Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hair Balls

I tried posting the following entry last night. Unfortunately, Blogger was not cooperating and I had to go to bed before I acutely lost my shit. Today I was at Queen’s. My showing was not nearly as good as yesterday at McGill. I got up at 4:30 to catch the train. I slept the whole way and got to the interview in a tired stupor, with my contact lenses glued to my dry dry eyeballs.

The interview was a total circus. Their questions were silly. Twice I had to say that I had no specific example to illustrate the stupid question they were asking. I found out later that some of my colleagues just made shit up. For example “can you give an example of a situation you encountered in clerkship where your values were in conflict with those of the patient? How did you handle the situation?”

My response: “No, I cannot give you an example of that type of situation. It is not one I encountered. A more likely scenario would be for my values to be in conflict with those of a preceptor.” Then I told a lame story about how this guy last week with severe alcohol dependence and frostbite asked me for some analgesia. I told them I didn’t give the guy any. Then they gave me the fifth degree on what addictions services would be available in Inuvik and asked me what I arranged for follow-up. I hated the whole process and developed a severe headache part way through.

Anyway, I am home now. off to BC tomorrow. Here is last night’s post:

…Today I got up at 0 dark thirty to catch the train to Montreal. I read my interview stuff for like 20 minutes and then the sun came up. It was beaming so brightly in the window and I felt so nice and warm, that I could do nothing but curl up like the little cat that I am and have a good long nap. It was 4:30 am in Inuvik after all.

We rolled into town yesterday afternoon after a lovely weekend in Edmonton with Mandykins and Mattcat. My parents picked us up at the airport, and we basically hit the ground running, trying to get ready for this morning.

My trip to Mtl was uneventful. I love the train so much, and fervently believe that Via Rail offers the best value for service in Canadian travel. The weather was bloody freezing though, and due to a last minute wardrobe malfunction, I had to wear a skirt and my nylon-clad legs felt like popsicle sticks in the wind. It was actually intensely painful. I never felt that cold in Inuvik, probably because I would not be stupid enough to dress so inappropriately for the weather.

It was only marginally warmer when I arrived at the building where the interviews were being held. I have never been so cold indoors in my life. Everyone was freezing, even the men. I think they must’ve had a problem with their furnace or something. I had to apologize part way through my second interview, saying something to the effect of “I’m sorry for shaking so much. I am not nervous, just a little cold”.

To which the interviewer replied “a little cold? It’s ridiculous in here. I don’t know what the hell is going on.” I must admit, I felt relieved. I was so cold, and shaking so much in between my interviews, that I spilled a good amount of coffee on the floor in the waiting room. Suffice it to say, it cramped my style.

Two people from my class were also interviewing today, which was nice. I wish I could say how it went, but it felt kind of weird. There were two 45-minute interviews with staff, and a short individual meeting with the program director. All of the sessions were fine, but were more like relaxed chats than structured interviews. Neither of them seemed to be working from a prepared list of questions, just having a casual chit chat about my accomplishments and interests. I had some nice feedback too, but it is just so hard to say what is sincere, and what they say to everyone so that they will rank their program.

So, tomorrow I am off to Kingston, where I will again put my best foot forward. I don’t really want to match to Queens, so the pressure is not exactly intense. Still, one likes to make a good impression.

McGill surprised me today. There were actually a lot of features of their program that make it a good fit for me. It dawned on me this afternoon that this whole process is going to be very difficult, but exciting in some ways too.

I am going to head to bed now because I have to get up at 4:30am.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wrapping Up

It’s hard to believe, but our sojourn here in Inuvik is already drawing to a close. It’s gone by incredibly quickly, and has been quite fun. Last weekend was especially action packed. Friday night we were invited out for some more curling, and afterwards, our team had a little house party at the skip’s house. There were a few Scottish people in attendance, who brought with them many a moment of side-splitting hilarity.

