Saturday, June 24, 2006

Top End different from the Bottom End?

Okay, first off, I will be posting photos from the post-exam activities when I get the photos from the different people that were dangerous enough to have cameras that night.

It is Saturday of the weekend before uni starts up again, and I am not ready to get back to it. It feels as if the holidays has just started. Oh well, I knew that this is what I was getting myself into.

Like many other people that in my course, I had to leave Brisbane to get refocussed to remind myself that there is a world outside of medical school. So, I headed up to Darwin. Why Darwin? Well, why not? :) One of my goals (and I think that I've already mentioned it before in another posting) whilst in medical school is to have visited every state capital and Canberra. After this year, I will have been to all of them except Canberra and Hobart. Liam and I are thinking of doing a trip down to Canberra and Hobart, which would be too cool!

So, what to say about Darwin? Well, it's quite a small place, in fact, it's the smallest capital of all the states. It's a lively, modern place with a youthful, easy-going lifestyle. And at times, it can feel quite cosmopolitan. However, the city has its unique ways of making people realise that it was, and still is to some extent, a frontier town. To put Darwin in perspective, it is closer to Singapore and Jakarta, than it is to Sydney and Canberra, respectively.

Okay, enough of the geography lesson. I came up to Darwin to see some friends who are completing their medical rotations at the Royal Darwin Hospital; Ruth is there doing a portion of her paediatrics rotation. Also, I (along with Lou, Pat and Anna) am thinking of doing my internship at the Royal Darwin Hospital. It's probably the best place in the country to be doing tropical medicine/infectious disease due to the tropical climate, large indigenous and tourist population, high amount of trauma, catchement areas which covers the whole Top End of Australia and into South East Asia. After the Bali bombings in October 2002 and 2005, injured Australians were evacuated to the RDH. In fact, it was the sole initial receiving hospital for the Bali victims. The RDH acted as the advanced receiving hospital in Australia's largest-ever offshore disaster requiring urgent evacuation.

I still have a couple of years left before deciding on where I would like to do my internship and the visit to Darwin just made the Top End seem a little more real. :)

My time was really focussed on relaxing and enjoying the time with Ruth and friends (Mandivavarira, Sarah, Mel, Leah, Brett - thank you for such a great time!). The first day there was spent walking and seeing every (and I mean every) street in Darwin city. I bought a book called "Why Warriors Lie Down and Die" by Richard Trudgen. Trudgen goes into great detail describing the difficulties the Yolngu people (an indigenous group within the Arnhem Land) have in understanding the medical and health workers who support them.
This applies in reverse, as the doctors and nurses have difficulty in understanding the aboriginal attitude to health issues. It is in this area that the real work of this book becomes important. Reading it whilst being up there, really drove home a number of points regarding the interactions of health professionals with indigenous people and how language and social construct are crucial in trying to promote and empower the health status of these people. Okay, I digress. Here are some photos that I took within the city:

This is a photo of the Australian, Northern Territoriy, Aboriginal and the Torres Striat Islanders flags.

This is the State House, which looks like one of two things: 1. A house from New Orleans that has been given a huge amount of steroids and 2: a very large wedding cake (a la Ruth).

This is the remnant of the old Town Hall, which was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy. She built up over December 24, 1974 and by midnight her winds began to reach their full fury. At her peak wind speeds were as high as 280 km/hour! Of Darwin's 11,200 buildings, 50%-60% were destroyed. Only 400 survived relatively intact.

Here is an example of some of the artwork that one can find along the wharf, along a pathway called Traveller's Walk.

