South Africa photos, part 2

Hello again from South Africa. I have just finished the elective part of my trip, and Simone and I are off to Krueger National Park tomorrow to see some Lions and Elephants and the like. Should be very exciting. Meanwhile, here is the second installment of photos from Baragwanath and Joburg for your general edification.

Same setup as last time: Click on any of the pictures to see a larger version of it.

So this is the sight that greets me every morning when I arrive at the hosptial. The guards are nice guys, but they check who you are on the way in, and check the boot of your car on the way out to make sure that you haven’t nicked anything from the hospital.

This sign gives some numerical impression of the size of Baragwanath. 88 Wards. And that’s only in that direction….

But the upside to the enormity mentioned above is that I have been getting to do a lot of theatre time, and actually doing quite a bit of stuff myself (rather than the usual watching the consultant do everything that you get a lot of in Australia). I also heard someone say that they can admit up to 250 medical patients in a night, so presumably the medical side of things is equally busy.

Occasionally (well OK, quite frequently) you see some odd stuff while walking around the hospital. This is a group of patients getting physiotherapy on the lawn between surgical wards. Note how they all have chest drains in place….

In the same vein as the picture above, this is the queue for the hospital outpatient pharmacy. The disturbing thing is that it’s pretty safe to assume that many of these people are waiting so that they can recieve little more than 20 tablets of panadol and 20 tablets of neurofen (which is the standard “So, you’ve just been hit / stabbed / stitched / debrided / etc. Here’s some pain relief” prescription).

Finally on the hospital front, when people start whinging about their hospital in Australia being run down and falling apart, I’m going to show them this photo. I was in the middle of stitching up a patient in that room when this happened. One of the other med students opened the door, stuck her head around, and the top hinge broke free from the frame. We all had a good laugh (even the patient).

This is also a good comparison to the operating theatre photo from the last set of photos. It illustrates the variation in the quality of the facilities throughout the hospital. On the one hand they have just bought a 3 or 4 million australian dollar MRI machine. On the other hand the doors fall off their hinges.

The oddness is of course not only limited to the hospital. Here we see something you see quite a lot of while driving around town: Laborers riding in the back of open vehicles (in this case a dump-truck, but you see it in utes and small trucks too) on the way to some construction site or other. This is a suburban street, so they’re only doing 60kph, but you also see them on the motorway doing 110kph. It also explains how you frequently get car crashes where 2 cars/vans/utes collide and 15 or 20 people get taken to hospital.

Outside of the hospital the social side has remained busy. Our host, Michael, took Roberta (the other doctor staying at the same place I am) and myself off to his wine tasting club, and we got to spend the night pretending that we knew something about wines. Fun night, and yum wines.

Then on the weekend Simone and I went to the Johannesburg zoo. Here’s a pretty picture of me patting some donkeys.

At the zoo it was also kind of funny to have come halfway around the world, and for one of the cages to contain the rare and exotic Kookaburra….

…Althought there were also giraffes and zebras and lions and gazelles and all the other animals you would expect in a zoo in africa.

Finally here is a picture of Simone enjoying a park bench in the shade when we visited the Botanic gardens. (Just so that you can see that she’s enjoying her holiday here…)

Rubbish bag man

To illustrate the depth of the poverty and associated social problems here in Johnannesburg I just saw a guy walking along the side of the motorway wearing (literally) plastic rubblish bags and hessian sacks.

South Africa Photos part 1

Hello from South Africa. For general amusement and so forth, here are a few of the photos I have taken since arriving here. If you click on each picture it should open a larger version (partularly useful with the panoramas)

This shows one of the seemingly hundreds of presumably stray cats which roam aroung the hospital grounds (particularly early in the morning). Until a few moment before I took the photo he was curled up on the top of one of the laundry bags you see in the background (outside one of the pediatrics wards).

This is a panorama taken from the roof of the Nurses’ Quarters, the tallest building at the hospital. The hospital itself has something like 3000 beds, and pretty much all the buildings you can see (and a lot more around further to the left which you can’t see) are hospital buildings.

To Provide some additional perspective of size, here is a photo from the other side of the building. The main entrance is located next to the tall gray building you can see just to the left of the far edge of the Quarters with the big poster on it’s side (with the yellow bottom half).

