Thursday, January 31, 2013

A 32 hour shift?

It's been a busy week and only Wednesday. Tonight was spent in decompression mode where my roommate (Homecare so never on call) me (on the one day off in three days) and my former roommate from previous contract now workmate (second on call) had a few laughs. We bring some varied (and common) northern experience to the stories so there were more than a few chuckles. A few moments before hitting the hay to update here. 

My last on call was pretty outstanding as I pulled a 24 hour shift and then worked the next day, so I guess that's really a 32 hour shift. The day part of my call was busy enough to begin with for routine visits and then someone presented who had sliced a finger really deeply with one of those Olfa cutters and I put six sutures in to close it. Took me a while and I've sure seen neater jobs but it put the finger tip together and stopped the bleeding so there was no complaint from the recipient. I saw it today and it's still together and actually healing, I was impressed.  As the day wore on, the pace quickened and without sharing too many details just let me say that I got a chance to see just about every piece of emergency equipment we possess in use by the flight team before they finally left after 10 p.m. with a patient with an intraosseous infusion, sedated, intubated and ventilated and if you're not a nurse reading this and don't know what those terms mean.......good! The first medevac left two more stranded (yep it was one of those nights that I have been known to attract) which resulted in the plane having to travel to Yellowknife and then straight back again. It's about a three hour flight direct, then ground transport to Emerg at Stanton Territorial, report, refuelling and back on the plane. They left to return to us, turned around for mechanical problems and headed back to Yellowknife, picked up a new plane, left again, their pilot timed out and they had to pick up a new pilot in Cambridge Bay and then head over. This meant they came back for the second medevac at about 10 a.m. the next morning. You can get a lot of paperwork done watching sick babies and waiting for a plane I've discovered. If you're counting that was seven medevacs in a week. Tis the season. 

Glad to have my former roommate in to work with. She arrived on Monday afternoon in the midst of some of the excitement and wasn't settled before she was in up to her ears. When she flew in she was told her luggage hadn't made it so assumed it had been left in Edmonton. She finds out the next day when they were sending it back, that her bags had in fact come to Taloyoak with her but hadn't been unloaded and were sent back on the plane when she got off and thus were flying around the north. She was not impressed. She had bought a few things at the store, scavenged a toothbrush from the dental clinic and wore her travel clothes to work the first day. 

Narwhale and inukshuk carvings
As you can see I am still shopping and when someone appeared at my door today and unwrapped the narwhale carving, I couldn't resist. He also had one which had a seal next to the narwhale as well but I told him that seals weren't that popular in my household as my lobster fisherman husband didn't like them. He gave me one of those 'everybody likes seals, they're delicious' looks and quickly produced a single base for the narwhale. Seal meat is especially high in iron apparently and the boss often instructs anemic patients to arrange for someone to get them seal meat to boost their hemoglobin. This they will comply with more readily than ferrous gluconate. 

So a little cultural lesson about Nunavut and open adoptions. Let's say you're asking a woman about her obstetric history and she's a gravida 6, para 6 (for the non nurses this means six pregnancies, six live births) and she says "I have three children but I gave birth to six". Question - how do you interpret this? It means she delivered the babies and they were adopted out. This is usually a random process for example, not necessarily the first or last children and I'm not clear how the decisions are made. "I gave the first one to my mother, I kept the second one, I gave the third one to my step uncle, I kept the fourth one and I gave the fifth one to someone over in Gjoa Haven and I kept the last one".  Commonly this means to a family member as in "I gave him to my brother". I have however heard of people advertising on FaceBook for someone to take a baby. Sometimes the arrangements are "if it's a girl my uncle is going to take her, if it's a boy he's being adopted out to another community". Sometimes the children are raised in the same community and seen by the birth mother, but wherever they are, it's an open adoption process and everyone knows who the birth parents are including the child. The children may or may not have the same fathers and a partner (if not a formal husband) is referred to as "my common law". Same country, different planet. 

Had a message from the soon to be graduated from nursing daughter saying that she has a phone interview for a western location on Friday. She's pretty pumped and my roommate and I were able to give lots of helpful hints on job interviews as between us we've done more than a few. She was appreciative of the suggestions and info and I told her that Bernice and I wanted to be nurses when we grew up. 

I had a nice surprise this evening when I received a message from my summer neighbours who were in Boston and invited me to 'hang out' on Google. This is a video chat, like Skype which worked for a while and I'm not sure if it was my computer, the internet or what happened but we were cut off. It was nice to see their faces for sure. 

So, I must get to bed as being on call tomorrow may mean another short sleep. I was tickled pink to crash last night after the long stint but woke suddenly about 45 minutes after going sound asleep at about 9 pm and thought I'd overslept. I was really ticked at my roommate for not waking me and then realized she was still up reading and it was nighttime. I quickly got myself back to bed. My nerves. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Big Bird Ride

A busy week here in western Nunavut as RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) has arrived and with it bronchiolitis especially in the young ones. Lots of medevacs, so many that the flights have been coming out of Yellowknife and not the Cambridge Bay base this past few days. The flight crew this morning had been flying for over 24 hrs straight when they arrived. Tis the season. At $22,000 a pop it's a pricey time of year too. 

