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Please don’t go, I love you so.

It’s crisp here in Denmark, Western Australia, a small town on the south coast. Crisp, fresh, bracing, refreshing… I am a thesaurus! I’m here by myself for a couple of days in a really cool AirBnB on a lake, with iridescent blue wrens with round little bodies skipping around just beyond the glass sliding door; so close yet so far.

How have you been? I think about you, even though I don’t know you. I wonder where you are sitting as you read this blog. Are you happy? Do you know if you are happy? If we don’t have troubles now and then, how would we know when we’re happy?

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That brings me to Anthony Bourdain. Yesterday, Friday the 8th June 2018, Anthony was found in his hotel room in France after taking his own life. Death by hanging. Anthony was a celebrated chef and food writer, featuring in foodie shows such as No Reservations, The Layover and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. He was never afraid to try what us Westerners would call ‘ugh, really weird food that I would never try in a thousand years’ or ‘I can’t believe he is putting that in his mouth!’.

When I hear about suicides, I feel a pulling gnarly feeling in my heart. My eyes start leaking and I have to look away from whatever it is I’m reading or whoever it is I’m talking to. I’m not a stranger to having suicidal thoughts or, dare I share it, an attempt. When I become aware of a suicide, I feel drawn straight back to the empty blackness that filled my being when I truly believed I was better off out of this world and maybe, in my void of rationality, being reincarnated as someone who is immune to the dark feelings.

Who wants to talk about people killing themselves? Not many, but we need to. We need to not focus on the celebrity ‘live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse’ but how to reach out, connect with someone; hold their hand, hug them, let them hear you pour out all your reasons of why you think you would be better off not here. And we can let people listen to us, nod their heads, cry with us and purge feelings we have kept suppressed for so long. Feelings that have festered and turned toxic. Feelings that have become imbedded in who we think we are and who we think the world thinks we are.

This too shall pass. 

Yes, I work in Mental Health and I am passionate about mental health. But I know people who don’t work in mental health but are just as passionate about supporting people going through a tough time. You don’t have to have a mental illness to go through shit or feel like shit or wish that shit would just get better.

I can’t sit here and write sentiments like ‘Things will get better’ or ‘You are special, the world needs you’ because although those things can be true, what good is it going to do right now? But what I can say, from my own personal experiences, not quoting anyone but myself is that it is sometimes damn hard to forge ahead, especially when you resigned yourself to being 6 foot under in a matter of days. It is damn hard but a problem shared is a problem halved, and when I reached out to a good friend, when I let her know how low I was and how I needed someone to look out for me; she did. And every day I was above ground, I worked hard at achieving small successes. I went to work even though I hated being there because I was saving to find another job; that helped. I made myself see friends, go to coffee dates and contact my family. I tried to laugh and when I tried to laugh I started laughing because my fake laugh sounded so stupid it was funny.

As I think back, 10 years ago when I was at one of the worst times of my life, I bring myself to the present; where I am now, typing this to thousands of people of whom I have never met and may never will. I’m in a good place, through hard work and determination, through times and events that I thought I’d never recover from; I’m in a good place and I’m going to stay here even if things aren’t good all the time.

The sun will come up tomorrow and you’ll be here. I’ll be here and we can be shoulders of strength to people who truly believed the sun wouldn’t come up. And we can show them it has. Because it will.

There is always someone to listen, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you or someone you know may need help. 13 11 14.

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Take care.

Rachel.

The Scribbling Nurse

And that was that! (for now)

It’s done. Or in the fine vocabulary of Vicky Pollard “I DUN IIIIIT!”. 326171

I have finished my Bachelor of Nursing degree and now waiting for my registration with AHPRA (the governing body all health clinicians need to be registered with in order to practice [legally]).

