Official — Finally.

Have you ever noticed how certain physical objects in life have an almost automatic association with some sort of event, person, or memory? Pumpkin spice latte = fall. Colored hard-boiled eggs = Easter. Mailboxes = a certain dog that had to pee on every single one while on a walk. It goes without saying some of those associations are pretty ubiquitous while others are a bit more personal. This blog would be about an object of the former category — a white coat.

As a proudly born and raised Midwesterner, I can certainly say I’ve worn my fair share of coats. Coats that were crucial to survival during those 8-month long winters (yea, that’s only kind of a joke) where you find yourself repeatedly asking yourself if it’s actually worth it to leave the house. Of all those coats, I can promise you none of them were white — probably due to practicality more than anything (I’m not exactly known for my ability to keep anything clean).

Of course I’m not actually talking about winter coats, but instead a coat that has been used in and associated with the the profession of medicine for 100+ years. A piece of clothing that has found itself so intertwined in association that it has a syndrome named after it. No seriously, white coat syndrome (or white coat hypertension) is a phenomenon where patients exhibit a higher than normal blood pressure in clinical settings. When you think about it, such a connection is actually pretty remarkable.

When you see a person wearing a white coat, they’re instantaneously brought to a different level. Even never having met them, you likely have thoughts about who they are, what they’re like, or their relative level of authority or importance. Maybe those thoughts are positive ones, or maybe they’re not — I guess it all depends.

Regardless, that white coat sure seems to hold a lot of power. To think something as seemingly insignificant as putting your arms through two sleeves and shrugging the stiff and boxy shoulders into place could change a stranger’s perception of you at such a surreal rate seems illogical. Yet it happens, each and every day, over and over again.

It’s powerful and borderline magical. It brings with it potential and has pockets brimming with responsibility. Ironically, it sure seems to carry a lot more weight than it actually weighs.

On Friday I received my white coat at a beautiful ceremony with my fellow M1 classmates, various faculty, and my parents proudly watching. It’s even embroidered with my name and everything which hopefully helps to remind me that it IS actually mine. I was pulling clothes out of my closet to go to church this morning and I had to do a double take when I saw it hanging there, so unobtrusive and yet starkly present now as a part of my every day life.

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You know those things you think about, you plan for, you dream of, you work and work some more and then keep working a little bit harder to reach? That’s what Friday was for me. Then again, looking at that sentence I realize that Friday was simply the official kick-off. The official “Here you are Sam, celebrate today because you made it to the starting line. Now get it in gear; it’s a good thing you like long distance races.” Continue reading

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 Status Updated.

August 1st already. Gee wiz, that’s pretty nuts. Time can be so fickle, sometimes just barely dragging along then moments later racing forward at the speed of light. But of course that isn’t literally the case — a minute today is the same length as a minute last week, but goodness it rarely feels that way.

So what have my minutes been consisting of as of late? What in the world is going on with my medical school plans? Am I actually in school yet? What am I even doing with my life? Yea, that last question may or may not cross my mind more often than I should admit depending upon the company I find myself surrounded by or the situation I’m in….

I’ve mentioned before that for my program I do lab rotations to help figure out where I’m ultimately going to complete my PhD. I completed my third rotation at the end of June, went on a pretty cool retreat with all the other MSTP students that weekend, and have been on “chill time” ever since. It was remarkably good planning on my part (don’t ask me how I managed it) and have been able to take the past few weeks to enjoy a Chicago summer while simultaneously getting all those little “life” things (like doctors appointments and insurance fun) straightened out.

It was quite the experience to have that much time without pressing obligations of any sort. No speeches or presentations to give. No things to study for. Nothing that really REALLY needed to get done. It was certainly enjoyable, but I’ve come to realize I’m one of those weird people who enjoys life more when I have lots of stuff to do (which will likely be the case in very short order).

