If you drive out of Port Elizabeth in a northerly direction along Uitenhage road, after about 10 minutes you will arrive at an intersection where a right turn into Spondo street will take you to my place of work, Dora Nginza hospital in the township of Zwide in Ibhayi. At about 5.30am on last Sunday morning I was going along said road. I drove past Zwide however, continuing further away from PE. Past Kwamagxaki and Kwadesi, two townships that are served by my hospital. Motherwell township where a lot of our patients come from, is further eastward, away from the route I drove on this day…

I know these places by little more than their names and I have a vague notion of their geography around Dora hospital. When a patient has just arrived at the hospital they get their file at the clerk’s window. It comes with a fresh set of stickers with their personal information: name, date of birth, street address, telephone number, and lastly at the bottom of the sticker in bold capital letters the name of their township. That is where I know these names from. New Brighton is another one, closer to Port Elizabeth along that same Uitenhage road. I get my car washed in New Brighton every now and then… Approximately 80% of South Africans can only access public health care. That is to say the majority of South Africans cannot afford private health care. They have no choice but to go to a place like Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg (where I did my internship) or Dora Nginza hospital where I am currently almost at the end of my community service year. I vaguely remember being taught in family medicine back at medical school, that it is best if a medical doctor lives in the community that they serve. In South Africa bring a medical doctor means that one is relatively well off and most doctors, even those who come from townships do not reside in them. If one works in a peripheral public hospital most of the patients one sees come from the townships. We could get into a heavy analysis of the unfortunate lasting legacy of apartheid, the current gap between rich and poor, or the average South African’s struggle to access good health care but that is not what I want to do here (as juicy as that would be!). I was driving along Uitenhage road at that ungodly hour to get to my latest road race. And going along I got to thinking about these things, hence my musings. The absolute truth is I consider myself somewhat unqualified to comment on this subject in this forum. Asides from knowing that South Africa’s current problems are real and pointing them out, going any further than that at my amateurish level of knowledge of history and politics might not do justice to the real situation, the real problems, of the real people…

At a certain point along Uitenhage road there are no street lights. At that time of the morning this is a problem, especially when one doesn’t really know where one is going. So yes I got a little lost, just past the little town of Uitenhage, about 40 minutes away from PE, trying to find my way to Rosedale township, where we were running from. I got there, after only having to ask for directions once. Yes I had a GPS but you see Rosedale ‘Stadium’ isn’t actually on the system! I realised why when I eventually arrived there. It is really more of a sports complex-come-recreation center with a couple of soccer fields that double up as a cricket field, and a tennis court or two.

image Rosedale ‘Stadium’ image Woke-up-way-too-early/pre-race face

Not a lot of runners showed up, at just over one hundred it was a smaller crowd than I am used to seeing. The usual PE running crowd being quite conservative (another socio-political discussion we could get into but won’t) were not up for getting out to ‘rural’ Rosedale for a race. There were a few familiar faces though. Allister was there. I have mentioned him before, he runs for Charlo running club. He is at most races in the PE area. We exchanged a few friendly words. I knew a few other people, including funnily enough a couple of guys I had met on that disaster of a run the previous week, and also Bennie, who I haven’t seen for a while. He is super fit, forever alternating between mountain biking and running during the week.

I had a good hit out, 2hours 42mins over 30km is as good as I could have asked for, especially considering how I fared just one week previously over the same distance. The course had it’s fair share of hills again, but race-mode being what it is I was in an aggressive frame of mind, while at the same time trying to keep myself as relaxed as possible. I raced out at the beginning, my first few kilometres were at sub-5 minute pace but I didn’t feel strained. I finished the first 10km in approximately 48 minutes, faster than I would have wanted but I felt good. Got past 20km at 1 hour 48 minutes, 25km at 2 hours 11 minutes. The last 4 or 5km were quite hilly to end off. I put my head down and worked. I couldn’t resist the urge to beat myself on the chest once I crossed the finish line, even though my legs were feeling decidedly wobbly.

image We ran through the streets of Rosedale township. image We ran through Rosedale, and also past Uitenhage onto the road back towards PE. This photo and the one above it was taken on my drive back to Port Elizabeth. I showered and dressed.

There wasn’t as much as a hot dog stand in sight on the grounds around the Start/Finish area which I thought was pretty poor. After some chit chat with a couple of runners I drove off, stopped at a petrol station for a pie and a drink and then got onto the road back towards PE. Just before getting to PE I peeled off left onto Spondo street to Dora Nginza hospital. On weekends if none of the three doctors that work in my ward is on call then one of us has to go in. Inpatients have to be seen at least once on the Saturday or Sunday. This weekend happened to be my turn. I walked into the ward just after 11am.