It was a bittersweet ending to my time in Hermannsburg. As is usual with student placements, you just get to know the staff better and feel like you’re fitting in just a little bit more then *woosh!* you’re leaving. You say heartfelt goodbyes to staff you came to admire and enjoy being around, but they will soon have another student to fill your place and the merry-go-round starts up again; same moves, same motions, same things to sign-off.

The Hermannsburg Ntaria clinic staff, like the Tennant Creek, Ali Curung and Canteen Creek staff, are all a really wonderful group of people who I would love to work with in the future so maybe this student might return one day!

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Most of the Ntaria Health Clinic staff!

There were a couple of people in Hermannsburg who I spent time with who I will miss and look forward to seeing again when Tim and I return to the NT.

Ems is a strong and determined new student, who was a pleasure to sit with and rehash knowledge even I had forgotten. She reignited in me the excitement of new beginnings and a sense of self; ‘Why am I doing this’? Ems knew, she’s known for a long time why she is doing this. And being around her, listening to her story and sharing mine, I remembered why I was doing this as well. Thank you Ems.

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Ems, Fran and moi!

And Lulu. Lulu is a magical dog because for some reason I have this crick in my neck and every time I move it, I hear a voice say “Lulu HAS to be in your blog! I’m not writing it down because I just said it. Lulu HAS to be in your blog!”. I’ve never been afraid of a midwife before but I have heard urban legends so Lulu, a rescued pound dog who has white fur that gets stuck in your clothes and is way older than she looks, has now been mentioned in my blog. And I get to keep my womb and any other bits midwives deal with. Lulu’s Mother is a midwife and she isn’t afraid to travel in her new little car.

This week has been a countdown to the day I finish. I was on-call with two RAN’s (Remote Area Nurse, in case you forgot) on Anzac Day and attended a few call-outs with them. I still love remote area nursing and working/living in Aboriginal communities.

Wednesday night, I went to a BBQ down at Fink River with Fran, Lulu’s Mum. There we joined a group of people and sat under the stars, chatted and enjoyed watching the little kids run around. The serenity was, in my opinion, better than Bonnie Doon (sorry Darryl). Everywhere I go, I make a mental note to come back with Tim and Izzy and spend more time there, get to know more people and learn more about ourselves, even if it is sitting quietly and being in our third space.

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Picnic on the Fink River bed

Thursday, we had a lunch together at the clinic and one of the visiting clinicians had made a lime cheesecake to say goodbye to a RAN called Marcia and a congrats to me for finishing. So lovely and appreciated.

This morning (Friday) was my very very last day as an RN student. I went over to the museum to have a look around at the history of Hermannsburg. I took some happy snappys and had a cool drink at the tearoom. Hermannsburg is beautiful little community with lots of places to visit. I’m keen to go back and see Jesus’ footprint near Fink River and just spend more time enjoying the area without rushing.

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Everything seemed slightly surreal as I wandered around waiting for my ride coming into from Alice Springs to take me back. Unfortunately, the driver of the car who picked me up was the most rude, obnoxious piece of work I’d encountered in a long time. I don’t usually draw attention to negative experiences however I am managing to find the funny side in the situation. I’m very assertive and choose when to enter into swapping words, but because I didn’t feel like being left on the side of a desert road with no phone reception and a warm can of Coke Zero, I ignored her comments!

After 8 weeks, moving 9 times and working in 6 different facilities, I have met and worked with some of the most genuine, hardworking, loving people I have ever met. I feel so blessed to have had this experience in the Northern Territory and can’t wait to call it my home, again, but for longer.

I just went and watched ‘Gurrumul’ at the cinema. It is about Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, a blind Aboriginal man from Elcho Island who is a musical and singing prodigy. He has a haunting and powerful voice that can take you to different parts of the universe. I’d highly recommend seeing this documentary.

I had the entire cinema to myself and as it was playing on my mind, I thought I’d quickly check to see if my last two units had been marked. I squinted at my phone and saw I had passed my last two units meaning I now had my degree. I turned my phone off again and sat in the darkness, tears of joy rolling down my cheeks as the rich soulful euphony of Gurrumul’s music swirled around the theatre and caressed my heart. ‘I did it’ I thought proudly, ‘I did it’.

