I finally was able to post some pictures. The first is Bethel from the Life Flight plane. The second is a Life Flight trip out to Kasigluk.
It’s Easter today, sunny outside but cold, and I’m stuck inside with the “Bethel crud,” a cold I must have picked up on the airplane here or on one of my ER shifts. My experience here has been a continuation of “collecting unique experiences.”
Yesterday, in the middle of my ER shift, I went on another Life Flight out to Kasigluk, a village of 600 people located 25 miles west of Bethel. Most of the villages in the YK Delta are along the Yukon or Kuskokwim Rivers, stretching from inland all the way to the Bering Sea. However, there are three villages known as the “tundra villages,” and Kasigluk is one of those, located on the smaller Johnson River. We landed in blustery winds on an airstrip of solid ice. The snow machines with sleds behind them were out to meet us and we climbed on board. Off we went to the clinic, cold tundra winds biting at our faces. In the entrance room of the clinic we were greeted by over ten people, all family of our patient, a 96 year old Yupik elder who had fallen. She spoke only Yupik, which made the explanation of why we needed to take her from her village (where she had lived her entire life) to go to Bethel where we could get images of her hip and make sure it wasn’t broken. She was a pleasantly demented elder, making fun of my “inadequate boots” and my silly “jump suit” and smiling grandly at everyone. However, when it came time to load her up onto the sled and plane, she became agitated. Luckily, we were able to take along two of her relatives, who calmed her in her Yupik tongue. One hour later we were looking at the x-rays of her hip in the Bethel ER and trying to decide what to do with this elder with a broken hip who simply wanted to go back to her village.
Day to day work in the ER is also interesting and I get to do many procedures, from draining boils to suturing cuts, from resetting broken bones to splinting and casting. Yesterday, a teen came in two days after sustaining a cut on his hand, which he stated was from falling on the gravel. He felt as if something was still imbedded in the wound. I opened it and explored it…and found a TOOTH! He sheepishly admitted that it wasn’t a fall, but rather a fight.
There seems to be two main seasons here, marked by “freeze-up” in October (when the rivers freeze and winter is here) and “break-up” in May (when the ice in the river breaks up and winter is over). I hope to be here for break-up. There is a large tripod set up on the ice of the Kuskokwim River for the “Ice Classic,” a competition to see who can guess the exact date and time that the tripod moves 100 feet down the river, signifying break-up. Break-up is also marked by the return of geese and white swans to the area. Snow keeps falling, which makes me wonder when it will get warm enough to cause break-up. However, a lady informed me that the elders state that the snow is light and fluffy, the kind to quickly melt, and that break-up is going to come suddenly and unheralded this year.
Bethel has two radio stations, a Christian radio station and their public radio station KYUK, which is a bilingual (Yupik/English) station. Also, of interest, 1975 saw the first telephone in Bethel. In the last month since I’ve been here, Bethel has seen their first cell phones.
That’s all from this kass’aq (white person) living out here with the Yupik (“real people”) on the YK Delta. I can't believe I've been here a week already.