Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays to all my friends and family out there!  Its been an interesting week here in TCI.  Our supervisor has gone home to Canada for Christmas, a well deserved vacation.  And we now know the world does end when the boss is away! Our beautiful new 2010 ambulance has gone kaput.  It has been having some engine troubles and is due for its turn for service as soon as the green ambulance is out of the shop.  Now there has been a battle over the garage for a while and the service is no longer going to the Government Garage but now to an acutal shop. Who has wisely decided not to release the vehicle till they get paid.

Which brings us back to the new truck, the electrical system is out. That includes our lights and sirens so we can't use it.  Since the back up ambulance is still at the shop, we are now in Big Red.  Or as I like to call it, the Beast. A massive frieghtliner that actually has the designation Medical Attack Vehicle on the side.  Huge, awkward and crummy shocks.  Sweet ride.

Work wise it has been fairly uneventful week. Had one call that turned out to be nothing, and a parkview moment picking up a drunk passed out at a concert.  Though these people can party, concert was still going at five in the morning. I ended up working a 24 hour shift over Christmas but didn't even have a single call so I got a decent nights sleep in our new base.  We finally have our own building, just has no furniture yet.  Two matteresses on the floor and a microwave. But better then sleeping in the ambulace!

Christmas day I was working with my friend, and his girlfriend is visiting so she was allowed to ride with us.  The day actually started very nicely with breakfast made by his grandmother. It was very nice, and she even had a gift for me.  The day was uneventful but after our shift we all went back to her house for dinner which was nice.

It was a bit sad for me, first Christmas away from home. I do miss my family, a lot. And of course my Guinness too cause she is who comforts me! But your not here to listen to me whine, I did get to Skype with my family and we did a little bit of gift exchange via the internet.

So I am back on some days off, which means back on the beach.  It sounds awesome but man it is getting boring! On a plus note, there are a couple med students working here from McGill that are pretty cool.  I am looking forward to hanging out with them before they go home mid month.  Even if it is just relaxing on the beach, its nice to have people to talk to!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

And We Have Friends...

My Sunday contiued to be entertaining.  my friend and I went out to the pub to see our boss play.  We got there late as he was wrapping up but he treated us to one last song before settling in to join us for a beer.  After the band finished we walked back over to Jimmy's.  We found a lot of the guys from last night were back, and met some new people - including a woman I had met on the beach that moring who is living in my hotel too.  Its a very small island.

We all hung out well into the night. Pretty much the latest I have been out since I got here.  It was great!  It is great to be making connections on the island too. One of the guys is working to set up a dive company, I am hoping to be one of the first customers in the new year!

We are also short a driver right now, one guy has gone home to see his mother in Haiti for a couple weeks.  Not having any extra employees the other drivers have been putting in a lot of extra hours so I have offered to pick up some shifts.  While I am pretty comfortable driving during the day, I have to admit at night it is a bit freaky.  With no streetlights it is harder to remember which side of the road and the on coming headlights always look like they are in the wrong lane.  So everyone was a bit curious at me offering to drive.

I offered to work the shifts with my friend, he is comfortable acting as the driver during the night shifts.  We had a pretty quiet night last night.  The one interesting call was a man who got attacked with a machete.  Unfortunately we were halfway to the call when we found out they went to the hospital by a private vehicle. 

Today was back to the beach for the morning, it was a lovely sunny day which was nice after some bad weather.  This afternoon I was picked up and went to the hospital for a bit of training for the EMS and Nursing staff.  It was on ECG interpretation and run by my boss.  It was mostly review for myself and some of the nurses who came, but it was great for some of the staff including one of the drivers who really hasn't studied much on medicine but is very interested in what happens on the truck.

I have also got more pictures up.  For those of you who know about my photo project with Robbie Bear I have started a flikr page for him.  If you go to flikr.com and search for people named Robbie-Bear you will find all his pictures that I have been taking this year.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The week goes on..

The rest of my shifts went well last week.  I had one interesting call at the police station.  Young man having an asthma attack. He had left his medication at home, and as you can guess he wasn't allowed to go and get it.  It was a little unsettling, my patient was lying on the floor of a tiny cell. Something you probably wouldn't even put two people in back home.  And sitting along the wall were four other prisoners watching me as I crouched over the guy.  The other cell wasn't even locked and all the guys were watching me.  Always helps to have several police officers at your back too.