– Rachel

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Photos courtesy of Fran!

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Hermannsburg & Uluru (and everything in the middle)

NB. All photographs of Uluru and Kata Tjuta were taken at sites where photographs are allowed. No photos were taken where it was forbidden. Cultural acknowledgment and respect was shown throughout the tour. 

I just walked to Piggly’s Supermarket and got some milk. I can’t remember ever walking to the local shop to buy milk. So that’s something exciting.

I’m sitting in a cool (both temperature and aesthetic) house in a suburb called The Gap in Alice Springs. Walking out the front door, the McDonnell range peers down at you, keeping you safe from anything coming up from the south, like South Australians or…stuff. I’ve been here two nights, getting in from Hermannsburg on Friday morning, hitching a ride from a lovely midwife called Fran and her pound puppy Lulu. I haven’t checked the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders #5) but I do believe I may be slightly addicted to dogs. I miss my dog Izzy terribly and experience withdrawal symptoms including the need to talk out loud to her in her special dog voice (when no-one’s around; I may be mad but I have insight) to pretending she’s on the bed with me and using a pillow to hug as if it’s her. However, once I get to have a cuddle and pat of another dog, my longing for Izzy is placated for a while and I can function. So I patted Lulu and that was nice.

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Isabel Elizabeth aka Izzy Lizzy

HERMANNSBURG

Last week I spent in Hermannsburg, an Aboriginal community just over 120km west of Alice Springs. Ntaria health clinic is fairly new and has a team of health professionals including a doctor, Aboriginal health practitioners and nurses plus a receptionist and driver all of whom are friendly and welcoming. The clinic is  located near another facility called West Aranda Health Aboriginal Corporation (WAHAC) so the staff of both support each other to provide a holistic service. It also has lots of visiting specialities like the mental health team I eagerly waited for on Thursday! (I work in MH and aim to do my Masters degree in it so any other MH clinician is a friend I just haven’t met yet.)

Last week was quiet in the clinic which allowed time for me to have a chat with the nurses and Aboriginal health practitioners, research some information online and complete some online study. It was lovely to spend time with different staff members and find out more about their role, where they are from and what they like about living and working in Hermannsburg. As usual, this clinic, like others, has both permanent and locum staff yet all the staff seem to enjoy getting together either for walks, BBQ’s or exploring the region. On Wednesday, we helped send off some school kids who were riding horses to Alice Springs arriving in time for Anzac Day.

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Seeing off the kids riding to Alice Springs in time for Anzac Day.

 

ULURU

Last night I got off the coach bus from a very long day exploring Uluru and Kata Tjuta with Emu Run Tours. We started at 6am picking up people from various motels, hotels and caravan parks then trekked to Erldunda roadhouse and wildlife park for a hot breakfast. I chatted to a couple who caught The Ghan up from Adelaide. Next we picked up more ‘explorers and adventurers’ (the tour guides refused to call us tourists because tourists are ‘people who drive badly and we aren’t driving, we’re on a bus’) from Uluru resort and went on to Kata Tjuta where we were given a strict time limit of 35 minutes to race to the gorge, take pictures then race back. The gorge was beautiful and it would have been magical to sit and meditate in the shade overlooking the green foliage being protected lovingly by a mountain of red striped rock on either side.

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I had the impression from tourist photos that you could only get within a few kilometres of Uluru so I was pleasantly surprised when we got to walk around the base of the rock, seeing the caves and waterholes and touching with my own hand the cool hardness of a significantly sacred area for the Aboriginal people. Next time I come back with Tim, we will be able to spend more time absorbing the powerful environment and appreciating one of Australia’s most famous landmarks.

