A memory stirred.

I’m pretty deaf, with combined middle and inner ear problems. I’d been taken in an ambulance to the Emergency Department of the local University Hospital. Years before I had been a consultant there for some time. After I had met the young Intern, a more senior guy came in. As you would expect he was masked and in a discernible slightly foreign accent said something, which was to me undecipherable. So with his mask down and me asking him to come nearer I understand that his name was Graeme and the accent marked him as a Scot. ‘I know you he said.’ I did not remember him at all until he said that he had worked, as an intern, in a country hospital about 130 Km away from my hometown and I had been flown in to deal with a young man whose motorbike handle had, when he hit a tree, gone into his upper abdomen and caused massive bleeding. I still didn’t remember the doctor but I did remember the incident – some stories you don’t forget!

There were no specialists at the hospital but the medical superintendent was a very experienced and highly capable GP. Early in the evening he called me and said that he had just ordered a plane to bring a team up to deal with the above described young man. ‘Could I come, urgently?’ ‘The plane will be ready to take off in half an hour’, he said. I owned a Mitsubishi Starion and (maybe illegally) had it up to 230 km per hour. Knowing how long it took to set up people and equipment for the journey by plane I told him that I would be there long before the plane was. And I was.

He was a very capable GP anaesthetist so I told him to get everything set up and knowing him to be a good diagnostician told him to be ready to start the moment I got there. The patient was shocked and being resuscitated as well as they were able, but the family were JW’s and refused a blood transfusion. The parents had, however, agreed to allow me to transfuse him with his own blood, which I knew was collecting in big volumes in his abdomen.

He had a massive stellate tear of his liver. I rescued as much of his blood as I could and by filtering it through gauze, we put it into an emptied saline bottle and transfused it back into him. But I was losing him and bluntly sent out the message to the parents that if I couldn’t give him more blood he was going to die. They agreed for a transfusion to be given, but there wasn’t a store of transfusable blood.

As I said earlier the GP Superintendent was a champion guy. He had previously, knowing that such emergencies arose from time to time, formed a blood bank of living people who all had agreed that, if called upon in an emergency, they would come ASAP to the hospital and be bled. Three of the right grouping came and donated their blood.

The bleeding was so massive that after my attempts to stop it failed, all that I could do was put a large number of packs into the traumatised area thus controlled (stopped) the bleeding. He was sewn up and kept under the anaesthetic.

About a half an hour into the surgery the plane had arrived and the medical crew were very helpful when they joined us in the operating room. After a bit more stabilising of his condition he was flown back to our local city hospital. The next day he was flown about 1,500 Km to the capital city of the state for further definitive treatment under much better conditions. What follows I have only heard secondhand and some of my assumptions may be wrong. I think that the big boys in the big city assumed that the probably rather limited ability-wise country surgeon was making a mountain out of a molehill. For them it would be a ‘cake walk’.

At any rate they took him back into the operating room, removed the stitches and the packs, but could not control the bleeding and had to end up repacking him and sewing him up again. Eventually he was transferred to the liver unit where he had about half his liver removed. He eventually recovered and went back to his local area. I hope that he and his parents were able to curb his desire to race his bike through the forest tracks!

Dominic Cartier.

More Old Cards.

I write a daily devotional, and must confess that I’ve been slack in being involved with this blog. I wanted to get up to Christmas with the devotional ( https://as-i-read-it.com ) so that as it gets busier at this time of the year I would be well prepared. Nevertheless the last post which I wrote for heated stew received a comment requesting a few more memories of old cards – so here goes, four more!

from a surgical colleague.

The surgeon who sent this Christmas card to me was the senior registrar when I was an intern being trained at the QEH in South Australia. Several years later when I had very recently obtained my higher surgical degree and was making plans to go to the mission field in Ethiopia I had a phone call from him. I had several months to get things sorted out and was looking for a bit of assisting work until my departure.

