19 November 2010

Thank Goodness for Books!

We've been here over a week, and oh the things we've learnt!

Number 1? Suturing. We thought it would look a bit lame if we had to get out the procedure book at the time of needed suturing, so a little practice might be in order. Not that our clients would probably notice, they are pretty used to bemused nurses flicking through books to decide on treatments and diagnosis. But we figured that our hands would be pretty full if and when we needed to whack in a stitch or two, so the solution? Chicken! Our poor little chicken breasts mysteriously ended up with a few lacerations that a little bit of Prolene (stitching thread for all you non-medical types) sorted out quick-sticks!

Our week has been full on, we are doing things here that we've never done before! I applied my very first backslab on a fractured wrist, muddled through a few antenatal checks, helped evacuate a sick patient to Darwin. Its amazing the stuff we have to do. Here the airstrip is about 100 metres from the clinic. When we airlift someone out at night, its not just about sorting out their clinical stability. We've also got to make sure the airstrip lights are on, and ensure someone drives up and down the runway to make sure its clear of random dogs and children! Only in the Territory!

The dogs here are "cheeky' as the locals say. What that really means is that they are feral, will run at you and bite. No cars in Lajamanu have any mudflaps left because as you drive up and down the streets, packs of them run at the cars and chew them off. And because no-one desexes them or cares for them, litters of puppies are born every week. The one exception is a camp dog called Chopper, owing to the fact that the top of one of her ears is missing, probably as a result of a scrap in her younger days. She's become the clinic dog, has a gorgeous temperament, and protects us from the other camp dogs. She's ancient, is terrified of thunder storms, has heart failure and arthritis and can't walk much further than 500 metres before she gets puffed out and you have to carry her home, but its amazing how much energy she can muster if another dog steps on her turf or goes for one of us. So one of our colleagues has her on anti-inflammatories and a bit of Lasix and she's still kicking on. People have predicted her demise many times, but still she lives! She's a bloody legend and an institution here in 'Laj' as its known. It'll be a sad day when she finally goes to canine heaven.

And speaking of heaven, we went and had a look at the local cemetery the other day. Lajamanu town itself is a mess, there's rubbish everywhere, the houses are unclean and full of pests, the feral dogs run amok, there's burnt out cars and bikes, but yet the cemetery is spotless. Every grave is impeccably maintained, plastic flowers and wreaths adorn each one and there is not a piece of litter to be seen. The respect for the dead is paramount, and the ancestors are revered in this traditional community.

Let's hope Chopper gets the same respect on the day she passes on.