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Lives of Doctor Wives: The Wretched Cytokines

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Wretched Cytokines

by: Tasha Priddy

I was in a band once. We called ourselves the Wretched Cytokines, and we named our first album Fluid in the Interstitial Spaces. The Wretched Cytokines had four members: my parents, my brother, and me, and we formed when my mom was in her first year of medical school. I was ten, my brother was eight, and my parents were great sports about taking breaks from work and studying to belt out Queen and Meat Loaf ballads in shaky four-part harmonies and imagine we were the greatest up-and-coming rock band the earth had ever seen.

The band never really amounted to much, which is why I've had to resort to being a medical groupie for almost half my life. My mom started medical school when I was in fifth grade and she graduated from her Family Practice residency just before my senior year of high school. I had a brief reprieve from all things medical during college, until I met a handsome, curly-haired history major who was preparing to take the MCAT. We got married a year later, and he is now starting his PGY-3 year in ortho, and our two sons and I are his biggest fans.

One thing I learned from my first medical school and residency experience is that your whole family goes through residency together, and that you might as well make it fun. When, in seventh grade, I made a comic book representation of a bean's journey through the digestive tract, my mom took it to show her classmates. As a teenager, I would study with my mom and we'd quiz each other on family medicine boards questions (her) and The Scarlet Letter (me). When Mom had to work holidays, my dad would pack up a yummy dinner or order a pizza and we'd crowd in the call room and eat together, with her pager providing an occasional distraction. For our after-school snack, Mom taught us how to peel our oranges and then how to suture them back together. And, memorably, when she learned about how the inner ear affects balance, my brother and I were her guinea pigs and she dripped cold water into our ears and had us attempt to walk in a straight line, and we all giggled when we couldn't do it.

As I go through round two of residency, I'm realizing how hard she worked, not just as a resident but as a mom, to make sure that we knew we were an important part of her life. And I'm grateful that my husband is willing to make the same sacrifices. Our kids are a little bit young for suturing and at-home dissections, but he never shies away from telling his kids what he really does at work, and teaches them while he does: our three-year-old recently took a tumble, and when I asked him if I could take a look at his knees, he said "you mean my patellas?" He puts his books away until the boys are in bed, and spends time snuggling, roughhousing, and reading with them, and makes sure they don't feel neglected.

I'll admit, when I met my handsome history major and he announced his intentions to become a doctor, I wasn't thrilled. I knew more about the process then than he did, and I knew exactly how long and painful it can be. I'm kind of embarrassed about feeling that way, though, because my mom's training was such a wonderfully defining part of my own life, and I loved (and still love!) having a Dr. Mom. Our children are already benefiting from my husband's training, and even though they're young, I hope they remember the thrill of eating birthday cake smuggled into the hospital, the joy of playing impromptu games of mini golf using bone models as clubs, and the fun of making new friends each July whose moms and dads are just like theirs.

So for those of you in residency, and particularly those of you who have children, make it fun. Eat in the call rooms. Teach your kids what their resident does at work, and let their Dr. Moms and Dads take their work home every now and then - just be aware, and I say this from personal experience, that if you bring a fetal pig home to dissect as a family project, your kitchen will stink for days. And I give you all official permission to form a Wretched Cytokines tribute band - may you have more success (and every bit as much fun) as we did.



Blogger Chey said...

Tasha - I do not normally comment on these posts but just had to this time. I went through a similar experience. I started 8th grade when my dad started med school. I was the oldest of 5 and my mom was a nurse that worked the 3-11 shift. There were a lot of adjustments and we did not fit the "normal" family mold but we made it fun!!!!! My husband decided on med school at an older age and we have 2 boys (that are eerily similar to my 2 younger brothers) which creates a very "Deja Vu" situation. We constantly remind ourselves to enjoy the process along the way!!!! You are so right it - this journey includes the whole family.
Wishing the best to you and your family.

July 8, 2014 at 2:22 PM  

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