Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Saga of Bjorn

For a baby gift, my sister Cathy and her husband Tim bought us something they felt would be extremely useful: a "Baby Bjorn", a baby carrier device which is apparently quite popular with parents worldwide (geez, I sound like an adverisement).

They bought this thing back in late June and attempted to send it to us in Paris. When it didn't show after several weeks, we determined that the package had made it all the way to French customs, then had mysteriously disappeared. For several months, we assumed that it had been stolen by some French customs agent who was either in need of a stylish baby carrier or who intended to sell it in the shady underworld of the baby product blackmarket. We were all pleasantly shocked when it showed up returned to my sister's house a few days ago. Anyways, she rapidly sent the package out to us in Boston, and now we're proud owners of the Baby Bjorn. I even figured out how to put it together after only 30 minutes!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Happy 2-Month-Old Birthday, Sophie!

Tomorrow (Aug. 28th) will be Sophie's two-month anniversary. And as the photo shows, she's very happy about it! She was very good tonight when we went out to dinner at a restaurant in nearby Cleveland Circle.

Since we haven't done so in awhile, how about a "French Word of the Day"? Today's word comes to us courtesy of Nicolas Sarkozy's latest scandal, and that word is "poignet d'amour", which is translated as "love handle." Apparently one of Sarkozy's supporters at the popular magazine Paris Match had airbrushed out the French president's love handles in photos accompanying an article describing Sarkozy's recent vacation in nearby New Hampshire.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Freedom Trail

Boston as a city was founded in 1630, and although that's nothing compared to French history dating back to the Gauls and Romans, for America that's old. Since it's a glorious weekend off for me, we decided to do some Boston touristy stuff and yesterday walked "The Freedom Trail", a brick path which meanders through the old part of downtown Boston and past several historic monuments. Some photos from our day:

We started our journey with a quick nap on the Boston Common.
Sophie confronted by a statue of a donkey.

Later on we were joined by my friend Keith "Sleazy K" Obstein, one of our many friends from my residency program in Philadelphia who is now living in Boston.

The golden dome of the Massachusetts State House at night.
It's not officially part of the Freedom Trail, but the "Cheers" bar (where everybody knows your name) is right next door.
And just in case you forgot which city we're living in...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

License to Grill

So one of the main reasons I chose my apartment in Boston was a sentence in the advertisement on Craig's List which said, "balcony, ideal for grilling." I bought a brand-new Weber grill and had already fired up the BBQ pit twice this month. On Friday night, I had my friends Tom, Lisa, and Heidi (friends from medical school now living in Boston) come over for some Nate-style BBQ'ed burgers and brats.

Just as the coals were hot enough to start grilling, we started hearing some sirens. Lots of sirens. Then a few minutes later, some fire trucks made an appearance in front of our apartment. "Uh, Nate, I think they might be here for us," said Tom from the living room. Not long after there were six strapping firemen in our living room, fully equipped with their huge axes and fire extinguishers.

It turns out that, despite my landlord's ad on Craig's List and despite the fact that nearly every other balcony in the apartment is equipped with a similar grill which I doubt is merely decorative, it's apparently illegal to grill within Boston city limits. Bummer. So the evening finished with some depressingly cooked-in-the-pan meat. Oh well. Amazingly, Sophie slept through the entire shenanigans.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Nephrologic Procedures

There are two main procedures which I will be carrying out this year as a nephrology fellow. Today was significant in that I did my first of each of the two procedures. First, there is the kidney biopsy: this consists of shooting a small gun-like device containing a long, hollow-bore needle into somebody's back in order to obtain a tiny morsel of kidney tissue with which to look at under a microscope. It's important for making a diagnosis in people whose kidneys are failing but we don't know why. Second, there's the dialysis catheter. This is kind of like an iv that you would put into a vein, except it's a ginormous, scary large-bore tube you need for dialysis. Anyways, with one of each procedure under my belt, I'm well on my way to becoming one bad-ass nephrology fellow.

A few more Sophie photos:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

On Call...

So I'm on the fellow on-call tonight at Mass General Hospital. As I've mentioned before, being "on-call" typically involves fielding telephone calls from home and giving advice. However, if there's a true emergency, it may be required for me to head into the hospital and do my dialysis thang. Which is precisely what I'm doing now, at just after midnight on a Wednesday-going-into-Thursday night!

