Monday, July 26, 2010

Crocodile fever

Jason and I have made it north of the Berrimah line to Darwin. We may have caught a bit of croc fever on the way- it being clearly too early in the year for mango madness. We saw seven crocodiles on our wetlands cruise at Yellowwater, then set off intrepidly the next day to Koolpin. In order to get to this 'jewel of Kakadu', we had to cross a river containing an *actual saltwater crocodile*. I was so scared!! I told Miriam that if she was killed by a crocodile- and therefore definitely frontpage news for the croc-obssessed NT Times- I would be sure to tell them she was wearing her lovely Gorman bathers at the time of death.

Crocodiles are basically primordial monsters. They sit on the banks as still as rocks, then slip soundlessly into the water and *completely disappear*. Their teeth sit outside their mouths, giving them an evil grin.

On the way back we opted to scale a sheer rock face in order to avoid the river crossing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Leaving the desert

Ahh, gloomy old day in Alice Springs. I have no contingency plans for inclement weather here! The fact that our house is at least half packed up isn't helping.

Last night one of our friends reflected that it wouldn't be "so bad" moving back to Melbourne. After all, she said, "You can walk along Merri Creek and pretend that you're in nature!" Which, from a Central Australian point of view, is simply hilarious. In this town, you can ride a bike for fifteen minutes in any direction and end up in proper, unadultered BUSH.

I will definitely miss the sky- 360 degree horizons!! The feeling that the sky is so big and round above me that I am actually a tiny figure in a snow-dome.

It is going to take some getting used to the plush environs of a big city ED. In the department here I can sit at the main doctor's work desk, and, if I reach my hand behind me, tickle a patient's toes as they lie on their trolley.

I also suspect that the Melbourne patients will be not so easily placated with a bandage. Many of our patients are *fixated* on getting a bandage. It doesn't matter how severe the injury, the patient's top priority is getting a good bandage. I remember one night assessing a patient with a depressed skull fracture- ie organising their CT, making sure they weren't about to die, arranging an interstate transfer. The patient had a dressing over the wound, so that I could show the surgical registrar. Menawhile, the patient kept asking for a bandage. I imagined her watching all my apparent pfaffing around, thinking, "When will I get my BANDAGE??" I've only recently discovered a likely explanation for this phenomenon: the spilling of blood is considered very bad luck in local indigenous cultures.

I am thinking of setting up a Bandage Clinic down the road from the hospital.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Big Smoke

Today Jason and I officially became locals in Alice Springs- the Todd river has flowed three times whilst we've lived here!

I will tell a story, but not in a Crocodile Dundee, or Gods-Must-Be-Crazy way, I hope.

One of my patients was a middle aged Aboriginal lady, who came from a long way out bush. At least one day's drive. She had never been to Alice Springs before in her whole life. As luck would have it, she injured herself whilst here in the Big Smoke, and had to come to hospital.

She sat in the cubicle looking terrified, and told me quite frankly, "I'm very scared. I've never been to Alice Springs before." She asked if her husband could be called in from the waiting room- unlike the locals, she didn't realise that most people bring a family member through to the department with them. So he came through. When I told them both that she would need to stay in hospital, her husband said- so very softly that I had to literally put my ear up to his mouth-"We've never been here before. I should stay with my wife." He indicated that he would sleep on the floor by her bed.

So we organised for him to stay in the hospital too. A couple of hours later I ran into him upstairs on level 1, looking for an office that is actually on the ground floor. It was strange, because I realised that he was in exactly the right position, but one floor up. In hindsight, I think that they'd taken the elevator and he didn't realise he'd gone up a level.

So I showed him the way down to the office, via the stairwell. We entered the stairwell and he stopped completely, just looking at the stairs and at me very carefully. Then he grasped the handrail firmly and stepped down very slowly. When he reached the landing, he continued holding the handrail and walked the long way around to the stairs again. Then continued his slow descent.

I don't think he had used a staircase before- or at least not a big, two-storey-building staircase. Retelling this story, I feel terrible that I didn't show him the way back to his wife. I hope he found the way.