Friday, April 27, 2007

The Haircut

Hair on a woman is a sign of beauty. Crowns of shining glory or long beautiful hair, however one describes it, it never fails to amaze me how much I actually care about dead keratin. It is my vanity, my weakness and my pride. I've had long hair for a very long time. Before we imigrated to Canada I actually cut it. It was symbolic, a physical manifestation of what imigration would mean to me. It was cut short, like a boys, and after the deed was done, I cried. My father said I looked like a devil, my sister tried to cajole me into thinking it wasn't so bad. It grew again and I vowed to keep it long for as long as I could. Remember, it is my vanity, and I've always felt that older women with long hair only aged with it. It is never good to have the long frame of your face be so grey.

I keep my hair long. Troy, my husband says that it would not matter to him if I cut it. I know differently. I know he loves it. Its like some whitey male fantasy to have an asian woman with long, beautiful hair. Cascading, heavenly, a silly prepubescent desire. I know this, and so I keep my hair long. For a very long time I would only get the ends trimmed, even the most ammatuer of hair dressers could handle a simple trim. The process of even a trim was arduous. The usual routine was getting me to stand up and having the hairdresser hover around me with scissors in hand.

In my third year of residency I felt a sense of entitlement. At least, with the little money I make from all my hard work, at the very least, I would spend $60 on a haircut. So I got it done, first at Angles and to my dismay, because I was so rigid with my precise specifications, my $60 haircut turned into a dramatically expensive trim. Not really different than the $30 trim at any other salon. So I concentrated on finding the correct hairdresser. Someone asian, who understood asian hair. I looked into it as though I was attempting to search for a personal mystic. At long last I found her. She called herself Julie and owned a salon in an old house that was converted into her place of business. Dressed entirely in black, she wore her hair short and spiked with red tips or most recently in swarths of pink. Around her slim hips she had on a leather toolbelt. It sweeps down her right leg and held numerous scissors and razors. She pulled tools out of ther with a flurish and would firmly tell me what I needed to do with my hair. Awed and hypnotized by her ability to lead me astray from my plan, I let her highlight my hair and with a straight razor, cut it into long layers. For her mastery, she charged me $200. I have gone to Julie several times, and each time I am pleased.

One morning, in my weak state of post call oblivion, I came across a coupon from Great Clips. It advertised a haircut at their salon for $6.99. I thought deeply about it, and in my sleepy recklessness decided to try it out. I rationalized that I had done the high end of the spectrum, why not try the low end? A completely different experience. Service was slow, the atmosphere lacking and the hairdresser, though asian, had long hair dyed a maroon brown with bangs that curled forward in acknowledgement of the early 80's. A little sceptical now, I had become afraid. But too proud to back away, I proceeded.

She washed my hair, not with the fevour of the $200 salon but a lacklustre scrub of the scalp. She sat me down and with dogged concentration began. It took her a half hour, she talked about being a refugee from Vietnam in Malaysia. At the end, she informed me that a blow dry would cost an additional $11. Taken a back, I decided against a blow dry, she dried most of it anyways. At the end of my haircut, I peered at myself in the mirror and scrutinized her efforts. It was good, really very good. Her name too was Julie. In the end, with my coupon and tip minus the blowdry, the haircut cost $14.99. The kicker?, she stamped a frequent haircut card, after the seventh haircut, I get one free!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cold Hands

The year is divided into blocks. Each block is about 28 days, give or take a couple of days. Most times this means seven call nights. Each night a hellish segway into sleep deprivation and cathecholamine overdrive. For some unknown reason, this month I've only been assigned five call nights. I'm on NICU (Nick-U) or the Neonatal ICU. I'm in charge of 7 neonates, not just babies... little ones even smaller than usual babies.

They sleep in incubators. Plastic covered shells with entry holes on the sides and fancy doodads all around so that the humidity can be controlled. They mostly lay in colourful fleeces or patterned flannel. Like tubular cigars in a humidor. Most incubators are covered by more fleece or sometimes a quilt. Made specially by little old ladies. They are beautiful - the quilts that is. Most neonates are not very cute. They lack the fat of infants and mew instead of cry. Sometimes when they are critically ill, the covers are off and the neonates lay under the plastic box in the cold fluorescent light. All the better for the nurses to view them. When they are this ill, I look on and watch them in the artificial light. Sometimes, I feel like I'm looking at puppies for sale behind a glass window, and watch their tiny fingers and toes. Most are on High Frequency Oscillation. Its a mode of ventilation that shakes oxygen and air into their tiny lungs. The hope is that high numbers of teeny tiny movements of gas provides less damage to the lungs than small numbers of high pressured breaths by a conventional ventilator. When on the oscillator, their chest wiggle and they seem to do a strange supine, wiggly jig.

I go around all day, worrying about these little critters. I'm scared I'm doing something wrong, they are so tiny. Little pieces of muscle, arteries and veins connected by neural tissue to make a living, breathing, much loved thing. I worry if I look at them in the wrong manner they will turn against me, and all day (or night if I'm on call), I'll be fighting against nature. I worry so much that most times I examine them several times throughout the day. Each time, I either wash my hands or use the hand sanitizer. Its called Micro-San and smells like alcohol but taste like bitter almonds. One pump..then two. Rub your hands together and then with fingers splayed, wave them around until they dry. Usually this means that the alcohol evaporates and my hands get cold. Shake them around and wave it in the air, then vigourously rub them together in the hopes that they warm up. Most incubators are warm and moist. The neonates need to be unfurled from their cocoon of spotty-plaid blankets. They all wear hats. I pick up the stethoscope and listen. On the oscillator, this is futile, all one hears is "chugga-chugga-chugga". Go through the movements anyways, then take a feel of the belly. Poor things, if they are not as ill they squiggle and squirm with my cold hands. I feel it must be torture to be unfurled from warmth and poked by cold hands. They squiggle and I persists. They are usually warm, this feels pleasant to my cold hands. I worry and am sad because each time I do this, each time I care to touch, I know my hands steal their heat.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Journey

I've never done this before. Shared what I was thinking on so open a page. It screamed of vanity and perhaps an ego yearning for others to lend an ear. But I've also never taken a journey like this before. A necessary evil...I think what everyone is doing.... a way to keep in touch. All good reasons. Alas, and such, I lose my anonymity and begin a sojourn into the world of Bloggers.

It all started over a year ago. It was really with a passing comment..."Do you speak French?".
With such a name as Desiree, one can't help but feel that I should. I've always been a little shy about my name. Such a grand name with a tinge of pretentiousness for a Malaysian such as myself, yet its also shaded by the glorious boobies of lap dancers and porn stars. Rather reminiscent of Napoleon's mistress, Desiree. But, I digress..

Lets begin again. The conversation could have ended there but with my curiosity I answered immediately, "no, why do you ask?", and that is where it all begins.

I'm currently in the fourth year of my Anesthesia Residency Program at the University of Calgary. Its been a hard go. Four years of my Bachelor's, then two years of my Master's (not that I would have it any other way), another four years of medical school and then a five year residency. I've been exhausted and living like a student for years. Through it all, I have retained a naive optimism. Always wanted to "help save the world" blah, blah, blah. In reality it sounds so sickeningly utopian, but in truth, its a silliness that I aspire to. Well, perhaps not to save the world but to at least "to return something". In my idealistic world, I've always wanted to go to Africa. I couldn't forsee that in my future, this could become a reality. Enter on stage left: A Trip to Rwanda.