The white roofed single storey buildings just to the left of the edge of the quarters are all surgical wards.

This panorama shows the view off the other side of the Nurses’ Quarters, looking out over Soweto. I haven’t gotten any good shots of any of the shacks which constitute a lot of the accomodation in Soweto, and which you see when you drive to the hospital.

This is a similar view of Soweto from lower in the building.

Within the hospital itself there is a quite wierd mix of facilities. This is the Surgical Emergency Department (universally referred to (even on official paperwork) and the “surgical pit”), and like all the other Emergency departments it is housed in a pretty delapidated almost prefab type building, and contains the kinds of equipment (or lack thereof) and facilities which you usually associate with african hospitals. In the foreground you can see the table where the doctors do all the writing up charts etc, and in the background you can see a number of patients lined up in seats or against the wall awaiting attention from one of the doctors.

And you see some pretty wild stuff come into the surgical emergency too. I’ve got some great gorey shots (which are also highly interesting surgical cases in their own right), but so as to spare the more squeemish of my readers I will limit it to this x-ray I saw of a guy who came in after being assaulted. Note the relatively decent depressed crush fracture (ie the dent) on the top left side of the skull…

And then to contrast the with surgical pit, you go up to the theatres (there are 16 of them…) and you find relatively well maintained and relatively modern operating theatres, which are quite reasonably equiped and stocked.

And theHospitals are not the only large things. This rather monolithic structure below is the local medical school, which houses >1500 medical students, as well as dental, physio and other health sciences students on top of that.

On the home front, I am staying in a very nice house with a family and their 3 cats, one of which is seen here in the front garden.

And here two of them are on my bed keeping my computer company.

On a trip to the Apartheid musuem (well worth a visit if you find yourself in Johannesburg at some point) I had a brief history lesson on pre-european africa, and there was this picture of some of the rock art made by the San people, who later became know as the bushmen.

As well cool stuff, you also see an awful lot of wierd stuff, like this guy I saw riding along on the back of a ute, holding a fridge in place at about 95kph on the freeway.

But overall I’m having a good time and am meeting lots of nice and interesting people. Below are two med students from Germany (Markus and Tina), and one from Austria (also a Markus)

Ghost stories

One of the unfortunate features about the international student crowd here in Joburg is that, almost invariably, whenever we get together the conversation eventually drifts onto everyone comparing tales of all the things they were told be various sources (often of disputable reputability) about the dangers of South Africa and the strategies for remaining safe.

Now after two weeks here I have gotten relatively used to the swing of things and am comfortable in my percieved level of personal risk (I’m not doing anything stupid, and to use that stupid australian government anti-terrorism phrase I’m “Alert but not alarmed”), but the conversations kind of feed off the collective pool of fear and misinformation, and I always leave the conversations in a state of quite unreasonably intense anxiety.

In the post-match analysis it seems depressing that as kids we were generally afraid of stereotypical things like monsters and boogey men under the bed*, whose motivations seemed perfectly reasonable (ie. they were monsters, so of course they wanted to eat little kids, because that was just what monsters did…) whereas as adults we worry about the unpredictable and morally grayer threats posed by the actions of other humans. As an adult the stories we tell to scare each other no longer involve ghosts, but rather normal flesh-and-bones humans.

*For a particularly amusing take on the bogey man idea, read Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

Orange cheese

Being the fervent cheese-ivore that I am, I’m finding it quite strange in South Africa, because they don’t seem to make much cheese domestically, and certainly not much good cheese (I’ve already purchased a few small blocks which I’ve eaten one or two slices from and then gone “Bluck!!!” and thrown the remainder in the rubbish). In addition to the quality, much of their cheese is this quite vibrant orange color, and being used to creamy-yellow cheese it is quite odd seeing these deeply orange cheeses.

Fuzz therapy

The people I’m staying with have not 1 but 3 cats, and I’m rediscovering what a simple joy it is to have cat hair on all your clothes. They are also great big softie cats, who burst into purrs at the earliest signs of a stroke, and so as you would expect the three of us are getting along just famously. I hope Simone doesn’t start to get jealous…. 🙂