On the list of ways I’ve passed the time: becoming acquainted with little Ms. Ingrid Mae. She is now 13 weeks old and has definitely come into a personality that is all her own. We have quite a few similarities, mostly that we are both exhaustingly independent and will do what we want when we want, regardless of what someone says or tries to convince us otherwise. However we do have our differences, especially when it comes to our energy level at 11pm when someone spends at least 30 minutes running around the apartment like she’s on fire while the other individual pulls the covers over her head and lets out an exasperated sigh. Needless to say, there have been multiple conversations, errr monologues, about how it’s a good thing she’s cute.

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Continue reading

Eventually

Some people have a knack for foresight. They seem to possess this unique ability in which they appear to be prepared for everything; never truly surprised by an event or outcome while simultaneously thinking their prescience is completely unremarkable. You know, those people whose most commonly used phrase could very well be “I told you so” because, well, they did.

I am not one of those people.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wish I was. After all, I do everything I can to try and prepare myself for my future, both immediate and long term. I plan out my week with things I need to get done. I often obsess over my public transportation routes, ensuring all the necessary elevators are working and what not till that last possible moment before heading out the door.  I plan and then I re-plan, all in hopes of stacking the deck in my favor for success and positive results in whatever realm matters to me at the moment. Yet, I’m consistently taken by surprise.

I mean, planning only goes so far. Trying to prepare yourself for all possible outcomes to a particular set of events is a hopelessly useless cause. Then again, there are also those things you know you should expect to happen “eventually” but the timeline for “eventually” tends to steer towards a more prolonged one so you never get around to actually being ready.

One of my and my family’s “eventually” clocks stopped ticking this week and sitting here now, staring at my flashing cursor, I can only shake my head and wonder how that clock ran out of life so quickly. On Monday, my family put our floofy Cheerio-loving, Little House on the Prairie watching, man-bun wearing Oscar to sleep.
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Now Oscar has made a few cameo appearances here on the blog in both pictures and commentary (Who’s Counting?Mom. Mom? MOM!Uno. Dos.Aisle 7, and others…) but I think a little refresher course is in order.

Oscar is a 13 (almost 14) year old mutt of a pooch (although he prefers the term designer dog) who was rescued from a farm where he spent his time eating horse droppings and chasing cats. While both those activities ceased in a literal sense upon coming to live in the Schroth home, I’m 98% convinced there was a lot of kitty chasing in Oscar’s relatively abundant and assumedly vivid puppy dreams per his sleep barks and leg twitches.

Oscar is technically Lindsey’s dog (my littler sister) and made his fair share of 4-H related appearances as well as being present for countless homecoming, winterfest, and prom parties. Now even though Oscar is most certainly the “senior” pet in the household, he always seems to be at the bottom of the “status” totem pole and with his profoundly laid-back personality, I don’t think he much cares. Some of his favorite past times include eating, sleeping, eating some more, and going on walks where he is allowed to pee on everything taller than the average blade of grass (seriously, that’s not an exaggeration…). He’s a bit of a goofball with the coolest looking underbite and most happy-go-lucky personality. I saw him when I was home for Easter and I certainly had no idea that would be the last time we’d be bed buddies. Continue reading

At Ease

My blog posting habits are (noticeably) pretty random. I don’t have any kind of schedule or “I must post every other week or once a month” kind of goal. Maybe it would be a good idea, but meh….

I write when inspiration strikes. I write when I have an experience that surprises, shocks, and/or confuses me. I write after I wake up at 2 in the morning with a “Oh goodness, I should spend some time thinking about that….” topic that popped into my mind. After all, I write because I enjoy it, not because I have to.

Now I say all of that, but I guess there is an exception. I have posted a blog on May 25th for every May 25th this blog has existed and I find it doubtful that will change anytime in the near future. I’m assuming you’ve connected the dots as to why that would be, but if not, May 25 is the anniversary of my spinal cord injury.

