Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A week in

So I've been in town for a week now, and in that time I've seen many patients, 3 knee surgeries, 1 hip surgery, 1 lower-leg surgery, ... a bunch of other surgeries ... many XRays, a lot of people with abdominal discomfort, a C-Section, many very-soon-to-be mothers, a few broken bones courtesy of violence, and a lot of diabetes and heart disease. Perhaps of more import, I have found many fishing locations, and have managed absolutely no luck at any of them so far. My only consolation is that most other people were also similarly unlucky (I only saw one other person land a fish). Oh well, all I can really do is hold my head up and persevere.

As I expected, the faint appeal of family practise has grown considerably since I have seen what it can look like in a rural area. Not only do you see patients in the office, but you also see them in emergency, on the ward, and in surgery. You see people you know, as well as others you've never met before. You talk about things, order tests, do some tests yourself, interpret some of the results, help out or do the necessary procedures, and see the patients afterwards. You work with a very diverse team that is well traveled, and get to do this all in a very scenic environment. Did I mention that there's fishing here too? Everyone keeps saying it's good - I'll have to keep checking until I catch something big to believe them ;)

This doesn't mean that I've discovered a definate passion to go into family medicine - but of note, it has firmly placed it onto my list of options. I am still keenly interested in the idea of emergency medicine and surgery, and am sure many other areas will appeal to me over the next year. While dermatology, pathology and urology residencies may breathe a sigh of relief that I won't likely be soon haunting their hallways, there hasn't really been much other 'narrowing down' that has happened. While some items get exclamation marks beside them, very few have been fully removed from the list.

Perhaps because it's one of the more frequent type of procedures in the OR here, orthopedic surgery is catching my interest. The surgeon has graciously let me into the OR whenever I have time or see cases I'm interested in. Perhaps it's the tools. There are some pretty cool tools you get to use, and I feel this ... thrill? ... when I hear the [edited] start up and commit the course of action. From there on, it's all mechanical, and most of the patients are feeling much better quite quickly. Is it cherry-picking? I don't really know, but I know I like the idea.

Anyway, my day here is done, and now is the time to bide my time until heading to my preceptors cabin on the lake to have a BBQ. Life is tough here, but, hey, I'm willing to suffer for it.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Carrying on in Kitimat

So, has it been long enough that posting on a blog is now retro? No? Well, that’s probably the answer anyone at the forefront of ‘retro’ hears to that question. Now that I’ve established my place in history, I can move on. It’s rather odd to feel like you’re going back in time, and to some extent that’s what I’ve just done.

In many ways, Kitimat feels like it’s stuck at various periods in the past. Probably most prominent to me right now is my lack of an ever-available internet connection. I can’t access internet at the apartment I’m staying at (& it isn’t worth setting up for just a month), and I go to the library to check important emails. Anyway, at the least, it makes for less distraction.

The trip up to Kitimat began with a late breakfast at the Blue Fox with Julia, and then I went for a leisurely 6-ish hour drive up to Port Hardy. I was seriously impressed by the quick disappearance of civilization after Campbell River, and then the sudden appearance of an international community of backpackers, hitchhikers and other assorted travellers in Port Hardy. What were they all here for? Well, evidently most were planning on catching the ferry the next day, and so after a night of earplug-muffled snoring, I woke with the rest of the Hostel and headed off to the ferry for the stipulated arrival time of 05:30 – AM, in case you didn’t catch it.

Here, I proceeded to wait in a line of cars that proceeded in the most unusual way. Instead of the cars moving up to the booth, the line stayed still while the BC Ferries staff walked up the line getting the passenger information, after which the cars then moved forward in the line. This was all very confusing to a coffee-deprived brain after a snore-filled night.

With a start like this, the first sight I had upon reaching the passenger deck of the Northern Exposure Ferry was that of a table set out with complimentary coffee and tea. Yes, I was in the right place, and the ferry gods, Poseidon, or maybe even some incredibly generous soul had known exactly what I needed. Things kept on getting better – what had begun as a cloud & fog encrusted boat soon became a mini-cruise ship sailing sparkling waters, with steep costal mountains keeping watch as the porpoises attempted to race us. Silly porpoises, they hadn’t even had their coffee this morning, and thus were no match for us. Also of note, they didn’t have the helicopter pad on their top, as our

boat did. Also entering this race was a team of 5 seagulls manning a log. They didn't move too fast, though.

