Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Silicon Valley Syndrome

In conversation with a coworker earlier today, he revealed to me that he had been experiencing pounding headaches and dizziness over the last few weeks. His doctor, concerned about a possible anyeurism, sent him to the hospital for a CAT scan. The scan showed nothing out of the ordinary, and he was referred to a neurologist.

At the neurologist's office, he listed off his symptoms, and mentioned that he worked at a Silicon Valley technology company. The neurologist's eyes lit up, and he said, "Ahh yes ! The 'Silicon Valley Syndrome' ! I have had at least 8 people in my office over the last few months, many of them in their mid-20s, with symptoms similar to yours. In every case, and in yours, the answer is the same -- get some rest. It sounds simplistic, but their and your symptoms are all those of burnout and lack of adequate rest."

In my role as a volunteer Emergency Response Team member at my company, I estimate that at least 30% of the calls we run on are people who don't take care of themselves; they don't exercise, don't eat well, don't get enough sleep... and end up experiencing chest pains, difficulty breathing, anxiety attacks, fainting and so on. It's a disturbingly common theme.

There have been several times in the past where I have had to give the work-life balance lecture to a patient. A perfect example of this was a middle-aged man experiencing chest pains. This is how the conversation went.

"Do you have any medical history I need to know about ?"


"Diabetes, stroke, asthma, heart attacks ?"

"Oh yeah. I have diabetes."

"Do you take medication ?"


"When was the last time you took your medication ?"

"Last Friday."
(It was Tuesday).

"Why haven't you taken your medication ?"

"I haven't had time."

He had a blood sugar level of 299 (way too high), a demanding job, a wife and kids, a sick mother-in-law he was caring for, and was running ragged. I sat him down and explained to him that if he were to burn out, he'd be no good to anyone. "You have to take care of yourself," I explained, "Especially your health. Make yourself a priority, by taking at least an hour a night for family time, to rest and recharge. And be sure to get enough sleep at night and take your medication. You need to do this if you want to stay healthy." He promised he would.

Over and over again, we have run on people with varying stress/anxiety related issues, and the common theme is that they truly believe that they have no choice but to work 16 hours a day and put every facet of their lives on the back-burner for their jobs. This industry is hard-driving and cut-throat. Our company will not give us the work-life balance. We have to take it ourselves, by setting healthy boundaries and by prioritizing. Sadly, many of us do not know how to do this.

My coworker above confided in me that his wife has been extremely unhappy lately, as he is always awake past 12:30am on business calls with India and the UK, and then sleeps in another room so he doesn't disturb her. They only sleep in the same bed on weekends. She told him that she has lost her husband.

I suggested that he set aside two nights a week, where he has no meetings, and where he can spend time with his wife and go to bed together. His eyes lit up, and he thanked me for the suggestion. He'd never even thought of that solution.

He asked me, "How does the President find time to go running ?"

I replied, "He makes time. It's all about priorities."

We all have choices. We can choose to prioritize, and we can choose to set aside time for our families and our health. All too often, we do not do this, and we fall victim to the Silicon Valley Syndrome.

It's an epidemic. And in the current economic climate, and the push to do more with fewer resources, it may only get worse.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

LOLCats Rock

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

(Covering Mouth)

I like to think that I have a decently-strong stomach for various medical situations.

I've helped patients with large cuts and gashes, crushed limbs, skin avulsions, loss of bowel/bladder control and other such incidents, with no major issues in the gross-out department. However, there is one thing that always turns my stomach, rendering me fighting to not add to the problem: Vomit.

I have dealt with vomiting patients in the past, including people close to me, and have found it a struggle not to become sick myself. I don't know what it is about this particular subject, but it is not a pleasant one to even think of, let alone respond to. I fulfill my obligations as always, and never let on my feelings to the patient or anyone else, but this is one of my least favorite situations to deal with.

So when I arrived at the scene earlier today, and saw that two of my team members were well handling the patient and the three-foot radius of emesis around him, I gladly took up crowd control away from his cube.

It was a pretty bad scene; the patient had missed the inside of the trash can entirely, and had instead sprayed the floor, cube walls, side of the trash can, and -- inexplicably -- his own hair, with the contents of his stomach. I felt really bad for the poor guy, and also for the first two responders who assumed patient care.

It was all I could do not to puke myself, but I managed.

Driving home tonight, I swore to myself that I was done with vomit for a very long time. Done. No more. Can't take it. My vomit quota for the year 2009 has been met. That's it.

Until I arrived home, to a solid line of puke, the size of a cat's stomach, on the laundry room floor.

Today, was not my day.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


This is what happens when a good portion of a Krav Maga class is dedicated to elbow strikes against a thick pad.

It hurts to lean against my elbow. It's ok, though -- I really should stop putting my elbows on the table at dinner time anyway.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Put Some Damn Clothes On Your Child

Our subdivision is designed in such a way that it is a short dead-end street flanked by two small rows of townhouses. This is a perfect arrangement for children to play ball and ride their plastic cars in the street, as the only vehicle traffic is residents coming in and out of their driveways.

Over the Christmas holidays, while pulling into and out of our driveway, I took notice of one particular neighbor girl, approximately 4 years old, who is habitually outside. During the two weeks of holidays, every single day I saw this adorable little girl, she was outside in her pajamas, robe and Crocs.

Pajamas. During the late afternoon ! When dinner time was fast approaching ! All day, every day, she sported the same get-up. I doubt she was dressed for the entire holiday, save for celebration events.

Come on. How lazy can one be, not putting clothes on your child during a holiday ? Just leave her in her pajamas for two weeks straight so you don't have to bother taking the time to dress her and do laundry ? Unbelievable.

In addition to this, I often see kids, toddlers and older, being wheeled through the mall in strollers, wearing pajamas, with or without shoes. I just roll my eyes.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


This story was relayed to me by an older couple that I am acquainted with.

The husband of the couple I know has a large family consisting of a several siblings. One of this man's older siblings, who is over 60 years old, has recently started to plan his second wedding. Realizing that he could not afford a huge white wedding with all the trimmings, his bride-to-be suggested he ask each of his siblings to pay for a portion of the wedding (food, alcohol, band, etc.)

Family members. Being asked to pay for a huge, fancy all-out wedding bash for their sibling, who is 60 years old and has already been married in the past.

The betrothed couple approached the couple that I know, asking them if they would pay for the band for their extravaganza.

And the kicker ?

The happy couple were married at the courthouse earlier last year. That's right, the siblings of the groom are being asked to pay for a big church and reception soiree, for a couple that is in their 60s, and who are already legally married to each other.

Guess who is not attending the wedding ? ;)

Danny and I are paying for our wedding by ourselves, and are having the scale of event that we can well afford -- classy and beautiful but not over-the-top. That's the way it should be, IMO.

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