Posts Tagged ‘honda’

Brevig back to Nome

March 31, 2015


I flew out and back Bering Air
My clothes in layers I’d wear
I come and I go
In the ice and the snow
And a bag of dry fish I did share

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, travelled and worked out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I am back having adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) I can get along with. Right now I’m on temporary detail to Brevig Mission from the hospital in Nome, Alaska.

I don’t sleep well the day before I travel, without regard to mode of transport. I rose early and showered and packed and ate.

Then I napped, for the best sleep I got all night. By 8:00AM I logged on to the computer.

I worked a steady pace through the morning. At noon the staff left for lunch. I stayed by myself and ate trek mix while I read a Jonathan Kellerman novel (I write better than he does, but he has the genre formula nailed down).

With but one afternoon patient scheduled, I had time to finish documentation. The Bering Air agent, who had showed up during a house call to check me yesterday, came in. The plane would be a little late, he said, flying from Nome to Wales first. He needed my weight. I offered to get on the scale (declined), and gave my best honest estimate. But he also needed weights on pharmacy and lab air freight.

Things had finished when the staff asked me to add in another patient. I looked at the clock. Plenty of time before the 4:00 departure. Sure, I said.

And I said that for the next three patients as well. I luxuriated in unhurried patient care. And each time I entered the data into the computer in a timely fashion.

I told the staff what a great time I’d had. They told me to come back in summer for prettier scenery. I looked out at the snow-covered hills and the frozen Bering Sea, and wondered how things could ever get prettier. They assured me they would. And they talked about how Brevig never sleeps in the summer, how the place bustles with activity. And about the fishing.

I said that I would have like to have tried dry fish.

The staffers looked at me in dismay. I should have spoken before, they said. And I saw how my shyness, from not wanting to impose on my hosts, appeared as standoffish. And all that announced at 3:50PM.

A Community Health Aid (CHA) bundled up faster than I could imagine, and jumped on her ATV.

It takes me a good deal longer to get on my arctic-grade bib overalls than the CHA’s near instantaneous preparation. As I mounted the ATV behind a diminutive staffer, we saw the plane coming in from the northwest.

The CHA on the ATV passed us on the hard-pack snow of the village street, and the staffer in front of me took the bag of dry fish from her without slowing, as casually as if it happened every day and as smooth as the railroad used to pick up sacks of mail. Approaching the airport, we saw the only truck in town, a 4WD club cab pickup.

I needn’t have worried about keeping the plane waiting. We pulled up before the pilot, working on his documentation, killed the engines.

Wearing my arctic layers let me confine my baggage to 1 day pack. I sat as instructed just behind the passenger in the co-pilot’s seat.

After a 5-minute flight to Teller we deplaned one passenger who had flown from Nome through Wales and Brevig to get home.

Ice melting into puddles astounded me when we arrived in Nome with a temp 20 degrees higher than Brevig when we left.

Contrast remains the essence of meaning, even when just barely above the melting point.

Advertisements

And after the Iditarod, Brevig Mission

March 23, 2015

Taking off after the race
Away from the Nome City base
I flew Bering Air
To Brevig, that’s where
You use hondas the reindeer to chase.

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, travelled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I am back having adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) I can get along with. Right now I’m on temporary detail to Brevig Mission.

Yesterday I remembered my years in high school distance running; I ran dead last in 6 out of 8 meets my junior year. I wanted to be at the finish line for the last (“red-light”) finishing musher of the Iditarod, the daunting thousand mile journey from Fairbanks. Forty-three years ago, the winner came in close to the time that the “red light” racer did this year.

I didn’t know I’d napped through the siren announcing the incoming dog team till I got downtown. The festive atmosphere had deflated in the week since the first musher came in. The thinning crowd wandered the streets, carrying free posters in plastic bags.

I avoided the mushers banquet as too noisy, and, with 1/3 of the city’s population, too crowded.

One last load of laundry before bedtime, then up very early.

With one daypack for clothes and a postal box with food, I called for a taxi.

The driver’s breath spoke last night’s alcohol excess. On the ride to the airport he talked with delight about the possibility of starting to drive to Teller (80 miles from Nome) if his company gets new vehicles.

I recongized a third of Natives and non-Natives in the Bering Air terminal. The business still runs on paper, no one compained about computers. But they needed to know the weight of my baggage and my person.

In the absence of a PA, the pilot announced the destination and the crowd thinned by the dozen out the door; TSA doesn’t screen if the plane can carry fewer than 49 passengers.

I wore most of my clothing; I finished putting on my insulated bib overalls (suitable for snowmobiling) just when the pilot called “Brevig Mission.”

The village sits on the south side of the Seward Penninsula, supported by subsistence hunting, fishing, and gathering. The clinic, the store and the school provide a few jobs.

The sun shone clear and bright on the snow over the hills as we winged north out of Nome; I marvelled at the bare pavement of the runway. The Caravan (also the name of a minivan) held seven humans including the pilot and a lot of freight.

Glad I heeded the friendly warnings about a marginally heated passenger cabin, I snuggled into my parka (here called a parky)

We landed in Teller, close enough to Nome that a 3 season road connects the two communities. The airstrip has no terminal; offloaded freight went onto ATVs and sleds behind snow machines.

We stayed on the ground less time than it took to fly to Brevig Mission (locally, just Brevig).

We could see Teller from the airstrip. Again, no terminal. I rode on the back of an ATV (locally, all called hondas regardless of manufacturer) into town, ten very cold minutes.

I set my gear in the bunk room at the back of the clinic, next to the door marked MORGUE. At the urging of the clinic staff, I accepted a ride to the store. Despite the small population (400, up from 276 in 2000) I could easily have lost my way. I tried to take in landmarks but in the end accepted the same ride back to the clinic.

I went to the bunk room and stripped off layers of long underwear.

I started right in at 1145, and saw 9 patients, more than I’ve seen in a single afternoon in the last six months.

The equipment in the clinic is dated but serviceable; last century’s doppler found the baby’s heartbeat just fine but I had to count the beats for 15 seconds and multiply by four.

I spoke with a reindeer herder, a plane crash survivor, an expectant mother, more than one carrying permanent injuries from snow machine collisions, and one who couldn’t tell the difference between lipoma (a benign lump of fat) and lymphoma (a cancer of the lymphatic system).

As always and as in all my past clinical settings, the ravages of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana on physical and emotional resilience accounted for most of the pathology.

But here, for the first time, when I brought out my calculator to total up the financial cost of substance abuse, I met with looks of true dismay.

I put it into concrete terms: “Between $11 a pack for Marlboros, $15 a joint for weed, and $1.21 a can for pop, you’re wasting a new honda every two or three years.”

I didn’t say, And I’ll bet you’re underestimating the expense.