The journey was filled with many humpback and killer whale sightings, fishboat drag races, dramatic mountains with spectacular waterfalls, and really comfy chairs.

We stopped at Bella Coola for an hour or so, was seriously impressed at how small it looked from the boat, and then moved on to more whale sightings, again closely guarded by the untrusting mountains pouring their waterfalls into the ocean, determined to keep us from running aground as we passed through incredibly narrow passageways that surely also served to clean the barnacles off of the bottom of the boat.

Sunset, and many pictures through glinty glass later, we arrived in Prince Rupert around 11:30 – or 23:30 for those nautical and/or military types out there.

The Tourism staff on the boat had called ahead for me and booked a hotel in Prince Rupert, so all I had to do was find it, grab that parking stall under the burned-out light, and carry my over-sized suitcase (I am packing for more than a month, remember), camera and laptop up the 20 or so stairs to the lobby, wait for the confused couple in front of me to decipher the short form cleverly disguised in their mother tongue before I could then register, and then carry the same oversized suitcase, laptop and camera up some more stairs to my room. Finally, I could call my lovely wife and tell her all about the trip. When she answers her phone, she sounds sleepy – oh, yes, it must be after midnight – but what proceeds is racy. Well, racy in that it was like a race – between the tortoise and the hare. I, hopped up on excitement and coffee, and she sleepy and wanting to pop her head back under the covers. No contest, it was over quickly, I declared myself the victor, and decided to call again during more humane hours.

This will eventually lead to today, three days later, when I finally gave up the idea of finding a decent internet connection to use my skype on laptop to call, and finally called her (or she called me, however you choose to look at it). Anyway, important things out of the way, I’ll tell you a little bit about what it’s like here.

The drive from Prince Rupert to Kitimat was again breathtaking – and thus with such reminders I prevented myself from turning blue.

I passed many locations on the rivers that were loaded with people fishing, getting more and more excited myself for when I’d be able to join their ranks. I passed the spot I’d have to leave from if I were to kayak to Frizzell hotsprings, and noticed the white caps on the waves, and stopped to appreciate the wind – well, maybe a kayak isn’t the best choice of transportation – but if the first nations people could canoe just about 100km from Prince Rupert to the Haida Gawaii (the Charlottes) in dugout canoes long before contact with the west, then I surely should be able to make it the 1.5 km across the river/inlet.

I arrived in Kitimat, guided by my trusty ‘Min (gps) to a detour. Min then brings me back to the same road a good ways further on, only to be detoured again. It was only in the evening that I discovered that the road was closed for drag races, which apparently hadn’t happened in town for 10 years. While the rest of the town was watching the races, I found myself an apartment. The one furnished unit that was available was on the far side of the community, didn’t have much nearby, and cost almost double the unfurnished one I ended up getting. I had the car full of camping stuff, complete with pots, pans, air mattress etc.. As I hauled everything up the 4 flights of stairs to my unit, I thought of how this should be called urban camping – and then realized with a wry grin that this is far from urban. I decided to spend the next day (Sunday) trying to find the local climbing crag, and I managed to not only find it, but also grab its GPS co-ordinates, snap some pictures of the cliffs, and run away, chased by a small nation of mosquitoes. Crestfallen, I found myself to a local fishing tackle shop to console myself by buying some flies the size of small household pet – that and some 30 lb test line. It’s going to be good.

Monday I began working with the local doctor to whom I’ve been assigned, and I soon began to appreciate the extra room and slightly slower pace of the Kitimat medical practises. The consult rooms could easily accommodate the times when we both were in a room with two parents, their sick child and a stroller. Tuesday (today) I spend the day in the OR of the hospital (about 2 min stroll from the office, and about a 15 min walk from my apartment). An day in the OR is always a good day, and today was orthopaedic surgery. What’s better than using power tools seeing shiny new joints going in to replace broken/worn out ones? I’m really not sure. For Julia, Dad M, Chris and Mom U’s sake, I’ll avoid the details, but be assured that it was a good day. On the way back, I bought a box of prawns out of a deep-freezer loaded into the back of a pickup truck, and yes, they went very well with my sidekicks creamy pasta with real bacon package.

Anyway, I’m going to call it quits for today, and hopefully make it out to the library with this on a memory stick so I can post it.


Note- wow, formatting is tough. Think of the design as 'rugged'.