Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everybody, even if it's a little late.  My Christmas here was fairly uneventful.  Christmas eve, I had a fairly normal day, running errands and chasing down a few administrative loose ends.  I went to a Christmas eve service in our new chapel, recently constructed by an Air Force engineer team.  It's all bare plywood and trussess on the inside, but it's a big step up from the tent we were having services in before.  The service was pretty cool, and with the chapel being pretty well packed, all of those soldiers singing Christmas hymns together sounded pretty amazing.  (As you might expect, our male to female ratio here is alot higher than at your typical church service.  When everyone's singing it gives the music some real resonance.) 
On Christmas day, our sick call was closed for the day, but I got the dubious honor of being the doctor on call for 24 hours to cover our emergency room.  Thankfully, things were pretty slow.  My medics and I kidnapped a flatscreen TV and DVD player from our X-ray section and spent a large part of the day watching movies and cartoons in the clinic while we gorged ourselves on our stash of Christmas treats.  I watched "Up" and "9", as well as a couple of Madagascar shorts that someone had gotten in a care package.  (I was a big fan of both Up and 9, although 9 raised that ever-present question... "I wonder what type of crazy drugs Tim Burton is on?") 
I wasn't able to talk with my family on Christmas day, as the hospital's computers don't have Skype installed.  But, I had had a nice Christmas eve talk with both Cristin and Drew (Drew didn't do much talking) and my family, and I'm looking forward to another video chat later today.
They had another nice dinner set up for us in the dining hall, again with turkey, roast beef, and all of the fixings.  Thanks to a quick 30-minute relief from one of the other docs here, I was able to run over and grab some food. 
Today, I've got the day off.  I spent the morning sleeping in, and now I've got a handful of errands to run.  Thankfully, I don't have to worry about shopping/returns today.  So, I'm just going to relax, get my stuff done, and then maybe read for a while.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mail Call

Being deployed has a different rhythm to it than life back home.  For the most part, every day's the same here.  There's chapel services every Sunday and random weekly meetings, but much of the week/weekend distinction is lost as you're on duty 24/7 in one capacity or another.  There's a long-running joke amongst soldiers over here that there are only 3 days while you're deployed.  The day you show up, the day you leave, and Tuesday, which is every day in between.  (Don't ask me why they chose Tuesday, but that's how it works... "Every day's a Tuesday". ) 
Anyways, one of the things that really adds something new to our day is mail from back home.  Lately, it's been pouring in.  In the last week, I've gotten a number of letters from folks from my church back home in Hampshire, from folks from our church in Waynesville, and a number from various relatives and in-laws around the country.  Christmas presents from home came in as well this week, which added to the pile.  (Don't worry Mom, they're still sitting unopened in a neat pile on my bookshelf!)  I even got a few pieces of the ever popular "random mail".  Someone in our hospital has a contact with some schools in Minnesota, so we've gotten stacks of letters from elementary school students in Minnesota.  It's been fun to read those and to write back to a few of the kids. 
Of course, I'm not the only one who's been getting lots of mail.  We've seen alot of interesting stuff come in to other people in the clinic. I think the weirdest was the box of ugly Christmas sweaters that one of our medic's mothers sent her to wear for our upcoming Christmas party with its associated ulgy sweater contest.  (Trust me, these were bad.  I know there's a number of teachers out there reading this.  Even you guys wouldn't wear some of these.) A different medic, SPC Braa, holds the record for pure volume of mail recieved.  I think she's averaged at least 1-2 boxes per day since I've arrived.  I'm not sure what they're packing them all, but her friends back home certainly keep here busy.
Work continues to go well, and I'm settling into my role.  It's starting to be more and more like work back home.  I even squeezed in a derm procedure and a few sports physicals today.  That's all for now, talk to everybody soon!

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'm Back

Sorry for the hiatus from posts, but I'm finally back.  Things had gotten into a rhythm here and I hadn't had much to write about for a while, but here's an update....
Things are pretty much still the same at work.  The schedule's not too busy as far as seeing patients goes, but I'm picking up some extra administrative and medic training projects to work on as well, so I'm keeping occupied.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving, we had a hospital volleyball tournament, which was alot of fun.  Thanks to some recent rain, the court was a bit quicksand-ish in places, but we managed to adapt.  We put together a team from my CSH to play against some of the other medical units here, as well as one team from one of the line units that's located on our FOB.  Most of the soldiers on my team had never really played volleyball, so they had to learn on the fly.  Thankfully, they were quick learners (and the first team we played was even worse than we were).  We ended up coming in 2nd place overall, with the team from the line unit coming back to beat us.  Not too bad for a team that'd never really played together before.
Otherwise, it's pretty much been life as usual.  I've been doing alot of reading, which has been a nice change.  When I was younger (i.e. pre-medical school), I was a voracious reader and used to go through a couple books a week.  As I had to study more for medical school, residency, and most recently my board exams, I seemed to run out of time for pleasure reading.  I was lucky if I could squeeze in 15 minutes before I went to bed at night.  (Having to go to work every day might have had something to do with that too... I don't know.)  Since arriving in Iraq, my reading has picked back up, which helps to fill in alot of the spare time that we've got.  I think I've already gone through 8 or 9 books since arrival in Kuwait.  Thankfully, I planned ahead while I was still back at Ft. Bragg though, so I've still got a stack of books waiting for me.  Some of the books that I've read recently have actually been really good.  A few weeks ago, I read "The Long Gray Line" by Rick Atkinson, which is a non-fiction book that tracks the members of West Point's class of 1966 through their time at West Point and then through the next 30 years both in and outside the Army.  It made for a fascinating look at American history over the last 40 years and was amazing how such a small group of men were involved in so many different newsworthy events.  I just finished "On Call in Hell" by Richard Jadick yesterday.  This book was kinda cool because I'd actually met the author, albeit briefly.  The author, who was a batallion surgeon for the Marines during the battle for Fallujah, was a Urology resident at the Medical College of Georgia when I was doing my residency at Eisenhower, so I met him when he was rotating through our Urology clinic.  The book's a fairly graphic description of what frontline medical care looked like at the peak of the war.  Thankfully, we haven't had to deal with anything like that so far.  Not to worry, it hasn't all been military non-fiction keeping me busy.  I read "The Lost Symbol" last week too.  It was a fun light read, although I still think that "Angels and Demons" is Dan Brown's best book by far.
So that's it for now.  I'm running into a bit of writer's block (Blogger's block?).  So, if there are any questions that you've got or anything you'd like me to write about, let me know and I'll see what I can do.