Friday, December 22, 2006

Vake at Last

Hey everyone,

I am officially on vacation as of this afternoon. What a joyous sensation. I’ve really enjoyed my elective over the past 2 weeks, but have been feeling a little burnt out. I’ve been working with people with severe, chronic schizophrenia and it’s been really interesting and, at times, extremely entertaining. I just love working with patients who tell it like it is. Maybe that’s why I like pediatrics so much.

There are too many funny anecdotes to relay, and sadly, the most amusing moments are usually a consequence of someone’s deteriorating mental health. Still, I must share with you the story of a young gentleman we saw today with an unbelievably fixed set of delusions that he is affiliated with/related to a number of Hollywood megastars.

He is adamant about this stuff, which is somewhat entertaining in and of itself. However, by far the most hilarious part of our meeting today came at the very end when the patient insisted on demonstrating that he was in fact Mariah Carey. He proved this by giving us a sample of his multioctave voice. I usually don’t have to fight too hard to resist the urge to laugh out loud during patient encounters. But during the above performance, I almost died inside. I must’ve looked like I was having a seizure, shaking uncontrollably, and contorting my face in every which way. I thought my eyeballs would pop out. It was frickin' hilarious.

I had a similar, albeit slightly less hysterical, moment during my time in Benin. We were in a small village in the north working with a medical mission. I was doing gynecology that day, but actually a woman came in labour and I was able to determine that she was dilated to 4-5 cm with intact membranes. I wanted to deliver the baby, but we had to send her off with a midwife…

Sorry, I’ve digressed. So anyway, I was doing gynecology and pretty much everyone had a sexually transmitted infection. The patients and I communicated through an interpreter. This woman came and sat down and I asked the interpreter about the nature of the problem. She asked the woman while I waited, and then turned to me and said, in a totally deadpan fashion, that this woman’s main concern was that her body was actively rejecting her husband’s sperm. I’m sure the corners of my mouth must’ve turned up ever so slightly, but still, I calmly asked for more detail.

Well, as it happens this woman was concerned that after intercourse, all of her husband’s sperm was “leaking” out of her vagina. It doesn’t seem quite as hilarious now as while it was all happening, but let’s just say, I had to turn my head and take a brief moment to keep from breaking down. Come to think of it, I was very tired from staying up all night panicking about spider bites.

Did I mention that I sustained a large spider bite about 1 week into the trip which has left a semi-permanent scar on the lateral aspect of my right thigh? Yeah, it was about a 1.5 inch long lesion with vesicles that almost looked like a burn. It did not hurt and I discovered it incidentally.

Initially we thought a bug had burrowed into my leg, possibly even laying eggs. So, us 3 exceptionally bright and knowledgeable medical students, decided to create an anaerobic environment to draw the bastard out. We put a super thick coat of Polysporin on and then covered it up for a period of 24 hours. Well nothing came out, but I still have a scar. It has been painless all along, though incredibly slow to heal.

So, that’s about all I’ve got for now. I'm going out tonight for a little holiday cheer with some old friends. I will take the loser cruiser in an attempt to avoid freezing rain and driving under the influence. I wish you all a good Christmas, or whatever you might be celebrating at this time. Personally, I don’t much care for the holidays, but it is fun to have time off to spend with family and friends.

Big hugs and kisses


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Zem of the Day

Sometimes when I am examining a patient, I get a whiff of B.O. This happened twice yesterday. I find this distressing because, for a brief second, I have to pause and ask myself if I am the one with B.O. Then I have to try and figure out if I had a shower that morning, and whether I did a good enough job on the “hot spots”. Or, if I have had a particularly exertional morning, did I enlist appropriate antiperspirant support? Taking time out from a patient encounter to ponder these important matters can really hamper a budding physician’s productivity.

In Benin, most people have body odour. I understand this. Given the sweltering, crippling, oppressive heat, it would practically be a full time job to ensure that one never smells bad. Occaisional B.O. is almost inevitable. The same is not the case here in Ottawa.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but in Benin, most people commute either on foot, or on a ‘zem’ which is basically a crappy motor scooter. One interesting game we used to play was “Zem of the Day”. One day I saw a man on the back of a zem with three queen-sized mattresses on his head. People also walk around with a lot of unbelievable stuff on their heads, like we're talkin' Ripley's. But that is a different game, which I will report on later.

Have a good day my feline friends.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Back in O-Town

Dear Readers,

Some of you have expressed concern about my lack of contact with the outside world lately. Well fret no more. I am safely home, arrived on Saturday night.

We left Benin on Dec 1st and then I spent a week in France. The trip from start to finish was a positive experience and I will write in more detail as soon as I get my bearings.

I am currently trying to battle a very recalcitrant case of jet leg, as well as, settle into my elective placement for the next two weeks. All of this has me quite tired, and frankly a little grumpy. Also, though I was well for the duration of my time in Africa, I had a minor health scare on my last day in France from which I continue to recover. Nothing serious as it turns out, just a lot of shit – literally.

Anyway friends, I am happy to be home, and excited to start sharing stories, both from my time away, and about the day to day here in O-town. I’ve decided that next time I go on a similar adventure, I will definitely bring my laptop because there is so much in the day to day that is worth putting into writing, and trying to retain it all without a proper canvass is nearly impossible for someone like me, with the attention span of a newt.

À bientot,