Actually, I learn lots of things most days, but sometimes my mind wanders in lecture, as you can imagine. Every so often, a phrase or word will jump from the lecturer’s pleasant hum in the back of my mind and crash into my non-medical musings. Maybe I’m thinking about the twelve separate road trips I’d like to magically squeeze into my free month of summer vacation when I hear the words “VX gas” and I gasp in joyous wonder.

VX gas may mean nothing to you; it may sound like some sort of sci-fi movie’s attempt at an alien planet’s atmosphere or a fancy mouth spray that makes you lose ten pounds in three minutes. Well, it’s not, and until today I didn’t really know what it was either. But I had an idea and I’ll tell you why…

As a youngster with two working parents, I basically had to be projectile vomiting to get one of them to take me home from school, otherwise I’d call them and they’d say, “Tough it out, you can do it!” Sometimes, though, the puke-fest would be severe enough for one of them to come get me, take me home, set me up with everything I needed (water bottle, thirty-five blankets, saltine crackers and an enormous bowl next to the couch keeping me company) and then head back to work.

You might think I would be sad, being left home alone, all sniffly and vomitous, or that I wished my parents would stay home with me. Even as a kid, I was pretty aware of how hard my parents worked to take care of us (my dad once came and took me home on his bike when my mom had the car out of town and I knew that was dedication), so I knew them staying home and missing work wasn’t an option. Plus, I kind of looked forward to staying home sick by myself because that’s when I could sneak into the video closet and watch rated R movies without my parents ever knowing. (Until now, of course… sorry padres… love you!)

Yes, it’s true; I was kind of a conniving little one. I would watch Total Recall, Pretty Woman (I didn’t really understand prostitution at the time, thinking that the multicolored condoms she pulls out of her sexy boots were lollipops), and other classics, but I always closed my eyes during the goriest scenes. This is probably the reason I was fiercely loyal to Julia Roberts for so long and thought that my hair was turning red and curly (I even used to gel all my hair to one side trying to do the do she has when they go to the opera in her pretty new cocktail dress). Anyway, one such rated R favorite was The Rock.

If any of you have seen it, you may understand why I foolishly liked Nicholas Cage for a solid five years before realizing, of course, the sad truth of his awfulness as proved to me through every other movie he’s ever made (except Raising Arizona). He’s a scientist nerd, Sean Connery is a hard-core mysterious convict spy dude and they run around on Alcatraz trying to recover stolen VX gas from noble but misguided Ed Harris and his marine mercenaries. Quite a romp for an eight year old! There’s a scene where a VX gas glass bubble (probably filled with aloe vera, but very real in my mind at the time) breaks and a guy trapped in the room with it has his face melt off (that’s the part I always shut my eyes for and still do, incidentally.)

The point is, sometimes in med school stuff rings a bell. We learn about a disease a distant cousin or celebrity (or maybe your celebrity distant cousin) has or an herbal supplement that was all the rage in the early 90s but proven totally useless and yet you have a bottle in your cabinet at home. Or maybe it’s a biochemical warfare toxin that you thought was fake and it turns out is real (it doesn’t actually make your face melt off, thank goodness, but it’s still bad news). It’s pretty fantastic how often this happens, too. Learning about acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen and other anti-inflammatories that you and your family use every day and actually being able to advise someone on which one is best for which situations is good, old fashioned, nerdy FUN!

So, I was thinking that this blog could become a great way for me to disperse all those fun, every-day-applicable tidbits out into the world. So here’s one: VX gas is an irreversible acetylcholine esterase inhibitor (meaning it binds to the enzyme that usually breaks down a compound stimulating certain nerves, so it keeps those particular nerves stimulated by not letting the on switch turn off like it normally would). It’s real! Can you believe it? Maybe some other time I’ll tell you all about vaccines and how they’re AWESOME and not bad, like some people want you to think for some odd reason. Or about how sunscreen will save your life: wear it every single day or I’ll send you gross dermatology pictures to convince you (just ask my sister, she got a friendly email with horrifying attached photos after she sent me a picture of her goggle-tan/BURN).

But for now, it’s back to studying (we’re learning about lungs and how they do so much more than just fill up with air and put oxygen in your blood). I’ll keep you updated!


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