People make or break your day!

Often one hears of, or reads about, nasty experiences dealing with people across the counter. Well in the last two days I have twice experienced just the opposite. That is I’ve had contacts where people have made my day! I am in a run of seeing doctors and having tests which isn’t always the most pleasant of experiences and being made to feel comfortable is great.

First up I had to see a specialist whom I had known during his early post-graduate training in a department where I was a senior. I saw him late in the afternoon on the day when he had just arrived back from his Christmas break and I’m sure was exhausted and just wanted to get off duty. But for the first half an hour we talked about the past, he obviously had in some way or other followed my path when I had returned to Ethiopia. He even knew that I had had a period of teaching French! Then he dealt with me in a most kind and professional way, explained his thinking and ordered several more investigations which he wanted performed. And at the end treated me pro bono!

Then this morning I had to go to the X-ray department and sort out a tangle of appointments. At the end of of last week they had declined to carry out a CT scan because of things from my past history. They had ordered other blood tests, the results of which I was carrying with me. I also had the request for the test which they had declined to do earlier and two new requests one of which I wanted added into the previous CT request and the other which was totally different. There were obvious advantages in combining the two different CT scans.

Approaching the desk when called we (my son and I) were met by a beautiful very young looking (that’s almost everyone these days) receptionist. She expected to just open the book and give me an appointment but it wasn’t that easy. She had never, I think, been faced by an old man who knew what he wanted and would, if possible, like his own way. It was not easy for her because they had to contact someone to read the results of the previously ordered tests; she had never dealt with a patient wanting to have two requests ordered by two different doctors rolled into one; then the third test couldn’t be done in their radiology unit and the barium needed for it is difficult to find. I think because of Australia-Chinese relationship at the moment it is hard to get. Then the possible alternative to be used as a contrast in the examination had to be approved by the surgeon ordering the test, and he could not be contacted as he was operating. She sought help from a senior, another young looking very pleasant lady, and together they worked on the problem for about 45 minutes.

Through it all she was calm, professional, friendly and nice to work with. Thus I have had two very pleasant contacts in two days. Now I remain hopeful that the tests will be as comfortable and that the results are decisive and nice! I don’t know her and maybe we’ll never meet again, but she made my day! I was very happy to tell her so.

Dominic Cartier

If only….

The picture below is the one on the front of my autobiography. It was taken in the mid 90’s in Soddo, Ethiopia. I developed a fairly close relationship with the boy who is walking with me. He was deaf and dumb. There was a blind school nearby but he wasn’t blind. There wasn’t anywhere near to help him. In my early days there before we got a vehicle, I often walked past his home going between our home and the hospital. If only I hadn’t had an already heavy schedule…. but had the chance to meet the family and know more about him. I got to hear his story from the workers and did my best to be a friend to this little guy isolated in an overpopulated area inside his silent world. So we’d walk together sharing a chocolate bar, pointing out things that interested us, but sadly absolute silence. If only we’d known ‘signing’ …. Our home was about a kilometre beyond his and when I was walking home he’d walk with me but then after a while suddenly break off and run home to his area of safety. 

Then we bought an old 4WD and as I drove past he would climb up on my knee and steer for maybe half a kilometre before tapping my arm to stop, hop out and run home. I think that either his playmates indicated that I was coming or he, being deaf and dumb, appreciated the vibrations from the car transmitted through his feet. At any rate it was rare for me not to see him coming to the side of the road, waiting for me as I drove past. When we left Soddo one of the saddest things was leaving him. He did not have an intelligence problem, and hopefully as things progress medically in the land, he will get help. If only I’d been able to find an appropriate school…

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I did meet him again several years later when I visited the Soddo area again. He ran up to me with a very broad smile but scratching himself all over. He was covered with scabies. The diagnosis was easy and the treatment relatively cheap, but not all that easy, as it involved bathing and washing clothes. Having worked there just a few years earlier I quickly worked out how much to get him seen, and medicine ordered, then added a little for inflation and gave it to one of the hospital staff to sort out. I was told that after I had left the pharmacy had been privatised and costs adjusted (in)appropriately. Thus the money which I was offering was now insufficient to even get him a card to be seen. I added more, but had to leave and am not sure who prospered from my money, the boy or the one sent on an errand. If only I’d been able to stay and look after him myself….

Life has so many ‘if only‘ situations. You’d go mad if you held onto them too tightly.

Under the Thumb.

It may be almost illegal these days to say that about a husband-wife relationship! Particularly if you are the male speaking! There I go, being provocative again. But I’m not talking about a person but about a load of work.

Some years ago I self published a book – a sort of autobiography come medical journey of mine. It sold out and is 10 years out of date at any rate. Then a few years ago I wrote a book, probably better called a booklet, for my students as they began their clinical surgical courses. It was relevant to their situation with lack of facilities and language difficulties. Their ability to read thick tomes was limited, so I tried to put the very relevant stuff in a compressed form. As I meet a new era of Western students sold on investigations, before physical examinations, I’m convinced that it may be of use to them also.

I’m pretty dumb, computer wise, but my eldest son, who lives on our farm and runs it and who runs me is a wizard. He wants to reproduce them and also shortly after them another pictorial cum anecdotal short book of our lives. So at the moment the thumb of pressure to get it done on time is hard on me! Publication date for the first two is set for November 27. Between now and then we have a granddaughter’s wedding to attend about 1,500Km away, and a sheep shed to get built, so the pressure is on, the thumb is pressing down.

