take me to the ER. The sweetest nurse cleaned up my wounds and affectionately expressed her hopes that I would stop. They did a psych eval and I of course tested positive for weed and benzos. They put me on a mental health hold and I spent a night in the ER and they shipped me to a nuthouse the next morning by ambulance.

I don't remember much about the nuthouse but I know it really pissed me off. There were a few nice nurses and techs but most of them were assholes. I don't blame them. We had to wear scrubs for the first few days until we "leveled up" by being good little boys and girls. We always had to walk in a single file line and we weren't allowed to touch each other. There were bars on all of the windows and they searched our rooms all the time. I saw a psychiatrist a few times while I was there. She was a fucking bitch. She told me I had borderline personality disorder, that I would eventually abandon every single person I would ever become attached to, and would up end up very very very alone in the world. Yeah, that helped. They made me fill out a 100 + page packet that hurt my hands and didn't accomplish anything, diagnosed me with depression and put me on Lexapro. I stayed for a week and they discharged me.

After I was discharged things felt even more messed up. I came back to school the week before finals, and the school had no mercy for me. They expected me to complete all of my missed work and take finals as normal. I dug my own grave with my poor grades, but they buried me. I earned a 1.73 GPA freshman year. I was trying to stop my bad habits but I started smoking pot, cutting, drinking, and taking pills soon after I got out.


Middle school

Vanna and I in 8th grade at a school dance...

I was painfully awkward in middle school. I was chubby and unpopular, clumsily making the transition from reckless tomboy to calculating girl. Things were bad at home. My mom moved into a town home and started abusing prescription narcotics more and more (this was apparently a habit she had before I was born, but I didn't notice it until around this age). My dad had found a new apartment near Columbine High School. He went to sign the lease on April 20, 1999, but the road was completely shut down by police. He found out why later. We moved in a week or 2 later, and since he had just gained primary custody, I stayed mostly with him.

In 6th grade I wrote a persuasive paper on how nurses should get paid more. I interviewed my grandma's favorite nurse at the nursing home, took surveys of other students and everything. I have to admit, it was damn good. My first journalistic masterpiece.

Other than that, I started doing poorly in school. In elementary school I earned straight As (except for gym). My grades started nose-diving. I still excelled at tests, but had trouble completing homework and class busy work.

One day at home, I was on the computer and my dad was in the other room watching TV. All of a sudden I heard him make a very loud groan, as if he were in great pain. I ran into the room to see his face contorted and red... eyes staring at nothing... mouth foaming.... fists clenched. I sat by his side, yelled his name and shook him but he didn't respond. My first thought was heart attack. I quickly crossed that off, and by putting together pieces of stories I'd heard, including the ones my dad had told me about his sister having seizures as a child, I realized he had a seizure. By the time the paramedics arrived he'd fallen into a snoring, sleepy postictal state. I rode in the front seat of the ambulance, and my mom picked me up from the hospital a few hours later. The ER couldn't find a reason for his seizures, and even weeks later after several appointments with a neurologist, no cause could be found, and he was diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy.

To this day, if my dad groans in a certain way, my heart will start racing and I'll run to find him. He's had several more seizures since the first, but they're few and far between.

In my 7th grade social studies class I sat next to a girl named Savanna. She was my polar opposite in many ways. She was tall and as skinny as a rail, blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Within a couple of weeks we had a weird relationship in which she shared her snacks with me during class and I let her use the brush and mirror I kept in my locker. Soon, we were best friends. I shortened her name to Vanna and the name has stuck to this day.

We had sleepovers often and spent a long lazy summer at the side of the public pool. She was extremely innocent and sheltered, so I ended up being very protective of her. She had several boyfriends, and when one of them cheated on her, I kicked his ass in front of all of his friends. Twice.

Eventually she started dating her neighbor Chris, who was 3 years older than her. They dated for nearly 2 years, and he treated me like a little sister.