One recent evening when my boss was my second on call, she says with her Jamaican accent "this baby needs a big bird ride" and it took me a moment to realize she meant a medevac, I'd been thinking it for a bit myself but had been trying to look like I had it together. That did it! I phone the Doc on call and he says "what do you want? do you want this baby out of there?" Didn't have to think about that one "yes please". He takes the particulars, calls to find a receiving physician and phones me back promptly to tell me the name of the receiving Dr. in Stanton Territorial Hospital Emerg and says "pull the trigger" after asking where I'm from "you Maritimers are everywhere up here" he says. I tell him that Atlantic Canadians run the north and thank him before calling for the flight. 

Taloyoak airport
Medevac team arriving
King Air 
Since I was second on call this morning I headed out to the airport at sunrise (about 10 am) to pick up the medevac team and their equipment seen here on the right arriving in the King Air. There is no 911 or EHS in Taloyoak, not even ground transport as in Cambridge Bay (a cube rescue van with first responders there) to call. This means the CHN takes the health centre SUV, seen above on the left (notice the flashing light on the top so you can drive out on the runway) and goes to the airport. Yes, that small building which used to be a portable on the DEW Line site IS the airport behind the van. The flight nurse and flight paramedic are a welcome sight climbing out of that door on the side of the plane. It's sure a cramped space for them to work, especially with a sick patient. The pilot waits on board especially this time of year as with these temperatures there's no turning the engines off. Back to the health centre for them to receive report, stabilize and ready the patient for transport, then the team, equipment, patient and escort do the return trip to the plane. It's a great sound to hear the flight taking off over the hamlet and heading down to the regional centre. The feeling is equivalent to the exit of the ambulance at home heading to a larger centre. 

When I was speaking to the shore captain about his trials of getting lobsters shipped what with the cold temperatures, transportation issues, paperwork etc. my roommate commented that it was very similar to medevacing patients. That it is. 

I've had a good weekend (even with the on call) as I've Skyped two of the three daughters and had a chat with both a buddy and the life partner. Made mac n cheese casserole for supper, then brownies and banana bread, laundry, took my co-worker to catch his flight back to Gjoa Haven. Worked along on the baby afghan I'm crocheting, have it over half done. Time to get the e-reader. Life is good. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Panic button

It is almost 2 a.m. and I am getting ready (for the second time since 11 pm) to settle in for the night as I'm on first call. The first failed attempt involved a call from the RCMP with someone covered in blood, + + intoxicated that required sutures in his eyebrow - not the prettiest or fastest craft job I've ever done but it put the edges back together and stopped the bleeding. A few minutes while I wind down to update the blog. 

Ajagk - traditional Inuit game
First, a picture of my purchase of the day. I wasn't sure if it really is a traditional Inuit game or if this was just something the marketing department for one of the local carvers thought up to convince the nurse on call to buy it, but I like it. It's made from caribou antler and reminds me of the ball and cup game we had as kids. It's a neat artifact and if anyone is called upon to produce something for show and tell - where here you go. One of my Inuit coworkers from Cambridge Bay assures me that it is a game from many generations ago and I'm sure it is as there were various games made with antlers and bones. As I type, I've been given the link to descriptions of Inuit games and apparently this is called an Ajagk. Here is the link:

Yesterday afternoon was a frantic catch up immunization clinic with BCG vaccinations for babies to mantoux tests and teenaged (with all the resultant drama) boosters. I was glad to make my way over to the COOP in the frigid weather to pick up a few things and clear my head afterwards. After supper I had a quiet night in where I decided that since I'd downloaded a few movies on my MacBook Air that I should treat myself to one as a distraction. I chose a chick flick just because I could and watched Friends with Benefits, which although it was predictable was well done and easy to watch. Good way to decompress and spend an evening. Might have to repeat that  therapy one of these nights. 

Mind you, laughter is pretty good therapy too and yesterday when the SHP (boss) and my coworker were in my office (discussing how the immunization clinic was going to be organized) I noticed a red button high up on the wall of my office. I asked if it were in fact a button to summon help. I was assured that it most certainly would do that. Apparently the WCB inspector had been touring the facility and asked if the panic button worked and the SHP (my Jamaican boss) said "I don't know why don't you try it" and....the inspector did. The signal doesn't make any sounds inside but a red flashing light is illuminated on top of the Judy Hill Memorial Health Centre and help is signalled from the RCMP, Fire Dept, the hamlet staff and more. Within minutes a fireman barged through the door with a hose on his shoulder and ran at top speed throughout the centre as he body checked my boss demanding to know "where's the fire?" and the parking lot was filled with RCMP truck, hamlet vehicles, fire truck while the waiting room held all those wanting to ensure that everything was safe. It was quite a scene. Not that I have any intention of exercising my personal safety device but I was impressed with the recounting of the tale, thinking of how many times nurses in 'civilization' are put at risk in their workplace without such safeguards or responses. 

In one of those six degrees of separation situations I have to describe how my boss and I share some history even though we've never met. I was reading a newspaper clipping from the summer describing how she had received one of the Queen's Jubilee medals. The article spoke of her coming from Jamaica to study in the UK and then to Canada in 1980 when she worked in Newfoundland and Labrador. When I asked what community she worked in while in Labrador she said "North West River" which was the next community to Goose Bay where I worked for International Grenfell Association (IGA) as well.  North West River was where the shore captain worked back in the day when he was RCMP and not a shore captain. This would've been just a few months after we left. Small world eh?

