Thursday, February 15, 2018

Book Review: Complications by Atul Gawande

I recently finished reading Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande. Read on to find out a little more about the book, my thoughts, and whether or not I would recommend it.

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Book Review: Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande | kathleenhelen


In this remarkable work of nonfiction, Gawande shares his experiences as a surgeon to give an open and honest peek behind the curtain at the medical field. Studying to be a physician, especially in the area of surgery, is wholly distinct from most other professions in that public perception of when learning is complete differs drastically from the reality that doctors never finish learning. When we go to the hospital in an emergency, we expect our doctors to have all the answers and none of the questions. In reality, graduating from medical is only the beginning of a doctor’s education. To become a surgeon a residency of at least five more years must be completed after medical school.

During those residency years, patients aren’t informed what year their doctors are in, or how many of each procedure they’ve performed. Gawande highlights this fact by discussing his very first attempt at a central line. He had difficulty, as most doctors initially do and a more senior resident had to take over. But to learn how to do something correctly, it must be practiced - and in medicine, those procedures must be practiced on real people. Gawande goes on to discuss more fully the catch-22 of wanting patients to be fully informed, but needing them to be calm and assured enough to not ask for a more experienced doctor. Gawande goes on to acknowledge that this is a struggle even doctors face - when his own children need medical attention he is reluctant to allow residents to perform those procedures. 

The book shares the complications of medicine that are entirely inherent to any field in which humans are involved. Those outside the medical field (and even some within) tend to think of medicine as pure and objective and forget that it is a human hand holding the scalpel and that humans are not infallible. Through genuine cases, Gawande shows that medicine is complicated and that doctors are human.

Book Review: Complications by Atul Gawande | kathleenhelen

I found Complications absolutely fascinating. Through this well-written work, Gawande shares his experiences while showing the human side of surgery and medicine. It is a quick and extremely interesting read, but at times it can also be somewhat scary. Some sections had me feeling quite anxious, and I’m not sure reading this book has relaxed any concerns I feel about medicine or the idea of surgery - but like a good trainwreck, I couldn’t put the book down.

I would recommend this to anyone interested in learning more about the medical field or intrigued by surgery, but I would caution anyone who tends to be sensitive to medical discussions or fearful of operations to be wary. One of my favourite aspects of the book is that all of the cases are taken from real experiences, and Gawande is explicit with the reader when he has to change any of the details for privacy. 

I gave Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande 5 stars out of 5 on Goodreads.

Let me know your thoughts on this book and any recommendations you have in the comments below!

Friday, February 2, 2018

February Goals

How has another month already passed by??? Isn't it still 2016? Thankfully, I was fairly productive throughout the month of January (maybe that's why it seemed to pass so quickly). I'm also hoping that that will continue on throughout February. Read on to find out how I did on my January goals and what I'm aiming to accomplish with my February goals.

February Goals | kathleenhelen

January Goals Revisited

1. Read 3 books

Success. I finished reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Channel of Peace: Stranded in Gander on 9/11 by Kevin Tuerff, and Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande, which makes 3 and a successful goal.

2. Try a new recipe

Success. I made this Paleo Quiche with Butternut Crust, and it was perfect for lunches and absolutely delicious! 

3. Create rules for a shopping ban

Success. I ended up deciding to move away from the word ban for now but set out some guidelines to shop with intent for the foreseeable future and how I would hold myself accountable for that task. 

4. Start a painting

Success. Now that I have started it, I’m not sure I’m going to use it how I was initially planning, but it still feels nice to be painting again.

5. Post at least 5 times

Success. I published exactly 5 posts last month: my January goals, my shopping with intent guidelines, a book review of Channel of Peace, the 7th post in my empty beauty products series, and my 101 things in 1001 days update for the month.

6. Drink 3L of water daily

Success. It’s been so dry all month that not only did I easily complete this goal, but I think I averaged a lot more than 3 litres of water a day. 

7. Reorganize my desk space

Success. After a day of re-organizing things at work, I was feeling motivated and ready to tackle my workspace at home. It was never really that bad, but it does make a lot more sense now.

Woah! That’s a 100% success rate right there for January. I did take some time to really think about what achievable and realistic goals would look like, and I’m delighted to see that that helped. This brings me up to 28 out of 46 goals completed, which is just about 61% since July! 


February Goals

1. Read 2 books

2. Try a new recipe

3. Post at least 5 times

4. Get up at 6 am every day for 2 weeks

5. Take a multivitamin every day

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

101 in 1001 Update - January 2018

It's only been a single month since my last update, but somehow writing 2018 in the title of this post makes 2020 seem like it's so much closer now. Slowly, but surely, I'm hoping to get all 101 things checked off my 101 things in 1001 days list. Read on to see how I'm doing so far!

101 things in 1001 days | kathleenhelen

As of January 31, 2018:
Completed:  15/101
In Progress: 19/101

The following are the items I've completed or made progress on since last updating the list, with an overall total of all the items I've completed or have in progress to date for each category. You can see my full (and updated) list right here!


13. Get a plant and keep it alive for three months (2/3)

My plants are all still alive. The dry weather is not doing them any favours but I guess I managed to pick out some tough ones because they are holding on. I'm hoping to keep them alive through the winter and see what they look like when better weather comes around.

4/14 Completed

1/14 In Progress


1/11 Completed

0/11 In Progress


27. Read 75 books

I added two more books to my read list, Channel of Peace by Kevin Tuerff and Complications: A Surgeon Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande. 

28. Write a book review for each book read

I'm still working on this one too, as I read each book!

36. Watch 25 TED talks

I've actually subscribed to the TED Talks podcast and have been listening to them for a couple months now, which means I've definitely listened to over 25 talks. I'm going to count that as completed, although I'm still trying to regularly watch old, motivational talks in my downtime. 

1/11 Completed

4/11 In Progress

Fitness/ Health

5/18 Completed

1/18 In Progress


57. Unsubscribe from unwanted mailing lists

I've been trying to start this process as emails come in, especially since setting my intention of being more mindful when shopping. It's actually crazy how many mailing lists you can get subscribed to, and how difficult some of them make it to unsubscribe, but I'm slowly working on it. 

2/5 Completed

1/5 In Progress


77. Try a new recipe every month for a year (1/12)

I made this quiche with butternut squash crust, Brussel sprouts and sausage to bring to work for lunches. It was absolutely delicious and, although time-consuming, super easy - both to make and throw from the freezer into a lunch container in the morning. More quiches will definitely be on the to-make list in the future!

85. Take a selfie on the first of each month to see how things change over time (7/33)

88. Finish watching all of Law and Order

I'm on season 19 now. It's a strange feeling because I am so close to being finished that I feel eager and like watching all 20 seasons is some kind of huge accomplishment (nope. just shows how much tv I can binge watch). I also know that I'm going to feel a huge loss when I do finish though and like I should maybe savour the last few episodes instead of rushing through them.

2/30 Completed

8/30 In Progress


90. Post 300 blog posts (037/300)

This post makes 5 published this month. The others were: January Goals, Shopping with Intent, a Book Review of Channel of Peace, and volume 7 of my Empty Beauty Products series. 

91. Set 5 goals a month for a year (7/12)


0/6 Completed

2/6 In Progress


97. Update this list once a month (07/33)

100. Put $10 into savings for every item checked off (016/101)

1/6 Completed

3/6 In Progress

Be sure to keep checking back to see how I'm progressing on my goals in what remains of these 1001 days and you can see my full (and updated list) right here

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