He, however, wanted more than that. He wanted me to be a locum for him for a couple of months. He was off work because of an injury. He had been called in to assist an Obs/gynae friend at a difficult operation. The other chap had cut his hand and divided an extensor tendon on one of his fingers! This put him out of action as a surgical operator for some six weeks.

Later on when I had to leave Ethiopia for health reasons and when somewhat recovered was looking for work I did a year’s locum – six months for him and six months for his then surgical partner.

While I was a medical student, there was a Billy Graham Crusade in Adelaide. I was a counsellor and amongst others had the privilege of counselling twin boys in their early teens. During the follow up of those contacts I got to know the family very well. The boys decision to become Christians took fire within the family. Their sister became a keen young Christian and the parents who for some years had stopped any church connection began going again. The father was a dentist and became my dentist for many years (I grew up on tank water and no fluorides and have had terrible teeth). The twins who are now well into their seventies and I keep sporadically in touch, and I read with interest comments which the sister frequently makes in Facebook. They have stuck with their decisions of that time.

This card must have been written in 1960, for that was when I turned 21. I spent the day in camp with my National Service Training Group on the South Coast of South Australia. I was given the evening off and my father picked me up and took me to a party in the local institute near our home. I arrived back in camp about 2 AM, fell into a deep sleep in my tent and woke up late for duty the next morning soaked through and sleeping in a puddle as it had rained very heavily during the early hours of the morning.

But the card has many more memories than that it was sent by an ex-missionary who was a fellow medical student but years older. He had been in Ethiopia when the Italians invaded. He fled to Kenya and joined the British Army (he was a N’Zer) as a private, rose to be a Lieut-Colonel, and was at the end of the war appointed as Governor of British Somalia. He decided to go back and do medicine in order to return to Ethiopia and help the people. He never made it. He found the medical course difficult and just at the end of sixth year dropped dead from a heart attack, helping a neighbour pushstart their car. He was one of those who encouraged me to consider Ethiopia as a place to work.

A very simple card from a very dignified and knowledgeable Reader in Anatomy. He went on to become a professor. I spent 12 months as a demonstrator in Anatomy in his department when studying for the first part of my FRACS degree. There were 12 of us at that level all studying for our primary part of the degree. As you can imagine that as we tutored students, studied, ate together, horsed around, went to the local pub for Friday lunch each week, a lot of things were discussed. It became clear that only 2 of us had a commitment to the Christian Faith. Most were atheistic or agnostic. Two were Jewish. It was not a divisive thing but we all knew what our attitudes were.

We twelve were part of the 51 who sat the exam, which we knew had a high failure rate. Only 13 passed and only four were sitting for the first time. But my friend and I were two of the four who passed first time, and the only ones who passed from our group of 12. The other ten put on a party for us but complained during the hilarious time ‘It is not fair of God to bless those who believe in Him.’ I’m sure that many Christians have failed first time up but the statement is interesting!

Dominic Cartier.

Chopping down the tall poppy.

It is often said of Australians that we try and diminish people who stand metaphorically head and shoulders above the crowd. We cut off the tall poppy.

We recently had to get some trees lopped to allow the sunshine onto our solar system!

Today I want to build up one considered a short weed. Physically he is not big, except in his heart! I met him about 28 or 29 years ago, when he was a teenager. He was a double orphan but in the government hospital where I was working as an astermame (like a carer) for another teenager with whom he had grown up. His friend was also a double orphan. He slept under his ‘brother’s’ bed, emptying bedpans and feeding him because the other boy had very nasty infections in both elbows.

The hospital staff were angry at me because I had increased the occupancy rate of the hospital from 5 when I arrived to about 120. It was a 120 bed hospital. They invited me to go home because they only got the same government wage for doing a lot more work. In addition to verbalizing their discontent they were very uncooperative. I had to wheel the trolley to collect patients for their operations, load them on myself and push them to the operating room and lift them onto the table. I organized a highly intelligent young man (employed as a cleaner) to watch over the anaesthetics after I had put the person to sleep. Two nurses worked in the operating room and were on the whole cooperative. But after recovery I would have to repeat the process in reverse.