The situation: within 30 minutes of arriving home, I get the a page from one of the docs in the Emergency Room stating that a regular dialysis patient (he gets dialysis for 4 hours, 3 times a week: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday--a pretty normal schedule) came in because he felt weak, and his potassium was 8.1 (that's really high). Why was his potassium high? Because he didn't show up for one of his dialysis appointments this week. Why is this a problem? Because a potassium that high can in fact result in fatal heart rhythms if not treated immediately, in this case with dialysis. Is it fair that I (or any other doctor or nurse for that matter) should have to come in late at night to dialyze this guy because he didn't feel like going to dialysis this week? I won't answer that question, because I've already decided that as I don't have much control over these issues as a fellow, there's no point in getting bent out of shape over them. But it is certainly a philosophical question for another time...
Here's to hoping a get some sleep in the call room tonight...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Nate's Guide To Boston Sports

As I've been settling into being a Bostonian, I've given a lot of thought as to what my attitude should be towards its local sports teams. Generally, whenever I've moved to a new city, I've adopted its local sports of my friends would always tease me that I claim more "home teams" than anybody he's ever known. For instance, I've been known to support the Vikings (grew up in Minnesota), the Rams (spent 7 years in St. Louis including their lone Super Bowl victory), the Eagles (tough to live in Philly without rooting for the Iggles), and the Colts (this one's a stretch--my parents live there, and they happen to have a good team right now). Now I have to figure out whether or not to adopt the New England sports teams into my legion of home teams. These are big decisions. Here's what I've decided so far:

1. Basketball: the Boston Celtics. Decision: I'm in! For one, things are happenin'. The Celts have signed one of the members of the All-Nate Team in former Minnesota Timberwolf Kevin Garnett (in a deal brokered by none other than Hibbing, MN native Kevin McHale), which is going to be as exciting as hell. They also have Ray "Jesus Shuttlesworth" Allen (probably an All-Nate Second Teamer if I ever got around to making one up) joining up with quality forward Paul Pierce, and it's going to be great to see how this fantasy lineup meshes. I also don't feel too guilty about hopping on the Celtics bandwagon, since I had definitely committed to rooting for the Celts during their epic 80s rivalry with the LA Lakers.

2. Baseball: the Boston Red Sox. I've decided I'm going to take a stand against the Bosox, no matter how hard it's going to be. I would feel a little hypocritical rooting for the Red Sox given that I've spent the past few years openly rooting for their collapse (in part due to my Yankees-crazy friend from residency, Dave Portnoy). I'm not sure why I feel this way--by all accounts, it's a good group of guys and Lord knows the team has had their share of bad luck. But I've always felt that the Red Sox fans were a little full of themselves, and besides they don't really need another member of Red Sox Nation, they have enough. I'm going to be secretly rooting against them to collapse as we approach the pennant stretch coming up...

3. Football Americain: the New England Patriots. The jury's out on the Pats for me. On the plus side, they also seem like a good group of guys, they've had success without overpaying for asshole superstars, and (in another link to Minnesota sports) they have signed former Vikings WR Randy Moss to a contrast. On the other hand, they were responsible for spoiling the St. Louis Rams' second Super Bowl attempt and perhaps they've enjoyed a little too much success. I'll see how I feel as the season progresses as to whether or not I'm going to count the NE Patriots as my fifth "home team."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Breaking the Golden Rule

I am reluctant and saddened to announce that I have recently broken one of my "golden rules" of medicine. During residency, I made the decision that I would not, under any circumstances, wake up before 5am. Of course, there were times when I was already on-call working and/or sleeping in the hospital during which I was busy before 5 am....but you always knew that the end of your 30-hour shift was coming up, and with that complete and utter freedom for the next half-day at least.

Things are a bit different this year. I no longer have to spend the night in the hospital when I am on-call (I can field phone calls from my home and attempt to problem-solve while discussing with residents working in the hospital), for which I am certainly grateful. However, the dialysis unit officially opens for business at 6:30 each morning, and I need to make certain that all my orders are in before that time on a constant stream of kidney patients. Coupled with the fact that it takes me about 40 minutes or so to make it in using "the T" (Boston's tram/subway system), I have already on one occasion broken THE GOLDEN RULE, in which I woke up at 4:45 am. I am hoping that I will not be in flagrant violation of this rule too many other times this year...

On the plus side: when I come home, Sophie (who has been smiling a lot more recently!) is there to cheer me up!

PS--in case I don't have time to blog tomorrow: Happy Birthday to Claire on Aug. 20th!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Just What the Hell Is A Fellowship Anyways?

So today was my first day of my Renal Fellowship. I'm now officially a MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital) Fellow. What the hell does this mean?

I always was slightly confused by the terminology as a kid (and I was certainly around it a lot, as my father is also a kidney doctor). He would talk about "this fellow I was working with today", and I thought he was referring to "the fellow" much as he would "the guy I was working with today" or "the dude I was working with today." It was not until much later that I realized that "the fellow" was an established academic position...

