Today started off looking like a bit of a doddle, the other nurse and the doctor were to fly over to Marpurru on the mainland to assess and bring back 2 people that were to be sent to Darwin for further treatment. While they were doing this I was going to spend the day engaging with some of the males at a couple of the closer outstations that not often get a male nurse visiting. "Engaging" may have taken the form of taking a few handlines with me and trying our luck along the beach. Just as I was about to head down the store to procure some bait for the "engagement" there was a change of plans. We now were all to fly over to Marpurru and while the other nurse escorted the two people back to Elcho the doctor and I were to run a clinic at the community for the day.
Oh well, I'm really not that much into fishing anyway but the prospect of spending the day by the beach yacking with some of the locals was quite attractive. The flight is only about 20 minutes to Marpurru and on landing at the strip we have to walk up to the community and pick up a vehicle that is left there for our use in order to transport all our gear that we use to run a clinic. It's only about a 10 minute walk but by this time it was really hot and humid. The doctor and I had a pretty good turn out for our clinic and managed to see a good number of people for various complaints. The clinic we use is very small, just 2 rooms with a toilet connecting them. A ceiling fan creaks away unsuccessfully trying to move the hot, thick air in an attempt to render some sort of relief from the oppressive conditions. The people we are treating remark how hot it is inside the clinic and that it would be better setting up under the large mango tree outside which is an excellent idea but too late to move now. Dressings won't stick to sweaty skin and while trying to take blood your own sweat gets in your eyes and people fidget hoping to get it over with so they can escape the hot box. By mid afternoon the presentation of people dries up, they have either retired for an afternoon under a shady tree and have taken the wise choice of avoiding our walk-in oven.
We pack up, load up the vehicle and drive back to the strip to await the plane which is due at 2:00 PM. After unloading the gear next to the strip I then have to take the vehicle back to the community and walk back again in the heat. Luckily there is a small shade structure at the strip because for some reason the plane is late and we sit for another half an hour before hearing the drone of it's engine approaching. Bundle everything into the plane, fly back to Elcho, bundle everything out of the plane, into another vehicle, out again back at our main clinic and restock the bags for the next visit. Then it's a matter of finishing off the notes from the day and processing any pathology I collected to be sent to Darwin for testing the next day.
Meanwhile 2 of the people that were to be sent to Darwin had been unable to travel on the commercial flight that had departed that afternoon. A Careflight plane had been arranged to pick them up around 8:00 PM but that meant someone would have to take them to the plane when it arrived. Plan "A" was that the other nurse and I would take it in shifts so that we were able to get a break each around meal time so that was arranged and I set off for home for a half hour break. I was just walking out the front door to return to the clinic when plan "B" was brought into play. Now the people were cleared to wait with some family that had a house right next to our clinic and the other nurse would pick them up when contacted by Careflight on arriving at Elcho. Sounds good to me! So a pretty full day particularly with the weather conditions at this time of the year and I'm hoping for a bit of male "engagement" tomorrow.
Well I've been on Elcho Island a week and a half and will be leaving on Friday to head back to the centre to another community, Yuendumu. This contract has been a little different from most as I have been doing outreach work rather than working in a clinic all the time. I had hoped at the start I would be visiting the out stations most days but circumstance dictated I only did 2 trips last week. One by light plane back to the mainland to a community call Mapurru and one by 4 wheel drive to the northern end of the island, approx 60 klm. We visited 2 communities that day, Banthula and Gawa although due to a large funeral taking place at Galiwinku there were no people at Banthula. The road that runs up the centre of Elcho is a dirt track which isn't that bad except during the wet season and takes just over an hour to traverse.
The funeral at Galiwiku has been going on all last week as it was for a man that was very famous in these parts for his singing but I won't name him for cultural reasons. Every day and just about all day there has been singing and dancing down at the football oval where shade houses have been erected. The sound of the clap sticks can be heard all over Galiwinku and depending on the wind direction the drone of the didjeridu and singing.