The man was having a pretty bad attack, really clear wheezes when you listen to his lungs.  At first the driver and the cops tried to make him walk out but ended up dragging him a bit.  I guess they get a lot of fakers at the station.  I managed to convince them it was pretty urgent and we carried him to the stretcher.  This is the first time I have found this service frustrating. Back home he would have been a clear candidate for ventolin.  But we aren't certified to give it here.  Instead all I could do was try to comfort him.  That was hard too! He only spoke Creole-French.  I think my french was enough for comfort at least.

Though with the Christmas season approaching, everything gets busier.  Especially crime.  Friday was pay day and since they had neglected me last month I was anxious to find out if I would get paided this time.  I did, but ran into some trouble getting any money because my bank was robbed.  Pretty sad actually, two guards were shot and one was killed.

Another difficulty with this service.  I wasn't on duty during this call, but as usual it was just one EMT working with a driver.  They were able to call the supervisor who is a Canadian CCP and he came to help.  But still, two critical patients were transported with just one vehicle and limited equipment.  This service has come a long way in the last couple years, but still has a ways to go.

I have had a good week off duty too, My friend was able to borrow a car for a few days so we did some exploring.  We found a nice beach on the west side of the island to watch a sunset.  There is a phenomenon I had been wanting to see where just as the sun sinks below the horizon there is a flash of green light.  But it didn't happen.  I'll have to go back another time.

We also went out for a drink last night, to Jimmy's Dive Bar.  My friend ran into an old friend and we got introduced around.  Ended up sitting with a big group chatting which was fun. I did laugh that they were all people living on the island, but were mostly Canadian.  Also met a guy from Mozambique too.  Towards the end of the night all the power went out in Grace Bay. It was absolutely beautiful, we were sitting outside and the stars were incredible.

Today I walked up the beach again to Grace Bay, it takes about 40 minutes.  I did pick a bad day to go as most of the shops are closed on Sundays. I got a little shopping done and enjoyed the sun.  It was a hot day and had a swim when I got back to my beach, and fought with facebook and have finally succeed in posting pictures from my trip over to North and Middle Caicos.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The American Effect

I have had two modes when I have been working. When I work with one driver, an nice man who is from the TCI and worked in the emergency services in one form or another for years, it is so slow.  We do almost no calls, not even scheduled transfers.  When I am with a young EMT from the states, all hell breaks loose.  We get car accidents, assults and medicals. Even my first fatality.  We weren't even working together that day! Just overlapped long enough at shift change to get a very long call!  Along with the scheduled transfers and medivacs. 

Today my partner, a new driver, and I had to give the American a ride for some training we had, and we started getting calls for car accidents.  But we got called off the first and the second the patient decided he did not want to go to the hospital. He even leaves a lingering effect on the truck!  Luckily he loves being busy!

I did have one busy shift with my regular driver and got to make the EMT very jealous! The call itself was not very interesting. A woman was feeling very unwell, but she had been in the hosptial that morning to see the doctor.  So we took her back for assessment and with her fever and neck pain, the doctor decided to do a lumbar puncture (more commonly known as a spinal tap.)  The best part about this island is the small and less busy hospitals is that I was able to ask the doctor to watch.  He is a very nice gentleman from London, Ontario.  So I got to see my first LP.  Which is actually a fairly creepy thing when you see how big the needle is.  But I liked it.

I just had my four days off, which were very boring.  I went to the beach when the sun was shining. Watched tv when it wasn't. Drank some beer in the sun and snorkeled some more.  Not necessarily in that order.  Saw lots more fish, including a herd (pack? flock?) of what looked like little barracudas.  Swam on quickly there.  Also tracked this cool flat fish that is sand coloured and blends in completely when he stops moving. 

Today was back at it. I was working with the recent hire. She is a local and knows the roads really well.  She is still working on learning the lifting but we had a good time today.  Girl power rocked the TCI EMS.  And to make today even more awesome our boss showed up at the hospital this morning with a surprise.  Helicopter rescue training.

The EMS service is just starting to work on guidelines for a helicopter to be dispatched with a medic to calls on the other islands.  With ambulances on only two of the eight main islands there is not a great response time as you may imagine!  Now we are working with TCI Helicopters to provide service to the less populated islands and possibly transfers from the Grand Turk hospital to Provo for further assesment or diverting to another country for further treatment.

Its just a little five seater that is also used for charters, but two of the seats pop out and a stretcher can be laid out front to back.  Such an amazing opportunity, I am so excited and I hope I actually get to go up! We are also trying to sweet talk the pilots into taking us up for a test flight. Maybe somewhere near the migrating whales.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

I Have a Guest

My Uncle, came for a visit last week. He timed the vacation with my schedule, he arrived inbetween my night shifts so he had some time to settle in while I slept, then we had four days together.  Well, three.  I spent a lot of that first day sleeping off the night shift!