That night I cooked dinner for Ruth, Sarah, Mel and Mandivavarira and we drank lots of wine and scotch & dry. :) Yummy. The weekend was filled with walking through the Parap Village and Nightcliffemarkets during the day, all of them have great foods from all the different ethnic communities that have settled in Darwin; Ruth and I ate till our heart's desire. Ruth and I went to see one of her friend's play in a music concert that was held in Darwin city. It was the first day of the Sounds of New Music festival. The concert was held in three different places and each place had a different aspect of how indigenous and Western themes are incorporated. After that, we went to a fantastic little place called the Moorish Cafe. It was a littel pricey, as our meals consisted mainly of tapas and some beautiful wine. The next day, we met up with Brett for a cup of great coffee at the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. It was fantastic (both the coffee and the museum). After that we headed down to Mindil Beach market to eat some fantastic crepes and drink good fruit juice. Being full from the food and drinks, we waddled our way down towards to the city to the Deckchair Cinema to watch Veer-Zaara, a Bollywood film that was being shown as the opening for a weeklong Indian Culture festival. Ruth and I nearly died from the opening act, which was a god awful magic show that went on and on. There was a point that I could no longer watch and went to the back to get me some beer, Taj Mahal beer to be exact. The movie was good (I had seen it before) and it was nice to do a very familiar activity with Ruth, as we used to watch Bollywood films in Calgary. Ruth pointed out to me that I haven't put any photos of her on my blog, which is quite true! So, here are some photos of Ruth:

Here's an old photo of the two of us. It was taken at a Christmas Party at my parents' house in Calgary.

The weekend came to an end and I still had yet to see any of the things outside of Darwin. Many people use Darwin as a pit stop before heading out to some of the national parks like Kakadu and Litchfield. I booked myself for a day tour to Litchfield National Park and, boy, was I not disappointed! I was picked up early in the morning and met the other 9 people that were in the my group. We did introductions and had to say our name, where we are from, and what we do (working/studying/travelling/etc). So, I was the first one to go and gave them all my particulars. When it came to info about studying, I just told the group that I was studying at the University of Queensland. Then I was asked what I was studying and I told them 'health'. And they prodding some more and finally I told them that I was studying medicine. I really hate telling people that I do study medicine because it instantly changings their preceptions of me and proceed to ask me heaps of questions about things that their GP should be answering. Regardless, we headed down to the Adelaide River to see some river wildlife, namely the saltwater crocodiles.

Here, I'm holding a snake named Monty (he's a python, yes a clever name). I was also telling some people about a story that my Ba (grandmother) told me when I was young about how she had a worker how had tied a goat to his wrist. He fell asleep under a tree and when he awoke, the goat was gone but he was tied to a python!

As you can see, we were quite close to the crocs. However, we were still a safe distance that it wouldn't be able to launch itself into the vessel., crocs don't just out of the water to frolick with the sun. There was a person on the boat that had meat tied to a stick to entice the animals to jump out of the water. Apparently, crocs will jump out of the water to catch prey like brids who swoop down to the water's surface to catch fish.

After seeing the crocodiles and avaian life along the Adelaide River, we headed down to Litchfield National Park. Our first stop was to see these massive termite mounds. The one that is in the picture is an example of a cathedral termite mount. I should have stood beside this to give you all a perpsective of how tall this really is. If you can make out the three holes in the bottom middle of the structure, then that is how tall I am (170 cm). It takes 10 years for these to grow one metre. Brutal.

These termite mounds are very unique in that they are called magnetic terminte mounds because the terminte is buit in a north-south fashion, which aligns with the earth's magnetic field! So, in the morning, the sun hits the east face of the mount, warming it up. At midday, the sun is overhead and only shines light to the thin ridge exposed, keeping the structure cool. In the late afternoon and evening, the sun is shining on the west wall, warming up the structure for the night. If the mound is built misaligned, then the termites within perish. Brutal. Also, this was the place that I tasted green ants. I didn't eat them, but rubbed their green back body portion on my tongue. It tastes like lemon-lime. There were also honey ants that you could suck their honey as well! They were very tasty. The aboriginal community that lives in the national park (the Commonwealth has leased the park from them) uses them for antiseptic and to satiate their sweet tooth, respectively.