Some people make a pretty big deal out of that one day each year and I’m not saying that’s wrong, I’m just stating that as a fact. Some even have a special name for it like “My Life Celebration Day” or something similar. I mean, we’re all unique individuals and I certainly don’t think there is a right or wrong way to approach that one day out of the year where your injury will likely take a bit more of a front seat than it usually does.

Certainly some of the differences in the “approach” of such an anniversary are due to differences in personality. But now, coming from someone who is celebrating 4 years post-injury, I think a good amount of the difference in approach has to do with where you as an individual, where you as a member of a family, where you as an employee, and even where you as a friend “are.”

You know, I spent some time going back to read all of my past “May 25th” posts (if you’re curious, here are the links — 1: Press Pause 2: Uno. Dos. 3: At Least). It was an interesting thing to do, to almost “re-experience” some of those emotions and the places I’ve been on May 25th’s since passed. I will admit, the post from my one year anniversary struck a chord and imagining myself back at the moment… it was a bit of a melancholy reflection where I really just wanted to give my younger self a hug. As I progressed through those posts, there’s a noticeable change. Was it a confidence? A maturity? A better understanding? Maybe a more realistic and practical acceptance? I have no idea — but it’s definitely there.

lateSo I sit here today, looking around at where I am in all those previously mentioned categories — family, friends, work, life. I have no special name for today. I have no special plans or celebrations (besides getting a delicious latte and likely some sort of delicious carb to devour) for this “Year Number Four” anniversary. And you know, I am indescribably content.

At four years out, while I assuredly am by no means “a pro” at wheeling life, I’ve transitioned, matured, and grown through stages of life with an injury that I didn’t know even existed (yea, I realize that probably means there are still many more to go through…). I’ve reached a level of “seated normalcy” that the thought of being my full height in public and not receiving those fairly frequent “curiosity stares” would, in all likelihood, be unnerving. Continue reading

New Blooms

I’ve decided spring in Chicago is way more enjoyable than winter in Chicago. Then again, spring anywhere is probably more enjoyable than the cold and wet calamities of winter. I appreciate winter (and by extension snow) for the first few weeks and when it suits my desire to cross country ski, but beyond that… let’s just say I’m more than okay with today being April 29 and not January 29.

My phone’s photo gallery has quickly been filling up with springtime views of blooming flowers down Michigan Ave, reading along the lakeshore, and various coffee shops I couldn’t help but try. I seem to have developed this tendency to use my weekends to explore some of the countless Chicago neighborhoods resulting in even MORE photographs being added to the already substantial collection.

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Then again, today would be Saturday and I have zero plans or desire to leave my cozy apartment. The gloomy looking skies and the “consistent soaking rain that will persist throughout the afternoon and into the evening” forecast (the weatherman’s words, not mine) begs for a more subdued kind of day.

People have asked what I do, as a wheeler, when it rains. I mean, obviously I can’t really hold an umbrella and push. My answer: push really fast. I’m sure there’s some sort of dorky umbrella holder attachment for a chair, but I’m convinced that it would be more
hassle than it’s worth and I’d look like a complete moron since I would likely manage to unknowingly detach it and get it stuck in my wheels or goodness knows what else.

IMG_4114One of my cousin’s asked what I did with the rain living it such a pedestrian friendly city with my own pedestrian escapades and upon hearing my answer took it upon himself to help and found the attractive solution seen on the left (Note: enthusiastic model not included with purchase). Maybe “help” is a poor choice of words…

Long story short, I simply try to minimize my rain time or just push fast. Sure, I’ll undoubtedly get stopped at various crosswalks waiting for lights to change, but sometimes sweet little old ladies share their umbrellas with me and we have a lovely conversation. Literally – that happened and it made my day. So I manage – after all, as my Mom says, “You won’t melt” and thus far, she’s been right. Thanks Mom. Continue reading

Cross It Off

It’s official. I can cross something else off my bucket list. It’s not a big thing, but then again…it IS a big thing.

