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22 Nov 2016

The Top End is getting ready. We are on the cusp of the Wet Season, or Gudjewg, one of the six Aboriginal seasons.  Depending on who you ask, the season is from November to April or December to March.

Lightening will crack the skies.  It is simultaneously hot and wet, therefore humid. Air conditioners strain, we conserve energy by settling for a “cool” 28-29 degrees. Cyclones are at the back of everyone's mind. This is the time to take pictures of the skies - the most dramatic sunsets in the world happen now.

For the animals out there it is a time of increase. Crocodiles make their nests, Aedes aegypti flourish, the horrible cane toads pop as you drive over them. In the trees, birds make their nests, predators steal the eggs. In the ocean, stingers, coral and other poisonous sea creatures are ready, as always, to sting swimmers. Kangaroos try to commit suicide via motor vehicle accidents with great dedication.

The land turns green and wild flowers appear - welcome colour after a winter of dry and dust.

The air appears to bring everything into sharp focus. The saturation of colours have inspired painters and photographers from around the world. The fruits come out, yum, and I know of four types of mangoes. We eat until our palms and lips turn yellow.

The rivers swell, the land is muddy, sticky, a trap for four wheel drives and gumboots. Tourist venues close - there are no croc tours in the wet, and they are not really needed anyway since the crocs are lining up trying to get on the road.

For rural doctors in these parts this is the time to think of dengue, arbovirus, meliodosis, leptospirosis and the post traumatic stress of Christmases past.

The workforce goes away on holidays so we may be asked to work impossible rosters.

When the local hospital is on one side, the airstrip on the other side of a flooded creek, how does one transport a patient for retrieval? One community I know has two ambulances; one for one side of the creek, the second for the other. And in between? Well, a trusted tinny.

Appointments to see specialists seem to go on hold for a whole month or more and the operating slate narrows to Cat 1 cases. Medical clinics, allied health services and  admin offices downscale to minimum staffing levels and telephones ring for a long time.

Over in Canberra, the politicians try to sneak nasty laws like co-payment schemes into place while the country is on holiday.

From a survival point of view, one needs to have a cyclone plan, which includes enough food in stock to last two weeks. If the water backs up, be prepared to boil and sterilise the drinking water when the local store runs out of bottled water.

From a medical supplies point of view, it means having enough consumable supplies to make it through a dreaded multiple casualty event. And when will we get our O Neg? Point of care testing is essential because those tubes of blood will not make it to big city pathology in time.

Do you have any “wet” stories with a medical slant?  I'd love to hear them.  It is part of the lore of the rural medical profession. This season makes us hardy, at home with our limitations and humble.

 

 


Published: 22 Nov 2016