As I heard my coworker booking tickets from Edmonton to Puerta Vallarta in March I was pleased to receive a reply from the dive shop that my prescription lenses for my snorkel mask had arrived and would be ready for me to pick up when I arrive home in March. Will be glad to pack those for the Cuba trip which is getting closer every day. 

Since this is already an abbreviated night, I should crawl under the covers. Thinking of all those snow days at home and how unusual they are for the banana belt. Enjoy!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Canadian Tire, Walmart and the lagoon

To begin, a photo of the sun returning to Taloyoak. I was pretty pleased to see it and the last time I saw a sunrise was in Yellowknife on the way in Jan 3rd so I can only imagine how pleased folks were who have been waiting for a couple of months. This is taken about 11 a.m. yesterday looking out the dining room window and is the brightest sun we've seen yet. I do have my light therapy lamp which wakes me every day so haven't been minding the lack of light, although the darkness isn't usually a problem for me in the winter months anyway. I told my coworker and roommate it makes me higher energy and they both suggested that I don't need it but you don't want to take chances. 

This Sunday has been good to me even though I've been second on call. I got to sleep all night even though I was first on call and it was a Saturday night and a pretty busy one from the sounds of the 'machines' zipping by here. And I even slept in this morning. After a breakfast sandwich, load of laundry and catching up on some emails, I had a call from the shore captain. As he says "I've got 7349 minutes on my truck phone" this being because he'd rather use the hand held cell phone and risk a fine if the RCMP see him with it to his ear. He's been busy wrestling with bureaucracy and attempting to move the lobsters he has staying with him in the tank house. So his world was continuing on in the same manner. I had a Skype chat with the electrician daughter and her fur family as well so a full day. 

Catholic church
Graffiti northern style
Harvesting ice to make tea
My roommate and I went on a tour of the hamlet today as she is the Homecare nurse and has been here (off and on) for about a year so is knowledgeable about all things Taloyoak. We started out about noon time when the sun was up. Too bad I didn't have video of the sled dogs yowling there to the right of the church so you could really experience it. You know how kids love to write in the dust on vehicles or buildings in the south? Here on the right is the northern version in the frost and snow. We found some folks getting some ice for tea - if you don't care for the trucked in version of water, this is the alternative. 

Large iglu for many people
Inside the largest room
We were on the hunt for the iglu built by the elders and had to make two attempts to find it as it was white on white. Kind of reminded me of a sandcastle in it's shape. I'm only 5' 4" and I could only stand up in the middle of the largest room which speaks to the height of its usual inhabitants. It's not finished yet with the sleeping platforms, caribou robes and oil lamps but I think the construction will continue on for some time. The school kids come out to see how their ancestors lived out on the land. I felt like I was in a snow fort I'd built about 50 years ago as I sat in it. I was amazed to think that in my lifetime I was actually able to sit in an igloo - imagine - something you read about in books as a child or saw on a NFB documentary. 

Gas station and cashier office
Downtown Taloyoak
We continued on with our tour about town as I have only seen sections of it and mostly in the dark. The 900 or so inhabitants live in a fairly spread out pattern. It would likely take about half an hour to walk briskly from one side to the other. The gas station is an interesting place where you pump your fuel and then go to the office to pay. The office being a walk in freezer which is where the attendant sits to stay warm. There's room for a cash register and chair here. 

Canadian Tire - Skidoo Shop
We headed outside the hamlet to the road which goes almost to the airport and to the dump - locally known as Walmart. Here you see it on the left, complete with ravens as there is food from the grocery stores discarded here. Further up the road is the Canadian Tire. One section is the machine / Honda shop the other is general tools and equipment. It would be a tad bit cold for 'pick a part' work but.....

The lagoon
Sewage truck pumping station
We drove on to the lagoon and no this isn't a place where you'd go to swim. Can imagine it's rather 'ripe' and attracts flies in the summer. Apparently the locals are extremely afraid of flies - as in house flies - to the point of jumping from a moving vehicle if one is in it. I'm told that last summer there was an alert on the local radio station that there was a bumblebee in Taloyoak - much like the polar bear alert. Hmmm. These last four pics are part of the reason there's an environmental assessment being done this summer here. These situations aren't uncommon in the north unfortunately. 

I rewarded my tour guide by baking cranberry scones and cinnamon loaf when we returned so it was a fair exchange. Time to get ready for the Monday. Very difficult to believe that I'm into the third week here already as the time just flies.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Here comes the sun.....

I walked to the COOP to pick up a few groceries after work and could put the $40 worth in a small bag. Good thing too though because it was -50 c with the wind chill and the biting wind and stinging snow even gave my parka a work out. As I was leaving the store a group of teenagers came out and piled on a skidoo and took off - no face masks, just hats and parkas - while I hunched into my scarf. I felt like a sissy. 

I'm told that a project which is done locally every year here is underway this week. The elders are commissioned to build and setup igloos just as they did about 50 years ago out on the land. You can visit them and experience just what iglu life was like. The kids all go out from the school and apparently you're welcome to sleep in them - some of the teachers have. Sounds like a wonderful photo op to me. Will post pics if I get there on Sunday.

