I remember learning of the Surfing Doctors as an organization and from the outset reducing my hopes of spending my elective with them as being ‘too good to be true’. But, sure enough, it became a reality, and one that lived up to expectations.
To say I was excited is an understatement, but there was also some apprehension… I just didn’t know what to expect, or what my role was. When I arrived to find I was the only medical cover for a couple of days before the real doctor arrived I was terrified. A quick handover from the exiting cover (literally getting on the boat I was getting off) filled me with even more dread as we went through the worst of scenarios that had happened. This conversation meant I was stood on the shore with my fingers crossed hoping nobody came a cropper in the shallow waters and fast wave of ‘Speedies’.
This anxiety quickly gave way to jubilation as I realized I would be spending the next few weeks in a paradise. Surfing everyday, hanging out with some really great people and learning some medicine along the way – what more could I possibly ask for. The only things that even came close to tarnishing this perfect outlook, was some unseasonably wet weather, a few flat days and a couple mosquito bites.
Medically the camp was quiet, some reef rash, a couple of ear infections, local guy with a cough and a pyrexia of unknown origin. Five stitches in a guy’s foot he cut playing table tennis was as big as it got. The swell was low for about nine days running, so the camps were short on guests and the waves not big enough to cause injury… the people we did treat still needed the treatment as much as more serious wounds, and I’m sure our being there helped a few people to stay who might of otherwise had to return to Bali for attention. All great experience – certainly won’t be travelling without lemon and ‘chinese red stuff’ again!
Surf-wise G-land is incredible. Arriving with only 3 years experience on Welsh beach breaks couldn’t prepare me for the kind of wave on offer – especially as a regular footed surfer. However, I still had an amazing time. It’s done wonders for my confidence just being around waves as big and as fast as that. The thrills were every bit as pointed as the spills… and there were significantly more spills. After a punishing session at the front breaks, a boat ride down the bay to some gentler waves was a great relief.
I think what I really learnt from this whole thing was something they don’t teach you in hospitals – how medicine as a profession can work for you rather than you just working for it the whole time. Surfing is an activity I will be building into my life and it was good to hear how other medical practitioners have done it. I certainly hope to be working for the Surfing Doctors again sometime. Thanks to all who made it possible.