We had a fairly chill day first, went to the beach for some snorkeling. As I've said I have a pretty good spot here, and this time I'm fairly sure we saw a barracuda.  It was pretty long, I heard someone guess about five feet.  He was pretty cool, just swimming in place, kinda hovering there.  As well as lots of other fish, Yellow Tails, parrot fish and lots I don't have a name for - including the ones I call Dory Fish. (If you dont get it, you need to see Finding Nemo.)

The next day we decided to take the ferry to North Caicos, from there we rented a car so we could drive over the causeway to Middle Caicos.  Middle is the largest of the islands in the TCI, but has a population of about 200. North is also pretty big but only holds about 1,500. The islands built a causeway between the two islands in 2008.  In 2009 it was ruined by a hurricane.  Sucks doesn't it.  The causeway is still passible, but it is in terrible shape.

Over on Middle our first stop was Mudjin Harbour.  Advertised as one of the most beautiful places in the world, and it was! The most spectacular view I have ever seen.  Fabulous crystal blue water along rocky cliffs and sweeping beaches. That day the water was very rough so waves were breaking over Dragon Cay. Following a path we found a staircase through a cavern to the beach. I just loved it, and have tons of pictures up on facebook now. There is a resort right there, Blue Horizon.  I would love to stay there someday!

Next we drove along and stopped at the Indian Cave, a beautiful cavern with these amazing tree roots that stretch down like ropes. Continuing along the road we looked at a couple of villages and stopped at a beach outside of Bombarra for a quick look around.  The next stop was back up the road to Conch Bar and a stop at Daniels Cafe.  The fish on the menu didn't appeal to me, though the cook Devon, Daniels son, fed us thick slices of the most fabulous bread I have ever had.  Seriously considering going back, just for the bread.  As well as some pieces of fried Conch and fish.

Driving back over to North with the plans of finding a nice beach we hit some bad luck as the bad weather moved in.  Just has we got to Horsestable Beach the rain did too.  Making the most of our remaining time before catching the ferry we found a viewing spot at the Flamingo pond.  We were able to spot a few flamingos and a white heron too.  They were pretty far so the pictures aren't too great, but also on facebook.  Also spotted in the village of Kew was Liza, the last donkey left on North Caicos.  She was just trimming the grass along the side of the road.

Sunday was kayaking day, we got picked up and driven to the Leeward Marina on the north east side of the island. It was myself and my unlce in one kayak with another couple in the other and guide solo in a third.  We paddled out from the marina to Mangrove Cay, where, as you can guess, was tons of mangroves.  We paddled along various paths through the mangroves looking for wildlife. Our guide for a conch and pulled it out, as well he spotted a manta ray right by the other kayak but I only spotted its splash. 

After the mangroves we paddled across to the Little Water Cay, spotting lots of big red starfish too.  We pulled into a beach on the cay for a break and a snack.  On this cay is where the TCI iguanas live.  We found a couple, and then a whole bunch came running over.  They apparently expect to be fed by the people who come by.  But it was a windy day and no one much felt like swimming. It was a beautiful spot for pictures. Next we were supposed to land on another part of Little Water Cay to see more of the iguanas, but it was late so we ended up paddling back to the marina.

That was the end of my vacation, I had to go back to work but my uncle had a few more days to enjoy the beach and the sun.  For one day he rented a bicycle and was able to explore the island on his own- and help pick me up some groceries!  It would be nice to rent a bicyle, I am starting to think I will have to try that myself. Maybe on my next set of days off.

So that was our vacation, though it ended with an agonising moral dilemma.  he left a little christmas gift for me. And I am dying to open it!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Backlog Blog

Hey All.  Well it has been a busy week for me so now I am falling behind in my blogging, so I guess its time to catch up. After my last series of shifts I had my usual four days off.  They weren't too eventful, except I did get some more snorkeling in.  I went out one day with a friend, and I saw a big grey fish swimming along. My first thought was "shark!" Which was followed by "oh you paranoid tourist."  Well, actually the next day one of the other hotel guest I have been chatting with was telling me about the Nurse Shark that had been seen in the area. Don't worry too much, they are apparently herbavors.

After going back to work I had a fairly uneventful few shifts.  One evening got a bit chaotic including having a crew at a soccer game, vehicles blocking the emergency access to the field and a car accident during shift change.  It was a two car head on collison, but one of the drivers ran away. That apparently happens a lot with the number of unlicenced cab drivers.