On Saturday morning, we got up early to rent a car. Actually, we rented a Yukon, in which 5 of us drove on the ice road to Tuktoyaktuk. We cruised way up past the tree line and walked out onto the Arctic Ocean. Despite being dressed very warmly, it was farkin’ cold, and the wind was so biting that, after a couple of minutes, I felt like I was standing out there buck naked. We took pictures at the end of the TransCanada Trail. It took us a while to figure out what the sign was commemorating because the thing was pretty much covered in ice.

After driving around for about 5 minutes, we had a pretty good handle on Tuk. They have an interesting thing up there, actually. I figure it’s the equivalent of a community garden “down south” (meaning like Edmonton, or Ottawa, or something). Instead, they have a community deep freeze. They’ve dug these caves down into the permafrost and in the summer they keep their meat down there. Pretty neat eh? I guess they’ve been doing it that way for hundreds of years.

Aside from the Beaufort Sea and the above mentioned highlights, there is very little to do in Tuk. There’s one restaurant in town which serves contaminated food on the rare occasion that it is actually open. It was not open during our visit, unfortunately. There are two other small stores. The Northmart, and Stanton’s. After a brief dip into the Northmart, we stopped by the health centre, which is staffed by two nurses. We were just stopping in to say hi and maybe hoping to use their bathroom. Instead we had a super freaky experience involving a rapid cycling bipolar nurse, some scrambled eggs, and canned fruit. I won’t elaborate further.

We got back later than we thought on Saturday, and were treated to just a tiny taste of Aurora B. on the trip back. We also got to see the work crews out flooding the ice road, which is pretty interesting, especially when the auger breaks through the ice and water shoots up.

Driving on the Mackenzie River is kind of cool, very curvy. Our vehicle happened to have Onstar, and we heard someone’s funny story about breaking down on the ice road and hitting the Onstar button. Apparently, a frantic voice immediately flooded the car yelling “Get out of the car. You are over water. Get out of the car.” It’s probably folklore, but it’s a funny story nonetheless.

So Saturday night we went to another dinner party and were pretty exhausted when we finally fell into bed. On Sunday we went dogsleding. It was extremely fun. But like the perpetual 2 year old that I am, I could not resist the urge to give my dogs a great big snuggle after our run. Those bitches ran their assess off after all. I paid the ultimate price since I am totally allergic to dogs, and my eyes frequently swell shut when I play with them. You may recall an incident which occurred in Calgary last September. Also, at Christmas, my eyes were swollen shut for 2 days.

Anyway, I broke out in the itchiest hives in the world, all over my face and hands, and ended up having to take 50mg of Benedryl, which pretty much knocked me out cold. I was in bed by 8:30pm. I can, however, report that I am now hive-free and, all in all, it was a very fun weekend.

Yesterday I was on call for 24-hours. I spent over 2 hours doing an admission in the middle of the night, which my staff sauntered in and signed (took him 4 minutes). This morning, he said to me “what a great night last night eh?” I almost barfed in his face. Then I witnessed an act of professional bullshit wherein 2 physicians volleyed an elderly Inuvialuit man back and forth for a couple of hours, neither wanting to have him as their patient. When one of them instructed me to tell the other that he should take the patient, I finally put my foot down and said that she should tell him herself, and that it was well outside of my comfort zone to be acting as a mediator between 2 physicians. They sorted their shit out. The patient is as cute as a button.

Bobcat is on call tonight, and is currently dealing with a patient who took a bottle of iron pills and tried to hang himself. There are hoards of psych problems up here. Ironically, I personally have seen very few psych patients. I have never been coughed on so much in my life though. Kids and babies have no manners. I exact my revenge by making them gag with a wooden tongue depressor.

So tonight I am making lists of things that need to happen before we leave here on Friday morning. It feels like we’ve just arrived. We will spend a day in Edmonton with Mandykins and Mattcat on Saturday and get home Sunday, just in time to begin my travel marathon in Montreal on Monday. I just want it all to be over. Plus, I think I’m gonna need to buy a girdle in order to fit into my suit. The median BMI up here is about 33, and I have been heading in that direction myself.

I can’t wait to be done interviews and at home for weeks on end. I plan to yogafy and run, and feel joy. The bed here has probably permanent damaged my back (either that or I have Fibromyalgia) and the puffy rubber pillows leave a lot to be desired. They are like sleeping on an inflated balloon.