My dad and I were on a long drive home from a dinner at a family friend's house late at night once when I had a horrible stomachache and nausea. Eventually, he said "I'm going to hell," and pulled out a joint. He told me I could smoke some if I wanted because it would help me feel better. I had recently started suspecting that he smoked, so I wasn't completely shocked. So I smoked pot for the first time. I just got really tired.

My mom started dating one of her high school sweethearts who was a park ranger living in California at the time. His name was Dicky, and I met him when he came to visit. I liked him. They got married soon after that. It shocked me since I had only met him once, but I didn't really care.

In 8th grade some of our friends started smoking pot, and Vanna and I followed suit. For a long time we didn't spend a dime on the habit, but got by on the generosity of our friends. She broke up with Chris, and then we started doing other bad things. She shoplifted a lot and pierced her own ears, tongue, and belly button. I smoked a lot of pot and got suspended 3 times in middle school total - once per year - for being rebellious to teachers. I started cutting myself and I didn't know why.

At a 4th of July festival we met a boy named Ranse. Vanna started dating him soon after, and he was really, really weird. I liked him enough, but he said the strangest things. One day we went on a double date to the mall with his cousin Jared. I was 14 and Jared was 17; it was the summer after my 8th grade year and I'd soon be starting high school. He was gorgeous. I thought he was way out of my league so when he started showing me attention I got so excited, even if he was weirder than Ranse. After a few hours of knowing him I could tell he was pretty aggressive. He bit my lip until it bled a little and was very grabby.

Later that same night the four of us got stoned and went to a local cemetary to walk around. Vanna and Ranse disappeared, so it was just Jared and I all alone. We started making out and I let him touch me down there... but when he started taking his pants off I felt like things were going way too far. I told him no but he persisted. I told him no one more time and had a little struggle with him, but gave up because I didn't want someone to call the cops who would find us with drugs trespassing on private property out past curfew. And so I lost my virginity in a graveyard. Vanna and I walked back to my house and I told her about it and cried but she didn't understand.

The summer became a blur of parties, boys, and bad behavior. Vanna started dating a guy named Steve, and eventually she lost her virginity to him in the stairwell of my apartment building. Steve had a best friend named Tyler, who worked in a restaurant less than a block away from my house. We all smoked a lot of pot together. Tyler, who was 20, had really good weed and not much else going for him. Either way, I started meeting him after he'd get off work. We'd hang out in his car, smoke pot and then have sex. In all honesty, it was an unspoken contract of trade: weed for sex. At this point I started hating myself, but ironically I made no effort to change my behavior.

I was still cutting myself constantly, mostly on my legs, and started raiding my dad's medicine cabinet for Xanax. I got addicted to that real fast.


Preschool to 5th grade.

Me in my favorite Pocahontas costume terrorizing my cat Annabelle.

The only thing I remember about kindergarten was the time we had a substitute teacher and the fire alarm went off. She panicked and froze up so I started directing the class into a single file line until she regained her composure.

At home I ran wild along the canal and greenbelt near my house with my neighbor Patrick. We adventured on secret trails and built forts tucked away on the banks of the canal. One time we snuck into a barn and found hundreds of typewriters. There was basically nothing but typewriters in the barn. We stole a few for our fort.

I liked to dress myself and wore weird stuff. I went through a serious Pocahontas phase and wanted to be an Indian more than anything. I wore a Pocahontas costume constantly and wore it while running around a nearby pond, playing a wooden flute that tasted like smoke.

My parents started sending me to "Pony Day Camp" where I learned how to horseback ride. My favorite horse was Daisy. I always had trouble learning how to post while trotting. It made me angry that they wouldn't let me canter or gallup without first learning to post while trotting properly. I just wanted to go fast. I loved exploring the land on the ranch, which was nestled in the foothills, as much as I enjoyed horseback riding. One time a cow got loose and they had us go find her by sticking our fingers in cow pies and tracking the warm ones.

I read at a higher level than any of the kids in my grade. They had to seperate me and another boy from the rest of the class when it was time for reading practice. I was proud but also embarrassed.

My gym teacher was an asshole. He ridiculed me in front of all of the other students on a regular basis for my ineptitude. I think he may have been part of the reason I started hating sports.

I was unpopular because I was a weird ugly little tomboy that wore glasses. They also started pulling me out of regular class for "gifted and talented" classes, which I thought were fun. We played a lot of games.

One day, I think I was about 7-8 years old, my dad barbecued some hamburgers on the grill for my mom and I. Her and I were sitting on the bed on the second floor of our house as my dad finished up some grilling, when all of a sudden there was an explosive noise and through the windows the entire world outside appeared to be on fire. We screamed and ran down the stairs... I'll never forget seeing my dad, shirtless, screaming in pain, covered in burns, and dousing himself with the garden hose. All of the neighbors came running because they thought a car had exploded and were shocked to discover it was just the propane tank of the grill that had. This was how I was first introduced to firefighters and paramedics. He spent some time in the burn unit, his face, chest, arms and abdomen covered in second and third degree burns. It was at this time that I realized I enjoyed being in a hospital. He made an amazing recovery and now it's nearly impossible to tell that he had such horrific injuries.

For some strange reason I was obsessed with the idea of becoming a lawyer in elementary school. I even had these thick legal books for the home that I carried around. I knew a completely unhealthy amount of information about law for a child. I got tired of it by 4th grade.

My parents argued all of the time for as long as I had remembered. My dad's business started going down the tubes and things fell apart from there. They started getting divorced when I was in 2nd grade. It wouldn't be finalized until I was entering 6th grade. It was a brutal, nasty split.

My grandma had a stroke soon after my dad's burn fiasco. She was staying with us at the time, and I remember coming inside to see her sitting in a chair, and she was crying but her face looked funny. I asked her what was wrong but when she tried to speak it came out like gibberish. I told my dad that something was wrong with grandma and the paramedics came again. It turned out that she couldn't speak but she could write perfectly. I stayed with her for hours in the ER, and then in the ICU. She made a great recovery because she had been treated very early. A few days later she was almost 100%. The doctor in the ICU blew up a glove-balloon and my grandma, the doctor, a nurse, my dad and I played glove volleyball. I decided I wanted to go into the medical field.

I was the only girl in the math gifted and talented class. We played this fantasy stock market game and I won, mainly because the boys invested heavily in the company with the ticker symbol "NHL" because it was hockey playoff season, but I looked up what the ticker actually stood for (not the hockey league) and knew better. It really pissed them off. I was never particularly good at math after that year.

In 5th grade I got a really bad cold. Which slowly developed into a cold that gave me severe difficulty breathing. I ended up in the ER and was hospitalized for a week because I had bad pneumonia and bronchitis. I liked the hospital. They rolled this cart with video games into my room all the time. I was really, really, really good at the jet ski game by the end of the week.

Birth to preschool.

(note: if you haven't noticed... I'm doing a life story series. I was inspired to do so by something I read and this is mostly for my own benefit, but you're more than welcome to enjoy the ride)

For a while my parents and I lived with my mom's sister and her 4-year-old daughter. My aunt's boyfriend and father of my cousin had suddenly left them.

I was generally a happy, complacent baby. My mom was terrified that I would get too cold and dressed me in so many unnecessary warm layers that I would cry. She would take me to visit Stacy sometimes.

Soon after my first birthday my aunt and cousin moved out, and we moved to a big new home. My dad had started his own home remodeling business and it was doing well. He spent a lot of time with me because my mom was still a flight attendant so she was gone on trips a lot and he was self-employed so he could set his own hours.

As soon as I was able to I was tearing my clothes off constantly. I loved being naked. Maybe it was revenge for my mom smothering me in warm clothes. I went to the emergency room twice before my second birthday. Once because I drank an oil candle, and again because I stuck a ton of packing peanuts up my nose and my parents couldn't get it all out.

I asked to be taught to read when I was about 3. My parents bought me Hooked On Phonics. I hated it. They scrapped that idea and taught me to read by themselves. I was reading ravenously by the time I was about 4. They told me I was adopted around this time and it was really no big deal to me. It didn't bother me at all.

They bought me a pet goldfish but I killed it accidentally when I kept putting my hand in the bowl and touching it. After successive fish-replacement-murders, they decided to get me a cat instead because it would be harder for me to manslaughter. We got a tabby kitten from some people with free kittens in a box outside a grocery store. I named her Annabelle and she became my close companion for well over 6 years. Whenever I cried she would come running and lick up my tears.

I loved being outside. I went to a preschool called Building Blocks where my tomboyish nature started showing. I hung out with the boys and caught garter snakes in the playground. I had my first boyfriend in preschool, his name was Brent and we planned on getting married. My best friend was Sonia. We were in Brownies together.

I had long, long hair but one day I gathered all of my dolls and toys in a room and gave them haircuts. Then I gave myself a haircut. From that point on my mom kept my hair boyishly short. I hated it. We went on a vacation to Disney World when I was 5 but I got the chicken pox and we came home early.

I actively participated in both Judaism and Christianity at this point. I liked Judaism more.

Conception to birth.

My parents were really young. They met at their Catholic high school and fell in love. Stacy had tons of long, long curly brown hair and big sad eyes, and Andy, who was older, had jovial eyes that probably couldn't express sadness if they tried. They dated for quite a long time, and both of their pious families came to accept the relationship. The turmoil didn't start until Stacy got pregnant when she was 16 and Andy was 18.

Andy worked maintenance at an apartment complex and shared this crisis with his boss Mitch, who he had become close with. Mitch, a handyman, home remodeler and designer was almost 40 and had recently been married to a flight attendant named Lynn. Lynn had been rendered infertile by an experimental IUD. A connection clicked. Mitch and Andy started discussing adoption. Mitch took the idea home to Lynn, and Andy discussed it with Stacy. With the approval of their parents, the solution became viable.

A growing Stacy left the scornful eyes of the Catholic high school to attend a special high school for pregnant girls. She lost all of her friends, who either disapproved or couldn't seem to wrap their heads around the baby growing in her belly. Lynn became her close friend and confidant, talking hours away with her, taking her shopping, and offering a shoulder to cry on. Lynn understood, because Lynn had given a baby up for adoption herself when she was young.

The families became some awkward but caring conglomerate. When they found out I was a girl they started discussing names. Stacy wanted the name Ashley. Mitch and Lynn wanted the name Lauren. They compromised and named me Lauren, with my middle name Ashley. They decided that after the birth, the adoption would remain as open as it was during the pregnancy. Stacy and Andy were obviously both Catholic, but Lynn was Protestant, and Mitch was Jewish. To my biological parents request, Mitch and Lynn agreed to baptize me and encourage me to seek Catholicism (they never did).

I was born at night in a blinding snow storm in the presence of a huge group of people, family. They vacuumed me out so I had a misshapen cone head for a while. My dad, Mitch, was concerned that I would look like that permanently. The doctors assured him that my head would return to normal.

The legal adoption process started 2 days after I was born when my adoptive parents took me home.



I'm really pissed.

It really pisses me off that I don't have any answers about my high blood pressure.

It really pisses me off that I have to miss school for doctor's appointments.

It really pisses me off that I have to walk around with electrodes and wires strapped to my chest so I can't wear certain shirts... and this stupid device makes an annoying beeping noise all the time.

It really pisses me off that despite being young, eating fairly well, being a healthy weight, and exercising regularly I might have primary hypertension. I don't smoke. I don't drink a lot of caffeine. I don't eat a lot of salt. I don't have any known family history of it. I know this makes me sound like a bitch but I thought most people with primary hypertension were either old, obese, or had crazy family history of it. Why me?

It really pisses me off that my systolic BP suddenly went up 30 points in less than 2 weeks, without having ever increased at all before, and my cardiologist doesn't seem to think that's a big deal.

It really pisses me off that every time I call the cardiac monitoring service to transmit the events my monitor spontaneously records, they won't tell me what the rhythm is.


Misadventures in cardiac event monitoring.

I went to the cardiologist a few days ago. My blood pressure is still at about 140/80-90. He said the the funky things my GP saw on my 12-lead EKG were "normal variants." I had another 12-lead EKG taken in his office, without any abnormalities.

So he scheduled me for a stress echo (like your run-of-the-mill stress test, but I get my heart echo'd before and right after also) and set me up for a month of "cardiac event monitoring." Little did I know all the highly irritating, hilarious and fascinating things I was about to experience.

A cardiac event monitor is very similar to a Holter monitor. It's a constantly monitoring 2-lead EKG that records selectively. I have 2 leads on my chest that are connected by wires to this pager-looking/sized black device. It's constantly monitoring my heart, but only records when I press a button or when my HR goes over 150 or under 40. The 60 seconds prior to the trigger and the 30 seconds after are recorded and stored in the device as "events." The device can record up to 3 events, which are then transmitted VIA phone to some technicians at some company who send the short strips to my cardiologist. To do this, I call them from a land line, tell them about my symptoms during the event, and put the mouthpiece of the phone and press a button to send. The pager-ish device proceeds to make a scary fax machine screechy noise for several minutes and that's it. Then the events are cleared and the fun starts all over again. This article describes the whole cardiac event monitor thing in more detail.

I'm supposed to press the record button whenever I have palpitations, but in the 2 days that I've been wearing the damn thing I've yet had the need to do so. However, it's set itself off due to tachycardia about 6 times, despite the fact I haven't really done anything physically strenuous.

I put it on for the first time on Thursday morning, right before going to work. It managed to set itself off from tachycardia twice by the time I made it to the clinic, and unfortunately it makes this loud intermittent beep as long it has any events recorded on it. So I walk into the clinic with wires hanging out of the bottom of my scrub top mystically making electronic beeping noises every minute or so. To stop this beeping I had to borrow the attending's land line to call that number to transmit, so my boss had to endure about 5 minutes of me talking on her phone and 8 minutes of annoying screechy fax machine noises. Thank god my boss is a doctor, because I think most other bosses would have fired me at this point.

Today was even worse. There was a different attending on today, so I had to explain, again, why wires were dangling out of my top and why I kept beeping. This time, I had 3 events by the time I got to work. So I borrowed the attending's phone again to transmit, but this time the entire world must've been having palpitations because I was on hold forever. So long that I kept having to hang up to go take care of patients, come back, try again, wait on hold, and repeat. Over and over and over again. And every patient was looking around the exam room trying to figure out where that damn annoying beeping was coming from while I was trying to talk to them. Finally I got through to the tech to transmit and the beeping ceased.

Later in the day I was assisting the attending and a 4th year medical student with minor surgery.. basically being the scrub tech instrument passer. All of a sudden they desperately needed this tubing, and it wasn't in the room. So I dart out the door and I'm running around the clinic like a bat out of hell flinging open cabinets trying to find it. I find it, bring it back to them, but it's the wrong kind. I again run around the clinic like crazy trying to find that damn tubing. Unfortunately, we're out of the right kind. I return to the room in defeat to find them continuing the procedure Macgyver style. And I hear that damn beep. The patient looks confused as they finish her procedure to the lovely tune of...

BEEP!................................ BEEP!........................... BEEP!............................. BEEP!............................ BEEP!...............................

Later I discharge her from the clinic to the same glorious melody. I apologize, but decide not to explain. Don't want her thinking I'm terminally ill AND nuts.