Dragonflies and bare feet

Trip Start May 05, 2012
Trip End Sep 09, 2012

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Flag of Papua New Guinea  ,
Monday, May 28, 2012

I'm past the halfway point in PNG and in the short time that I’ve been here I’ve made countless experiences, friends and an insatiable craving for a good beef schnitzel with a golden ale to wash it down.

I never thought I’d see the day…but I was made a rugby coach. Under my wing are a posse of teenagers. Every second evening I play touch footy with them and then go for a swim. They pretty much train for rugby on the park by the seafront every afternoon and are so dedicated. They’re good kids…they pray together after training and share their pair of boots with each other so everyone is running around on one boot! Earlier in the week they asked me to take them for some training drills which is now a regular event. It’s not my code but when in Rome... I brought a cheap AFL footy with me and gave it as a gift to a 13 year old boy that lives at Peter Torot centre. He follows me around everywhere now. Quite a few of the kids play AFL and a range of other sports here too…they make fun for themselves with the little they have.

Election nominations in PNG are in full swing before voting opens. I heard on the radio this morning that there are currently 3000 candidates….talk about choice! Areas like Port Morseby and Lae aren’t good places to hang around in election time but it is safe in New Ireland.

I spent the week on the surgical ward in the hospital. The general surgeon, registrar and nurses are really friendly and laid back.  The best part is that there are no other students or junior doctors around and I get free range of ward work, seeing my own patients in clinic and assisting in theatre. I even got to do debride and close a few wounds and nick a couple of abscess on my own. With the increased responsibilities you realise that you actually learnt stuff over the last 3 years. The surgical patients are extremely varied from hernias and fractures to gangrenous toes, burns and tumours. For some reason, one of the most common procedures done are appendectomies…might be something to do with diet and genetics. The main theatre has been out of commission indefinitely leaving only a theatre adjacent to the labour ward which is small and basic. The standard of sterility isn’t quite that of Australian hospitals with half the staff walking around in bare feet and shooing off a dragonfly hovering around the room. Post-op, once the patient shows any sign of consciousness…they’re whisked away straight to the ward with no recovery room.  The hosital has pathology galore here due patients presenting quite late. I was told today that a stagerring 40% of diabetic patients that come to the surgical ward with foot ulcers end up leaving with a below knee amputation. It’s frustrating as hell seeing so many patients in chronic pain, very sick or dying from diseases that we can fix so easily in the western world with the resources and standards of care. This week we were notified that the hospital can no longer do xrays as the xray technician quit. A browse through the drug trolleys also reveals emergency drugs that have expired years ago. Unfortunately, it’s often the kids or the young who are the ones that don’t make it.

I went out on Friday night with the registrar and his family to a Chinese restaurant (the only non hotel restaurant in town actually). The food was surprisingly awesome with generous servings thanks to the recently migrated Chinese chef who can’t speak any English or Tok Pisin. They get around the language barrier by coding the menu with numbers. It was a good change from the fried fish, baked beans and 2-minute noodles.

On the weekend I went back to Laraibina. I had no other plans and had such a good, relaxing time last weekend that I decided to come back. I went for a massive walk down the coastline and through the bush to the river source. I got to go snorkelling and spear fishing with one of the guys, Greg before downing some beers with dinner.  I copied the pictures I took the previous weekend of the village onto a CD and the whole family and countless neighbours huddled around the tiny TV screen and watched the pictures of their home in absolute awe. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced seeing their faces light up with every picture. The family was thrilled that I came back to stay and told me to come on the last weekend so they could throw a going away party.

Anyways that’s enough for my weekly ramble. Hope everyone back home is well.
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