Friday, December 31, 2010


I love my job. Not in a brown-nosing, hope my boss reads this sort of way, but in the truest sense. There are days and moments when it is rough and I get frustrated, but there are other moments that make it totally worthwhile. On the list of things I am thankful for this year, my job is definitely there. I love interacting with my patients (I had a guy this week who was in the Army stationed in the Dominican Republic when Castro tried to take over- he told me all about it), love helping them and their families understand what is going on (sometimes "Translating" doctor-speak into layman's terms), and sometimes actually walking away feeling like I saved a life. Not only that, but I feel valued by the hospital where I work.

I work with 12+ doctors, and equate dealing with them to dealing with my kids. Not any comment on their maturity- just on the fact that they all have different personalities and different preferences in their medical treatment of patients. (Just like I know which of my children won't eat mushrooms or drink milk, I know which cardiologist prefers which medication in a given situation). It takes some work to get them all figured out, but after 5 years I feel like the code has been cracked.

There are the mundane daily moments, but then there are the moments that make my job so incredibly rewarding. These are the moments when I couldn't imagine doing anything else. I had a conversation with one of our ICU nurses the other day. We were talking about patients at the end of life. In our hospital, we see a lot of elderly patients (if I don't see three people age 90 or older in a given day, it is an unusual day). Many of them live independently, and are very functional. At the same time, many have "DNR" (Do Not Resuscitate or Allow Natural Death) wishes. In light of the odds of a successful recovery after CPR at age 90+, this is pretty reasonable for most of our patients. This means that we deal with a lot of patients at end of life, many of whom have very peaceful passings. We fight as hard as we can up until the point they opt for just care, or the point where their bodies tell us it is time.

In our conversation, we talked about working with patients and their families during end of life. Sometimes they can be challenging. Then you step back and remind yourself that this is our daily experience, while this is the biggest event/crisis in this family's life at this point in time...perhaps ever. Sometimes you can help them through it with compassion, but without getting emotionally attached. Occasionally, there are those patients and families who find their way into your heart. You stop by to check on them one last time before you go home for the day, you go home thinking about them, your heart sinks when you find out they have passed away. Even though the clinical part of your brain knows that it was their time, you feel immense sadness that you couldn't do more.

I met Mr. B two years ago. Without sounding cocky, I helped as a part of our team to save his life. It was a group effort, and he was in the hospital for over a month. He could be very opinionated, but for some reason we clicked and he was always wonderful to me. He never gave me a hard time. I got to know his family very well, and came to look forward to seeing them. He was back a couple of times over the past two years, but never quite as sick or for quite as long. When I saw his daughter last week in the elevator, she told me it was time. Instead of walking to my car, where I was headed, I went to see him. He was awake, his vital signs looked decent, and his first comment was "You changed your hair since last time I saw you." (Really? He noticed that?) I was able to check in on him a couple of times a day, and he declined a bit between each visit. I went home thinking about him and his family every day. My husband was extremely supportive when I came home one day particularly down because he and his family were weighing on my mind. I was saddened to hear of his passing on Christmas Day, and even more disappointed that the stomach flu kept me from his funeral this week. If we were affected in this way by every patient, we could never do our jobs. Though if this didn't happen every once in a while, we wouldn't be good at our jobs.

So to the speechless part...I got a phone call at work on Monday from a co-worker to make sure I read Mr. B's obituary. I had been looking for it anyway to get details on his funeral arrangements. After the information about his wonderful family and the memorial service, I was floored to read this. "In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made in honor of Kiersten Henry's dedicated friendship and care to St. Luke's Episcopal Church" In the face of all his family had to deal with, they were thanking me for the small part I played in his care. Yes, I checked in on him and looked out for him, but his family was there day and night with him, surrounding him with love. Moments like these remind me why I love my job- because sometimes a kind word and some compassion make all the difference in the world.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Today I was standing in the greeting card section at the drug store. I have a tendency to be a bit of a sap (read: I cry at EVERYTHING). So I'm standing there looking for a card for my husband, getting all choked up as I read them. I don't think it is that the cards are so amazingly well-written, they just articulate feelings I already have. So I'm standing amidst the tinsel and getting choked up. Did I mention I am a sap?

On that note, I had to share a very funny exchange that occurred last night after my 8 year old and I went to the grocery store. To set the context, my kids have been watching "The Santa Clause" movies this week. In the movies, the fireplace stretches magically to allow Santa to get into the house, then snaps back to its original form. Pretty cool.

