First night call since December and I had to take it in-house


The question came up for debate:

To work or not to work late.

       A mistake in the roster

       A dilemma did foster  

In the morning I walked out at eight.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical to avoid burnout, while my non-compete clause ticks away I’m having adventures, visiting family and friends, and working in out-of-the-way places.  After a six-week assignment in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in the United States, I’m working on the North Island of New Zealand.  I’ve just finished my first night call since December.

At the end of my clinic day in Snell’s Beach I drove back to Wellsford.  Despite cognitive dissonance about who had call for the evening with my name on the roster and another doc on the computer template, I couldn’t face another forty-minute drive and made it look like I took the night’s assignment graciously. 

The anticipated chickenpox outbreak had arrived, the pharmacy (in Kiwi, the “chemist’s”) had closed, but I rooted through the after-hours drug dispensary and found a surprise supply of acyclovir.

Nitrous oxide and my yoyo tricks convinced a recalcitrant child to hold still to have a cast applied. 

As always, most of the evening’s pathology came from tobacco, alcohol and the immutable law that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.

But I got the chance to quiz the people on life in New Zealand.

Agriculture supports the nation.  Farming divides into dairy and “dry stock” (sheep, cattle and deer).  An average dairy operation runs 300 head.  With one cutting of hay per year most farmers don’t know what grasses nourish their herds.  Deer produce almost as much revenue from antler velvet as they do from meat.  Wapiti (North American for elk) cross readily with English red deer and cannot jump a two meter (six-foot seven-inch) fence.

At eight, the end of the scheduled patients, I got a tour of the clinic’s emergency room, crash cart, defibrillator, lights, locks, dispensary, and alarm system.  The other doc, who had stayed to do documentation, left.  The nurse stayed longer than she had to.

I didn’t ask permission to give clinical information, but from 8:45 till 10:15 I took care of a Maori patient accompanied by family.  I got the gratification of hands-on patient care I usually delegate to the nurse.  I called an expert at a hospital an hour away, who gave me courage to use drugs in doses I’m not used to.  I found more medication in the dispensary, avoiding ambulance and hospitalization. 

I learned that the Maori language has changed in the memory of most Maori.  Some on the Maori channel speak classical Maori, a language richer in nuance than modern Maori, which is losing dialect variation.  The urge to absorb one’s enemies’ life-force and mana (a complex Maori word meaning strength, honor, and social standing) drove Maori head-hunting and cannibalism.  Traditional Maori tattooing was done with a chisel, not a needle, and went deep; any expression of pain would diminish one’s mana.

I finished with a new word in Maori, aye, meaning yes.

By the time I locked the door and turned out the lights I felt rumpled.  I stepped out downstairs into perfect temperature and smelled the early autumn and gazed at the stars. 

Fatigue didn’t slow the bouncing waves of the day’s human tragicomedy, and I didn’t have Bethany’s comfort and listening ear.  In a new bed, alone with my vigilance, shallow sleep danced with the day’s memories.

When the eastern sky lightened I dressed and snacked and read Thursday’s newspaper.  At 8:00 I gave handover (Kiwi for check-out) to the doctor coming on call, and at 8:05 I trundled out of Wellsford and onto the road back to Leigh, winding through hills greener than poetry, listening to the morning news breaking up in the valley’s radio shadows.


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3 Responses to “First night call since December and I had to take it in-house”

  1. AussieAlaskan Says:

    Oh, I appreciated this blog – have seen a bit of shearing at shows myself and it is amazing what can be done with a bit of know how and the right tools! And I love the dogs. Hope you enjoyed as well 🙂

  2. AussieAlaskan Says:

    Sorry – I thought I was commenting on your dogs and sheep shearing blog.

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