Today we are to do the drive up to Gawa again as the plane we were to take to another community is in for repairs, hope they do a good job! For the next 3 weeks the service has a doctor so we need to visit all the outstations while the doctor is with us for review of peoples meds etc. Also the dental team is here for 3 weeks as well so they will be driving with us in their vehicle to spend the rest of the week at Gawa catching up on dental checks.
Galiwinku is pretty well serviced with 2 larger and 2 smaller stores for food. The 2 main ones are open every day from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM which is amazing. There is mobile reception in Galiwinku which extends quite a way into the surrounding areas. The main pastime here is fishing of course, too bad I'm not that much into it so haven't tried my luck. I have had a vehicle to use while I'm here as I also have been on call since arriving for after hours emergencies. The only drawback is that I have to have the on call phone with me all the time and have to stay in mobile range the whole time so....
Not many call outs though just a dog bite to a child at a closer outstation one night about 8:00PM. Should have been a straight forward call except while tending to the bite a young mum brought her 12 month old baby to me along with an empty bottle of Domestos bleach. Mum said the baby had tried to drink the bleach a few days ago and she had large white alkali burns to her bottom lip and tongue. That amplified the situation quite a bit so entailed bringing them into Galiwinku a full assessment, phone call to the on call doctor and a plane flight for them to Gove hospital. All well in the end though as Mum and Bub are back home after couple of days in hospital.
So only 3 sleeps till flying to Alice Springs via Darwin then the 3 hour or so drive to Yuendumu. I have a few nights in Alice though before driving out, not sure if Jo will be able to drive in and pick me up or if they are sending me out on Monday with a driver. Anyway what will be will be...but for now I've got to pack the "Troopy" with all the gear for todays visit.
I have been fiddling about with this website for years now having rushes of enthusiasm every now and again and adding a bit here or a bit there. Guess what....I'm having another rush.
Jo and I have had another change of direction in the passed few months that hopefully will pay off in having a more relaxed, balanced lifestyle. We have left fulltime, permanent work for the N.T. Health Dept. and have started with an agency doing casual locum work. As I write this I am on Elcho Island off the north coast of Arnhemland and Jo is at the other extreme at Yuendumu right in the centre of Australia.
But I jump ahead somewhat!!!
We are both Remote Area Nurses (RAN's) working with mainly Australian Indigenous people in remote locations. Remote nursing hit the headlines some time ago with the shocking murder of Gayle Woodford in March 2016 in South Australia. Prior to that I would have been surprised if the general population of Australia even knew there was such a thing as a RAN. Since Gayle's untimely and horrific death there has been some changes in the approach to the safety of RAN's. The "never alone" edict has resulted in a safer work environment for us but there is always room for improvement and I'm sure there will still be issues to come.
Working in small communities has both it's geographical and social "remoteness". There are still many communities that have no mobile phone reception and very few where internet access is provided in the accomodation. The local store will have a very limited and expensive variety of groceries and the fresh veggies don't last very long after the fortnightly truck or barge delivery.
Although the lifestyle can be quite laid back and flexible there are high demands on a nurses "off duty" time. In the smaller communities where there may only be 2 nurses, in our case Jo and myself, we are on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Even if it is and I don't like using this word, quiet, there is always the thought of the phone going off in the middle of a meal or the early hours of the morning to attend an emergency.
The call out may be a "run of the mill" child with a fever or a life threatening condition. No remote communities have after hours face to face access to a doctor except via the telephone. The on call doctor may be at a major hospital in the state, the other end of the country or the other side of the world!
I could go on at length about our chosen field of nursing and probably will from time to time but will stop a this point at the risk of boring the pants off you.
We also just love to travel during our down times and have been lucky enough to do quite a bit in the last few years. The hope is our new working arrangement will allow that particular yearning to flourish and grow!!!!