No one wants to be at work on the weekend if you’re not on call (hec even if you are on call! 😓) so if one looks through a patient’s file and check for the doctor’s notes from the weekend ward round it is very likely that you would find a very hasty: Patient has no new complaints. On examination: Appears relatively well, Vitals (scribble blood pressure and pulse here). Assessment: Stable. Plan: Continue management. Seriously! 😌 I struggle with this, and as much as I too walk in thinking to “Lets get this over with quick so I can go home” I confess, I am incapable of any sort of efficiency. Left to my own devices I almost always do things the long way. So, as lame as my legs were feeling I saw every patient, checked blood results, and made notes that were far too thorough for a Sunday afternoon. Xolani, one of the other medical officers that works with me, during the week on seeing my notes chirped “You went a bit overboard there chap, eh?” 30 patients, and I left the ward about 4 hours after I had arrived. I will say though that the upside to that sort of a ‘work day’ is that one walks away with no lingering worries about something that may have been missed, and because of that I’ll happily be the last guy to leave the ward on most days.

That was Sunday. The week seems to have flown by. I was on call on Thursday and the other days have consisted of 5am wake-ups to study before work, a short hill sprints session on Tuesday, a 8km time trial at Charlo running club on Wednesday, a hard 20km run Friday evening and trying to squeeze in as much studying otherwise and in between everything else. There is one week to go before the Two Oceans Ultramarathon in Cape Town. There, now I’ve said it! It seems to take away from the surreal quality of this significant running event. There is also the very real possibility of my giving the FCP part 1 exams a real crack in the not too distant future. “If I feel ready…” as I’ve been saying for what feels like the longest time. This would be the first concrete step towards becoming a specialist in internal medicine. I first thought about it in late 2013 during the last few months of my internship. I was tired and drained, on autopilot dragging my feet through orthopaedics, one of my last couple of rotations. I need a goal, I thought… And here we are about one year and a half later. Studying on and off in between life, love, running and everything else has been as difficult as most other doctors told me it would be but also easier than I expected. Motivation being what it is… The sheer volume of everything that has to be grasped though is such that even when one has done a lot of work one always feels like a lot more could have been done. I ask myself (more often than I care to admit) How are you left with so much still to cover when you’ve spent so much time at it…? The scary part is that once this is done, if it goes well it’ll just mean more studying. The specialist physician who runs my ward has been a medical doctor for over 20 years, and he still reads every night. Such discipline. Imagine knowing all that stuff. I wanna be like him when I grow up! 🙄

Advertisements

A good day at the office

Aside

As Saturdays go…

Something woke me up. It was about 8.30am which as far as I’m concerned, is much too early for a non-work day! 😛 What is that sound? I thought, oh yes my phone was ringing, it was Meryl. “You’re still in bed?!” she said, “Uh huh…” I replied. Yeah I was still on bed!

image

We hung up after a short conversation and since I was up (No. Awake, but definitely not up!) I then downloaded and watched a movie on my tablet, in bed (as one does!) I felt like something light and meaningless. Maybe it was a romcom and maybe it wasn’t, I shan’t say.

By the time that was done it was about 11am, a much more appropriate time to arise I thought. And so I did, transferring myself from the comfort zone that was my bed to the equally comfy, though not nearly as laid back chair at my desk. Book time methinks, I said to myself and proceeded to put in a couple of hours of studying. I’ve been in a good groove lately, doing at least a couple of hours almost everyday. I call it my #geekmode. It’s a good place to be in if one has a bunch of material that one needs to get through. Immunity, infection and inflammation is what I’m currently perusing, a mildly interesting but necessary section on my quest to recap all basic medical physiology.

 

#geekmode!

#geekmode!

Living in a place like Port Elizabeth makes it just about unforgivable to spend all day indoors, so in the afternoon I went out for a run, an easy 13km. The weather has been awesome for the last few weeks, getting into summer. The shorts-and-slops are definitely out again, although there is still that incessant PE wind.

Baakens street,  Port Elizabeth Central.

Baakens street, Port Elizabeth Central.

 

 

PE Central.

PE Central.

I run a slightly different route everytime I get out onto the road,  but invariably pass through some very disparate bits of the city.

image

 

 

Beach road,  Humewood.  Just at the waterfront.

Beach road, Humewood. Just at the waterfront.

The tree-lined La Rouche road in Humewood.

The tree-lined La Rouche road in Humewood.

