Three Things I Love March 29, 2013

Three Things I Love is a working exercise in gratitude.   Each week I want to reflect on  three things I am currently in love with.  Small things like gear, a service, a good batch of beer, a computer application, a person, or a movement.  You get the idea.  Focus on gratitude.

1. Dr Zahra Shah

           Zahra Shah, MD

          Zahra Shah, MD

Zahra is a residency classmate, a friend, and a great clinician.  Currently she works as a hospitalist in Wichita, KS.

 She surprised me a few weeks ago when asking about medical relief work.  When we got down to the root of it, Zahra wanted to help out with the crisis in Syria because she couldn't stand seeing the violence on the news or the idea of the burden on and loss of doctors in Syria.  So within several weeks she had tied in to an American organization providing medical relief in Syria.  

Zahra has just arrived in Istanbul to train Turkish and Syrian physicians in trauma management (Advanced Trauma Life Support) and then to travel to care for victims of the violence.

We'll be hoping to post updates of Zahra's work  on in the coming week.

2.  Sea to Summit Light Line Travel Clothesline

You can't bring it all with you!

One of the easy secrets to packing lite is that you need to pick a simple small wardrobe that is versatile, and you need to be ready to wash it where you can- either at a friend's washer, a laundromat or more likely in a sink or bathtub.  People think it is crazy that I do this, but if the women in Haiti can get their shirts as bright white as they are when they see me from washing in a puddle, I can do it with clean water in the sink in a hotel in Arizona or New Mexico.

Since I am on extended assignments and am a doctor I need to bring just a few more items of clothing than when I travel for pleasure.  That means when I finally get around to doing laundry I have about4-9 items to wash and dry at one time.  

I had for a long time considered the Rick Steves travel clothesline but considered it a luxury and never ordered one.  Now a travel clothesline was becoming a necessity.  I added the line to my cart but then saw the Sea To Summit line advertised at the bottom of my screen and did some research.  I watched a video review comparing the two and decided this was a a better choice for me since it had a more intuitive anchoring system and was longer which would accommodate the types of hotel rooms I usually stay in.

The nylon line (vs braided rubber) is really easy to set up anywhere in my room, and has beaded pinch points that you can use as "clothespins".  The double line also makes it easy to hang pants or towels flat and not let them slide off.  The line also has a good built in cinch to tighten it straight.

I was worried the neoprene pouch would add bulk and weight but it does not and is super helpful in keeping the line in place.

It's a great piece of gear that keeps me able to keep my clothes clean and wrinkle free.  You can easily make one yourself from paracord, but this just is a nice convenient option for 7 to 10 dollars.

3.  Samsara app (iPhone)


I think everybody my age wants to or needs to improve their mindfulness, reduce their stress or introduce some kind of meditation practice into their lives.

Several months ago I got really focused on establishing a meditation practice.  I used to just guess at the time when I would sit but the Samsara app has helped me not only keep track of the meditation but also to extend my sitting time over time.

The free  app is really well designed, has a simple layout, a just does what it is supposed to do.

 You set what you need to in regards to time and chime-  both the sound of the bell (it includes one bell chime and you can pay a dollar as an in app purchase to have more but the included chime is just fine), and how many times the opening and closing bells chime.

 I really love this app and it has helped me to increase my sitting time in the morning and evening and has wormed itself to the second screen (and I have contemplated going for the home screen) of my iPhone.

 I have found my meditation practice to be one of the best habits I have introduced into my life and in 2 months I have not gone a day without meditating.  I definitely notice a difference in my stress levels, concentration, and overall well being.

Packing Zahra For Syria

My friend Zahra is a full-scope Family Physician like myself who is bravely flying out to the MIddle East tomorrow morning to provide medical relief to those effected by the Syrian Civil War.  Prior to her arrival in Syria she'll also be training Turkish and Syrian surgeons in Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS).  Since I have experience in disaster relief and mission medicine Zahra asked for some help in preparing for her mission.  

I thought it would be interesting to share the gear list we prepared.  The most important aspects when preparing for a trip like this is to be light and fast.  You need to be prepared to move as quickly as possible, and you can't leave your gear behind so it needs to be able to move with you at all times.  

Clothing and pack color need to be subdued and not draw attention in crowds, especially as a foreign national in a war zone.


1 large duffel medical supplies (checked)

1 carry on - light hiking backpack (in neutral black/grey/light blue- no red or bright colors)

concealed passport/money pouch


Street clothes arrival (top)

Departure clothes (top)

Jeans (1 pair)

Scrubs (3 tops, 2 pants)

Trail Running shoes (1 pair)

sleep clothes

underwear (x # comfortable), sports bra

headscarf or Shemagh

socks x 2 (Smartwool PhD ankle socks)

long sleeve 1/4 zip pullover (Patagonia Capilene 2 or 3)

thin rain jacket (Patagonia Houdini)


iPhone (= camera, journal, language guide, med reference)

Kindle (to not go insane during downtime and long-term battery life)


usb cable for iphone and Kindle


emergency usb battery pack

international adapter



emergency gloves

clear shooting glasses

n95 mask

Personal hygiene

small hand sanitizer

baby wipes

travel sized shampoo/conditioner/bodywash



small nail trimmer with file

small roll toilet paper

pack towel 


10 high-protein energy bars

water purification tablets

gum or mints


Fluconazole 150mg (1)

Ciprofloxacin 500mg  (20)

Flagyl 500mg (20)

Doxycycline 100mg (20) 

imodium (20)

bismuth salicylate (20)

mobic or naproxen (10-30)

vicodin (6)

prednisone 20mg (10)



sunglasses & case

money pouch


watch (Casio g-shock)

very small compass

ear plugs (hearos)

small roll of duct tape wrapped around 3 zip ties

pen x 2

Petzl e+light 

tactical flashlight

Gerber Shard keychain tool


photocopy of medical license

photocopy of passport hidden in bag

flight itinerary hidden in bag

copies of all on iPhone 

printed out map of the region and of the city (8x11)



1.) byki Arabic 

2.) English-Arabic Dictionary

3.) epocrates

4.) DayOne


(to load on Kindle and iPhone)

1.) 2.) Turkey & Syria country guides (Loney Planet, etc.)

3.) Auerbach Field Guide to Wilderness Medicine (Kindle)


Auerbach Wilderness Medicine 5th Ed (Kindle)

4.) Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care

5.) The ICU Book

6.) Where There Is No Doctor (pdf)

7.) Where There Is No Dentist (pdf)

-load these in iBooks on your iPhone

I wish Zahra luck on the good and selfless work she is doing.

If she has any form of internet access she'll send me updates and I'll post them here on


Three Things I Love Explained

Three Things I Love

Welcome to one of the most exciting things I've been wanting to do with Heart Hands & Eyes!

I think we all have a hard time now and again, and sometimes we feel beat down for days, weeks, or months at a time.  Sometimes I don't want to go in for another admission when I'm on call, or explain something to a student for the 23rd time.  Sometimes I'm just done with gloomy weather.  It's life and you and I get over it, but sometimes we're just grouchy or down.  One of the ways I've decided to deal with this is through a little exercise in gratitude.

Three Things I Love is a project I've had in mind for some time.  There is an idea that a mediation of gratitude can change your brain physically and functionally.  There are so many things I'm grateful for, besides just getting to be on this journey.

Each week I want to reflect on  three things that just make me happy.  Small things like gear, a service, a good batch of beer, a computer application, a person, or a movement.  You get the idea.

Focus on gratitude.