Here comes the sun......
Today when I was looking out the window at lunchtime I noticed a skidoo pull up in front of the health centre with four people on it. Of course I didn't have my camera ready but my roommate says the most she's seen is six so that wasn't any kind of a record. I was looking out the window though because she had called my attention to the fact that the sun had returned here this week. It's lightest between 10:30 am and 12:30 p.m. and then pitch black by 2 p.m. again. This was the first time we'd seen it due to the cloud and ice fog the past few days. The person who does medical travel (arranges for scheduled flights for those requiring appointments in Yellowknife or Edmonton) told me today that when people see the sun coming back that they get energized. I am sure I would too if I hadn't seen it since November! I was asking about butterflies as the other clerk was wearing a scrub top with butterflies on it and I said "you don't have butterflies up here with the short summer do you?" and she assured me that they do "little small green ones, really pretty" she said. That was my biology lesson for the day. 

Had a nice Skype chat with my teacher daughter this evening who is going skiing tomorrow - have spoken to all three of them this week and so am caught up on the news. Well, time to rescue my scrubs from the high efficiency washer and dryer which is located in the laundry room outside our apartment. We are so spoiled. Had to do laundry as the hamper was getting full and you're never sure what a day on call will bring you. I leave you with this neat list - some you might know but not all I'm sure:

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, January 18, 2013

NOT a Polar Bear Alert

Okay so this topic is becoming the longest running story since Bonanza but....apparently last weekend it wasn't polar bear tracks which were sighted near the dump but rather wolverine tracks as confirmed by hunters. Oh, that makes it much better - NOT! I am hopeful of not engaging with a wolverine when I'm walking either. And no, there are no wolverine alerts issued, but the little critters are known to be quite vicious, so maybe there should be. Not sure if that's why their pelts are worth so much or not. Also not sure if I'll venture far this weekend as tomorrow (with the prediction for -51 c) I only have after work to walk to the COOP. Saturday and Sunday I'm on call. The sun is returning to Taloyoak this week. My roommate (who works for Homecare and is thus out and about) tells me that although it was cloudy this morning the sun almost peeked through sometime before noon. So although it won't raise the temperatures, it will lift the spirits of those waiting since November to see the sun. Maybe I'll see it on the weekend as it's predicted to be clear. 

Freight deliveries have been messed up this week as some of the flights have been cancelled due to the cold and even those which flew had restrictions on what could be shipped as some products don't do well at these temperatures. It always amazes me to treat a patient for something that you'd have to really prod someone down south the go home with, for example a gallbladder attack, then watch them pull on their parka without complaint and trudge off in to the arctic night with -50 c temperatures for a 15 minute walk home. Or to watch a family struggle an elderly person and their walker on to a skidoo (locally known as a machine) or a 4wheeler (locally known as a Honda - and no they're not all that brand) and take them home without a murmur. When I think of all the occasions in 'civilization' that families have shown up in the Emergency Dept. with a suitcase packed for an elderly family member and done the grammy dump saying "she's not coming home" and walking away, often for someone who is less trouble than the elder on the machine mentioned above makes me glad to be working at over 69 degrees north at present. Influenza has been confirmed in our region so we shall see how I feel after a wave of that making it through the community. We are still doing our best to immunize the community but the uptake throughout the north hasn't been great so it's anyone's guess what happens. 

I have discovered from folks who have been working north much longer than I that online shopping through, Best Buy, Future Shop, Old Navy and all ship for free to Nunavut. Although many companies advertise free shipping, the fine print often says 'we do not ship to Nunavut'. And speaking of Amazon, I received an email from them advising that they'd credited my account in the amount of 21 cents as overpayment in international fees. Thanks a bunch - that'll really make a difference. The online shopping phenomenon predisposition is almost universal with northern nurses it seems. 

Had a good evening where I baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (the room mate says I am completely inappropriate for her New Years resolution) then Skyped the oldest daughter and visited with her kitties - they are SO cute and so lucky to have been rescued and living the pampered life. Maybe I'll track down the middle daughter and have Skyped with them all by the weekend and caught up on all the news. I am pleased to be only on second call tonight and am calling it in early as I had a short night on call last night. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Polar Bear Warning

Yesterday I had a patient in the office who told me that she'd gone to pick her husband up at the airport because she didn't want him walking home as there was a polar bear alert. "Which day was this?" I questioned and the reply was "Saturday". Hmmm I said "Saturday was the day I was out walking" for which I received a pointed 'are you completely stupid or crazy?' look and a serious eye roll with "don't they call the health centre to tell you there's a bear out?" Umm, no 'they' don't. Memo to self 'do not believe that Mary Ellen who promised that no one with her gets eaten by a bear' stuff. Apparently there were fresh polar bear tracks out by the airport and a fox on someones trapline was eaten by the bear. Mind you, we were walking in the completely opposite direction from the bear tracks but....

Speaking of the airport....I did the most stressful task that I've been asked to do since arriving here - I drove for the first time in Nunavut. Since I was second on call I was designated to go to the airport and pick up the two physicians arriving on Monday evening. It was bitterly cold on my scrub pant clad legs,  I didn't even know where the garage was, I struggled with the garage door closer (and yes the door most certainly had to be closed after exit at -57 c) and driving an SUV I'd never seen before. I get out on the gravel street with the instructions "just turn right and drive towards the lights out at the end of the road" ringing in my ears with the ice fog so thick I could use radar and I bump along towards a collection of trucks and skidoos. I push my way inside the crowded terminal and find the community physician with the description of "he looks like a tall Steve Martin" who hails from interior BC and the Internal Medicine specialist who is a petite, perhaps 40ish female who is in from Yellowknife and we scuff our way outdoors to the half ton truck which has all the luggage from the flight in the back - the baggage carousel so to speak. The packs are grabbed, stuffed into the SUV and we head back to the hamlet. Dr. Smit instructs to "turn right here" as I locate the Boothia Inn - helpful as I've never been this way before but I think he's a bit alarmed I don't know my way - and I drop them off for supper. Return the vehicle to the garage (tight squeeze) and get the door closed and back to the health centre. Whew!

