Monday, May 31, 2010

Ortho, Winelands, Table Mountain

This week at work, we went into orthopaedics. This is a field that I haven’t had much exposure to and have had some interest. Tuesday was fun because the doctor gave me the X-rays, the charts, and the patients to myself in the room for about 5 minutes. He told me to look at the X-rays and see if I can determine where the fracture/break was, what type it was, and to find the history on the patient (how he/she is doing, how the break happened, how long he/she has had the break). It was awesome to get some one on one patient time and to see if I actually knew how to read an x-ray correctly. Doctor Chivas (yes, like the whiskey) was more than willing to help me out whenever I had no idea what was going on. A lot of patients were victim of assaults, gunshot wounds, and just simple falls. What was scary was when this obese woman came in complaining of severe ankle pain. She fell in 1982 and since then her ankle has become increasingly difficult to walk on. I looked at her ankle and it looked incredibly swollen. The X-ray had just come in from radiology so I took a look at it and with my rookie eyes I knew something was not right. Doctor Chivas came in and his eyes widened. He explained that her ankle has essentially been completely condensed and crushed, leaving no ankle. It was her leg bones attached directly to her foot bones. This most likely happened because her ankle never healed correctly in 1982 and now her walking and weight crushed her anklebone down to nothing. At this point, there’s nothing we could do, except one very permanent option. The doctor offered a very expensive, painful, and major operation. Essentially, we could fuse the ankle together permanently. They would install plates connecting her foot bones to her leg bones. Her ankle would be permanently immobilized and she would be too for 3-4 months. She also has a couple kids and takes care of multiple grandkids. He tried to explain this to her pretty quickly but to me, I don’t think she really understood. But she said “my ankle hurts, so I guess I’ll do it.” I was shocked… I felt like she truly didn’t understand what Dr. Chivas was saying and thinks that it’s going to fix the problem. Oh ya and the pre-op meetings take about 3 minutes and happen right after you make the decision. It’s so much information to take in I’m sure one could lose track of everything.
After that, we went into the casting room to see how things were going on in there. We met Dr. Smith, a 75 year old retired doctor who came out of retirement just to help out the hospital while the other doctor was on leave. He was such a great guy and really knew what he was doing. These doctors here can manipulate almost any broken bone back into place. Again, South African doctors are known for their ability to see, feel, hear, and then treat and are spot on a lot of the time. We helped reduce some foot fractures and put some plasters on people’s limbs. One lady came in screaming on a wheelchair, she had fallen and had one of the nastiest fractures I’ve ever seen. Who knows how she fell but her upper arm bone had been absolutely dislocated into her chest leaving her ball joint literally floating down her arm somewhere. Dr. Smith put the X ray and started laughing, “Lady there is no adjustment, no plaster, and nothing I can do to help with this ridiculous looking fracture. Ow that looks painful.” But he did suggest a plaster around her arm to make the pain go away somewhat. That would require her lifting her arm so that they could put the plaster around it. My God she screamed like hell. All I could do was tell her its going to be ok and let out a laugh every twenty seconds. She was cussing in Afrikaans and in English and apologizing after every word. It was funny and everybody was somewhat laughing too. After she was plastered, she was laughing about the whole thing as well. It was lunch around then so we headed upstairs and had some lunch. I started feeling dizzy and didn’t feel too hungry. Then I became nauseous. Wednesday would be my last day for that week… my great health streak would come to an end. I got some sort of stomach bug for the rest of the week that kept me in bed (or in the bathroom) for most of the nights. I had plenty of sleepless night and felt pretty miserable. My appetite has been pretty much zapped as well. I tried to push through as much as I could. We hired a car later that day since we have so much to do. I didn’t go to work Thursday and spent all day in bed just trying to get better.
The girls got off early from work on Friday and picked me up. Since our time was limited we had to cross some things off our list. I was actually hungry for the first time and fulfilled one of our “must-do’s”: buy a Gatsby. Now, this is a serious meal and not for the faint of heart. This is a health freak’s nightmare and an artery clogger. We went to the Golden Dish, home of the Gatsby, in Gatesville. It was a pretty sketchy area of town, of course only five minutes from our house : ). We got more than a few obvious stares but I was determined to try this thing. We ordered a full house Gatsby and it only took about five mintues or so to make. So now to describe this monstrosity. We initially asked how big is regular, the lady help up this 2 foot long log. After seeing that, we decided to share a mini size. When we got it, it was easily two pounds and the size of a small child. Now for the Gatsby description, it’s a sandwich jam packed with pretty much anything. Ours had lettuce, some sort of sauce, steak, fried eggs, French fries, and cheese…and probably some other stuff they decided to throw in there. My appetite suddenly came back with a vengeance and I ate more than three quarters of the whole thing.
I planned on staying in that night and hoped I would get better by the next day. Justin (my host brother) was home as well and asked what I was doing. I said not too much and ten minutes later we were on our way to get Cape Town’s best milkshake. I thought it would be a good idea to get some liquid nutrition inside of me. After we got the milkshakes, we drove around the area and ended up driving by Galaxy, South Africa’s oldest nightclub. Before I knew it, we were going to go inside and check it out. I wasn’t feeling too up for it but I just wanted to power through and hang out with Justin as well since we don’t too much. We picked up his friend and went from there. I remember walking in the club and feeling completely out of place but somewhat welcomed at the same time. I got some pretty intense stares from people in the club but was also welcomed by some of the people he knew in there. Maybe because I was one of the five white people in there? I think so. The whole night I people watched and just talked with some ladies who immediately knew I was not interested. At least somebody knows now : ). The grossest part of the nightclub was definitely the hottub they had on the deck. Who knows what goes down in there or what’s festering in the water. It was a fun night overall and I’m glad I got to spend time with Justin.
