Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Onwards and upwards!

Hello again from Bob’s Bunkhouse, another gloriously sunny day, chiefly evolved around food. We had breakfast, went for a big food shop, snacked on Biltong (meat jerky) on the way back, carved up the rotisserie chicken and had some with tomato and feta cheese for lunch. A nice Polish man from London by the name of Greg gave us the rest of his internet café credit but it’s not open on a Sunday, shame. He also gave us some of his pizza before we went onto getting our own last night. Roman’s Pizza did buy one get one free, so we got a large bacon and banana, and a large bacon and avocado. Lizzie ate all of hers last night, but I’ve still got some in the fridge J

Have to rewind a bit here, as I have been away from the computer, here goes.

I'm not a Royalist, but I did watch part of the infamous wedding from the male surgical ward, which was pretty surreal. There are no Orthopaedic surgeons here in Tintswalo, no drill either, so everyone is on traction. Breaking a femur and you stay for 6 weeks. One unfortunate woman broke both sides of her pelvis, both femurs and one tibia in a motor vehicle accident (MVA), so the plan is hopefully for her to be transferred to Rob Ferreira Hospital in Nelspruit for intervention. Also went onto the Paediatric ward, and met a very sweet 9 year old boy with exotosis (bony growths) who loved the attention we gave him, it's so nice when they are not afraid of us. I've gotten used to kids crying whenever I come near them, which is sad because I love kids.

We went away for the second bank holiday weekend as Anna's parents have come to stay and we thought it was time to make ourselves scarce. We went on a scenic road trip to Pilgrim's Rest, an old mining town purely existing now for tourists with British flags everywhere. It was a strange place, to tell the truth. Not sure if I would go again but the drive was lovely. In fact, all drives have been stunning, except the one in the taxi into the colourful centre of Joburg.

From Pilgrim’s Rest, we went onto Sabie, where we briefly stopped with Paul on our Kruger and Blyde River Canyon trip. Sabie Backpackers was a bit psychedelic with fire poi, African drumming, a hot tub (full of rather large German men), and a girl pin-up posing in a skimpy red bikini on the back of someone’s motorbike. A storm was brewing and the sky was grey, smoke was billowing from the wood burner but her friend snapped photos of her in front of everyone. Pretty disturbing that she was not embarrassed at all, and looked about 14, that and the photos would have been lousy from the smoke, so it made no sense on any level. Anyway, we didn’t get it, and so we left.  

The tourist info and museum were closed, so after a quick food shop, we drove to see Lone Creek Falls, which turned out to be pretty powerful! The girls wanted a photo of them close to it, and came back pretty drenched by the spray. In the evening, we met John from Australia who is building a house for missionaries. He is here for two months and  travels around on his motorbike (not the one the girl was posing on). There were also two (very) American girls by the names of Taunda and Sarah, from Joburg. John was staying in the same dorm as us and stayed for dinner, another rice surprise with avacado, Lizzie had about five portions and retired to her room but the rest of us had a nice time chatting into the night. We were going to go to the pub but then the skies opened and there was a lot of water coming down so we stayed put. John got serious munchies after a few drinks and we went to get food from the petrol station. Not used to junk food after all this healthy eating we've been doing.

I psyched myself up to do kloofing, which was described as an 'extreme hike' or canyoning in wetsuits, where you swim and scramble your way up to the waterfall. John once got his foot stuck for 2hrs between boulders on a school trip, the force of the water dislocated his hip, and he had to be taken out by ambulance. They had to cut his wetsuit, so he also got hypothermia, not that it stopped him going back to the Blue Mountains. I was worried about how my joints would be but John said he'd carry me, that and a family was booked onto doing it so I shouldn't feel bad about slowing anyone down. So the plan was to see how my joints were in the morning, and decide then. Last conversation I remember as we were lying in our bunks was about midgets. Don’t ask why, I dunno.

In the end, kloofing got rained off. Too slippery, I guess. The family didn't turn up for it either. So we decided to head back up North, to see more waterfalls and say goodbye to the girls and John. We went to see Bridal Veil, which was quite delicate compared to Lone Creek that we saw the previous day, and went on a walk through the drizzle and mist to the top. We also saw Mac Mac Falls, so named after the number of Scottish people in the area at the time, before driving onto Graskop, where we went with Paul to have Harrie’s Pancakes. I had snails, in a pancake, in South Africa, and they came from Sea World.  