The now completed item: I have lived in my own apartment (not a sublet), on my lonesome (it’s just me and my butler Leonard — the roomba), for longer than a week without something traumatic and life altering (like a spinal cord injury) happening.

Yes, I know, that even being an item on the list probably says something about the quality and adventurousness (which is actually a word, I checked…) of said bucket list. Oh well, I’m not ashamed.

Sure I’ve been “independent” for quite some time since my injury, but after returning home from my inpatient rehab hospital stay in 2013, it didn’t make much sense logically to move out of the family home once and then shortly have to move again when I was accepted and ready to start medical school. PLUS, it gave me more time that I could spend making memories with (read: bothering) Mom, Dad, and the siblings.

It’s been exciting being “off on my own,” finally doing what I have worked so hard to even be able to think about doing. I think I’ve mostly adjusted to my current state of affairs. I’m not shocked when I open my eyes in the morning and no longer have to remind myself where in the world I am. Yea, it probably took me longer to get to that point than it should have…

You know, when you start something new, there are always so many little things to learn. So many little things one has to work through and figure out and integrate into your “normal.” And well in my world, there happen to be a couple extra things to work through relative to the average person. Continue reading

On Faith

I have a couple of “go to” spots that I tend to gravitate towards when I get around to writing a blog.
1. My bedroom at a desk/table situated by a window that looks out at the side of my neighbor’s house.
2. A random coffee shop located somewhere in the Fox Valley made complete by a caffeinated beverage close at hand.
3. The patio table on the back porch with the fluffy white four-legged canines sunning themselves at my wheels. Of course this one is only when it’s actually warm outside because I’m a bit of a cold weather wuss…

Today I’m at none of those spots because I’m 3+ hours away from all of them.

20170304_103552.jpgI’m 3+ hours away, looking out the window of my very own studio apartment on the 51st floor (of a 52 story building) overlooking the hustling and bustling Windy City. Yep, this one is coming to you from my “new digs” in Chicago, IL – my home for the next eight or so years as I attend medical/graduate school and work towards receiving a dual MD PhD degree. I start in a lab this Thursday, as in March 9th… so yea. Those 3 months went a little bit faster than I thought they were going to.

I made the “official” move a little less then a week ago which involved a lot of help from a pretty amazing moving crew.

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 1.36.24 PM.pngIt’s impressive (and frightening) how much stuff one accumulates within three years (the time since I moved home post-injury to now). Let me just say, If you think you don’t have a lot of stuff buried in hidden places in your bedroom that just seems to appear as you look under and behind things that haven’t been moved for an embarrassingly long time, I promise you — you’re severely mistaken. Continue reading

Back Again

Nants ingonyama bagithi baba
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama
Ingonyama
Siyo nqoba

After attempting to read that you’ve likely come to a few different conclusions.
A) I’ve officially lost it
B) I fell asleep at my keyboard and forgot to correct all my typo’s
C) I have some sort of point concerning what appears to be the gibberish written above
D) I’ve always wondered what they’re actually saying at the beginning of The Lion King‘s “Circle of Life” song and finally decided to google it

I guess in reality, the answer would be a portion of all of the above. Well, except B. I’m shockingly wide awake after a delicious cup of coffee, workout in my racing chair, and am sitting outside in this ridiculously marvelous 55° and sunny weather that makes being indoors feel like a crime. Pretty sure I couldn’t fall asleep right now if I tried — but that’s beside the point.

“Circle of Life” is one of those everybody knows kind of songs. After all, with music composed by Elton John and those well known lyrics by Tim Rice, it’s hard to NOT belt into song when that chorus arrives. It’s a great song in an even greater movie, but I tend to just let things stop there and never found a reason to get all philosophical over lyrics to a classic children’s movie (Note: I say children’s movie, but I may have just watched Pocahontas last night so… yea). I guess I really should say I never found a reason until a good friend of mine recently made a pretty profound comment that caused me to take pause.