After getting back around 3:45AM, I had to wake up at 8 AM on Saturday so we could do the winelands. It’s very difficult to wake up early in the morning to go drink alcohol after having some the night before and not feeling too well either way. This was one thing I wanted to do since I’ve been here so I refused to cancel this trip. The winelands are only 20 minutes or so outside the city making it very convenient to get there. Our first stop was J.C. LaRoux, Hailey’s favorite champagne here in SA. Stellenbosch (wine town) is very picturesque, with grapes growing all along the countryside with Table Mountain towering above them. SA’s speciailty is red wine, btu they also have some great whites and sparkling wines. We sat down and started trying all different types of sparkling wines. I learned how to open a bottle of champagne with a sword and plan on doing that upon my arrival in the States (with a butter knife or something though). I tried to appreciate all the flavors they told us about in the sparkling wines, but I’m just not the biggest sparkling wine/champagne fan. After J.C., we headed to Waterford. This estate was beautiful and was my favorite of the whole trip. It had a very Mediterranean feel to it and were famous for their chocolate and wine pairings. Tastings are relatively cheap here and the quality is amazing. We went ahead with the chocolate and wine tasting and we were presented with three wines on top of this engraved wooden block with 3 pieces of different chocolate. There were two red wines and a dessert wine. The first chocolate literally had flowers in it, the second was sea salt with a dark chocolate, and the third one was too gross to even identify. The red wines were very good, the dessert wine was disgusting…too sweet for me. I purchased a summer wine I had tasted before the chocolate pairings, and walked away a happy and boozy customer.
From Stellenbosch, we drove to Franschoek for some lunch and well..more wine. The third winery was all about the view, the wine was a little sub par but nevertheless still good. All the superb bottles of wine at most of the estates were about $8.00. I wanted to stock up but I definitely didn’t want to go overboard. Charles Shaw/ two buck chuck won’t ever taste the same after this experience… At the end of the day, I could not even think about having another glass of wine. I probably smelt like mom’s kisses but hey, its all part of the experience.
Sunday morning began with a generally sunny day. There were some clouds in the air and not too much wind. It was an opportunity to do Table Mountain. We drove to the foot of the mountain and saw that the cable car was open. However, Lauren and I decided to hike up the mountain and take the cable car down. Little did we know what we were about to get ourselves into. The beginning of the hike was pretty brutal, straight uphill and a bunch of boulders put together that we had to climb up. We thought it had to get a little better from there. But that never happened, in fact it only got worse. We literally hiked above the clouds, straight uphill on rocky, unstable, and uneven rocks. It took us about two hours to get to the very top which is pretty good timing. My legs were shaking and I was completely out of breath. I drank my entire water bottle and was planning on filling it up once I got to the top. The view from the top was amazing, even though clouds started rolling in. The wind was picking up as well making the clouds fly over the mountain. I found this little rock projection with a great view of the ocean. After that bungee, I thought scaling a little rock projection that has a cliff on all sides would be a walk in the park. Of course once I got to the tip, the wind started blowing like crazy. For a second I thought I was going to be blown off and die down Table Mountain. After getting my daily adrenaline fix, we headed to the cable car, café, and bathrooms. As luck would have it, the cable car closes due to the wind unexpectedly. Now were trapped up Table Mountain with no desire to climb back down. I hadn’t eaten anything in a while plus I needed to refill my water bottle so we headed to the café for some food. Except there was a problem, it was closed. Why the hell is this place closed? I was STARVING after that grueling two hour hike. It felt like nobody else was up there with us. Lauren then had to go pee really bad, we headed down the steps to the restroom. LOCKED!! So now we are stranded on top of some mountain, with a closed cable car, a closed café so we couldn’t refill our water bottles, and closed restrooms for one god awful reason or another. There were no phone numbers, no employees, NOTHING to even give us a clue as to when the cable car would reopen. Now I was getting frustrated, thirsty, and hungry…not a good combination. Abiding to the laws of physics, what goes up must come down… and that applied to us. Jumping off the side of the mountain sounded appealing but I at least wanted lunch so we went against our will and began the long and painful decent. We thought maybe going down would be easier? WRONG again! Going down was much worse than going up. Since the surfaces are so uneven and steep at points, this was a huge strain on the knees. It hurt after a while and when you see how much you have left (~2500 feet all downhill/uphill), it can get depressing. I slipped a few times since my legs started to give out. I don’t think we really stopped, we were so determined to get down. Whenever we stopped, our legs would begin to shake and get weaker. I lost track of time but eventually we reached the bottom. Now to quote everybody else’s foreign blog entries (Paola, Bryan), that was the hardest hike I have ever done in my life. No picture can capture the sheer height, steepness, or difficulty this hike contained. I literally climbed a damn mountain, and coming from the 12 year old kid who complained of the concept of walking uphill for no reason, it was a big accomplishment. I did a 12 hour hike one time, but it was a pretty easy hike. I scaled the side of the World Cup stadium in Durban. Hell they were both nice strolls. Those two hours uphill and then back downhill kicked my ass. I was sore for five days after and avoided stairs and all things inclined during that time. I felt pretty accomplished a couple hours after we were done (I was still bitter over the closed bathrooms and water refilling station).

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