Monday, April 30, 2012

Doing More with Less

The exam room in our makeshift clinic in Haiti

I'm a hospital nurse. If you come to my ER with a cough, I can check your white blood cell counts, x-ray your chest and culture your throat The doctor can send you home with an antibiotic, an expectorant, and an inhaler to help you breathe better.

It's great to have so many resources at our disposal, and when there's a true emergency we really need them. But sometimes I think that all of the diagnostic technology can make me a lazy nurse.  I don't need to listen to lungs if I have a chest x-ray. What does it matter what heart sounds the patient has when I have an EKG and cardiac enzymes? I really only need to hear enough of your symptoms in triage to figure out what labs to order.

So I really benefit by being involved in health care organizations where resources are limited. If I don't have a chest xray, I actually have to put my stethoscope on the patient and listen to his lungs.

Here in Gainesville, I volunteer at Helping Hands, a clinic for the homeless and people who have limited incomes and health care resources.  It was founded in 1989, and provides primary, psychiatric, and urgent care to clients. 

Image courtesy Helping Hands Clinic (
Helping Hands operates out of a church building. The space is clean and comfortable, but there is no x-ray, no lab, no EKG machine. If these services are needed, the patient must be referred to the Health Department.  The patient has to leave the clinic, obtain the diagnostics, and return the following week for treatment. It's necessary in many cases, but whenever possible, the providers at the clinic attempt to treat the patient based on what they see and hear.

Last November I was blessed to be included in a mission trip to Haiti. We worked with Aid for Haiti and traveled to the mountain village of Sankeyum (near Petit Goave) to set up a clinic. We were blessed with a well stocked pharmacy and translators, but little diagnostic equipment. We were left with our hands, our ears, and our stethoscopes to help us treat patients.

Michael, the field director for Aid for Haiti, setting up supplies
Despite our limited equipment (or maybe because of it), we treated over 400 patients in four days. This included two dental extractions and two minor surgeries on the dining room table.

Wade performing surgery, Billy assisting, Pastor Wilmont holding the flashlight and translating
I read a lot of Minimalist blogs, but I'm still not a minimalist- anyone who's seen the inside of my closet can attest to this. However, I've really benefited by getting involved with organizations that accomplish a lot with limited resources.  It's truly an inspiration to see the level of dedication and organization required to make it work. People don't say, "We can't do that." They say, "Let's see if we can make it work."

That positive, can-do attitude is contagious. If complaints could generate electricity, the entire hospital could be run off the words of the staff (mine included, sad to say). But out in the mountains of Haiti, where the surgeon is operating with the wrong size gloves and someone has to hold the flashlight because the generator stopped working, we all finish the day by giving thanks for what we could accomplish.

Do I think poor people in America deserve to have the same level of health care as everyone else? Absolutely. Do temporary clinics in the remote villages of Haiti adequately meet the medical needs of the people there? Not at all. But until these problems can be solved on a larger scale, I want to keep getting involved at the ground level. Because I want to help others have better lives, but also because it forces me to be a better nurse.

By the way, if you want to learn more about Helping Hands clinic, click here. And if you want to learn more about Aid for Haiti, click here. I can't say enough about these amazing organizations. I have been proud to donate time and money to both and would love to hear if you have been inspired to do the same.

So long for now, KISS (keep it simple stupid). Do you have any examples of times when you benefited from having less?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Getting Juicy

Raise a glass to Ma Nature for creating these awesome flavors!

I have a new toy that I absolutely LOVE! It's a Breville Juice Fountain, and I have been using it to create lots of healthy, delicious vegetable and fruit juice.

What happened is that I saw the movie Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, about two guys who were overweight and unhealthy, but turned their lives around with a 60 day fruit and vegetable juice fast.

I'm not planning to give up solid food or anything, but there was some logic to the idea that juicing the produce concentrates the nutrients. You could never eat a bunch of kale, a whole cucumber, some celery, two apples, and a lemon, but you can get most of the good stuff from the juice. Beth juices too, and says, "If I make some juice in the morning, I feel like I can do anything after." Our friend Kristi just got a juicer and she says she feels great. So I thought I could try making a little juice every day and see how I feel.

