Friday, October 29, 2010

Annual Visit to the Crime Lab

I won't apologize for my dearth of posts lately, but let's just say that the events of last month have completely undermined my immune system and I'm still fighting off two weeks of sinus/URI crud that the kids are bringing home. I paint a pretty picture, but life is not easy right now. But the not fun stuff isn't fun to dwell on.

I was off this past week and despite lofty goals to organize all the boxes and mess upstairs, there are still lots of boxes and a big mess upstairs (but our living area downstairs looks fabulous!). Soccer games, Halloween parades, Halloween parties at school, and helping Sicily with presentations for Nature Week, coupled with our snake Spotty Dangerous AKA Cosmic Creepers week long visit/tour at the kid's school kept me busy. Not to mention meetings with accountants and financial advisers. I did manage to squeeze in a little fun - I revisited my old (well at least for a month) residency stomping grounds - the State Crime Lab.

I spent April of 2006 at the Crime Lab - becoming acquainted with the blowflies surrounding the bodies that met their ends by nefarious means. There was a rash of crime that month - it was covered all over the evening news - so I had copious learning opportunities. Unfortunately, I was trying to cram in studying for my combined AP/CP boards in June, so I largely neglected everything but the bare essentials of performing the autopsies in the morning so I could sprawl out on the warm Spring lawn and study all afternoon. The building and grounds are beautiful, and while I would have rather been immersing myself in the fascinating study of Forensic pathology than Blood Bank and Chemistry, the proportion of Forensics on the general boards is so slight that it would not have been prudent at the time. I stopped nursing my son in early February of that year, and his demands at night coupled with daily residency demands made studying absolutely impossible, so I had a lot of catching up to do.

But it's never too late to pursue sideline passions, so I like to check in with those guys yearly. I was especially excited to go this year because one of my fellow trainees, he was a year behind me, finished his Forensic Fellowship in Alabama in June and joined the staff at our State Crime Lab this past July. I feel like I have an inside connection now. This guy isn't just one of my former attendings - he's someone I sat alongside in excruciating morning conferences being pimped, and he had a propensity for party throwing so I've spent time sharing crawfish and beer with him at his abode. When he greeted me at the locked entrance after I signed in and got a visitor's badge, I felt like I was really in.

We spent a half hour or so catching up on personal life - kids, residency, his wife who is also a doctor, and life after residency. What it was like on the government vs. private side. He just got a new scope (exactly like the one I've got - he even got the free rocket blaster!). I couldn't help admiring his spacious office with the wall of windows - it was much better than my closet in the lab basement. I finally steered the subject into my intended direction - books.

After I had exhausted his library we wandered next door to another pathologist's office and I hungrily scanned the titles while he graciously grabbed post-it's and jotted down titles and authors. Then he said, "So, do you want to see a cool case?" This is the pinnacle of pathology science nerdiness - our sharing cool cases. I grinned, "Yes! Is it the Case of the Week? The COW?" He looked at my friend from residency knowingly. "No, more like Case of the Month. Or maybe the year." I sat down at the scope, briefly encumbered by the stage clips, and apologized as I pushed back his training wheels. A lot of the best pathologists I know use the stage clips religiously, but it's too cumbersome for me - I'd rather fly by my fingers. Mechanical stage lovers argue that we miss stuff in our haste. It's an internal one-upmanship. As I threw the slide on the stage, I balked. It was the heart. I never look at the heart. But the heart isn't really tough to look at - usually you are just looking for the boxcar nuclei of hypertrophy in autopsy or rejection in surgical specimens. None of which would constitute the case of the year.

"I need a hint."

"Focus on the vessels."


I'm not sure what is really kosher to reveal, especially in an ongoing Forensics case, so I'll stop there - it's pretty obscure science nerd stuff anyway, but I enjoyed reading an accompanying article in the Journal of Forensic Pathology that illuminated the rare disorder that caused this man's demise - something that I had never heard of in all of my training. My friend, the younger pathologist, expressed his awe. "I'm not sure I would have caught that." It was an amazing find.

I left with hearty handshakes and they promised to think of me when they went to their next Forensics meeting - get me lots of free stuff to read. I can't wait to dip into my CME fund and order some new books. Maybe next time I visit I'll ask to join in on Monday Morning Rounds (they don't work over the weekend - so Monday mornings are pretty exciting). For old time's sake.


The Mother said...

Is it not TOO cool that you can pull this wild stuff out at the drop of a hat???

I love it.

I'm also jealous. Always wanted to do forensics, but I never had the opportunity.

Gizabeth Shyder said...

I loved the idea of forensics, but I remember how messed up my head got when I was dealing with the kids.

I love to visit. And read about it. Yes, very cool I agree.

Kyla said...

How cool!

Although I find it fascinating, I think I would be drawn into the cases too much emotionally. I don't think I could handle going into a field like that. I do love to watch CSI, though. ;)

Gizabeth Shyder said...

It would be a very emotionally draining field. I worked in child and adolescent inpatient psych after college - and as rewarding as it could be, it left me so wiped. I think forensics would do the same - I need a little left over at the end of the day for my kids.

Ginger said...

Dude, you CAN'T leave me hanging like that!!!! I need to know, what, what did you see? I'm going Google crazy trying to figure it out!