So here we are in the car...
S: "Does it hurt to have a baby?"
Me: "Well, it was a lot of work, but totally worth it."
S: "Oh"
Me: "Do you understand how babies come out of their Moms?" (We've talked around this before, but never broken out the diagrams. My Mom once explained it and my son piped up "Ewwwwww.that is esgusting!")
S: "They come out your bellybutton" (Uh oh, here we go).
Me: "Not exactly. Do you understand how babies are made?"
S: "Blah Blah Blah (relatively accurate and detailed explanation)...Sperm...Blah blah blah"
Me: (Did my 8 year old just use the word sperm?????? Next she will be spelling "gestation" for me!!!) "That is about right. Where did you learn all that?"
S: "I read it in a book."
Me: "Really? What book?"
S: "I don't remember. It was at the church book sale."
Me: (Thinking to myself "You can't make this stuff up!"). (Provide explanation of where babies actually come out of the body)
S: "How does that work?"
Me:"Well, the bones move, things stretch, and then they go back to where they belong."
S: (Ponders.....) "Oh, like Santa coming through the fireplace in the movie. Got it. Can I have dessert when we get home?"

How come these conversations never happen for Tommy?????

Monday, December 20, 2010

Keeping the Christmas Magic

I feel thankful this year that my 8-year-old still believes in Santa. I can tell she is fighting hard to keep believing. She is a smart cookie, and she knows there are some inconsistencies, but she keeps on believing. Even in the face of friends who tell her that they don't believe in Santa, she keeps believing. I tell her "I guess they won't be getting a present from Santa, then."

Where is "Myths and Fables and Good Parenting for Dummies?" when you need it? We were watching the Santa Clause 2 last night, and my 4 1/2 year old was quizzing me about the tooth fairy. "Is our tooth fairy a Boy or a Girl?" "Where does our tooth fairy live?" and on....and on.... The pressure of answering these questions is almost as bad as worrying about your kids growing up to be fine, upstanding citizens one day. No one wants to ruin all the little hopes and dreams these guys have. The upside is, I'm confident my daughter will help keep her brother believing once she finds out Santa is more a spirit than a person.

So this brings me to the seasonal struggle. My children are fortunate to have a home, food, a good school. How do you balance allowing them to enjoy the magic of the season, without letting them get spoiled by all of it? I would like to think we do a good job, but I did jump on last night for the "one last thing" that I heard both of them mention. There are no tantrums, no demands, just nicely printed lists and requests. (My daughter's list was only 3 items so she could help ensure that she got what she wanted).

To keep the spirit of the season in mind, we have always donated toys to local charities. The kids see the toys, help pack them up, and understand where they are going. I hope this instills them with the idea that Christmas is just as much about giving as it is about receiving. This year, a friend of mine has been very involved in the Toy Drive for children hospitalized at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Her own son went through multiple surgeries there after his birth last year, and now she is paying it forward. We got to hand off our big bag of toys to one of her elves yesterday, and hope they bring lots of smiles to the kids at CNMC. Thank you Leigh-Ann for being selfless (I don't know how you find the time for this, but I'm glad you did).

So what is the right answer? My kids will have the gifts they hope for under the tree this year, but I hope we have helped them to see that there is so much more to this season. I guess only time will tell. (So far, they are both on the "Nice" list).
Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Road to Recovery

The last couple of months have been a bit rough. Even as I type that, I know that friends are going through much "rougher", more life-changing events right now. I've had some crappy moments, but they are all in the "this too shall pass" category. All things that I can see to the other side of. Will they shape the fabric of my life from here on? Of course. (Do I sound like a commercial for cotton? maybe). Have I really processed my ectopic pregnancy and the loss that went with it? I don't think so. It was such a surreal experience from start to finish that it seems like it happened to someone else. For me, being open about things helps tremendously. Others prefer to keep things to themselves, and I fully respect that.

When I felt good enough to get back on my bike/in the pool/ out for a run, I realized my knee was still a problem. So here I sit, ice machine flowing, after arthroscopy to fix a torn meniscus. It was torn in three places. No wonder it freaking hurt!

I also sit here looking forward. I look forward to starting PT tomorrow. I look forward to thinking about my first race. I have kept my 2011 schedule very open, so that I can see how recovery goes. I am thankful to have an orthopedist who gets athletes, and knows I want to be back out there.

Even more, I am thankful for all the love and support from friends, family, and teammates. I am on the road to recovery, and I can't wait to pound some serious pavement.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


When you use the word "Angel", sometimes the stereotypical, ethereal being with halo and wings comes to mind. To me, an angel can be someone who comes along at the right moment, just when you need them, to lend a hand. It is simple as the woman who stopped a few years ago when my son was having a meltdown in the parking lot and carried my pizzas to my car for me. This allowed me to pick up my son (who was trying to lay down in the road), and not deposit my pizzas all over the asphalt.