Anyways, here's how "the fellowship" fits into the whole medical training: I finished my Internal Medicine residency of three years in Philadelphia--at the end of that period, I had a choice: I could either go directly into practice as a general practitioner, or I could choose to "subspecialize" in something specific, in my case, nephrology (the study of kidneys). The fellowship in nephrology lasts 3-4 years during which you see patients with kidney disease and perform research related to kidney disease. So I'm going to see a hell of a lot of kidneys over the next few years...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Final Day of Freedom

Today's my last day of freedom...tomorrow I start my fellowship, at the Massachusetts General Hospital. More on that later, for now: a few pics of our first family stroll in Boston. We went to Boston Common (the large public park downtown).

Statue of George Washington in the park:
Massachusetts State House with cool golden dome.

There was a big "India Day Celebration" next to the Charles River.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Local Businesses

It feels like we never even left Paris..."Paris Cleaners" is a few blocks away, next to a Payless Shoe store.

We also found a "European-style bakery" within walking distance. However, it's worth noting that the baguette was about US$2 (in France it's 80 centimes) and the eclairs were a prohibitively expensive US$3 (probably would run you about 1.60 euros in France). I wonder if I could have fresh pastries shipped to me each morning from my favorite bakery just outside of metro Falguiere?

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Oh yeah, and on my long road trip from Indianapolis to Boston, I managed to stop in to see my sister Susie's opera, which was through the Glimmerglass Opera Company in Cooperstown, New York. The opera was great--"Orpheus and the Underworld", a comedic operetta by Jacques Offenbach, and by far the most engaging and least snooze-inducing opera I've seen thus far--but in addition to that it also afforded me the opportunity to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame!

In all my experience with the French people I have met thus far, I have yet to meet one who was not either completely appalled or utterly indifferent to the concept of baseball. I have to say that to some extent, I can see their point of view: the game itself has less moments of action than, say, football or basketball, and the rules can seem quite bizarre to outsiders not familiar with the game. However, having grown up in a world of baseball cards, wiffle ball, and every regular season Chicago Cubs baseball game available on WGN--I have to admit that I was legitimately thrilled to visit the Hall of Fame and reminisce about my childhood heroes. On to the pics:

Doubleday Field, the alleged site of the first-ever baseball game.
If this isn't a blog-worthy photo, I don't know what is: outside the Hall of Fame there's a wax museum featuring likenesses of baseball greats. In a brilliant marketing ploy, the statue they have showcased to lure people into the museum is a wax statue of George Castanza in a Yankees uniform. (And as any true Seinfeld buff would know, this is clearly an allusion to the time that George intentionally tries to get fired from his job with the Yankees by intentionally spilling food on a historic Babe Ruth jersey he removed from the display case).
The weekend prior to our visit, it was the Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Cal Ripken, Jr and Tony Gwynn. Perhaps I should have dug up their rookie cards from my collection (being stored at my parents' house, of course) and tried to capitalize on the hype...
A feature on one of my favorite all-time players, Ozzie Smith of the St. Louis Cardinals. (If you squint hard, you can also see other members of the famous 80's St. Louis teams, including E.T.-look-a-like Willie McGee).
The First 5 Inductees of the Baseball Hall of Fame (in 1936) are not obvious: You've got your Babe Ruth, your Ty Cobb, your Honus Wagner. The pitchers are Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. Why wasn't Cy Young (whose name is synonymous with pitching excellence) chosen instead of one of these two?
Museum's entrance.

Our New Home

Okay, so after about an hour we finally figured out how to download photos from our digital camera to her newish Mac laptop. Everytime I struggle with trying to figure out something on the Mac, I say to Claire in a tone of unbridled sarcasm, "It's a good thing that Macintoshes are so easy to use!" Perhaps it's more a function of my unfamiliarity with a different system, but suffice it to say I've been using that expression quite frequently recently...

But anyways--pics of our new apartment in Brighton are now up. It's a two-bedroom on the 4th floor, and finally most of the cardboard boxes are beginning to disappear. Fortunately, my mom (seen here with her favorite granddaughter) was there to help with the unpacking.

Sophie surveys the living room in her new little chair.
The bookshelves I made out of 2x4's and concrete blocks during grad school is still alive and well.

Long hallway leading to kitchen and entrance.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Settling In

Yo, we're here in Boston.

This is my first blog entry since leaving Paris to come to the U.S. The delay in my blogging is unfortunately likely to suffer as long as I am living out of cardboard boxes and unpacked suitcases in our as-yet internet-less apartment. But hopefully not too much longer...

The good news: The apartment in Brighton is nice (pics to follow), Sophie is up to 5kg in weight and looking like a movie star (left--photo actually was taken in LaBaule with her uncle Olivier just before leaving France), I am now the proud owner of Massachusetts license plates (adventures at the DMV--I'm beginning to rethink my stance on bureaucracy being more of a problem in French culture than in American culture), and I still have about 6 days of "vacation" during which I can continue to sort things out before beginning my fellowship on the Mass General Kidney Transplant Service on Aug. 15th.