Really, how could you NOT feel good after drinking this?

So I don't know exactly what all these "toxins" are that I keep hearing people talk about, but they must be a thing. The first few days of juicing I was super tired and achy. Then suddenly I felt great, with lots of energy. The explanation from the movie is that the "toxins" hurt coming out more than they did going in. I would have thought I was low toxin- I eat lots of organic produce, mostly avoid processed food, and exercise regularly.  But when I thought about it, I realized that I live in a condo complex that sprays insecticide every month, and probably uses chemical fertilizer on the lawn. I run outside and sometimes get a face full of diesel exhaust from the buses. Sometimes I microwave food in plastic containers. And let's face it, there are lots of things in our food that aren't exactly food.  So I probably have some extra stuff to get rid of.

On work days I get home at about 8pm. I walk the dog, take a shower, and then I'm ready for dinner. It used to be a bowl of pasta or something equally starchy, accompanied by a glass (or two) of red wine. I knew that I didn't need that many calories so late in the evening, but it's really hard to have any willpower when I'm exhausted after a 12-hour day.

Now that I have my juicer, I have been making a glass of Mean Green Juice, which was featured in the movie, and drinking that for dinner. The juice is actually very filling, so I don't miss the solid food. It's also got a really strong flavor (I'm getting used to it), and I don't want wine with it. I think I'm sleeping more deeply and feeling more energetic during the day. Also, I have lost 3 pounds in the past 10 days!

So here are some of my favorite juice recipes:

Mean Green Juice- as featured in Fat Sick and Nearly Dead
*I got this off a blog called My Juice Cleanse, which has the best tag line ever: "Because Fruits and Vegetables Love You Back.

6 stems of kale
1 cucumber
4 stalks of celery
2 green apples
1/2 lemon
1 piece of ginger (I usually cut about a 1 inch piece)

Wash all of the produce, slice the end and the yellow rind off of the lemon (it's OK to leave the pith), cut the apple into chunks. Juice the kale first and then everything else.  Serve right away over ice or cover and refrigerate for later.

Carrot-Beet Juice
*Modified from this recipe I found on Food.Com

6-8 carrots
1 small beet
a 1 inch piece of ginger

Trim the ends off of the beet (no need to peel), and the tops off of the carrots. Juice half of the carrots, the beet, the ginger, and then the other half of the carrots.

Photos sans makeup are all the rage right now!

Morning Glory Juice
*My own concoction. I love it after a morning run

4 carrots
2 Granny Smith apples
a handful of strawberries
a 1-2 inch piece of ginger

Rinse everything well. Trim the tops off the carrots, cut the apples into chunks, and pull the leaves off of the strawberries. This stuff is like orange juice on steroids- sweet, tangy, and zippy from the ginger.

A quick word on produce- most of the websites that have juice recipes really encourage using organic produce. I can understand the logic, because if the pesticides are really harmful, then you concentrate them by juicing. On the other hand, it hurts my inner cheapskate to grind up a three dollar cucumber and produce a half cup of juice. So I'm going with a 50/50 strategy. Organic lemons and celery aren't much more expensive than conventional. I found some local organic kale at Wards (my very favorite local business), and it was the same price as the regular kale at Publix. It won't be in season much longer, so I'll probably go back to Publix when Wards stops carrying it. I always buy organic apples after hearing that they are the most pesticide-sprayed fruit, and anyway the organic ones taste much better. Organic carrots aren't too pricey. But conventional cucumbers are about 75 cents each and the organic ones are $2-3, so guess what goes into my juice? Ditto strawberries- I bought local berries this week but the organic were twice the price.  Organic ginger is pretty expensive, but you use such a small amount that it's worth the splurge.

By the way, don't toss the rind that you trim off the lemons. Add it to water or tea for a nice lemon flavor.