Got back to the flat in town in the late afternoon, did a quick work out, shower and then got back to watching movies 🙂

Absolute bliss. I didn’t have to be at work, I wasn’t on call, and there wasn’t anything else really pressing. A day as free as this one was (even though it is the weekend) is a rarity in my adult life. When one like it does does come around I embrace it wholeheartedly! 🙂

Standard

Love, the arts, and horse poo…

 

IMG-20140715-WA0017

 

Earlier this week, on Tuesday in the middle of the afternoon, I found myself at Maitland’s Beach sitting, watching the sea with my toes in the sand. Actually, to be perfectly honest, (it was pointed out to me by a certain she-person!) my feet and toes were in my slops, and my slops were in the sand… Anyway Meryl was standing knee deep in sea water about 40 metres away from me also looking towards the ocean. This would be a good time to pray, I thought to myself. It was a glorious afternoon for this time of year, the sun was out in full force and there was very little wind. There was only the lazy sound of the sea water to and fro on the beach and I was having a real ‘moment’… Which was interrupted when Meryl very suddenly turned around and ran the short distance toward me. She grabbed my hand and insisted I get up to go and join her. She wanted me to feel the tug of the water as it moved back off the beach after a wave came in. I usually roll my eyes at Meryl’s ideas but I very seldom regret obliging her…

Maitland's Beach

Maitland’s Beach

 

The previous week on Thursday it had been exactly one year since our first date. At the time last year we had gone to see the Jittery Citizens perform an improvised comedy show at the Monte Casino Theatre and Studio. The impromptu antics of the actors on-stage had us in hysterics. This year coming back full circle, we went to see a very animated Tim Plewman at the Athenaeum theatre here in PE. He did a one man comedic act called Designer Genes XXL. His witty take on relationships between us (cave) men and our ever-mysterious, ever incomprehensible partners was from the perspective of one who has been married for many years, but there were definitely  some bits we could relate to. Meryl laughed alot. Men in the relationships were the butt of most of the jokes… 😛

 

Meryl and I at Maitland's Beach...

Meryl and I at Maitland’s Beach…

 

The water and my girl and the beach. The beach, my girl and the water...

The water and my girl and the beach. The beach, my girl and the water…

 

We saw a different theatre show every night of that week actually, it was the second and last week of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Meryl flew in to PE on the Tuesday afternoon and almost immediately we drove out to Grahamstown. We parked my car on the street and were walking around when we were practically accosted by a guy handing out pamphlets for a show called Bench. We hadn’t decided on a play for the evening so we went to see it. It turned out to be a drama pretending to be a comedy (or is that a comedy-drama?) about a couple of thieves sitting on a park bench. While we did laugh some, I felt it was more ‘dramatic’ than funny. Whichever it was, it was still theatre. There is something about the theatre, something pleasingly haunting, expectant. For as long as I can remember I have always felt that way when in a theatre house, while at the same time feeling a sense of familiarity. That probably doesn’t make much sense. I struggle to find words to describe it. There is something about the creativity and energy of a stage performance. Actors climb onto a stage and become other people to tell a story, to entertain… During my BSc days at Wits (before I went to medical school) I spent a lot of time at the Wits Theatre Complex. I would pop in often (read here: lurk 🙂 ) to see if there were any interesting shows coming up. On more than one occasion I was mistaken for being an art student! Maybe I was some sort of performer/artist in a previous life and it is some accident of fate that I have now returned as this nerd-jock hybrid with altruistic leanings. Now I’m rambling, I’ll stop :-P… Suffice to say that an almost 2 week long arts festival happening just an hour and half’s drive away from PE was something I simply could not miss! I hadn’t booked any leave but we squeezed in as much kultcha as we could after work everyday of that week.

I love me a little drama... :)  Unbelievably, this was only my second visit to the Grahamstown Arts Festival

I love me a little drama… 🙂
Unbelievably, this was only my second visit to the Grahamstown Arts Festival

We watched Taryn Papadopoulos Louch (yes that is her name!) do Meze, Mira and Makeup. It is a hilarious enactment of life as a Greek girl growing up in South Africa. She had me really missing Jozi as, in just over one hour her show took us from Krugersdorp to Melville, to Rosebank, and to parts of the Eastrand that I dare not mention (The Greeks do get around!).

 

On Friday at work I was on my own in the ward (again!) which meant that I finished later than I would have liked. I then drove to Seaview somewhat faster than is legal to pick up Meryl. We got onto the N2 and (sped some more!) out to a farm called Papiesfontein just outside Jeffrey’s Bay. Originally booked for 3pm, we arrived at 4.10pm, for what was to be a 2 hour horse riding session. It was Meryl’s idea (as all our best ideas are 🙂 ) The horse riding instructor dude didn’t appear to be too bothered by our tardiness (being chilled I have found, is characteristic of the Eastern Cape, which is why I secretly think I belong here 😛 ).