We had a BBQ dinner at a ‘sunset photo’ spot which our group had to ourselves for all of ten minutes before processionary caterpillars in the shape of tour buses synchronised their parking and hoards of visitors, just like us, flopped off each bus and clicked selfies, spousies, friendies and more selfies this time sipping champagne (guilty!).

Sleeping on a bus sucks so getting home, showering and sliding into a clean bed was AH-MAZING. Great tour, long day, tired student.

OTHER STUFF

So I got my nose pierced as well. It was the first thing I did when I got into Alice Springs from my beautiful Tennant Creek (how I miss thee!). I’ve had over 13 body piercings and 7 tattoos in my time but this nose piercing hurt the most. So much that I yelled out a profanity while the poor apprentice was trying to squeeze the stud into the hole she had just made. Fortunately tattoo parlours aren’t notorious for policing language so I didn’t have to pay more and/or leave with 3 holes in my schnoz and no stud.

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It’s not a huge zit. This time.

Five days left of this nursing degree and I’m finished. FINISHED! Wooohooo! But to be honest? I’m shitting myself. What if something happens in the next five days and I can’t get signed off? What if I fall over and can’t go to prac for a week? (I associate falling over with bad injuries for some reason. Other than extreme sports or 4 wheel motorbike riding.) What if the Ntaria health staff think I’m an idiot and give me a crap final assessment? Sounds all silly but the end is near… and so far! I will be very relieved and happy when I am holding in my hot, sweaty hand the 160 hours attendance record, decent final assessment and the last two completed objectives – all ready to scan and send to Charles Darwin University. THEN I will be okay… except then I’ll be worried that CDU will find fault with something. Okay, anxiety get behind me.

Am looking well and truly forward to going home and seeing Tim, Izzy and the ocean. I am looking forward to seeing my cat Leila as well but Tim told me she said she doesn’t care if I come back but to just send money for food. And not biscuit food, WET FOOD. And not just WET FOOD, Whiska’s Casserole wet food. And NOT only when it’s on special.

I am going to apply for a nursing graduate program at Alice Springs Hospital, applications open in May 2018. I have referees lined up (and really good ones too!) so I really hope I will get a place. I’d love to spend some time in the ED in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek hospitals then go on to do a Transition to Remote program. Finger’s crossed!

Hope you’re all keeping well! Thanks for reading my blog 🙂

Oh and check out: http://blog.feedspot.com/australia_blogs

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– Rachel

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Bye Molly. Bye Tony. Bye Honkey. Bye Canteen Creek.

Hello from my comforting friend Tennant Creek. It’s so lovely to be back here after my adventure in Canteen Creek.

Where to start? I know, the itchy bites on my legs are driving me crazy. I don’t know if it’s the flies or the mozzies but I can’t wait for them to disappear! Okay, got that out the way.

Canteen Creek was an experience and a massive culture shock for me. As I discussed in my last blog, I have changed. I have learnt so much in the two and a half weeks I was in Canteen Creek working alongside two highly experienced and great fun Remote Area Nurses (RAN’s). I have learnt to treat a person and look past their choices both to themselves and their loved ones. Be beneficent. It is human nature to judge and compare people’s life choices with your own. Compare the way they were raised and the skills they were taught against your own life skills and family culture.

But I, as a nurse, am trained and hold dear the belief of serving the community. I am trained to educate people and support them in the health and wellness. And I enjoyed doing just that in Canteen Creek.

As well as working alongside Cassie and Sini in the clinic, one of the highlights was providing influenza vaccinations to people in the community straight out of the ambulance on the sides of the roads and even at the front of the local store! We filled an esky with pre-filled fluvax syringes, swabs, sharps container, gloves, teeny bandaids and an anaphylactic kit and trawled the streets jabbing everyone who came within arm’s length of Sini and I (with their permission of course!!).

At one point, we had a group of women sitting with us outside the store who identified people coming past who hadn’t had their flu jab. When each person had their jab, we’d all chorus loudly “Woohoo! Next!”

