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October 22, 2014 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-10-22

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014 // The Statement E3

pinching pennies: think before you swipe
facts & figures
8 out of 10 college students have owned credit cards before graduation
o5000 ho ,si
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012

1979 2012
T H E statement
Magazine Editor: Photo Editor: Managing Editor:
Carlina Duan Ruby Wallau Katie Burke
Deputy Editors: Illustrator: Copy Editors:
Max Radwin Megan Mulholland Mark Ossolinski
Amrutha Sivakumar Editor in Chief: Meaghan Thompson
Design Editor: Peter Shahin
Amy Mackens

Jam a shopaholic.
OK, not in your conven-
tional sense, though. I've
never really spent more than I
knew I could afford, but there
have always been some things
that feel too hard to resist.
For the longest time, I fought
it. I loyally stuck to my mono-
chrome TCF bank card, convinc-
ing myself that a piece of plastic
with no annual fee and no inter-
est rates would really be all I
needed to sustain myself in col-
In some ways, I was right. I
wasn't making enough money to
convince myself that I could pay
back credit card debts even if I
wanted to. On top of that, there
was a certain discipline that
came with knowing I only had a
limited amount to spend - either
with cash in hand or balances
in my account - and I couldn't
exhaust acent more.
But as much as I fought it, I
eventually gave in. I got my new
and shiny clear-plastic Ameri-
can Express credit card in the
mail. "Be careful," my dad had
warned, convincing me that this
seemingly magical card would be
the one thing to move me entirely
into adulthood.
It was all a kick in the gut. I
finally had access to unlimited
money - up to my credit limit
allowed, at least - and it was
time to figure out how I wanted
to manage my money. Instead of
letting my new card rot in the

back-end of my wallet, I started
using it for frequent purchases.
So I learned to think before
you swipe, if you can't avoid it all
Alarge share of credit card bal-
ances can come from the interest
that card companies charge on
outstanding debt at the end of
each payment period - on top of
the debt itself. It's punishment,
really. But it's something you can
avoid. At the end of every month,
check on your credit debt and try
your best to wipe it clean, mak-
ing sure to leave nothing behind
lingering on your invoice.
There's a minimum payment
you'll need to make to appease
your card company, and then
there's the payment you should

make to keep your finances in
It's not all a burden. Con-
sistently handling credit card
charges can go a long way toward
building your credit score. Main-
taining a high credit score can
help you qualify for low-interest
loans and future credit cards by
helping you validate your reli-
ability as a borrower. Thinking
several years down the road,
the ability to get mortgages and
large purchases such as cars at
low interest rates can go a long
way toward saving your future
wealth. College can be a great
place to start, since most of daily
consumption needs aren't neces-
sarily the most difficult to budget
and indemnify.
in fact, MarketWatch Finan-
cial Journalist Catey Hill called
credit cards "the worst way to
pay for college tuition," and in
some ways, she's right. Card com-
panies charge egregiously high
interest rates on revolving debt
- the debt that you keep pend-
ing on your account, month after
month. Compare the interest
rates that your card charges ver-
sus other loan options, and you'll
find yourself better off financing
your high-value purchases swith
other means of borrowing.
A credit card may act like a
lender, but it's far from a respon-
sible one. Pay only for what you
know you can afford today, and
not for what you think you will
be able to tomorrow.

stand in a small room of
doctors all dressed in crisp
white lab coats. It smells of
latex gloves, antiseptic, of heal-
ing wounds. It's my third week
at Respublikine Vilniaus Univer-
sitetine Ligonine - Vilnius Univer-
sity Hospital, in my home country
of Lithuania, where I'm shadow-
ing for the summer. I've seen more
than two-dozen head wounds so
far, several burns, countless bro-
ken bones, sprains and cuts. I'm
not afraid of the blood. I'm not
even afraid of dislocated joints.
But I am afraid of neurosurgery,
which is where I've been put for
the day.
I mean, what is neurosurgery
really? How much do we actually
know about the brain? The thought
of cutting into the most complex
and mysterious organ in the body
- of a living body, for that matter -
feels almost dehumanizing.
The head of surgery demands
yesterday's report. In the morn-
ing old cases are reviewed and
new cases introduced. I squint
intently at the PowerPoint from
the back corner of the room, try-
ing to understand the complicated
medical terminology. It's impos-
sible. The surgeon I shadow is
named Dr. Terbetas. He's assigned
a case coming in from a different
hospital. Something about a spinal
injury, I gather, and everyone dis-

