Friday, May 17, 2013

The College Story: Part Four

Good Evening!
I want to take a moment 
and thank my readers who have been following this story.
I won't pretend that this has been a very interesting story for you to read.
I'm sure you have much more important things to be doing
than reading the story of my college days.
That being said, I really do appreciate those of you 
who have been following this story from the beginning.
Thank you for letting me tell my story
and caring enough to hear what I have to say.
I do not take your listening ears lightly.
Sincerely...From the bottom of my heart...
THANK YOU.

Now, to continue
...and, this is where my story gets scary
...at least, it's scary to me...

When I had received my Phlebotomy Certificate (Spring 2011),
I was repeatedly asked if I was going to have a graduation party.
My answer was always the same, 
"No, this is only my 'fake' graduation. 
I'm going to wait until my graduation from the (Radiography) Program to have a HUGE party."
I also joked about throwing an 
"I-FINALLY-GOT-INTO-RADIOGRAPHY" party.
That's how excited and RELIEVED I was to FINALLY "see the light at the end of the tunnel".
You have no idea how irritating it is 
for people to ask you how much longer you're going to be in school
and to HONESTLY NOT KNOW WHAT TO TELL THEM
(I started deflecting the question with 'humor',
"Oh, the rest of my life").
But, NOW, I could finally visualize the end of the race!
The Radiography Program at ICC is two years long.
I started in August 2011.
That meant that graduation was going to be July 2013.
I was ECSTATIC to begin the X-Ray "race"!
But I DIDN'T HAVE A CLUE what I was in for...

Looking back on it all now,
Radiography was...an unprecedented challenge in my life.
I had never faced up to anything quite like it before.
Have you ever been faced with a series of obstacles 
and asked yourself these questions, 
"Are these obstacles here as challenges for me to overcome?
Or are they warning signs telling me this isn't the right path?"
 That's exactly where I was with Radiography.
From the start, I faced one obstacle after another.
(I guess, technically, the first challenge was just getting accepted into the Program...)
Some of them were...just plain stupid.

A few days before classes began
I went to the bookstore (like a good, little student) to purchase all my required textbooks.
I had my class list in hand and - since I didn't trust myself to read the Greek written there upon -
I asked a bookstore employee to help me locate my textbooks. 
The lady took me directly to the corner of the store I needed to be in 
and proceeded to hand me a ONE textbook and ONE manilla envelope
and then smiled and said, "There you go!"
Being my normal, naive self,
I completely believed she knew what she was talking about,
paid the bill and left.
On the day classes began,
I showed up lacking the THREE MAIN TEXTBOOKS REQUIRED FOR MY CLASS.
(Seriously, am I the only person this kind of stuff happens to?)
Thank the Lord I wasn't penalized for not having the books!
My instructor simply sent me to the bookstore 
during the class break to get the rest of the materials.

A more serious obstacle came into play 
when I began my clinical rotations at Methodist Hospital in October 2011.
 I mentioned in a previous post that I took a Basic EMT class at ICC
while I waiting to be accepted into Radiography.
During that class, I discovered the hard way that I have a Latex sensitivity.
(Notice! I said "sensitivity...NOT ALLERGY
Apparently, there is a significant difference.)
During an EMT skill station practice,
I had grabbed a pair of latex medical gloves
and used them throughout the skill station.
I noticed that my knuckles were beginning to itch,
but I just shrugged it off thinking my hands were sweating.
However, when I removed the gloves at the end of the skill station,
my knuckles were swollen and red and burning/itching.
I showed my instructor and he confirmed it looked like a reaction to the latex.
I went to see my personal physician and he tested me for the latex allergy.
The test came back negative
but he told me IN WRITING that I should still avoid using latex gloves
as a person can "come down" with the latex allergy 
after being exposed to it for long periods of time.
He was the first person I had ever heard use the term "Latex sensitivity".

When I began my Radiography clinical rotations,
naturally I shared this information with my clinical instructors right away.
I even had a note from my physician for them to keep in my student file.
I don't know what I expected them to say (again, this is me being naive),
but I DID NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES,
expect the answer I received.
My clinical instructor looked me in the eye and said, 
"Sarah, if you have a latex allergy or sensitivity, 
you probably should reconsider Radiography 
and think about another career outside of the medical field."

I honestly felt as if I had been slapped.
To this day, I can't remember how I responded to that advice.
I'm sure I must have had a dumbfounded look on my face,
but I don't know what I said.
Some kind of compromise must've been reached
since I continued to go to clinicals and NOT wear latex gloves.
In retro spect, I suppose I took that scenario as a challenge to be overcome
rather than a warning sign that this was not the path for me.
I didn't want to be seen as a quitter.
I had made up in my mind and even said aloud to my fellow X-Ray students,
"If 'they' want me out of this program, 
'they' are going to have to throw me out kicking and screaming."
That resolve was put to the test over the course of the next few months.

My first few months of clinicals (approximately October through February),
I REALLY STRUGGLED.
I didn't know if I could make it.
 My WONDERFUL Pastor offered me a sympathetic ear
and great advice during this time that persuaded me to keep trying.
My Pastor and his LOVELY wife along with one of my favorite church ladies!
I liked what I was learning in the classroom
and enjoyed putting it into use in the hospital setting.
I LOVED the fact that X-Ray is a science and an art form!
However, I DID NOT have a good relationship 
with my clinical instructors at this point.
(Ask any student of the medical profession, 
a good relationship with your clincial instructors is VITAL for success.)

On January 25, 2012,
I posted on my Facebook (don't you just love that FB has that kinda memory? haha)
"I'm going to be honest...I've really been struggling with school and clinicals lately...
just feeling really stressed out and truly wondering 
if I was capable of working successfully in Radiography for the rest of my life. 
I sought counsel and prayers from friends and family 
and was basically just getting by
But something happened this week...
I fell in love with X-Rays again 
and was finally able to believe that I truly can do all things 
through Christ who strengthens me! 
Thank You, Jesus, for seeing me through that valley!"

I don't really know how to explain what happened to me 
other than to say, something just clicked.
When that semester ended, 
I received this evaluation from my clinical instructors
(yes, the ones I had PREVIOUSLY not had a good relationship with!)
(Again, these quotes come from the awesome memory of Facebook!):
"Sarah, you have really found your spot and groove here during clinicals.
It is great to see you more sure of yourself.
You are not afraid to jump in and get the exam done.
You are very pleasant with the techs and patients.
You are doing well."
This was from my favorite clinical instructor.
To this day I love them both,
but this one was always the most encouraging and supportive.
The other one tended to be pretty harsh
and for a while I thought there might actually be something 
she didn't like about me personally.
Here is what she had to say -
and this ABSOLUTELY BLEW ME AWAY!!!! - :
"Sarah, you have made excellent progress!
I agree with (the other instructor) 
- when you found your 'niche' - you took off!
Great rapport with your patients and staff 
- always smiling."
Apparently, I was doing well in clinicals.
I can't say the same for the classroom...

I had been struggling academically during my Spring 2012 semester
but had managed to squeak by.
The Summer Semester is a different story.
We had been REALLY focusing on the SCIENCE of X-ray.
Specifically, the PHYSICS angle of X-ray.
I thought I had hated physics in High School...
THIS was a HUNDRED times worse!
And it showed up in my final grade.
 To pass the Summer Semester,
I needed a final grade of 78%.
My grade was 77.4%.
I had failed by a sixth of a point.

To be continued...