Cassie gave me as many opportunities to practice skills and knowledge as possible, always with practical “have a look at this and tell me what you see”. Following that was an explanation about what the condition was, how it came about and how it can be treated. I also got to have a go at certain tasks (within my scope of practice as a student RN) like centrifuging blood tests (putting them in the whizzing machine), performing heaps of intramuscular injections, using the online computer data entry system and generally being a member of the health care team. Sini was very patient with me, often in her side of the clinic, fumbling about and asking questions I really should have known the answer to… “Do you draw back on every IM?”

I loved sitting in the staff-room listening to Cassie and Sini talk about their nursing experiences. Cassie with her sharp wit and acute observations (with a ‘she says what we all think’ technique) and Sini’s laid -back, tongue-in-cheek recounts of life in a busy ED and remote clinics. Laughter was welcomed in this place.

One evening I was pouring myself some iced-tea and thought to myself “gee this stuff looks like urine”. Then an idea for a prank came over me. I snuck a urine specimen container home and filled it halfway with the iced tea marking the container with the word ‘trick’ (to ensure I wouldn’t confuse it with a real urine specimen! – unless a patient’s name was Trick, then that would serve me right). I smuggled it into the clinic in my pocket and waited for an opportune time. Then it came. Cassie had just seen a patient who had provided a urine specimen. Cassie left it on the bench asking me to ‘test for leucs’ (dipstick testing for leucocytes amongst other things) then she turned back to her computer. I pulled the fake urine from my pocket, opened the lid and walked up to Cassie saying “This wee looks a bit weird…”. Cassie turned and looked just as I sniffed it and took a sip! Cassie’s face lost all colour and her expression went from disbelief to horror to disgust in the matter of seconds! Her hands reached out trying to pull my arm away from my mouth while she spurted out all the possible diseases I could catch by drinking someone else urine! It was amazing that even in such a bizarre and revolting few seconds, she was still able to list communicable diseases spread via urine! I stopped and through my laughter told her it was iced tea, I had brought it from home to prank her. Relief washed over her face and today, after recovering, she said the prank was ‘hilarious’ – phew!

The clinic was often busy but I never felt useless or out of my depth. Cassie was acutely aware of what I could and couldn’t do but also taught me so my knowledge would expand during my placement. This might sound like an obvious thing to happen but as other nurses and nursing students would know, some clinical placements are as boring as batshit because you don’t learn anything or everything is outside your scope so you can’t do much anyway. Or the worst, there is nothing new to learn.

I was invited to stay on at Canteen Creek for the remainder of my time in the NT however, after discussion with the Centre for Remote Health placement coordinator Jessie, it was decided I should experience as much as I can in the NT so will go on to Ntaria clinic in another Aboriginal community called Hermannsburg about an hour outside Alice Springs. I am looking forward to that and my day trip to Uluru.

After my first night at Canteen Creek, I was moved to another house which was really lovely with brand new recliners and was generally more comfy. I was visited one afternoon by a donkey who stood at my front glass sliding door staring straight inside. I poked a carrot through the crack wondering if he might then leave. No such luck. Honkey (as I named him) stood and waited. I was unsure if he may nip me should I try to get past him so I rang my colleague to walk to my place and shoo him away. Honkey visited a few more times, pushing my gate open with his nose and waltzing on in. I no longer felt nervous around him so often stood next to him feeding him carrots and feeling sorry for his weepy fly-blown eyes and small open wounds. He looked sad but I don’t think he was; when we left Canteen Creek today, he trotted gleefully past my house with a pretty dark haired female donkey (known as a jenny, or jennet) in hot pursuit!

Molly visited often and so did Tony. Tony is the little black dog with the stumpy tail but since one of Sini’s dogs was also called Stumpy, I renamed the little black community dog Tony.