After the termite mounds, we headed off to Florence Falls, which is one of 4 waterfalls in the park. This is where my day went from exciting to OHMIGOD what the fuck am I doing to great again. :)

I was about to head into the water for a quick swim, when I hear, "help!" I see this guy pull this girl out from the water and she looks like shit. Apparently, she got caught in the strong undercurrents, which pulled her under and she was drowning. Immediately, my brain went into DRABC (Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing, Circulation). A person from my group beckoned me, I told the guy that I am a medical student. I told him to put his friend on a towel in an area that didn't have any sharp rocks or anything. Then I checked to see if she was responding, by tapping her on her clavicle and doing a sternal rub. There was no response...I felt as if I wsas going to shit my pants! I thrusted her head back to make sure that her airways are clear and then checked her breathing and her pulse. She wasn't breathing and her pulse was really weak - FUCK! I called out to our tour leader and told him to call on his satellite phone if there are any doctors in the near area. I started rescue breathing (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation). Finally, I heard this voice, "I'm a doctor, what's the situation". I told him what was going on, "teenage girl, non responding to external stimulus and not breathing and weak pulse; I've started rescue breathing". Instead of him taking over, he told me to keep continuing what I was doing. I was like, "are you fucking kidding me?!?!" Anyways, what seemed like an eternity, the girl finally started coughing and I put her up into a forward sitting position. Wow - the power that knowledge has on people. I stayed around a little bit to make sure that the girl was okay and I chatted with the doctor. He was on holidays with his family from Western Australia. He aksed me about where I was studying and in what year. He told me that if it weren't for me (and if there was no one else that knew how to do CPR), the girl would have died. Then and there, I felt revitalised about studying medicine and knowing that in the end, you are indeed saving lives.

After that, we headed on a little hike to another part of the partk and made our way back to our van. On the way back to Darwin, we stopped in this small little hamlet on the outskirts of the park. My group bought me some celebratory drinks and I knew that that was the first time that many of them saw a brown person blushing. We headed home after that and I spent my last evening with Ruth, Mandi, Sarah and Leah. It's absolutely incredible to know that everywhere you can go, you can always be sure to have good friends that treat you like family.

Darwin, anyone?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

There was an exam last night?!

The exam finished at 8:56pm and I am so glad that that is over. I reckon that I passed; however, you can never be certain with the School of Medicine. There were questions that seemed to insult my intelligence and then there were some questions that came from left field, for example, a question on chocolate ice cream sundaes.

After that, some people headed back to Lou's place for some wine and sandwiches (I didn't have any dinner prior to the exam), got changed and headed down to M's LUDO. It was great night! Able to have awesome conversations that didn't cirrhosis or supraventricular arrhythmias as the subject. After LUDO, I went to a house party (god, it's been ages since I had been to a house party) and had some interesting coversations with people (granted alcohol was the source of this 'interesting'). After a little while, Leanne and I decided to go to the Casino. I hate casinos...I really don't see the point in it. However, I've never been to the Conrad Treasury before and thought to myself, "why the hell not". It wasn't any spectacular...looked like a 2nd tier casino that you would find in Vegas. I got home at 7am. The sun was out. I hate going to bed when it's light. Fortunately, I still have the night mask that QANTAS gives out on their TransPacific flights. :)

It's 1:30pm now and I've the whole day to chill and to catch up on all the things that I've wanted to do that I couldn't in the last little while. There are plans of people going out tonight. Perhaps there will be a continuation of the post-exam parties...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Exam? There's an exam?!

It's Monday morning and my midyear exam is tomorrow in approximately 31.5 hours. Yeah, I'm not counting down. This time last year, I was so stressed out. I remember having to go get some medication refilled and the GP wanted to take my bloodpressure (this is after him finding out that I am a med student and that my exam was coming up). My blood pressure was 150/90. For most people that is a set of numbers that mean really nothing. Usually, my BP is around 120/80 (usually lower). And this year, I've decided to screw the BP checks and make sure that I dont' drink as much coffee (only 1-2 cups per day and some days I'll even go without a cuppa), and not stress too much about things that I can't necessarily control.