Ladybug optional, but adds protein

So long for now, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and try adding some extra produce to your day!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Getting Sweaty

I woke up this morning with a splitting headache. But that's okay because I have the cure...

See what I did there?
Exercise is hands down the best remedy for most of the things that make you want to skip your workout in the first place: headache, fatigue, grouchiness, anxiety, PMS, insomnia, hangover, bad day at work, bored snacking. I wish I had learned this years ago. I could have prevented hundreds of skipped workouts. I get a little sad thinking of the times I came home and watched TV instead of going to the gym. I usually felt just as terrible after, slept poorly that night, and started the whole process over again the next day.

I had a rough work weekend. I woke up hurting and exhausted even though I slept really late. I tried water, walking the dog, fruit, and coffee, but I still had the headache until five minutes after I got on the stepmill.

The concept of willpower is that doing something you don't want to right now will lead to greater rewards in the end. I thought about staying home and watching Mad Men in my sweats, but even that guilty pleasure would have been less enjoyable with a bad headache. Instead I put on my sports bra and got myself to the gym. I think my blood sugar got a little low while I was there, because I started fantasizing about Pop Tarts (I don't think I've had one of those in 15 years). Luckily I got to have a healthy sweet treat when I got home: a big glass of carrot-beet juice made in my new Breville juicer. More on that soon!

What I have finally learned is that I feel terrible when I skip workouts- I don't sleep well, I'm irritable and easily upset by little things, and I'm worn out and overwhelmed by life. It becomes a cycle because once I start feeling tired from lack of sleep and moody from lack of exercise endorphins, I have trouble getting the motivation to go to the gym. I had to get on that merry-go-round about a hundred times before I learned to avoid it.

My goal right now is to do some sort of physical activity every day that I'm off, and to ride my bike to work (an easy 15 minutes each way) most work days. I still skip days when I'm really tired, but most days I find something to do that involves breaking a sweat. Really, exercise is the cheapest antidepressant/sleep aid/ diet drug you can get.

One quick disclaimer from your friend the nurse: if you are legitimately sick- fever, vomiting or diarrhea, productive cough- you should stay home, rest and hydrate instead. Getting sweaty and tachycardic when you're sick might result in passing out and falling off the elliptical machine. Rule of thumb- if the problem is above your Adam's apple, you can work out. Take a day off for anything below that.

So long for now, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and get out there and get sweaty. Everything will seem better when you're done.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Getting Out There

Have you been to yet? You should go!

What I love about the Internet is that it provides tons of opportunities to meet and interact with people you might never run into otherwise. You can hang out with people who have completely different jobs, live in different parts of town, and have totally different home and family lives.

My friend Rachel gets the credit for turning me on to Meetup. She found a "Dining and Nightlife Enthusiasts" group on the website and got me involved.

We have both been participating with the group for about 8 months now. The people involved are awesome- energetic, adventurous, intelligent, and well rounded. Almost every weekend there is something to do. We have been to parties, tried new restaurants, listened to music, looked at art, and tasted beer.

Beer tasting at the Gainesville House of Beer
Back in January, I made a resolution to say yes to more invitations and opportunities. I'm a bit of a homebody, but I found that I was staying in more than I really wanted and not having enough fun. Becoming more active in Meetup has been a big part of filling up my calendar. My every other weekend work schedule means that I miss some events I would like to attend, but it also means that I value my free weekends that much more. Lately they are packed full of activities and friends.

It can be really hard to get out and meet new people, and often the people you know are similar to you. You might work together or attend church together or go to the same gym. It's great to spend time with friends that have a lot in common with you, but the downside is that you might have too much in common. Do you spend a lot of time talking shop with your work friends over drinks? Maybe it's time to get some fresh perspectives in your social circle!

If your social routine is in a rut (or even if it's not), try checking out the Meetup groups in your area.  There are so many out there that you're bound to find one that interests you. And if not, you could try starting your own!

So long for now, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and take advantage of the Internet as a way to find new friends that you might not meet any other way.
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