I grabbed a quick supper and headed over to the school for the community feast / awards presentation / dancing which was scheduled as the Premier (Eva Aariak) and Commissioner of Nunavut were attending to present the awards. I'm not really a political animal but I'm including the link to the premier's office here as there are some great photos and information about Nunavut:

The feast included char chowder, caribou stew and bannock and this was enjoyed by a large crowd. The dancing is a traditional form of jigs and reels - square dancing / Inuit dancing to fiddles, accordions, drums, guitars which is a remnant of the Scottish whalers heritage. Since I was second on call and had whined at the person I was backing up in order to go (I'll call the police and they'll go to the school and find you if I need you, I was told - the RCMP were already there so Iqaluit could've radioed them) I made my way home by 9 p.m. just as things were getting fired up in the music department.

Serving chowder

Everyone enjoying the meal 

Great anorak and mitts

All generations attended the feast

Char chowder


Speaking of the health centre.....and for those in health care that this info will mean something to......the SHP (which stands for Supervisor Health Programs) or boss lives in the apartments with the rest of us over the health centre. There are three transient apartments here. The SHP is a full time indeterminant (here in Nunavut permanent is called indeterminant). Someone asked me a question about PACS (this is a system in NS for sharing diagnostic images) and NO there is no PACS system here. The janitor does the xrays during the day (nurses do them after hours) and we only do chest and limbs. They are developed in the dark room (just like back in the day in the rest of the country) with all those chemicals and the film is sent out to be read by a radiologist....sometime or sent with the patient if medevacing them out. We can take digital photos of the xrays and send them off to the receiving physicians though. 

Although I have been scoffed at for dragging all the luggage I brought I notice that I am frequently asked "do you have?" just like when I vacation with the life partner and he brags at travelling very lightly and only taking a small bag while making fun of my luggage with the "magic bag with everything in it" although he's the first one to ask "do you have......?"

Had a nice skype chat with the baby daughter this evening. Amongst her other calamities was that her duvet was stolen from the dryer at the laundromat "and it wasn't even dry!" she says. We were discussing her paper on horizontal violence in the workplace and any nurse could give you lots of raw material for that one. Will have to catch the other two daughters one of these evenings for Skype as well. Thought of all my girls when I found this quote:

I managed to make apple crisp (as the apples hadn't handled the frigid transport all that well) in between all my socializing so am in high demand for a roommate. My roomie says that she won't fit into her snow pants if I don't stop soon and since she does Homecare she HAS to wear those. 

Well, time to call it in as I'm on call tomorrow and won't be sure of crawling in to bed whenever I want.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Walk on the white side

Well, since I'm first on call tomorrow I should be 'fixing my sleep' as the local describe it. This is to explain that they have all been staying up late (read all night) over the holidays and sleeping all day. Apparently the traditional games being held at the gym in the school weren't over until 1 a.m. If you call during the day you're apt to be answered with "I'm sleeping" and a bang of a phone hang up - much like a nurse sleeping from night shift. Now they're trying to go to bed earlier and actually get up in the morning so they're 'fixing their sleep'. It explains why the afternoons at the clinic are so busy. We are booked to do sick clinic in the morning, draw blood work etc. and various community programs ex. well baby, well woman, CDC (chronic diseases) school immunizations etc. each afternoon. The morning tends to be steady but lots of 'no shows' so the SHP (boss) has the clerk on the phone calling people in for flu shots, pap tests etc. to fill the gaps. The afternoon is flat out as everyone wakes up and decides to phone the nurse on call to see if they can come in for the appointment they slept through. 

Cultural immersion requires learning the local expressions and parents often tell me that their child is fevering, not he has a fever but fevering. When travelling you can get weathered or have the plane go mechanical in another community. As the temperature hovers at -50 c you're told "it's getting cold now eh?" by patients who assure me that every day it'll just keep getting colder. They refer to June as spring and August as fall as well. Hmmm.

I found a book in the office downstairs so read it over the day off today. It's about residential schools and called We Were So Far Away. It was an interesting read from both a cultural and historical perspective. There were a couple of stories in there about Labrador in the 70s so a blast from my past as well. There was a link to Acadia University and I was surprised to see a relationship to Inuit studies there from one of the contributors who went on to be an MLA and Commissioner in Nunavut. The traditional knowledge is called Inuit Qaujimajatuqanit. Here's a link to check it out:

Today was quite a productive day off which included laundry, baking chocolate chip cookies, the reading and a walk with two other employees to the edge of the road out of town here are the pics - with apologies to those who check out FaceBook for the repeats:

Disneyland  as in coloured houses

Heading out of the hamlet

The Northern Store

Northern Stores = Hudson Bay Stores


Mary Ellen & Rose Marie

It's not the walk which is tiring so much as the long johns, snow pants, thick socks, winter boots, parka, scarf, pang hat and sealskin mittens which wear you out. And no I was not worried about getting attacked by wildlife as Mary Ellen assured us that she makes it a policy not to have anyone walking with her get eaten by a polar bear. Apparently there is a gas station here and my room mate (who drives around Taloyoak as she is a Homecare Nurse) tells me that the guy taking the money sits in a fridge (a walk in cooler I think she means) to keep warm. I am definitely going to check that out on my next stroll. 

