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Top End Doctor - 8. Dr Chapter 8

After a few goes of attempting to play some classical music, I gave up, and we just relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. As we all sat down to dinner, with Tim, Uncle James and us two boys at one end and the Medical team at the other, I noticed that Uncle James was watching them carefully, and I made a mental note to ask him about it later.

The crew I presumed had already eaten or are eating in the crew mess on the lower deck, as there was no sign of them when we entered the dining room, with Tracy exiting after delivering dinner to the sideboard.

Once dinner was over, the medical team headed to the cinema next door to watch a movie, while our family headed upstairs to the owner’s deck. “Uncle James, why were you looking at the medical team so strangely during dinner?” I asked once we had entered the suite and sat down on the lounge.

“I’ve seen one of the women before, but for the life of me, I can’t remember if it was at the hospital or during one of the many training seminars that I have attended,” Uncle James replied, and Tim laughed out loud, “I worked it out when she first stepped on board earlier today… Ok, I will give you a hint… New Year’s eve,” Tim said.

“Oh, of course, she was in the group that joined us to see in the New Year, with a cruise around the harbour,” Uncle James said, when he remembered, and Tim smiled, “You know, for a doctor, you have a terrible memory for faces,” Tim commented. “Ok boys have a shower and off to bed, as we have a busy day tomorrow,” Uncle James said to us, and we headed to our cabins, with mine being the one that is slightly larger than Toby’s cabin, with a desk and chair and a lounge chair.

The slight vibrations and low hum of the yacht engines starting up woke me up and I glanced at the clock beside my bed, which read 6.45 am, and deciding that it was too early, so I closed my eyes and fell asleep again. I woke up again when there was a loud knock on my door, and my clock now read 8.52 am.

“Come one sleepy head, time to get up,” I heard my uncle say from the other side of the door, and groaning I sat up and wiped my hand over my face, before looking out the window. “Ok uncle, I am up,” I responded, before struggling out of bed to head to my bathroom.

Fifteen minutes later I arrived in the galley where I could smell some awesome baking smells. “Good morning dear, what would you like for breakfast?” Tracy said to me smiling, “Just cereal, toast and juice please,” I replied. “Coming right up, go and take a seat in the dining room and I will bring it to you, your Uncle and brother are in there,” Tracy replied.

When I walked into the dining room, