As most of you already know by now I am currently living in Southern California--Orange County to be more specific--for an internship through UC Irvine, volunteering with the 90+ Study, researching Alzheimer's Disease. Learning lots and enjoying this adventure I'm on. Just wanted to update you on all the things I'm doing here.
- I pump my own gas now. Also, I love driving down here (when there isn't traffic that is) because I get to go fast--I have to drive 80 to keep up with everyone and people still zip past me at insane speeds--almost feels like real life Mario Kart.
(Confession: I prefer pumping my own gas.)
- I intern at the Clinic of Aging Research and Education in Laguna Woods with Maria Corrada and neurologist Claudia Kawas, who are both incredibly intelligent and kind. I love asking them questions about the brain.
My internship involves driving to different homes and delivering both oxygen and blood pressure monitors for the participants to wear overnight, which I then pick up the following day and then log into the tracking system on the computer. I love my internship because it slows me down and makes me look at life's big picture. Last week I met a 98-year-old woman who has really lived life to the fullest. She has traveled all over the world and at 91-years-old she quit skiing because she broke her collarbone. We discussed her backpacking trips in Nepal, her Red Cross days in Northern Africa, and her favorite spot in the world Lake Geneva. I told her about when I studied abroad in Florence and how I had bed bugs in my hostel in Rome. She laughed and we had a great afternoon. She reminded me that life is truly about deep relationships, adventures, and laughs. So grateful!
On Tuesdays at the clinic we gather in the conference room and discuss patients who have passed away, trying to figure out if they had dementia and if so what kind, possible reasons as to why, and try to determine when the onset was. We watch tapes of the person, look at their medical reports, and neuropsych tests. I learn so much from these meetings. At the end we guess the brain weight (average brain weight is 1400 grams), plaques/tangles, APOE, etc. A couple of weeks ago based on the patient's behavior, I guessed that their brain weight was 950 grams. It was 970! I can't tell you how excited I was about that!
- Another fun part about my job is working in UC Irvine's Neuroscience Lab in the tissue repository. On September 28th I wrote this Facebook post:
Holy smokes people! Today was phenomenal and here's why. I went into the lab, expecting to file away brain slides, which is pretty boring, but instead I got to help out with something exponentially cooler. Ryan, one of the people I work with in the lab at UC Irvine, is on call for when someone dies. His job involves getting transportation for the body, removing the brain, and then dividing the brain up into different slices and putting some of those slices on slides and then into the freezer. Well today he had a case and asked if I wanted to hang around and watch. I was like: OF COURSE! I quickly put on some gloves and a lab coat. Ryan took the brain out, we weighed it, and then began separating it. He explained everything step by step and even asked me if I knew what the meninges were for as he cut a sample of it off. I told him yes and then went on to explain, "It's a protective layer, covering the brain. There's three layers the Dura mater, arachnoid, and Pia mater." He was impressed! And then he let me hold the brain. When it's freshly removed it feels like jello. I had all this cerebral spinal fluid on my gloves, but it didn't gross me out. Ryan sliced the sections up and then I put the pieces on slides and placed slides on dry ice, so they could freeze. It was so AWESOME! I wanted everyone to know how perfect my morning was. I was dying for the Trader Joes cashier to ask me how my day was so I could tell him all about the brain!
Now, after this incredible experience I think I'd like to pursue neuropathology as a career. Neuropathology is the study of disease of nervous system tissue, usually in the form of either small surgical biopsies or whole autopsies. Neuropathology is a subspecialty of anatomic pathology, neurology, and neurosurgery. I still need to take some biology and chemistry classes to get into grad school at either UC Irvine or USC, so I will be starting classes at Santiago Canyon College in January.
Love this campus!
Here's where the brain gets sliced!
- Since my internship is unpaid I decided to get a job at Disneyland where I will be a hostess at a restaurant in California Adventure. Not sure which restaurant yet, but I start this Friday and I'm so excited! I like that's its completely different from my other job. I think that will keep me from ever getting bored and will be a good balance.
- I've also went sailing in San Diego with my aunt and uncle.
(Don't let this picture fool you because I actually got really seasick and threw up about four times.)
- I've also found an awesome church to attend called Rock Harbor in Costa Mesa. I love it there!
- I also swim just about every day here.
Here are some things I've written about the pool on Facebook.
As someone who suffers from chronic back pain swimming is critical to my health. I'm limited to what I can do physically, but I CAN swim and for this I'm eternally grateful. The pool is my freedom from pain. Every time I jump in I deeply appreciate this freedom, smiling as I move through the refreshingly cool water pain-free. Swimming serves as a reminder of how lucky I am. I might not be able do the things I desperately want to do anymore like ride horses or rock climb or go on intense backpacking trips, but I do have this. I am truly blessed.
I am admittedly a very sensitive person. Drives me crazy! Mainly because I tear up at incredibly stupid commercials, but I've also been known to take people's pain on too easily. With all that's going on in the world--mass shootings, hospital bombings, Syrian refugees struggling to find a better life for their children--I find myself subconsciously sad. And I hadn't been aware of this until I went swimming this afternoon and watched a mother and her two young children playing in the water together. Normally when I see a family at the pool the parent is either A.) on the phone, disengaged or B.) yelling/speaking harshly to their children. But this mother was beyond wonderful, she played with her kids, hugged and twirled both of them around in her arms, telling them how much she loved them. Even when they were being rowdy she spoke gently to them and had patience. When she was out of the water she was still engaged with them, applauding the two for their great jumps and dives into the pool. She read a book, but she was still very aware what was going on. Her daughter climbed out of the pool, ran up to her, gave her a kiss on the cheek, and then leaped back into the water. Oh gosh people, I'm ridiculous because I nearly started bawling. Just watching how much that family loved each other and how kind they were to one another melted my heart. Compelled, I went up to the mom and said, "You are a great mom! You were so intentional with them and engaged and I feel like that's rare, so thank you. It really warmed my heart." She told me, "Well, thank you. I certainly try. Have a nice day!" Kindness goes a long ways, not only to the people you are kind too, but to the people who see your kindness. That mother's kindness was not only a gift to her children, but a gift to me too today. It lifted my spirits and gave me faith in humanity!
- The reason I haven't blogged in a while--both on this blog and The Be Ok Blog--is because I am currently working on a book about all of my camp experiences from camper to counselor. At this point, I've written 26,000 words and it's going great. The few people I've allowed to read it so have loved it. My plan is to finish it by the end of this year and start sending it to literary agents who I've already researched. I've already published a short story in it on my blog called The Ouija Board that you can read. Also the Be Ok Blog is currently being put on hold right now until Delaney gets back from her mission. Squarespace requires that I pay $95.00 to keep it going another year and I just can't afford that right now. It saddens me that I have to let go of it for now, but I know it's for the best because it was stressing me out too much. So, that's why you may not find the website right now. I apologize for this.
I can't wait for people to read this book I'm writing because I have some crazy camp stories.
- And on the weekends I've been incredibly fortunate to visit friends and family in both Oregon and Montana.
Portland, Oregon. I hung out with eleven friends that day. I'm laughing here because I spent too much on stiff tofu. Haha!
|Checking out my brother's new work as a commercial producer in Helena, Montana. So proud of him!|
|Hiked Mount Helena. Super steep, but great view!|
|Visited the Cathedral of Saint Helena. Absolutely beautiful inside & out!|
Well like I said life is great and I'm enjoying this adventure! Hope you are doing well too.