We were informed that the Premier and Commissioner are coming to Taloyoak on Monday/Tuesday to present medals of bravery etc. locally. There will be a community feast of traditional foods at the school as well as dancing etc. Apparently they will visit the Health Centre on Tuesday morning as well. I don't usually find myself meeting the premier at my workplace - should be interesting.

Things I've learned this week

Things I've learned the first week:

The twenty bucks I spent for the personal humidifier (which runs all night on one fill up of water) is a great investment

When traveling in the north in the winter you should pack your fruits and veggies which can't handle freezing in an insulated bag to keep them warm - I am reminded of this every morning as I eat my way through the frozen oranges (just the ones which were on the outside) 

It is good to live like an immigrant (over the shop) when temperatures are -54 c as it is wonderful to not have to go outside to work - reminds me of my days in the home office

We have a policy for that - even though the government policy is to close government workplaces when the temperatures drop to -50 c, it was less than -50 c all week and business as usual

There are a lot worse places to work than one where when you answer the phone on call to "do you want to buy some caribou, or alternatively arctic char?" And if you accept, the country food is delivered right to your door. This could have something to do with locals being short of cash after the holidays.

When you are on call, as soon as you get into a very deep sleep (about 45 min after dozing off) the phone will ring and you will be called upon to sound intelligent and make a reasonable decision

FaceBook is great except for when you check out the Fire Dept response calls to find one in your home area and don't have cell phone coverage to call those that you're worried about. Had to get the brother-in-law (who was online at the time) call the shore captain on his cell and message me. Not usually that neurotic but it was (literally) too close to home. 

Planning to get together for supper (a pizza built with group contributions) with the call schedule is akin to nurses and fishermen trying to plan a supper date

There are less dogs, or at least less roaming dogs here than in other northern communities I've been in - good thing as I'm not sure the pepper spray would work at these temperatures. The camera may be freeze proof but it sure protests if not kept in a mitten.

This is what -50c looks like...from the window at noon

And since it's all about doing the northern tour - here's a definition of travel off one of those travel blogs:


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Time in Taloyoak

My time in Taloyoak has begun! I had an eventful day making my way here but nothing too serious happened, just stuff to include when I write my memoirs. 

I was up in good time in Edmonton, out to grab a luggage cart and to the lobby for my booked shuttle just in time to see it pull away. Apparently it was full and was going to return for a second load of us. I join a group of mine employees making their way in to NWT and Yukon by charter airlines and a teacher who is returning to Hay River via WestJet to Calgary then Yellowknife - it's her first year in the north and she wasn't aware of Canadian North and First Air. I am the last dropped off at the terminal and pile my mound of luggage on a cart. When I check in, I am asked to prioritize my bags as the flight is full and likely only two of my four bags will accompany me. The action packer filled with perishables is the easy pick but I will surely remember for next time to make sure which one of the bags has both at least one uniform and my work shoes. The mature desk clerk tells me firmly  while surveying my cable ties on the handles of my action packers "if you're going to fly around the north in the winter with these things make sure you wrap them with duct tape". I am advised to make haste as the security lineup in Edmonton is long this morning and wow they were not kidding. As I snake my way through the line and finally get through the screening process the scanner can't decide what all the electronics cords are so they swab my laptop and search my knapsack. Argh. The final boarding announcement for my flight is being called as I pull up in front of the gate and I am the second to last person to board the plane. The flight is completely full and I am stuffed beside a 6' 3" likely 300 lb field worker and his buddy on their way to Norman Wells. 

I am relieved to make my way off the plane in Yellowknife through the terminal and over to Canadian North gate - this consists of a room at the end of the corridor with a desk for Canadian North and one for First Air. There is one other woman from Gjoa Haven and myself on the flight and the flight attendant walks us out to the 20 seat turboprop. We're greeted by the pilot who gives us weather and flight info in person and we're up and off. I feel like a rockstar on a chartered jet with all the personal service. It's a 2.5 hr. flight to Gjoa Haven over lots of snow and ice. We deplane for refuelling and hang out for about 20 minutes. Then about 1/2 hr over to Kugaaruk and another 1/2 hr to Taloyoak. I arrive by 4:30 pm and the First Air desk clerk calls the health centre to advise I've arrived. The local MLA arrives eventually to pick me up and we wrestle the one action packer and two duffle bags into the back of the truck. It feels like I'm having an asthma attack by the time we get these heavy things up the front steps then up the set of stairs to the apartment. 

Refueling at Gjoa Haven 
Taloyoak Airport waiting room
Canadian North baggage carousel 

I spend my evening getting things unpacked, making my bed and finding out that there is no cell phone service in Taloyoak. Oh well, will just have to skype. Needless to say I slept soundly! Yesterday morning my body was still on eastern time so I was awake before the alarm. The blu-light to reset my circadian rhythms in the 24 hrs of darkness worked well and I enjoyed 15 minutes of rays while I checked my email and the news after awakening. A quick breakfast, ready for work and the commute downstairs reminds of the years when I did case management and worked from a home office. 