IMG-20140720-WA0007

Meryl and Pebbles

Meryl and Pebbles

I had been on a horse on only 2 other occasions in my life, both a very long time ago, and Meryl had never been on one so they had 2 ‘beginner’ horses ready for us. This means that they are a relatively old and quite passive. They turned out not to be (passive that is) and were actually quite temperamental, initially not wanting to be led away from the farm-house (apparently this had something to do with it being close to feeding time). We had a good time though, once we managed to coax the horses away from the farm house. We took a gentle ride through some bushes, slowly becoming used to these animals. Meryl’s horse was called Pebbles, and apparently they developed a bond (cue roll eyes 🙂 ) hence her remembering the name. The fact that I don’t remember my horse’s name is supposedly an indication of how well we got along (or didn’t!). At one point my horse (Kitty? no, well maybe) decided she’d had enough for the day and turned around full circle and started trotting off in the direction opposite to the one we were going in. Naturally I stayed cool (in turn, feel free to roll your eyes here 🙂 ) and calmly steered back to face the original direction.

The best part of the ride was about an hour of trotting along on the beach. We had a great time! Somehow I managed to get some horse poo on one leg of my pants. It doesn’t smell as bad as cow-dung the instructor reassured me. He was right, I can thankfully confirm! 😛

Jeffrey's Bay beach ride... :-)

Jeffrey’s Bay beach ride… 🙂

IMG-20140720-WA0012

We drove all the way to Grahamstown after our equestrian experience, getting lost along the way. Somewhere on the route the N2 had become N10 without me noticing 😮 No I had not been using the GPS, at least not initially. This is the thing: (Me, explaining myself) If you always do things properly and you’re always organised, nothing interesting ever happens. Being a little bit of a hapless klutz is part of my charm.. 🙂

We got to Grahamstown quite late on Friday night.

The next day we met up with Alain, a buddy of mine from medical school. He had been in Grahamstown for the previous 2 days mostly enjoying the various performers at the jazz festival. We watched a dance show called Bruising. I can’t say much about it, all I remember seeing (during the bits when I hadn’t dosed off!) were writhing bodies and cardboard boxes. My feelings on dance shows (‘physical theatre’ as the connoisseurs put it) are quite the opposite of my sentiments on theatre. Meryl enjoyed it though, which means I’ll have endure some more of that again some time…

As if we hadn’t done enough that week already, we again left Grahamstown and drove to Jeffrey’s Bay, stopping in Seaview to pick up Serena and 2 of her friends. The Jeffrey’s Bay Winterfest was on and Serena had gotten the bunch of us tickets to see PHFAT and Jack Parow live.

Clockwise from left myself,  Meryl, Serena, and Jazmine at J-Bay Winterfest!

Clockwise from left myself, Meryl, Serena, and Jazmine at J-Bay Winterfest!

PHFAT were on first that evening, they are a rap group from Cape Town. Rap isn’t my absolute favourite genre but I listen to pretty much anything that is good (except jazz!) I had heard some of their stuff on the radio and I was curious, and quite looking forward to seeing them. I was not disappointed. If I may be so blunt it is quite something that they are a South African rap act, and a white SA rap group at that. Their beats are rythmic, and there is a lot of that distortion-synth type effect that you get in electronic music these days. Add to that some solid lyrics, a lot of which are crude but then again what rap music isn’t? I’m still in the processing stage but I like them, I think.

Jack Parow is also from Cape Town (#Belville 😛 ). He came on much later that night, I’ll admit that by that time I was somewhat distracted, the week’s up-down catching up to me perhaps, I was pretty keen to get home. He came out in a pair of boardshorts, a vest and wore that characteristic long-peak cap and did his thing with vigor!

Side view of PHFAT in action on stage at the Jolly Dolphin, Jeffrey's Bay

Side view of PHFAT in action on stage at the Jolly Dolphin, Jeffrey’s Bay

 

Vintage Parow...

Vintage Parow…

We got back to Seaview and fell asleep at about 4am. The next morning I overslept and didn’t make Dario’s son’s baptism at St Bernadette’s. This was yet another commitment that was scheduled for that crazy week! 😐 We passed by their house in the early afternoon and spent a bit of time with them and their extended family and friends.

That is the week that was (before last week). So when I found myself on my backside at Maitland’s beach last Tuesday it was, quite literally the first calm moment I had since the previous Tuesday…

Meryl flew home to Jozi, and I got back to work, squeezing in the studying, running and takin’ it eazy in the EC… 😉

Standard