Tony is an odd little character. He showed no affection and engaged in very little interaction yet liked to quietly be around us. He always came along when we went for a walk and seemed to enjoy being a part of our odd ‘family’. He did have a bad habit of picking fights with the other community dogs, often relying on Molly to step-in and put out the fire. One morning Tony got cocky and picked a fight when Molly was nowhere to be seen. He had his back foot hurt slightly, some hair pulled out of his head and his left ear bitten. Unfortunately his left ear became infected, and combined with the red dirt and ticks plaguing the little guy, he was in a sorry state. There are no vets in Canteen Creek so I played vet as much as I could, picking off the revolting ticks and gently bathing Tony’s ear with all I had; wet-wipes and warm water.

Tony seemed to know he was getting helped and sat quietly while I carefully wiped away pus and red mud. I am buying flea and tick treatment tomorrow and sending it back with Sini to give to Tony and Molly. She will also bathe his ear and apply iodine if possible. He will always be a community dog but he is our community dog and I know the other nurses who come to Canteen Creek will care for him and Molly because they have in the past. As Sini and I drove back into Tennant Creek today, I told Sini I wished Tony and Molly were in the back coming as well and not being left there. I left two large bags of dog biscuits at the nurses house for them which Sini will ask the other nurse coming on to continue to feed them. Typing this, I have tears in my eyes but I know that Sini and the other nurses who visit Canteen Creek will care for the both of them just as well as they care for humans.

Sometimes it’s not the nursing or study that is hard, it can be other factors of life in remote communities. The home-sickness. The yearning to hug your own pets back home and tell them they will never ever be neglected or unfed. The flies. The lack of activities we are often accustomed to in bigger towns/cities.

But what this placement, in particular, has taught me is appreciation for what I have, how I was raised and the skills I have and am learning. The skills I can use to help others and hopefully teach a whole new generation. And those people passing it onto the next generation. And the one after.

This blog was going to be a ‘this is what I did and these are the photos I took’ but right now, I feel humbled…fortunate. I look around at the house I am staying in, the house the Centre for Remote Health have generously let me stay in again because I arrived in Tennant Creek early. The genuine support I have received from the CRH, Tennant Creek Hospital staff, CDU and the amazing remote health clinic staff. I think back to the precious faces of the little kids and babies I cuddled and helped treat in Canteen Creek and I hope they will grow up strong and fortunate. I hope they do.

Take care and thank you for reading my blog.

Rachel 🙂

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Opportunities. Look for the opportunities.

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I’m going far away. Nine hours from Alice Springs and four and a half from Tennant Creek. The most isolated nursing station in Australia and I’m going to be there for just over two weeks. No internet. No phone reception. No housemates. Just me, Canteen Creek Community and learning, learning, learning. And I am EXCITED!!!

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Me, Cassie, Jenny and a new AHPO.

Canteen Creek is a 4.5 hour drive south east from Tennant Creek along red dirt roads. When not graded, it can be extremely riveted and has actually caused some people back problems. During the rains, the road has sections that are impassable by vehicle and require boats to carry essentials. The communities become ‘flooded in’ and simply have to wait for the water to subside. In emergency situations, people are air-lifted out.

On the way we saw beautiful scenery and stopped at a waterhole that was whispering to us ‘Come in for a swim!’. We had a little splash and told ourselves we would stop for a swim on the way back into TC.

Jenny (Aboriginal Health Promotion Officer and all-round beautiful soul), myself and another health promotion officer turned up to the Canteen Creek health clinic on Monday afternoon and got chatting to the health clinic manager / RAN / Nurse Practitioner Cassie. When Cassie learnt I was aiming to be a Remote Area Nurse, she said I had come to the right place. Cassie is super keen to have students and teach them as much about being a RAN as possible. Canteen Creek usually has a population of around 150 people but it is Easter this weekend and the community was expecting an influx of family and friends to celebrate the occasion. This also means an influx into the health clinic. So I cancelled my RFDS placement and got permission to stay on in Canteen Creek to be personally mentored and taught by a Nurse Practitioner with so many post-grad quals that she would need them made into wallpaper should she wish to display them. I grabbed this opportunity with both grubby (from patting the dog) hands!