Introductions all around with very friendly staff and then an orientation tour with the SHP (nurse in charge) of the Judy Hill Memorial Health Centre. For those of you too young to have known or old enough to have forgotten the story is……in 1972 there were patients and a nurse (Judy Hill from Great Britain) who had just flown over from Taloyoak (at that time it was called Spence Bay) to Cambridge Bay to be medevaced out - a pregnant woman called Neemee Nulliayok, a 14 year old Inuk  named David Kootook with appendicitis. The Dr. and nurse in Cambridge Bay arranged for Martin Hartwell, who had just flown prospectors onto the barrens, to fly the patients out, the weather was uncertain and the pilot wasn't cleared for instrument flying. The plane crashed between Cambrige Bay and Yellowknife and the nurse was killed on impact, the pregnant patient died several hours later, the pilot had two fractured ankles, left knee and nose fractured and the native lad helped him to survive  in -35 c temperatures. The lad died at 20 days surviving that long off tree bark and Hartwell was found at 31 days physically okay but mentally very unstable as he had survived by eating the flesh of the nurse. I remember hearing of the search in the news and reading the story in Readers Digest of the ordeal but it is almost surreal to find myself working in the same community as Judy Hill once did. 

Trauma / treatment Room
The health centre is small and very functional. It reminds me of the older hospital I worked in when I first graduated - and those are positive memories of hard work and good times. There is however no lab (we draw samples, centrifuge and send to the plane), X-ray (the janitor or we do films and we try to interpret) or no physician present here. Well, I should qualify that - a physician is on call Mon - Fri 8:30 am to 5 pm and he visits monthly to do a clinic, there is a physician on call somewhere in the region after hours. There are computers but they are not used for scheduling or order entry, mostly email. And on Friday the email was down in Cambridge Bay as well as the phones so no one from IT there was able to phone and get me online. Just as well as I likely have 1100 messages as the inboxes continue to fill while you are not here. The patient registers, the chart is pulled and nurses take the chart off the top of the stack and call the patient in - very straight forward. I was a bit alarmed however to find out that I was first on call on my first day as I have limited understanding of how things work here. Lots of support here, the cleaning staff even found my glasses which I'd set on a shelf when they were steamed up as I brought my luggage in the first evening. 

I convinced the second on call to answer the phone for me (no cells so you have to be in the apartment to hear the phone) as I took a trip to the Coop store after work for milk and eggs. The selection is a bit less than Cambridge Bay and the prices slightly higher but you can still certainly exist very well here. My Canada Goose parka, snow pants, Pang hat and sealskin mitts served me well in the - 45 c (with wind chill) walk down and back. I did put the grippers on my Boggs though as the roads are slick with ice from all the skidoo traffic. 

Had a few calls in the evening and then an interaction with the RCMP later, a phone call at 4 am and another at 6 am, then up at 8:30 am to give report and see a patient. So all in all, not particularly eventful and today has been for the most part handled by the agency nurse who is first on call as I am her backup. There was a loud outburst which I heard this afternoon while surfing the net and hustled downstairs to see if my work colleague needed a hand - she didn't, but the RCMP in attendance asked if they'd woken me when he saw my hair. It was reassuring to know that if you yelled loudly that others would be able to hear and come rescue you so that's a good safety feature. 

Living room 
1 pm view from our window
The apartment here is very spacious for two people and we have a large living room, two large bedrooms, a dining room and well appointed kitchen with everything you can imagine to cook with. There is a large storage room with deep freeze, lots of closets, cable is included and there is a large flat screen TV although neither my roommate from Moncton who is working with Homecare nor myself have turned it on. The health centre is on a bit of a hill so you can see out over the hamlet of approximately 900 people - nice spot. The 24 hours of darkness is not completely accurate as it is dark in the morning, a bit lighter at noon then almost pitch black by 2 pm on through. And yes it is cold's a dry cold. 

So, here's hoping for a quiet night. Not sure if that's compatible with the removal of the holiday ban to have liquor shipped in as there is quite a bit of ETOH in the community this weekend. Since there are only two RCMP who work 9 - 5 and then are on call 24/7, they share our wishes. Here's hoping. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Have action packer will travel

This has been a rather long day so I'm about to call it in as tomorrow will be another, but first to update you. 

Less than two hours sleep last night as my mind raced with last minute details and the snoring from the bed partner was enough to put one over the edge. Up at 2:30 a.m. to leave the house by 3 a.m. after a quick goodbye to the dog - I sure miss her, even though I know she's being well cared for as she's walked by friends and the shore captain actually spoils her while pretending he doesn't - I think it's that whole unconditional love thing. The cats ignored me - they've had practice at that behaviour. 

The oldest daughter accompanied me to the airport to have the car for the remaining days of her vacation home. I was very glad for the company as there was quite a bit of snow and limited visibility at times. Made good time to the airport and that was a good thing as it was a very busy travel morning just after the holidays. By the time I checked in, went to the bathroom, made it through security and bought a juice, they were boarding my flight. It was a totally sold out flight and several people didn't make it on. I managed to catch a good nap on the way to Toronto even though I was wedged between a widow who winters in Florida and was home to welcome a grandchild into the world and a man (originally local to my area) who works in Victoria on vessels which go to the arctic. Time for a Starbucks blueberry scone and tea and we reboarded the plane. I was wedged between a kinesiologist who does fit testing in Fort McMurray and an American driller working north of Edmonton on a project. The plane was full of folks heading back out west to work - I think the airlines benefit the most from the downtown in the economy in eastern Canada and resulting jobs in the west. My guilty pleasure of the flight was watching that silly movie The Campaign. 