Okay, I hope everyone is excelling in their chosen fields. I miss you all.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

One for the Record Books

Thursday night was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It’s hard to put into words actually, but I guess magical is really the best descriptor.

I was on call in emerg when a 71 year old man was brought in from a nearby community with belly pain. We worked him up and decided that he had a surgical abdomen and needed to go out to Yellowknife and see a surgeon ASAP.

With a call to the medevac team, Rick the paramedic came over to the hospital and the pilots went to the airport to get the plane ready. We were pretty worried about the patient. His vitals had become a titch wonky, and he was becoming delirious.

I had heard that if the weather is decent, and there aren’t too many people in the plane, they sometimes let the med students go out on the medevac flights. So I figured I would take my chances, and sheepishly asked if maybe I could go along. Rick said I needed the doctor’s permission. She said yes, as long as I picked her up a 20-pack of Timbits in Yellowknife. I thought that was reasonable request. Then Rick phoned the pilot to make sure it was okay. He said yes too. I felt overwhelmed with excitement, and then a little worried for a second because a plane crashed not too far from here last week and 3 of 4 people on board were killed.

As you know, risk is proportional to reward and I really wanted to go. Also, last summer in Algonquin Park, I chickened out of jumping off of this little cliff and I’ve been pissed off about it ever since. So I was not going to make that mistake again. I raced home and put on 17 layers of warm clothing. I could barely move but it was minus 40. Also, as Bobcat pointed out, if the plane goes down, you don’t want to have to rummage around for your clothes and try putting them on with a broken pelvis…okay, I am being a bit dramatic here…It was cold, so I dressed warm.

The plane ride to Yellowknife took about 2 hours. We had great tails winds. The patient had responded well to the 5mg of morphine he’d had right before leaving, and aside from the occasional PVC, he was stable and calm. We dropped him off without incident. I was sad to leave him actually because he was a really sweet old man, who had no family with him, and he seemed scared and confused.

So, with our patient safely in hospital, we headed off to Timmy Ho’s to meet up with the pilots. Coming from Aklavik and Inuvik, Yellowknife seemed humongous to me. We drank delicious coffee and hung out while the pilots had dinner. Then we were on our way back to the airport.

Flight plans were created and fuel was added. We were on our way. Our pilots were Craig and Crystal. Both were friendly and fun. We were flying into a huge headwind, so the trip back to Inuvik was expected to take 4 hours rather than 2.

Here is where things get magical:

After we took off and reached our cruising altitude, Craig the pilot turned and asked me if I wanted to have a go at flying the plane. I pretty much peed in my pants and lept forward, ready to accept his offer.

It’s pretty tight in those little planes, even more so in the cockpit. I was wearing a lot of clothes and a huge pair of Sorels, and had a very real worry that I would be smashing things up like a bull in a china shop up there. But I managed to squeeze myself in and the next 3 hours were unbelievable.

Sitting in the dark cockpit on such a cold and clear night, it seemed like the stars were all around the plane. I felt like I was flying in space. Between the 2 of us, we saw 5 shooting stars without even trying. Then, as if this wasn’t enough, we were treated to an amazing and huge display of Aurora Borealis. Only we were flying through them. I am not joking, this show lasted for hours. Crystal and I alternated between quiet awe, and looking for shapes in the Northern Lights. I will never forget it. It was one of those serene and beautiful times in your life where you feel overwhelmingly compelled to believe in God, or some other higher power with serious esthetics skills. If there is in fact a God, I am certain this is where he spends his nights.

That’s not all. The pilots let me have a shot at manually descending the plane from 28,000 to 24,000 feet. It was super scary but I managed to avoid having an MI as we dipped down into the dark unknown (definitely suffered some angina pains though). It’s hard to keep track of descending gently and keeping the plane level at the same time. I enjoyed it, but was happy when we turned the autopilot back on. The pilots also practiced and emergency descent for us two, where basically the plane nosedived while we held on for dear life in the back. I learned all kinds of interesting things about planes.