Being home after surgery has led to a lot of reflection. A lot has gone on in the past few months, but I feel like I am in a great place. One of the reasons for this is that I have so many wonderful people in my life. There are those who we probably take for granted. My husband Tommy is amazing. There is a reason I married him. He is my best friend, and has been there at every moment when I've needed him. Even if we weren't quite on the same page, we were trying to get there together. He dropped everything at work to be there for me when I was unexpectedly in the hospital. (In his field, dropping everything is a little more complicated than some).

There are people in our lives that we probably take for granted. Our spouses, parents, siblings (their spouses)...they jump in when you need them most. My family has been amazing. I'm so thankful for their love and support.

Sometimes the "angels" are those people who come to lend a hand at an unexpected moment, from an unexpected place. A wise woman I know told me recently that sometimes people are put in our lives for a reason. I was totally overwhelmed by the unexpected people who reached out to me when I needed them. People who shared their own stories, those who sent me notes or an encouraging email (or a "something borrowed" to help me get through), those who brought me food in the hospital (who knew Nerds would be the one thing that helped my nausea?), those who made dinner despite dealing with so much in their own lives.... I only hope that I can return the kindness one day.

My experiences of late have given me greater appreciation for...
Random acts of kindness
My family
Taking a moment to do something that might seem small, but will brighten another person's day
The little things

Friday, December 10, 2010


While it is very cliche, I think we would all agree that families come in all forms. I am fortunate to have a wonderful "biological" family. In addition, I have wonderful friends I consider my family.

Some of them are new friends. I am so excited to get to know the new members of the Team Trakkers family (more on that to come soon). Through work and the sport of triathlon, my extended family has grown.

This week I was reminded that sometimes the closest friends aren't those we necessarily talk to on a regular basis. Nadia and I grew up together. I was 3 and she was 2 when we met. We lived on the same court, and literally had the run of a large neighborhood for over a decade. We were complete "pool rats" in the summer (endless games of Sharks and Minnows, and hide and go seek when the pool closed). There were countless sleepovers (including the time she and I camped out on her kitchen floor when my Mom was in labor at the hospital with my sister Meredith). She has a large family, and I was considered one of the gang. I was always at family functions, and her uncles teased me just as much as they did her.

April 1981 (Ages 4 and 5)

We saw each other less in our teenage years, but were fortunate to reconnect as adults. We have daughters who are actually two weeks apart in age. It has been so great to get together with our girls, which is like looking back 20 years. This week, I had the occasion to see Nadia's family every day. Do you ever have that total feeling of warmth and "home" when you see someone who brings with them fond memories? Seeing all of these people who were like a second family to me is like going to a reunion. I can't do the feeling justice, but it just feels reassuring. A lovely reminder that some bonds are stronger than time, the hectic pace of life, or anything else. I'm so thankful for such wonderful people in my life.

The next generation

Friday, December 3, 2010


5:15 am- The alarm goes off so I can swim
Motivated Me- "Get up, Sleepy Head"
Unmotivated Me- "There is a reason they invented the snooze button. You can cycle
on the trainer tonight."
Motivated Me- "When have you EVER felt like a workout on a Friday evening?
Fridays are always crazy at work."
Unmotivated Me- Saaahhhnooooozzzzzzeee
7 minutes later...Motivated Me wins out.

90 minutes later, after a glorious 30 minute swim (my first in over a month), I'm showered and pulling up in the driveway. Crap! The same lights are on as when I left. Are the kids still sleeping??? (Insert stress here). Tommy was going to get them up. I walk in the door and there are my awesome kids. They woke up for their alarm, are both dressed and getting their shoes on. I can talk, cajole, yell, stomp my feet, and it never happens this smoothly. Not only did they get themselves up and dressed, but they also got their Dad up. (He is a fan of "Snooze", too).

Work was great. Fridays are always crazy, but I was reminded that I have so many awesome friends, and I love my job! I think the workout this morning just seriously altered my perspective. Even the call from the orthopedist saying I have a torn meniscus and need surgery didn't put me in a bad mood. I'm hoping it will fix my pain and I can be back stronger in 2011 (my physician colleagues said I should ask for bionic parts while I am at it).

Murphy's Law on Fridays is that we will get lots of cardiac patients in the Emergency Department at 3pm. True to form, we had three. We got through them, had a nice time working with our ED staff, and I got out to buy birthday balloons for my daughter (am I seriously old enough to have an 8 year old???).

Dinner tonight was the Bday girl's we went to Sakura (the local Japanese Steakhouse). We had a blast, the kids were great, and there was cheesecake with a candle and "Happy Birthday".

It doesn't get better. Sure, my knee will hopefully get better, my fitness will get better, but LIFE. IS. GOOD.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Rev 3 Portland

Want a family-friendly 70.3 race on the West Coast? Check out Rev 3 Portland. After racing Rev3 Quassy and Cedar Point, I can attest to the fact that Rev 3 puts on an awesome race!