My night shifts ended with a nice treat, a visitor! My Uncle arrived to entertain me...I mean for a vacation. He has been staying at my place.  We had a fun four days off together, which I will go into more detail later, and then when I had to go back to work he has been entertaining himself. The weather hasn't been too great today and yesterday. Lots of wind and rain. It isn't so bad when you are on an ambulance.  Less enjoyable when you are on a beach!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


I went back to work early for a 24hr shift.  TCI EMS is a little short staffed for drivers, only two right now for a 24 hour truck leads to a few scheduling problems.  I picked up a night shift with my friend, and it was a busy shift! We started the night parked on the street near the pub listening to a band play - just cause you can't sit in a bar on duty doesn't mean you can't listen from the sidewalk. Our first call happend early in the evening, a fainting episode at a restaurant near by.  The night eased off and I got a couple hours sleep before being startled awake with another call.  Single vehicle vs building.  Building won.  One passenger without a seat belt, he actually wasn't too badly hurt, though a nasty broken arm.

We spent the morning with me driving.  This normally doesn't sound like a big deal, I can drive. I've driven ambulances before.  But since its a British territory everyone drives on the left.  And being so close to the states most of the cars are designed for driving to the right.  Its confusing.  And lets throw in bad drivers and worse roads, and round abouts. Its a bit nerve wracking.  To top it off while I was driving we got another call, so I got my first chance to drive lights and sirens.  This was a bad call too, guy hit by a baseball bat. There was nasty swelling across his neck and jaw.

We also had a transfer towards the end of the shift, picked up a man coming home from surgury in the Bahamas.  It decided to rain that day so I got soaked while we decided the best way to unload him from the plane.  Luckily since it is so warm here I dried off pretty quickly.

I worked my next three shifts, one more day and the two nights, with Phillip.  It was extremely uneventful.  Just one transfer on the last night.  I spent part of Sunday driving, and exploring more of Provo.  On the south side we found the kiteboarders out.  It was so much fun to watch, tally that up as something else I want to learn while I'm here!

I did pick up a snorkel set, there is some reefs just off my beach.  I've been out a couple times.  I have seen some colourful fish so far. The water has been a bit rough, but today was smoother so I am excited to get back on the beach and try again.

I've been taking lots of pictures, but you may not get to see them till I get home.  The USB card reader I brought has decided to stop working so I can't upload my pictures.  Very frustrating. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Settling in.

I had another day shift followed by two nights.  With no calls.  With a population of only 30,000 people we don't have a very high call volume.  I have been told that with the holiday season we should get busier. There is an influx of tourists, as well as thefts.  A good time for break ins when everyone has started buying Christmas gifts.

I spent my night shifts with a new driver, who is a local and knows the islands incredibly well.  He has been driving me around trying to help me learn my way around.  Its a bit challenging.  While not a large island there is lots of criss-crossing roads.  Many of them don't have road signs.  This is a new project that was only started when the 911 center was opened.  About 90% of the roads have been named, but only 50% have signs. Its a slow process and many of the people have begun working together to buy road signs for their neighbour hoods.

On Monday, in between my nights I should add, we had a mandatory staff meeting. Myself and my friend, the American EMT, were there on time. The on duty crew came as well.  Mind you that was about half our staff. One of the big news is they are working on a new base for us.  The one currently being used is in the old hospital and actually really uninhabitable.  While we wait for the new building we can hang out at the new hospital.  When the new building is ready in about a week or so we will be there for about four months.  During that time they will be renovating the old hospital into a new base for the EMS and Fire Department. I should be able to indulge in another interest there- ghost hunting.  Not only an old hospital but built on the burial ground of an old plantation from 200 years ago.

Friday night I went out with some co-workers.  my friend picked me up and we went to a pub Danny Buoys to watch our supervisor play with his band. Some off the staff from the hospital came too, a nurse, a british doctor and a Canadian med student. We had a great time, the band is great.  We also really embarrassed a young woman there on her birthday.  We quickly planned our attack, picked her up in her chair and carried it up to the band where they serenaded her.  The best part was after when she demanded to know which of her friends were responsible!

I'm on my four days off now, I spent yesterday sleeping in and a bit of time on the beach.  Today I decided to walk the beach down to the Saltmills which is a touristy shopping area and also has a grocery store.  Took about an hour to walk down there, past several other resorts including the Sandals all inclusive resort. It was a long walk back and my tender little feet that are used to snug boots did not do very well.  I ended up with blisters on both my big toes that hurt!! So I spent the rest of the afternoon nursing my poor feet on the beach. I can feel all your pity.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Diving In

Well I had two days off, I did a little sight seeing on the beach and waiting around for someone to drive me to do some errands.  Eventually the ambulance came and got me to get some paperwork done.  We got to the government building a little after three.  It was closed.  We never did figure out if they had closed early or just hadn't come back from lunch yet.