Anyway, as you can see, I had a really exciting time. By the time we got back, fueled up, put the plane in the hangar and popped by the hospital, it was almost 5am. It was also -49 degrees out. I crawled into bed feeling like the luckiest cat in the world and stayed in bed until 11am.

affectionately yours,


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Big Party Tonight

Well, it wasn't as dramatic as one might think. At approximately 1:59pm, the sun, or rather a faint strip of yellow light, popped up over the horizon for a couple of minutes. By 2:03 it was all over. The only remnant was the pink dusky colour of the clouds above. I enjoyed the event from the second floor stairwell of the nurses residence where we are staying. Bobcat is on call today he missed the whole thing.

In about an hour, the bonfire will get underway, and then the fireworks are set for 7pm. I am really excited to get bundled up and walk over to the field where the whole town gathers. Bobcat will try and watch from the hospital parking lot.

Today, as I was walking home from the grocery store, where I paid an exhorbitant amount of money for a few staples, an Inuvik Fire Department truck drove by. As they were passing, they got on the loud speaker and said "don't forget about the fireworks tonight. they start at 7 o'clock." I interpreted this event as a special invitation just for me, and consuequently, I died inside.

I'm excited for our trip to Aklavik next week. We are taking the ice road to get there. The doctor told us that the place we're staying can be pretty sketchy and that we will have to bring all of our own food. Despite this, I am still excited because I am in the market for either some beaver or muskrat fur mittens. I've been asking around and apparently I might be able to track some down in Aklavak.

Have fun tonight, wherever you are.

love tabby xo

Friday, January 05, 2007

Tabby takes on the Great White North

Hey Everyone,

We just got in from a frosty long walk outside and, for me, sleep is not far. Still, I wanted to give my pals a shout out from 2 degrees north of the Artic Circle in Inuvik. We arrived up here on New Year’s eve. The trip was without incident and, much to our surprise, we were put to work almost immediately.

I can’t speak for the Bobcat, but I actually love it up here. I know what you’re thinking: how can it be that Tabby, the most cold-averse kitten on earth, is enjoying January in the Northwest Territories? I know, this fact has surprised even me. I guess when you are dressed for it, the cold is quite bearable. And trust me, I am dressed for it. I wear a full long john suit under my clothes everyday. When we go outside, as we did tonight, I put on 3-4 pant layers and 4-5 top layers. I also borrowed a pair of boots that are seriously the warmest I have ever worn. A good friend once bought me a pair of shearling mittens with soft fur inside. I had a serious brainwave and inserted them into the wind and waterproof shell that I bought. The result is hand warmth to the exponent 7. I love those fur mits.

Here are a few things I’ve learned since arriving (most of these reveal my complete ignorance about the north) :
1. 24-hour darkness is a bit of a myth. It does not mean 24-hour obscurity. While the sun is not officially rising at present, there are a couple of hours of dusky kind of light around 11:30 to 2:00. It is almost daylight during that time.

2. There are no polar bears here! I know, I was shocked too. On our first night here, I had a dream that I was crossing the hospital parking lot during a call shift in the middle of the night, and a PB bore down on me and ate me. I mentioned this to some colleagues the next day, and they all laughed their asses off and said “we don’t have polar bears here. you have to go some place remote like Tuk (what they all call Tuktoyaktuk) for that. They said rabid foxes are a far more realistic threat.

3. Many people are on crack. This place has a tonne of rock.

4. The license plates here are shaped like polar bears. They are the best in Canada.

Tonight we ordered a pizza because we missed our free dinner in the hospital cafeteria. It cost 37$. Suffice it to say that most things are extremely expensive here.

I will share more northern facts in my next entry. Now I am going to go to sleep. Saturday marks the first time in several weeks that the sun will rise. I think it comes up for like 7 seconds or something. Apparently, it flies across the sky. There will be a big festival and everyone in town drives to this field near the hospital to celebrate the sun and watch the fireworks. I can’t wait. The people here are really great. Kind and genuine.

Bonne nuit les amis,