You see, last week I headed out to Denver, Colorado for what is called an outpatient re-evaluation at Craig Hospital (where I did my 2-month inpatient stay after my spinal cord injury in 2013). A re-evaluation is basically a chance to meet and work with therapists, doctors, etc who really know and understand spinal cord injuries. After all, it’s a pretty complex injury affecting so much more than simply the ability to walk. With that in mind, having the opportunity to work out any kinks in health, refine techniques, and even check out seating posture/equipment is a good one.

20170211_154242I ended up flying out to Denver by way of Minneapolis (flights were remarkably cheaper out of the cities) so was able to spend a bit of time in my ole’ college stomping grounds at a coffee shop with some friends. We recounted some of our most recent life adventures and talked about our various futures ranging from the journey of a new marriage, to making a tough decision over which school to attend, to actually joining the workforce as a large animal veterinarian. Not gonna lie, my immediate future of heading to Craig the following day was feeling a bit more like looking backwards than looking forward. Continue reading

Free to Be

Freedom.

It’s a loaded word. Those simple seven letters are charged with so many meanings and packed with countless implications that we often don’t recognize. For example, thanks to various current events in the United States, the mention of that seven letter word may have you thinking this is going to be a political post…. don’t worry, it’s not.

Of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with something being loaded – it’s just the way it is. I mean, I sure love me a good loaded baked potato. After all, is there really any other way to eat a potato? I think not.

So if I’m gonna talk about freedom but not in the environment of politics, what environment is this little contemplation going to reside? Well, a pretty cold one. With a lot of reasonably soft, fluffy, white snow.

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Yea, an environment like that.

Over the last week I was off traveling (again), and this time instead of going to a warmer climate like Florida, I was in the much snowier climate of South Dakota. See, I wasn’t kidding when I said I was going to spend the next few months “playing” before I had to actually grow up, become more of an adult, and start medical school.

Why South Dakota? An amazing event called Black Hills Ski for Light (you can check out their website/program here). It’s an event I was introduced to during my year as Ms. Wheelchair America 2015 and I had such an amazing time that I attended the following year (2016) and since I loved it just as much (if not more) I went back for even more fun this past week.  Continue reading

First Quarter

A day is a day is a day. After all, they’re 24 hours long regardless of if it’s December 1st or June 1st. Yet, some days seem to pass faster than others. Some days are good days and some are less than good. Some days we fear (Friday the 13th anyone?) and some we celebrate for any number of reasons.

In my world, today happens to be of the “celebratory” kind since I am now another year older. Yea, there certainly is some truth to the “time sure flies when you’re having fun” phrase. I have officially survived a whole quarter of a century and have reached one of the last big “now you can” milestones — that milestone being… now you can rent a car. Yippee.

You know, it’s kind of interesting how as you get older it becomes less of the norm to say how old you are. It’s almost as if you should be embarrassed by the fact that you’ve actually experienced the world, that you’re not as naive as you once were, and that you’ve made mistakes and managed to survive them. At 25 years old, I have no issue sharing my age, but I wonder if that’ll ever change.

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My epic race crew. 

I was in Orlando, Florida last week with my little sister and Mom (Dad had no interest in joining us and my older sister was busy pretending to be a grown-up. Read: She was working). We went to the warm climate of Florida so I could cross off one of my “Impossible List” items (which is basically a bucket list). Said item to cross off – participate in a race in Disney World. I was all signed up and ready to race in the 20th Anniversary Half Marathon and go figure, there was a thunderstorm that day and the race got cancelled for safety reasons because of the lightning. Whoops.

It was a bit less than ideal, but I definitely appreciate the decision to keep so many people safe. I say “so many” because there were 17,000+ people that participated in the marathon race the following day. Yea….talk about the need for a lot of deodorant. But seriously, even though it was disappointing, I had plenty of other things to do and see that it truly wasn’t that big of a deal.  Continue reading