A bit of a wait and finally a shuttle bus to shuffle me and my two large duffel bags, one 90 L action packer full of non perishables, a sack of parka, mitts, and hat and a knapsack over to the Royal Executive Inn. A luggage cart to get the stuff to my room and then plan the shopping blitz. First a call to the health center in Taloyoak to see if they need anything "nope, but where are you?" So I explain I'll be in tomorrow on the 3:15 pm flight and am advised they'll send the janitor for me, so things are unfolding as expected. A cab to Canadian Tire to pick up a second 90L action packer and a visit to Walmart next door for fresh groceries and a return taxi home. So much excess packaging to be jettisoned and nice to have a fridge in the room to stack food having to be refrigerated. A wake up call and a shuttle to the airport booked. 

Met with a primary healthcare person who has worked in the communities I am going to / have been to and she is actually the daughter of a nurse I used to work with a few decades ago. We had a great supper in the pub and caught up on the news. She was very encouraging of my trip so if I wasn't excited enough before I sure am now. Although she tells me the fruit and veggies are very well wrapped as they spend the day on the plane, stopping in all the communities in very cold temps - I explain this is why I bought squash not lettuce. Since it was - 48 c with the wind chill in Taloyoak today, I best get rested up. Have organized the parka, mitts and hat for the a.m. Later. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy 2013

Happy New Year! It's 2013 - can you believe it? The date is the stuff of science fiction for someone born in the fifties really. 

All my bags are packed and ready to go.....I'm leaving on a jet plane. Yep, it's the first leg of the journey to Taloyoak which begins in a few hours. Drive to the airport, flight to Edmonton, shop for perishables, overnight at the Executive Inn & Suites at the airport and off to Taloyoak the next morning. I'll be taking the milk run by the sounds as it's Edmonton to Yellowknife then Yellowknife to Taloyaok via Gjoa Haven and Kugaaruk. The temperature difference of -7 here to - 47 there will be a change and of course the 24 hours of darkness. It does get easier each time to get myself together and I'm learning as I go. Will keep you posted. 

I have gotten stopped the newspaper, paid my Qiniq (internet) account, packed my nonperishable groceries and all my supplies for eight weeks. If I don't have it, well I don't and will have to live without it. It's amazing how compact you can make your life and still live well for two months. My life fits into two duffle bags and a knapsack. Well not counting my Canada Goose parka, Pang hat, NS tartan scarf and sealskin mitts which are rolled intoa dry sack until I make it to Edmonton. A full flight of course with folks heading west after the holidays. 

And speaking of holidays we did them up in style. Have had the western daughter here for a couple of weeks before she returns to school to do the theory for her 3rd year electrician apprenticeship and the baby daughter as she's worked at the local nursing home before heading back to university for her final semester / clinical before she graduates and writes RN after her name. The teacher daughter has been enjoying her holidays off and being the hostess with the mostest so it's been a busy but wonderful season. 

Hosted a wonderful staff party for the business - lobster bisque, lobster au gratin on the half shell with broccoli, carrots and basmati rice, cheesecake with strawberry, blueberry and chocolate same and all sorts of refreshments. Had a friend come to help with the kitchen prep and the chef kept us on the straight and narrow. A great time was had by all. And then a few days later we hosted the family supper which we have all the life partners extended family in for creamed lobster and turkey dinner. We've grown to a group of almost thirty now so it was a busy evening. 

Christmas Eve saw us on the road to the teacher daughters and we had a great holiday with all, yes you read that correctly....ALL the kids together for the first time in five years. The shore captain cooked seafood chowder and I made a batch of biscuits for supper. We watched the Christmas Vacation movie (as we are the Griswalds) and then played Cranium - pretty fun. The oldest daughter bought us ladies - the three girls and myself each matching pajamas. Cute! We got some great photos of us all modelling. 
We got up Christmas morning to open gifts in front of the fireplace and had a great time - my homemade or Frenchy's shopping was really successful and the gifts were well received. We had barely finished with the gift opening when the boy captain arrived. He hauled traps on Christmas Eve, drove to the city to spend the day with us, then hauled traps on Boxing Day. It was as sister said "the Christmas miracle" that he made it. The son-in-laws family came along as well and we all enjoyed the afternoon. Had a wonderful meal of turkey, goose and duck (courtesy of the resident hunter's trip to Saskatchewan in the fall. We were very lucky to spend the time together and it'll likely be a while before that happens again. We headed back home on Boxing Day for the shore captain to get back to work. 

Those of us not working have filled our days with crafts, Frenchy shopping, baking, visiting friends, dog walking and more. And the following quote sums up the fun we've had:

Last evening we headed to friends for New Years and had a great time. Bacon wrapped scallops for appetizers, lobster chill and biscuits and fried lobsters for supper with molten lava cakes and cherry pie for dessert. With a few refreshments (including some pink and white bubbly at midnight) a great time was had by all. My resolution for last year was to travel more and work less and I've accomplished that in spades. This year my resolution is to do the northern tour - there are 25 fly in communities in Nunavut and I've (as of the day after tomorrow) visited three so far, so have a good start. 

Today the kids took down the Christmas tree and with the shore captain's assistance packed away the holiday decorations. They'd likely be waiting for me in March if this wasn't done. So, off to catch a few winks before it's time to head to the airport. Details to follow.