APNA Conference: Ear Irrigation

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I had the pleasure of presenting and taking part in several sessions at this year’s Australian Primary Health Care Nurses’ Association (APNA) annual conference.  One of the sessions I presented on was a short course on ear irrigation – and it turned out to be a really fun and engaging audience!  I had a great time talking about ear wax…and I hope you guys had a great time too. 🙂

I was asked for a copy of the presentation by several participants.  I have linked to an abridged version of that presentation for your records HERE.

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Just a Travel Update

It’s been a while since posting an update on my work in Mornington Island. Today marks my second rotation so I figure a quick update is warranted.

There’s been a flurry of activity since my last stint there. In the last week I’ve been to Perth for meetings, followed by Sydney for a really great dermoscopy course, and am now in Mount Isa getting ready for another flight to Mornington! Some interesting photos from my most recent travels:

Salt Flats Over WA

No those aren’t clouds from my window – they’re salt flats from dried up waterbeds over WA.

A Perth Dawn

It turns out Perth is an excellent place to turn you from a “late sleeper” to an “early riser”. I woke up at 3:30AM like clockwork each day!

Pink Lakes over Victoria

If you look closely you’ll see a pink lake down there. No, it’s not toxic sludge! Apparently a salt-loving algae lives in the water.

And that’s it! Off to share experiences with the Mornington community.

A Bad Day

The day began with a Morning Glory.  A rare and unique meteorological phenomenon only seen here in the Gulf of Carpentaria.  It isn’t seen anywhere else in the world.  It was the first time I’ve seen one.

It’s been several days since I’ve last posted, with good reason.  From a personal perspective, today was one of the worst days of my life.  My little girl, Tilly has passed.

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She had been hospitalised since last Friday evening, where it was determined that she had a twisted stomach after she began to repeatedly throw up at home.  It came out of nowhere…and is life threatening because the stomach tissue and surrounding organs quickly begin to die because blood can’t circulate properly.  We were told she had a 50/50 chance of surviving the surgery.  I cried deeply, as there was no way off the island to rush home.  My family was in crisis, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

Unfortunately, Tilly had a postoperative complication and was bleeding internally after her surgery.  Again, they told us she had a 50/50 chance of surviving the second surgery.    With fear and desperation, we consented to the second surgery in order to find a bleeding arteriole – the culprit was a slipped ligature where they had removed her spleen from the first surgery.  It was a slow, and painful decline from there.  Our gentle little girl was repeatedly stuck with needles to draw blood samples.  She suffered a bit of heart damage, because of low blood pressure…but then she came good.  We rejoiced.  But then her bowels fell asleep (called an ileus) so she wouldn’t eat.  She was eventually coaxed to eat from Steve’s hand.  We had hope.  Yesterday we found out she was anaemic, and required a blood transfusion…which explained why she was so flat.  We had hope and were relieved that something could be done…and then this afternoon we found out she had pneumonia.  She perked up with some antibiotics and we were encouraged…but her poor little heart couldn’t sustain her…and she abruptly passed this evening.

After each downturn, the vet advised us of our options…and then kindly asked us for more money to pay for her treatment.  It was quite distasteful to be forced to make life and death decisions about your loved one, and then finish with “So how would you like to pay for this?”  Both Steve and I felt pressured…we didn’t feel like we were making the best decisions because of the stress we were under.  We were sleep deprived and worried sick.  They even charged us $4000 for the second surgery – even though it was their fault she was bleeding in the first instance!  In retrospect, I now have a new appreciation for the pressure that families experience when their loved ones are in hospital.  It’s absolutely awful.  Your world is crumbling and you’re being asked to make decisions that you don’t feel qualified to make.  You will do anything and everything to fix it.  You will shower massive amounts of money and resources – anything – to bring comfort to your loved one and ensure they come back home…

We did everything for our little girl.  We prayed.  We asked our friends and family to pray.  I would even think of her in my mind’s eye and send her healing thoughts and encouragement throughout the day.  I would imagine her soft, velvety ears and her sleepy face.  I would imagine her smell, her sleepy eyes, and how she felt when I rubbed my cheek on her face…and how she would grunt when she was getting more comfortable in bed.  And then I would tell her how much I loved her, and that she could do it, and that she was a good girl.  I would then send her love and thoughts of healing.

None of it worked.  And now she is gone forever.

I never got to say my last goodbyes to her.  I didn’t have the luxury of a slow decline.  She was there and suddenly she is gone.  My husband and Wilma, her sister, now grieve alone.  I grieve alone in my little cottage by the sea.  There is no one here to comfort and hold me.  I will never again get to snuggle with her.  She made the best “little spoon”.

We loved her and we will never forget her.  She was my little girl.  Everybody who met her loved her, although many mistook her for a Visla because she was born without a ridge.  She’ll never have to deal with that shit again.   She was everything to Steve and I.  Her sister Wilma will miss her terribly.  Ave atque vale, Tilly.  Rest in peace.  I look forward to seeing you again some day.  You were something rare, unique and beautiful.

Settling In!

Establishing routines, both professionally and personally. Have been walking home from work and walking/jogging since arriving (a full two days!). 😅 Efforts at ingraining healthy activity are being offset by the fact I’ve had macaroni and cheese for three meals since arriving on the island. 😂 I figure I have time to figure out how/what to cook and…small steps.

I am grateful for the community, patients and staff that have been helping me with my transition to island life. The clinic is still in its early formation and PHC services are in a very early phase of transition from the acute hospital sector. This will be a challenge but never insurmountable. Ultimately, it’s the community itself that will have to drive this change. I see myself as merely a facilitator. Hope that’s the right approach…

Yesterday kids horsing around on the jetty where crocks have been sighted. Happily swimming, splashing and laughing. Amazing how they just flaunt danger like that…seems to me I was probably the same as a kid…but I don’t recall crocks – real or imagined! 😝

Little ones hunting with wooden spears easily twice their height walking waist deep in the water. Beautiful satin black and brown contrasting with fluorescent blue water. Sun high and bright in the sky. Sea birds calling. Waves lapping against young sand. It is a blessing to witness this.

Missionary, Mercenary or Misfit? Which will I be?

The old saying goes that those white fellas that choose to work rural/remote are either a missionary, mercenary or a misfit. Although there is some uproariously funny dialogue about this phenomenon…I can’t help but feel a bit anxious about how I’ll be perceived and received on Mornington Island. Even with the best of intentions, one can fail miserably in these contexts.

I hope and pray I’m not any of the above…and am just “Chris, our nurse practitioner.” Just being seen as a helping hand is enough for me. Time will tell…