Monday, 15 October 2007

Tales From a Tiny Island

I promised more tales from the Solomon Islands and more tales you shall have in this and future posts. In a couple of days when I've sorted out all the pictures I'll hopefully be able to upload a few of those.

So, I last left you with the tale of our jungle trek, if you read the post you'll know what a nightmare it was! After that, I did eventually just about forgive the doctor and life carried on as normal. When I say normal I mean in Solomon Island terms... so bucket showers, nothing happening on time etc etc.

We'd been there a while now and had settled into a routine, there wasn't much at all to do. We amused ourselves by playing vollyball with the local children, reading books, playing cards or strolling down by the beach and swimming in the lovely warm South Pacific (keeping a close eye out for the apparently dangerous sea snakes). My work at the hospital was as laid back as ever, with ward rounds in the morning every other day or so and surgery the other mornings. By now I was assisting in whatever procedures were the order of the day (the vast majority of which were tubal ligations but we did have the occasional hernia repair).

There was another emergency cesarean section during my last week in which I took the role of comforting the patient, holding her hand as she trembled with fear, in between, monitoring the patients pulse, blood pressure, hanging up drips and giving drugs. Talk about multi-tasking! Once again things turned out very well, there are remarkably few complications during birth out there which is good considering they'd be rather serious!

Surgery was made rather difficult due to the fact that the pulse oximiter cable broke. So whilst we were still anaesthetising everyone with ketamine, we now had no other way of monitoring their breathing and O2 sats other than watching them to make sure they were breathing. (The cable has a whole story of its own about how it will be almost impossible to replace, just like everything else - i'll tell you about that in a future post). Not only that but the hospital was now ridiculously low on supplies, drugs were running low, we'd run out of diazapam which meant when anaesthetising with ketamine, every other patient either screamed or shook like crazy. Its not easy to do a procedure when the patient is screaming his head off with bad dreams and shaking like a plate of jelly in an earthquake! There was hardly any gauze left which made dressings and surgery quite difficult, various other medications had run out or were running out rapidly. Why was it so bad? Well, all the medication has to come by ship, a ship had come, unfortunately the person who was supposed to be responsible for putting the medication on the ship had got drunk and forgot (A very regular occurrence in all walks of Solomon Life).

The ship that came brought only a few barrels of plane fuel which left us rather worried. There were constant promises of more fuel coming but a Solomon Island promise is about as much use as a life jacket made of lead. As each day passed we got more and more worried and eventually it was decided that we should try and get an earlier flight. I sorted this out with the Solomon Airlines man who 3 days later decided to tell me that it wasn't actually possible. With some phone calls and a lot of wrangling they squeezed us onto a supposedly full flight and were were to leave slightly early.

The day before we were due to leave, I finally got chance to deliver my presentation on diabetes to the hospital staff. I enjoyed it, although I'm not sure how much they understood. I tried to make it nice and simple but I'm still not sure whether they were nodding in agreement or just out of politeness. Following my presentation I thanked them all for having me, I felt quite sad to be leaving. The wonderful Solomon people continued their friendliness by providing a goodbye lunch for missbliss and me which was a nice touch. That night, there happened to be a custom dance going on in a local village. We were very lucky that it was happening on our last night (they only do a couple each year), and that we were able to go. It was an incredible experience, to see such a custom in its completely traditional style (i.e. not just for tourists). More about that with the pictures...

And with that, it was time for us to leave (although I didn't for one minute expect the plane to come), I was extraordinarily surprised when it did turn up and after a couple of months on a paradise island which had become much like home we finally said our goodbyes and waved as we took off in the little plane to return to Honiara.

It was a sad day, but it didn't really hit us until the next day when we were sat having dinner in our hotel just how much we valued our time in Lata and how much we'd miss the island and its lifestyle. (more on that later too)

Bye Santa Cruz, we miss you.


The Angry Medic said...

Whoa. Surgery! Patients! Presentations! Hospitals! REAL MEDICINE!

I am so envious I think I just blew an artery. You're footing my vascular surgery bill. *glare*

missbliss said...

I'm crying! I miss it!

Anonymous said...

woah, putting patients to sleep with ketamine, guessing the dosages? that sounds terrifying!

I'm glad you made it back in time though!