As soon as he heard the wheels of the patient’s trolley moving, the young boy of whom I am writing, would run to help me push the trolley. Eventually we adopted him and that in itself is quite a story. There were many hoops to hop through to get him to Australia. At High School he had his zygomatic arch in the side of his face broken because a lot of the other coloured girls thought him very handsome and some of the other coloured boys beat him up! He couldn’t open his lower jaw. Just as well his father was a surgeon!

He was never a good student but he stuck with it and eventually obtained a diploma in aged care. In the interval before getting his diploma he was never without a job. He is a terrible speller; his grammar is at best basic but he copes very well at a conversational level and does his job well.

I think in many senses he is a tall poppy.

Dominic Cartier

Cheaper by the dozens!

By the normal, enjoyable, route God graciously gave us five children, then we adopted two more and have been blessed by a couple of dozen either living with us for a while, making our home away from home or with us developing a close relationship with them as we helped them get reasonable educations.

They are such a good looking mob that I would love to be able to show you pictures of them all, but that apparently is not a good idea. I will just number them and tell a story about a few.

  1. The first was delivered by Caesarian Section, an operation requested by us. At a prenatal check up his heart was playing up pretty grossly and we were advised that he would almost certainly be mentally abnormal and that we should just allow the pregnancy to go to term (which was soon) and see what developed. We did not accept that. Truly he had an irregular heart for a while but that soon settled. If he is mentally defective, I’m glad, for otherwise he would be so far ahead of me that I would be surpassed by an absolute genius.
  2. His mother wanted a certain name for him. A name which I didn’t like, so as I was learning by then how to occasionally win an argument , I said nothing but just put my choice in the paper, as we did in those days, with my choice listed. We had agreed on his first name. He has been director of a Bible School in the Sudan, lecturer at a Bible College and director of a mission school in Ethiopia and is now a pastor of a moderate sized church. I’m not sure but I think that he has four degrees.
  3. He was probably one of the two most difficult of our natural kids as a teenager, but has grown into a man’s man and is great. Trained in science, education and theology, and having been a maths teacher for years, he now is training to be a worker amongst disadvantaged men. He and his lovely wife have plans to extend their ministry even wider in the future.
  4. Our fourth child was born in the midst of a cholera epidemic. Heavily jaundiced we think that he developed a mild case of cholera. He is also well educated with several degrees and is a Maths teacher. Proud of him for many reasons, I am tickled pink because he turned down a promotion so that he could still keep contact with kids as he was trained to do. He was given a title as a young teacher of ‘magpie poop’. He had a patch of white on the back of his hair where he had suffered an injury and his hair regrew white.
  5. Our only daughter is the spitting image of her mother and thus very beautiful. Having trained as a preschool teacher she is now personal assistant to the head of the secondary division of a moderately large Christian School. She is a great violinist (her teacher once said that she was Symphony Orchestra material) and a beautiful singer. Which, given her parents singing ability hints at a mutated gene.
  6. A double orphan, starved, protein wise, as a child, came to us as a teenager. Given his background, he has achieved as much as any of his older siblings and is qualified in geriatric care and has the drive to be setting himself up to provide services for the disabled. Personality wise he is a delight.
  7. As a child born out of time he became ours legally when we were seventy-ish. Again a near teenager when we ‘got’ him, he has turned out a gem. I guess, like all of us, time will tell but he is a keen and competent apprentice, good at IT. While we were still in Ethiopia he made money by fixing up many others computers and phones. He is very helpful for his IT backward parents!

Older than our oldest child, the first young man we brought to Australia to study has become head of a significant and quite large government organization in Australia. Offered the post of head of a diplomatic post in Africa, he rejected it for various reasons. He has a beautiful family and his oldest son was the first to give us a child who acknowledges us as great-grandparents.

We have been able to help over 20 young people through their education. A few have disappointed us, most of them have made us very proud. CEO’s, presidents of organizations, teachers, and although not helped by us financially a number with whom I’ve been involved in their training are top-notch doctors. I get the greatest joy from them when they write or message and thank me for my work ethic and even more when they talk about our role in their developing Christian faith. Thus several of them are now professors and heads of strategic medical units.