In the afternoon, we went onto see Echo Caves, which exceeded our expectations formed from the dull postcard at the entrance. Rock formations that looked like an ostrich, cathedral organ pipes, stalactites echoing for miles when strike to warn the coming of Zulus in days gone by, we had a bit of fun with those. At one point, we were alarmed to hear what sounded like a big cat, but turned out to be the guide’s scary friend.

Once again, we landed on our feet despite not booking. The first place had a hostel section that needed to be booked a week in advance, and it was really for school trips. They offered us a place for R900 for three but we went onto to find Blyde River Backpackers (saw a honey badger on the way) that gave us our own little chalet with three beds for R130 each. They even had towels. Pack towels are well and good, but it makes you feel like a car windscreen. We met Martin and Marloise in the kitchen in the late evening, they recognised us as medical students as Lizzie was percussing her full gut. They were from Holland and working in South Africa, taking a Kruger Park break for the weekend. A man staying there worked on a citrus farm, and so we had free grapefruit.  

We went on two walks on Monday morning, near the Blyde River Dam. Pennisula walk by the water, and Waterfall walk, the latter of which could have been an English woodland, with a very peaceful waterfall that Lizzie and I sat on a fallen tree to listen to. Onto Moholoholo Wildlife Rehab Centre in the afternoon, which I have been looking forward to, and it was even better than I thought it would be. Got to feed vultures (they are so heavy), pet a 15th month old black rhino, and a lion charge at Lizzie through the fence. It was good to learn about the more negative side of human impact on African wildlife.     
I was not very well on Tuesday with my joints, and so stayed home. Graham and Sorrel (Anna’s parents) invited me to join their game drive, there wasn’t a great deal of game as it was midday but we saw a group of three sassaby, a type of antelope I haven’t seen before.

Lizzie and I finally sorted out a translator, Charity, for our project on Wednesday. Lizzie left us to do this in one of the consulting rooms in the clinic (with a metal sliding door), but Charity disappeared off after an hour to go to the bank despite my best efforts to get her to stay. She said there were no more consenting patients, but it was an error on our part not to mention the exact amount of pay at this point. She was much keener in the afternoon when we changed tactic and told her that she will get paid by number of questionnaires, she also brought a friend called Confidence to help out. I also taken a history and examined a man with the most horrific foot I had ever seen. He was cutting a tree August last year, got pierced by a thorn, didn’t complete his medication and opted for traditional medicine. It started to smell about three weeks ago, and his whole leg started swelling a week ago, he came in wanting an X-ray to see if anything was broken. Half his foot was missing, and it smelt pretty bad, wet and dry gangrene with an exposed tendon that had turned black. He could not move his toes anymore, and had cellulites all the way up his leg. I dressed him and told him that he is likely to need the theatre, and not an X-ray. He ended up having an above the knee amputation, we had to convince the family who were not keen on hospital medicine that this would save his life.

I hate feet.

Anyway, we had a simple dinner under the stars that night, as Tim and Anna were having a dinner party and we wanted to be out of their hair. The Milky Way is absolutely stunning. I love seeing shooting stars.

Thursday was results day, which was quite stressful. If I failed, I would have to catch a different flight back to England for the resits. Our project took a turn for the worse when the same nurse took us to the Information Officer. We took Tim with us this time, as the project is an audit and does not require ethic approval letter. The ethics committee have been informed anyway and raised no objection; they have not met in 7 months due to the chair being suspended for corruption. We had to wait for the CEO to call us back, ended later on in the day with Tim and the CEO having a big argument. Project had to be abandoned due to politics, at first it was ethics, then it was medical students should not be allowed to speak to patients and eventually ended along the foreign students line. Tim told us not to feel bad, there is R15,000 allocated per year to buy small equipment for the whole of Tintswalo, which is less than what is allocated to the CEO’s meetings.

I went to Maternity to hopefully see a birth in the afternoon, but the mums were not ready, so to speak. Though I had a go at examining and listening to fetal heart sounds, one of the female nurses asked if I had a boyfriend, and couldn’t see why I didn’t want a South African one as well. The other nurse told me not to listen to her. Didn’t see any births that day, but I found out I passed my exams, so it was a good day despite the project. The way back to the house was like a games drive, lots of game, and then we celebrated with cold beers and Sorrel’s carrot cake on the balcony when we got home as it was too late for a sundown. Roasted chicken with risotto for dinner, mmm.

