Tom here signing on for an overdue elective report, currently basking in the stoke of what was an amazing 6 week trip. Outside the window it’s pissing it down and 11 degrees (but a big Atlantic swell forecast this weekend so its not all bad).
Arriving in Kuta the night before the 6am fast boat to G land, the guys at the office warned me not to head into the vortex before departure. I like a session in Kuta as much as the next guy, but decided against it based on their advice. This was the correct decision. When I saw charger Andy King spewing off the side of the deck after a heavy night, I definitely would have been battling.
I arrived at camp actually unaware that it was the conference next week, and was promptly offered the chance to present a topic. Protesting that I had only brought an iphone so how could I possibly…? Dennis kindly lent me his Mac to get to work on. I managed to cobble together a PowerPoint on orthopaedic injury, which wasn’t an easy task when you are in the jungle surrounded by perfect waves, good people and bintangs!
The conference proved to be a huge success. It was great to meet a large contingent of the surfing docs, some other med students and the Margaret river crew. In terms of the lectures, there were great quality talks delivered by all speakers. Dave Hateley recounted his hectic story of a near drowning evacuation in the Ments, followed by Nat the lifeguard, with his inspirational account providing CPR at his swimming pool.
Wendy Henderson delivered two excellent teaches on tropical medicine and hypothermia, Dennis Millard with a comprehensive malaria teach, and an interesting one on “Coke and ICE” from Phil Chapman, common surf injuries from Alex Turner, and some chronic surfing injuries and what we can do to prevent them from Nick Maister. Anaesthetist Andrew gave us some interesting cases to work through and Scott Stirling provided us with some emergency medicine gold. Each talk sparked some good discussions, and I came away from each evening having learnt heaps.
Most importantly the conference coincided with some great swell, and the chargers amongst us were scoring some bombs. I had never seen waves like it in person, so was quite content watching them on Norys’ Mac that evening at the tower – Heineken and “speedy-dog” in hand. Despite the mayhem out the front, there were some great waves to be had for all abilities, with the breaks further down the bay providing some fun. 20/20s gave some nice little cover ups as the tide was dropping with only 5 or so in the water.
With the departure of the surfing doctors it was the sunny coast lifeguards turn the following week, with their first G land conference. There was a good crew in camp but the swell dropped right off- leading to jungle fever amongst a few members. After a solid nights drinking, senior lifeguard Kingy decided to orchestrate an endurance test starting from camp, run to the keyhole, swim to the boat channel, then a run back to the bar. With Raymond offering the winner a bintang, I knew I was in with a chance. Needless to say, the lifeguards were soon black dots on the horizon as I ploughed on through speedies. Raymond gave me a beer anyway for taking part as the token pomme. Parched and exhausted I gladly accepted, just stoked I hadn’t needed to break into breaststroke as Ray had predicted.
Flat spell over and 8-12 ft forecast on magicseaweed, Phil had commitments back home leaving me with the infirmary keys. With the new swell and a couple of boatloads of people arriving, I was pretty apprehensive, but glad to have the experience of the lifeguards should shit hit the fan! Luckily the worst injury was a fin chop to the scalp. It was a good first suturing case for me, with a clean laceration requiring 5 stitches. Apart from this, the infirmary remained pretty empty and I was able to finally score some cracking sessions out the front, after dodging it for the doctor’s conference swell.
Other medical cases during my stay included a lot of surfers ear, with one case of otitis externa requiring antibiotics, some GI upsets, anterior dislocation of the shoulder, a bruised rib, minor reef rash and a couple of psychiatric cases to throw in for good measure.
For the last 3 days newest surfing doctor Ulf joined me in camp and it was reassuring to have his orthopaedic and trauma expertise at hand.
I ended up extending another day to coincide with a new pulse, leaving in time to catch the single fin party in Ulus on the Sunday night (overrated probably a better girl: guy ration in the jungle). I then polished off my trip with a few nights in the vortex. It proved to be pretty fun but after 3 nights of it I was ready to pass out on the 18-hour flight home.
All in all I couldn’t have asked for a better elective! The staff at Raymond’s camp were brilliant. Billy, Eben and Alim were always on top form making sure everyone felt at home. I Surfed the best waves I’ve ever lay my eyes on, and gained a good bit of medical knowledge from the conference and working with Phil, Dennis and Ulf. The stint on my own taught me a lot about working independently, and I met a lot of great people. Meeting doctors with a real passion for surfing has been a first for me. It’s been inspirational and I’ve come back from it with a lot of drive and focus for where I want my medical career to take me in the future.