The set-up in this clinic and quite a few remote area health clinics is very similar to that of a GP office, except there are no GP’s. There are RAN’s and they mean business. People come in with a variety of ailments, accidents, complaints and needs and are seen either one after the other or ‘triaged’ (AKA who’s got the most serious life-threatening complaint in the waiting room, NOT necessarily who can scream the loudest – though that might work on a Friday afternoon when the RAN is in serious need of a G&T…). RAN’s are highly educated and experienced and are required to not only assess and treat but also diagnose and prescribe medications / treatment. They are the doctor. But possibly quicker.

I’m going to be a different person after these two weeks but for the better. Cassie has discussed some plans she is working on (which I can’t divulge) but will be great news to people interested in working in remote areas.

So to sign off, I will be fairly sans internet for a couple of weeks although I can use the clinic’s internet so I will endeavour to update if possible.

 

Take care and talk soon! – Rachel

 

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Ginger Beer

Off to a place called Canteen Creek (it has a new health centre, this site is really old) on Monday with an Aboriginal Health Promotion Officer called Jenny and a new staff member who is doing her orientation. I’m not nervous (wow! Rachel, is that you?) but I’m excited and looking forward to whatever I will do there. I saw Jenny at the Saturday markets and she said if the health clinic is too quiet, she will get me out and about like I did in Ali Curung. Awesome!!!

IMG_4882 I don’t think it will take 10 hours to get there.

The sunsets in the desert are supposed to be magical so I went sunset seeking a few nights in a row. The problem is, I kept leaving it too late and by the time I got to wherever I could get a decent view, the sun had already said goodnight to the town and had pulled the horizon over its head. So here are some grasps at what few sunbeams remained…

Yesterday (Saturday 24th March) I called into the markets and bought a book about Australia’s worst crimes; just a bit of light reading on a warm desert day. I bought an iced coffee from Cafe Buzzbean (say hello to owner Kristen when you’re there, she is really friendly) and bumped into my AOD RN buddy who invited me to join her and her friend who had just started a new job as a parole officer. After chatting for a while (and with me now wanting to be a parole officer…It just sounds cool… “gotta report to my parole officer or I’ll be back in the clink”) I meandered off and read my new book at Lake Mary Ann.

Coming out of IGA today, I nearly collided with a you-beaut electric scooter carrying a bloke called Walter Boulter who likes to be known as Tony (pity, cos I think having a rhyming name is awesome). Tony and his lovely wife Joy, an ex-school teacher, have lived in Tennant creek for almost 50 years – 49 to be exact. Tony told me he used to be a Ginger Beer (engineer) who helped build a lot of the roads in Tennant Creek. When he arrived, they were all dirt. Tony told me the population of TC at the height of gold fever was 50 thousand! The last gold mine shut down only 8 years ago and the population plummeted. I had to lean in to hear Tony at some stages as he lowered his voice to tell me about the more sensitive issues about TC and his thoughts on them. I respected his opinions and appreciated his honesty from his point of view and experience living in a town for half a century. Getting on my way, we shook hands. We shook hands again, then it turned into a homie handshake then a fist bump. Not kidding you. Tony and I have a secret handshake (I suppose it’s not secret anymore). An 80 year old on a gopher and a 34 year old in thongs doing a secret handshake outside IGA Tennant Creek; beat that Dr Dre.

thumbnail_IMG_4941                                                                         Walter (Tony) Boulter

So I am now sitting in the dining room with one of my flatmate’s sitting at the same table sniffling snot every few minutes. I told him he doesn’t have a cold and it must be symptoms of rheumatic heart disease, syphilis or scabies – 3 common illnesses in Tennant. The common cold doesn’t exist here, it has to be something far worse. He is not impressed and does not find me funny.