Maybe not financially, but cheaper by the dozen, and we luv ’em all.

Dominic Cartier.

My 101st Heated Stew attempt.

Our small church has two congregations. At 9AM we have a service for mainly older white people, you might label us a ‘dying’ church. But we do have an outreach into India, South Africa and Ethiopia where people from an overseas church which was disrupted have scattered to other places. The outreach is by the internet. Then we have a much younger Indian congregation which meets at about 10.30 for a service and then an all age Sunday School. Once a month we have commenced a combined service with communion. Today was the first such combined service.

You might wonder what a dog staring at a Television set has to do with church services. I’ve written about my dogs before. Sadly they are both dead, euthanized, because they got into my sheep and started killing them. Here is Liesel staring very intently up at a very colourful, very active packed scene. What is she thinking? How is she reacting? I talk to animals, I may be even more stupid as I sometimes talk to myself. They recognize expressions, they respond to moods but I don’t know what they are thinking. I guess when I talk to myself I can tell myself what I’m thinking!

So what has that got to do with church this morning? The Indian adults, although from a different background have been in Australia for long enough to understand our ways of thinking. But I wondered what the kids thought. Their church services are in their own tongue, Malayalam, and this morning was the first time some children have been in an adult English speaking service. The kids’ English is good, but there are real differences in styles of worship.

In the morning tea afterwards I called one of the little kids to talk to me. He was a bit shy and his older brother came to guard him. He’s in grade 1. So I asked him if he could add up. ‘Yes’, he said. I asked him to add up 1+1, then 2+2, then 6+3 and he got them all correct. I saw him counting on his fingers. I knew that kids in grade one don’t deal in thousands so I asked him to add up 6 thousand and 3 thousand. He looked at me with his head on an angle to the side, thought for a moment and said nine thousand. So I asked him if he knew subtraction. The bigger brother said that his little brother hadn’t learnt that yet. So I told him, the older brother, to let his brother try to answer. So I asked 2-1, then 4-2, then 9-6 and he got them all correct. I then asked what if he took 4,000 from 10,000. And sharp as a tack he told me 6,000. For you and me very easy, but I thought for a grade one boy, that was excellent.

I wonder what people think and how much they understand when a church service is going on. The Indian children sat perfectly well behaved – not a noise out of place. But how much did they or any of us hear of the prayers, the songs, the preaching, the communion? I guess it will be told in the way we live our lives this week.

Please note the small skateboard under the table, in the dog picture above. It hasn’t been used for many years. The small boy seen below playing below with two of my grandchildren was run over by a train and lost both legs and an arm. We were allowed to bring him to Australia for medical help but not permitted to adopt him. He used the skateboard and the little ‘do-dad’ in front of him in the picture below to get around. He is now a University student in the USA. We still correspond but I’d love to see him face to face before I die!

He used to love sitting in front of the TV, conducting Andre Rieu as he watched a DVD.

The day I first met him he was about to be discharged to be a beggar on the streets of Ethiopia. I brought him home that evening and it was the beginning of a long friendship. He knew no English, but we had Amharic as a common language. I asked him if he had to get up to pee at night. He said ‘no’. I asked because I knew it would either mean a wet bed or me getting up to carry him to the loo. Then I asked him if he ever woke up screaming at night after the accident. I was surprised and delighted when he replied ‘There is a God in Heaven and I have left it in His hands.’ He was somewhere between 8-10. It was drizzling rain and, on a dirty road, I kept having to use the windscreen wiper and following behind other vehicles when the rain stopped I had to use the water spray jets to clean the window. I tested him when he asked where the water came from. He had never been in a car. I told him that there were two little boys under the hood and I would give them a little electric shock and they would pee for me. I kept a straight face. He looked worried for a moment and then burst out laughing. ‘Now, tell me the truth!’ I knew we would get on well, and we still do.

People can think! It’s what they do with what they’ve learned that counts!

Dominic Cartier.