My first book was called ‘Have Scalpel – Will Travel’, and the new edition will have the same name but with ‘Revised and Updated’ added. The other will be ‘Medical Diagnosis – a Surgical Approach.’ I’m slowly labouring through the third one – as yet unnamed.

The introduction to the first book was and will remain as follows: –

They cut off the tip of his ear.
Yes he was a thief and this was the custom.
He was naked and caught stealing clothes left out by the river to dry.
He could see no-one but they saw him!
He was tightly bound with his hands behind his back and taken to court.
Eventually he was brought to the hospital.
One arm was already gangrenous. It had to be amputated.
The other – the nerve supply had been cut off by the pressure of the binding and the arm was paralysed, probably forever. 

How did he feed himself?
How? He had his food put on the cupboard by the bed – but there was no one to feed him.
He had to feed himself.
So he got up like a dog on his knees and elbows.
He ate like a dog.
My heart was touched and so each day I stayed back at lunch time and fed him myself.
What became of him? I don’t know.
But to God he is a person – to the others he was just a thief. 

One night I sat in the common room of Addis Ababa HQ of SIM – the mission with which I was associated. I had just come up from Soddo on business and had left behind this one who deeply disturbed me. People were singing that beautiful old hymn ‘Peace, perfect peace when all around….’ Yet I was not totally at peace. Sitting in that common room I was not totally at peace. Was I doing all that could and should be done in these circumstances? Certainly the future my young thief saw ahead had no pension, no physiotherapy, and no social support. 

Am I my brother’s keeper? 

The title of the second book.

Maybe more later. Watch this space!

?Dominic Cartier

Too busy with sheep!

I’ve been so busy that I have hardly opened my computer for days! For ages we’ve been trying to buy some dorper sheep. I’m too old to do much but as the government won’t give me a pension I have to do something to justify the small acreage that I own – that is, to make insurance etc payments tax deductible!

After several months of asking around, last week we had a call saying that someone, living a bit more than 500 km away was prepared to sell us some.

Our son who lives with us, and acts as both a carer (non-government) for us and the place got around to build crates to fit the back of a borrowed vehicle and a hired trailer.

You can see the one on the truck.

Then there was a family discussion as to whether or not they would allow this old man to make the trip. I won out in that I went; they won out insisting that we made it a two day trip. As I slept most of yesterday, the day after we got back, they were probably correct. But I enjoyed it.

The destination was Aramac. Torrens creek is about halfway.

The road from home to the township of Torrens Creek is up through low mountains, mainly cattle country but with many trees and typical of the area we live in.

From Torrens Creek it is flat, almost treeless and somewhat boring! We saw four varieties of kangaroos – Greys and big reds; dead and alive. At the pub where we ate supper we were chatting to a kangaroo shooter who kills them, then refrigerated takes them for the meat market. He was telling me that the government has stopped them shooting greys as there are so few. That was not our impression. We saw about 60 or 70 live animals waiting to jump in front of the vehicle and about half were greys. We also saw several groups of emus.

Aramac has in the area only about 300 people. There are according to the write up on Internet many nearby associated interesting things to do. We went one day arriving after dark and left the next morning as soon as the sheep were loaded. Maybe we’ll have to make a longer trip some time but the sheep were our prime concern.

The owners were lovely people. As you can see they had a pet goat who considered herself very much a part of the family.

After a seven hour trip we arrived home to a setting sun.

so we had to hurry and get the sheep off.

Next morning they remained a tight knit group, but seemed happy enough.

They look scraggly, but you don’t shear dorpers – they shed their wool. They are apparently good meat producers and the ewes lamb twice per year, with a fairly high incidence of twins apparently. we’ll see I guess. Thus we have 12 pregnant ewes and a young ram.

Dominic Cartier

Rental Values.

Maybe because we want too much, but the average Australian now has difficulty in buying a home. The cost is high, and many rent all their lives.

A relative of ours went out to the hospital where we worked at no cost to the hospital or government except that they were to provide housing. He stayed for about 3 years working during the day in the hospital area as a general, very handy, handyman. He taught a lot of evenings and weekends in a local church run vocational school. So rental was free but I wonder how much it would have gone for on the market as a rental property? I’ll show you a few pictures to put in a brochure. The young local graduated doctors refused to live in it. Could you blame them?

The entrance
Going inside
The lounge room
The toilet
The kitchen

There were pretty good views nearby.

A panoramic view from the hotel where official hospital visitors stayed.
The left hand lake as seen in the photo above now viewed standing outside his back door! You could increase the rental for the view! Lake Abaya is 60X20 km at its longest and widest points.

As I said above he stayed for several years and in his spare time and at personal cost did an enormous amount of work on it as part of his gift to the work. When it was finished and he was thinking of leaving, he was invited to leave soon. They wanted the renewed house for visiting lecturers.

(In praise of him he also started a tax free fund for a building for the locally run vocational school. It is now up and looking good!). His reward is in the satisfaction of a job well done. His thanks will ultimately come from above the clouds.

Dominic Cartier