So, where is the post going? Well, tomorrow is my midyear exam and even though I've looked at all the notes that I've made, gone through majority of the past exam papers, gone through the work that my study group has produced, I'm still not feeling satisfied about my knowledge base for the exam. If I fail (last year, 60% of the 2nd year cohort failed the exam), then I know that it's not the end of the world, because the midyear is an internal assessment. The end of year finals and MSAT are what the med school uses to determine whether you can go on to 3rd year. It's odd considering that the same thing happened in undergrad. There were some courses that I just do absolutely awful (read: organic chemistry) on the midterms but then pull something no less than a miracle on the finals.

So, about this exam...yeah. I'm over it. Here's to after the exam! There is an afterparty at M's lounge (LUDO). It will be nice to hang out with people and not feel guilty for doing so. I tell you, there is only so much guilt a person can handle. Also, I can finally do things that I've put off for such a long time - go out with mates, do some much needed shopping (i.e. to iPOD or not to iPOD) and have time to myself without having to worry about the mechanism of pathophysiology of pud's disease or something. :)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Off again!


I’ve just paid off my ticket to Europe! I’m going over for my brother’s wedding, at least that’s the main purpose of the trip. The main event will be held in my future sister-in-law’s home town of Uppsala, which is Sweden; a week later, there will be an Indianised reception in Leicester, UK. The UK reception will be unique because it will be the reception of two couples. One of my cousins in the UK (who is the same age as my brother) just got married last week and so instead of having a reception where only parts of the family can come, they thought that they could ‘tag-team’ it was my brother’s so that more of the family (if not all) will be able to make it.

I still have to get approval from the SOM. Regardless of what they say, I’m still coming – don’t you worry. They are being extremely particular about this whole process. Another friend of mine is going to Canada for two weddings and the SOM didn' t require any documentation from her. Meanwhile, I have to provide the kankotari (Indian wedding invitations) for proof that the wedding and receptions are indeed occurring on the dates that I’ve already indicated. The SOM has a policy, which states: “blah blah blah”. Yeah, it's really that important.

I’ll be arriving in Paris on August 17th (so for those of you in and around Paris, make sure to dust off the good shoes and wine glasses because Veevek is ready to paint the town red!). I’ll be in London for my 27th birthday and fly off to Stockholm that same day. I guess I will be able to say that I’ve been able to celebrate my birthday is two different countries! Now that's something that I can cross of the list of things to have done in my life.

I’ll be in Sweden near the end of August and then I’ll be off to the UK to partake in a massive immersion with the Thankey family. I can’t wait! The last time that everyone (and I mean everyone from my father's side) was together was when my grandfather passed away in 1991. At least this time, it will be for a much happier and joyous occasion. There have been two new additions to the family since 1991. On a completely different note, I hope that my two cousins from Germany are able to come. Since the Thankey Clan is quite spread out (37 people living in 4 countries, three continents), so it takes a pretty big occasion to bring everyone together. And as I wrote before, due to the fact that my brother and cousin are actually having a joint reception, there should be no reason for any family member to be absent.

After the celebrations and pomp in the UK, I’ll be heading off to Helsinki, Finland for the World Congress of the International Physician for the Prevention of Nuclear War ( One of my best friends, Ruth, will also be there. So, if there are any of you out there that have been to Finland before, then please do let me know what the hot spots in Helsinki are in terms of eating, drinking, shopping and nightlife.

hmmm...It's 6 June 2006. Whatever. My thoughts have been wound up tight over my upcoming midyear exam. It's only 3 hours (from 17h45 to 20h45) and covers the last 18 weeks, including whatever topics that might have been touched upon in first year. I'm not particularly worried about the exam - I just want to do well enough. Speaking of the devil, I need to get back to it. Today is all about respiratory pathology and then a subtle handover to gastrointestinal and metabolism will happen at some point today. Hmmm...there is also skin pathology that I do need to go over as well, not to mention ethics, population/public health and some past exam papers. Ahhh...what you can do in a week's time. :)