See ya’s! – Rachel.

thumbnail_IMG_4945Mum! Whippett Street! 20180224_073723 Mum’s whippet Zena

thumbnail_IMG_4938 Frozen Roo tails at IGA

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One week over!

I like Tennant Creek. I really like it. It’s not fancy, ha! We all knew that! It’s not sexy, suave or metro, – heck, it’s an outback country town. But I WOULD write home about it. And I have, in the form of 2 postcards that are sitting on the passenger seat of my loaned car waiting to be posted to my Mum. Sorry Mum, they’ll get there.

I just had 2 days in the dialysis unit with a very experienced RN called Jimmy. He was softly spoken, patient and keen to share his knowledge, even though he knew I was only there for 2 days. This particular unit is seperate from the Tennant Creek Hospital and is specifically for chronic end stage renal disease (ESRD). ESRD is where the kidney function has decreased to the point the person needs kidney replacement therapy (KRT). KRT is either in the form of dialysis or transplant. Kidney dialysis uses a machine to filter out the toxins in the blood, a job normal kidneys perform. 99% of the patient’s were Aboriginal, the youngest patient I nursed with ESRD was 30 years old. 30 years old.

Today is Saturday 10th March 2018. I have been in the Northern Territory for 7 days, 5 days in Tennant Creek. I had my first sleep in for over a week (oh poor me!) then began a day of leisurely sightseeing. First off the rank was Battery Hill Mining Centre which has 3 different exhibits. I saw two of them because I arrived late. The first exhibition showed the life and times of Albert Berolla, a WW1 & WW2 soldier who volunteered to join the army. From Tennant Creek, he walked, rode a horse and hitch-hiked to Darwin so he could enlist. He won a prestigious Victoria’s Cross for his efforts in WW1.

The next exhibition was about gold mining and how they set up camps and lived. Apparently the Tennant Creek miner’s were renowned for being very muscly due to their extreme efforts to slug through hard earth with picks and shovels with water more scarce than the gold itself.

Helen, the customer service lady at Battery Hill Mining Centre is really friendly and so helpful. Say hello to her when you go in.

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Briefly called up to ‘One Tank Hill’ which is an obscure name for a hill with one tank on it – dang locals. Beautiful views of the township to the left and some remote camps to the right. The pinkish wall isn’t snake shaped, it’s just the panorama shot. It’s actually a circle.

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Onwards to Lake Mary Ann AKA Tingkkarli, a man-made lake about 2km east of Tennant Creek township. The green trees and grass, with peacocks, geese, peahens and even roosters wandering the grassy areas made the whole scene look like an oasis compared to the red earth and stark bushes surrounding it! I wandered around until a car pulled up and little Aboriginal kids leapt out, running to the water and splashing about. They told me a peacock was in the tree and has ‘feathers that stand up near it’s bum’. A family were sitting at a picnic table, a dark eyed baby eyeing me off as I walked past. When I went past again, I stopped and said hello. They were about to have a BBQ and had 3 Kangaroo tails, wrapped in plastic with an IGA price sticker on each. The man briefly explained how he was going to cook the roo tail (singe the hair off, place it under coals and BBQ it) and was happy to show me the tail out of the wrapper.

After having a quick chat to my Mum on the phone, I pulled into the old Telegraph station. It was a self-guided tour with the whole area very well maintained. I think I was the first person to have been there in a while because I was ‘hugged’ by spider webs criss-crossing some of the areas! After a good walk around with the sun on my face and the clouds on my back, I drove back into Tennant Creek for a quick shop and an afternoon at home.

Looking forward to next week with the Remote Outreach Midwife Yvonne, who I met on Friday morning. Will keep you posted. Thanks for reading my blog, I hope you enjoy the pictures and what I’ve been up to 🙂 – Rachel

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I love NT