This morning I was picked up at 7:00 for my first shift. I was working with another EMT who doubles as a driver since the couple guys we have are really over worked.  Since my partner was pulling a double he dropped me off at the ER to get to know the staff while he napped for a couple hours.  Not much going on, but I got to chat with the staff who are from all over the place. About noon we went for lunch at another nice little spot on the beach.

After a routine transfer, as we were driving down the main road, wondering why the traffic was suddenly coming to a stop, we realize a big accident had just occured.  Car vs Motorcycle.  Started with the cyclist, confused with bits of helmet visible in the road and lots of blood.  Our guy also had a very broken arm.  Looked like the scene in Harry Potter when he looses all the bones in his arm!  Luckily the accident happened in front of a private clinic so the staff took care of the passengers of the vehicle.  It was a big, interesting, bloody mess. Took awhile to scrub everything clean - including ourselves.

We followed that up with a minor who got drunk at school.  Thought I came down here to get away from the drunk calls? Two more transfers that night, one was taking one of the car accident patients to the hospital for follow up.  We picked up the night crew and got to go home. 

Now its time for a beer and a snack, before back at it tomorrow! 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Ride Along

Nov 8th
Today started with a twist when the maid arrived.  You'll all remember I am living in a hotel, it was still a bit weird to sit there sipping my tea as she made my bed and did the dishes.  It is going to be tough to go home!
My supervisor showed up shortly after, today I was supposed to meet up the the ambulance and ride along for a couple hours.  That's when I found out that a driver had called in sick today. Welcome to my first shift.

We met up with my partner for the day, an EMT from the US.  He began by driving me around parts of the island, and started with the slums.  Then he pointed out Prince's house.  Crazy little island. 
On our way to introduce me to the local delicacy, conch.  But just as we arrived at the Conch Shack we were sent to the airport to pick up a flight crew  I got a moment of homesickness when the SkyService plane pulled in with its Toronto nurses. It was a simple transfer to and from the airport and then it was back to the Conch Shack.

Conch Fritters for lunch was greasy goodness.  A bit of a chewy meat it was tasty, I am looking forward to trying it in a few other forms.  After lunch we went to pick up a driver, who had agreed to come in.  He knows the island so well and gave us an awesome tour.  We started by finding The Hole.  It is exactly that, it used to be an underground cavern till the limestone collapsed and now its a big hole with a pool of water at the bottom. 

After the hole the driver drove us to a conch farm where we jumped on a tour with a family from London. (Canadians everywhere!) Its a pretty interesting process that takes a couple years to reach full growth.  The farm had also been asked to raise some turtles that had been found struggling on the beach.  The next stop on the tour was the ferry dock and then past some of the massive houses the wealthy had built. There is also a massive marina for the luxury yachts of the rich and famous.

I got dropped off at home shortly after that, and I am looking forward to a day off tomorrow.  And to pick up some groceries!

Welcome to TCI

On Sunday November 6th I moved to the Turks and Caicos Islands to work as a medic for three months.  Before I left everyone made me swear up and down I would keep in touch, share my stories.  So here we are!
I left really early Sunday morning, worried I had packed to much, forgotten something and would have problems with customs.  Flying turned out to be easy, and I did of course forget some stuff.  Why do I always forget sunglasses when I go to sunny destinations?
Arriving at the airport I was met by my supervisor and his wife and taken on a quick tour of the island.  I am living on Providenciales one of the main islands in the territory.  They dropped me off at my new home, Reef Residence Hotel.  I have a nice little one bedroom suite with a pool, fitness center and just a two minute walk to the beach on Grace Bay.  They water is the most amazing colours with so many beautiful reefs that the locals are working hard at protecting which is amazing!
I crashed pretty early Sunday night, and my day on Monday started at 10:00 when my boss picked me up for some orientation.  We started off getting some paperwork done, including setting up a bank account. It was a little weird sitting inside a Royal Bank with palm trees outside! We also jumped on a couple calls with the medical crew including a good head injury.  Quite the introduction!  This led to a tour of the hospital, a brand new facility run by Interhealth Canada and filled with Canadian staff. 
At the end of my day I went for a walk along the beach.  All the beaches here are public which means you can walk all along the island along the water.  I can't wait for a day off so I can explore the area.