Friday was a half day, again no births but I examined more. Even though I didn’t get to do LPs in the end, or deliver any babies, I realised that I have learnt a lot. I was getting good at the cannulas, I no longer panicked when someone needed a drip, and I could sulture pretty neatly. I took a history from family of a young female patient bound in a wheelchair. She had four family members holding her down; she was hearing voices and was violent. The nurse wanted me to fill in the paperwork, so I effectively sectioned someone whilst waiting for the sedation to kick in.

We went to Jos Macs to see the sundown, was a long drive for a drink but the gin and tonics were worth it. Lizzie and I also had Jaffles, a type of cheese toastie. The moon was a red crescent in the sky by the time we left to pack at home.

We left the house at 6am yesterday, arrived to Kruger airport to drop off the car around 8am. John very kindly met us up to give us a lift from the airport to Nelspruit, don’t know what we would have done without him. There, we said goodbye to Alice, who was going onto Maputo in Mozambique. Lizzie and I were due to catch the Greyhound bus to Joburg for the Baz bus to pick us up on Monday (or tomorrow) for our Garden Route adventure. We had a quick brunch with John (we insisted on paying as he wouldn't take petrol money), before saying goodbye for the last time. John said we were welcome to visit him in Australia, and I could tell that he meant it too. Such a genuinely nice guy.

The bus journey took 5 hours, and we Robyn at the bus station. Bob told her to share our taxi, which worked out great for us. She had a horrible time on the bus from Mozambique that day. 'First I had a boob in my face. The woman next to me was feeding her child on my lap and I got breast milk on my trousers. Then we hit a cow, and then telephone lines.'

Next stop, Northen Drakensberg! We will be staying at Ampitheatre, and visiting Charlotte at the orphanage on Tuesday, leaving for Durban on Friday, where we will stay at Happy Hippo for 3 days before moving onto Coffee Bay and Chintsa provisionally. We weren’t going to stop in Port Elizabeth but have to due to the Baz Bus stop. Possible stops include Jefferies Bay, Storms River and Knysna. I’m keen to go to Oudtshoorn to play with cheetahs and leopards but it’s a bit awkward to get to via George so we’ll see. Planning to stay in Cape town for 6 days at the end before flying back, so the rest of the route will be determined really by who we meet on the way and what people recommend. I’m looking forward to the sea though! Net access will be patchy so I’m off now to warn my mum. Take care, everyone!


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  2. Don’t know where to start, since you’ve covered so much time and so many experiences. Didn’t see any of the royal wedding, as there was too much press footage and intrigue for days around the event here in the UK, which put me up to saturation point.

    Would setting a bone incorrectly without true expertise and equipment do more harm than good? I assume so. There is something eerily creepy about manual orthopaedic drills. Traction treatments just remind me of scenes from a cartoon or comedy, where a character ends up head to toe in suspended slings and bandages. Anyway, I hope that the lady involved in the MVA gets treatment quickly.

    Why to children cry when you come near? Do you think that it is related to associating doctors/med-students with pain and tests, or is it a strange-looking person thing (from a racial point of view... you haven't got a strange face)? It seemed to take some time for the man with the gangrenous foot to go to the doctors with his 'problems’ since the initial infection, which makes me wonder how long he went around as his foot started to rot. Sounds truly horrific anyway.

    I’m really sorry to hear that the HIV audit didn’t get the go ahead. Sounds like the CEO was trying every avenue to block your progress, which raises suspicions, especially considering how imbalanced expenditure is.

    Were you pretty relieved when kloofing was cancelled, especially considering joint risks? How were the snails... like mussels? Also, are you a little obsessed?... You mention Lizzie eating or being full on far too many occasions in this post ;-P

    Visiting the rehab centre sounds like a great experience. I’m glad that you had a good time. I also hope that your Baz bus garden route trip goes well in the coming weeks :-)

  3. Wow! All I can think to say is "wow"! I can't wait to get up every morning and check your blog to see what kind of adventures you have been up to! It's just all so amazing! I'm now off to Google some of the places you mention and imagine the fun you are having!

    Take care,