I step into the congested wait-
ing room scanning for the patient.
In the corner sits an older man
and his son. Dressed neatly, flan-
nel button-downs tucked into off-
white slacks, they rise to shake my
"They sent us here from Tau-
rage," the son says. He has kind
eyes. "Nowhere else would take
The father, Aleksandras, 84,
says he has no history of surger-
ies, diseases or broken bones. May
have broken his leg once at a high
school dance. Or maybe it was a
"Old as the moon," says a nurse.
I scribble these details on the
chart. "How did the accident hap-
pen?" I ask.
"I had driven home from the
grocery store all by myself. I
stepped out of the car, took a few
steps and all of a sudden, I got real-
ly dizzy. Before you knew it, the
blocks of cement below me started
spinning and I must have fallen."
"We called the ambulance and
they took him to the hospital," says
the son. "There wasn't much they
could do there."
"They sent me here and gave me
this thing for my neck," says Alek-
sandras, pointing to the pathetic
brace wrapped around his neck. "A
week later, here we are."
Aleksandras had fractured the
dens of C2, the topmost vertebral

point of the spinal cord, joining
the skull and spine. Dr. Terbetas
explains it all to me, pointing to
the chipped bone floating on the
X-ray. Even with my basic under-
standing of neuro-anatomy, I can
tell this surgery is going to be dif-
ficult. Moving the broken bone a
millimeter in the wrong direction
would be fatal, and at his age, even
a successful surgery would not
guarantee that the bone would
grow and reconnect with the
Dr. Terbetas rushes off to see
another patient, and I wheel Alek-
sandras and his son to a room to
prepare for surgery.
"So are all doctors this young in
America, Dr. Tamkus?" Aleksan-
dras asks me in the elevator.
"You don't have to call me doc-
tor," I say, smiling. "I'm just a stu-
dent. Not even a medical student
- yet. But I hope to be."
"I was starting to think America
had really gone overboard with the
education thing if they were spew-
ing out doctors as young as you,"
Aleksandras says. I laugh. Talking
to him and his son is refreshing. I
spend the whole of my 20-minute
break chatting with them. I offer
to help Aleksandras unpack, but he
"He's very independent," the
son tells me. "His whole life he had
worked on his farm tending to the
cattle and horses, tending to the

crops. I had never seen a man love
what he does more than my father.
Two years ago on his birthday
we told him that he had worked
enough, that it was time for him to
settle down, because it would be
better for his health. I think that's
when he started getting old."
Aleksandras folds his striped
pajamas and places them on the
The ORis green - green scrubs,
green sterile cloths, green walls.
Two X-ray machines, a crash cart
and an acute physiologic system
tower over the gurney in the cen-
ter of the room where an anesthe-
tized body - Aleksandras - lies
on a table. It is bright and cold. The
mask traps my breath and warms
my face. Only the steady beeping of
the vitals machine interrupts the
silence of the room. The surgeon
asks for the scalpel.
It is a potent image - one human
operating on another. One standing
tall, tool in hand, the other lying
scared on a table. Commands roll
off the surgeon's tongue: Clamp.
Forceps. Scalpel. The life of the
patient lies at his fingertips.
OnlyAleksandras' neckisvisible.
It's almost as if he isn't there. Some-
times, I forget that he is. The ster-
ile clothes move up and down as he
breathes. I hold Aleksandras' hand.
Once the operation is complete,

I step out of the OR and tear off my
face mask. I breathe easier now. I
squint at the clock atthe end of the
hallway. Two in the morning. mes"
I head up to the break room
with the thought of laying on one
specific brown couch for a nap.
The elevator opens and I see the
son, holding his wearied head up
by his palms, body slouched. He
looks up to me with hopeful eyes.
"Saule, how was the surgery?"
I tell him we had to call in
another surgeon for help.tI tell
him they tried for hours. I tell him
Dr. Terbetas could not reach the
spine. With every sentence his face
falls. "It's not over," I add hastily.
"They are going to try to get to the
bone from the back. He just has to
We sit in silence. For 10 minutes,
for an hour. Time is not absolute,
especially in this place. After all, it
was just a few hours ago that I had
befriended these people.
They say emotional distance is
a sign of a good surgeon. But that
seems like a pipe dream. We get
satisfaction from helping people,
from knowing people, through 's
relationships, conversations. I'm
not sure I can do it, notyet.
I look up at Aleksandras' son. He
is asleep now, hunched over with
his face in his hands. I lean back in
my chair, and close my eyes too.
Saule Tamkus is an LSA Junior.

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