An evening colloquium about how great things are

You don’t get both money and time

Somewhere you must draw the line

    It’s all about tradeoffs

    I’ll not be a Madoff,

Which is good.  I won’t even whine.

I’m starting my 4th week working here; so far I’ve found a thiamine deficiency, three overactive thyroids, a dozen vitamin D deficiencies, three whale-related injuries, a testosterone deficiency, a folic acid deficiency, and a thyroid deficiency.  Each one happened to a unique human being in a family context.

I have written six prescriptions for narcotics (something I don’t do much in Sioux City); each one has an absolutely horrendous reason to be on long-term addictive drugs.

I told a patient that, in his particular situation, marijuana is less destructive than alcohol.  I can do that because here alcohol is as illegal as marijuana, and, besides, I could smell the marijuana smoke on his clothes.

I’ve seen more treatable ear infections (otitis media) in the last three weeks than I have in the last two years put together. 

My Inupiak vocabulary grows; today I learned the proper pronunciation for grizzly bear, which uses a consonant common in Navajo but absent in English.  I can ask where something hurts, and I know the words for bodily waste products.

Rheumatoid arthritis, TB, and Hepatitis C run rampant on the North Slope. Constipation is more common than healthy bowels.  Many seek narcotics, multiple sclerosis is rare.  Marijuana abuse is as frequent as alcoholism; I see twice as many recovering alcoholics as I see active drunks.

 People who have survived unspeakable trauma against all odds come to me with the terrible problems related to the aftermath.

Most people here don’t believe in global warming.  They uniformly grumble that by this time last year the grass was green and the sea ice was gone.

I do not understand why people from tropical countries would come to Barrow and stay, but they do.  People started coming to Barrow at the beginning of the pipeline construction, and they remain here to this day.  No one complains about the cold, no one complains about the twenty-four hour sunshine.

People here are very well-travelled and they talk freely about where they’ve been.

The morning was very easy; one of my five scheduled patients showed up.  The afternoon got serious and went long, finishing after 6:30.  The cafeteria had set aside my meal and stayed open an hour late.

The hospital food exceeds my expectations; the dietary staff cooks with love and imagination. 

This evening in the commons room we got together and talked about what a great place this is to work.  It doesn’t pay as well as another venue we discussed, but the pace of work is reasonable, the food is good, the commute is short, and the esprit de corps is strong.

I”m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  While my one-year, thirty-mile non-compete clause ticks, I’m having adventures.  This post was written while on assignment in Barrow, Alaska but not posted till now.


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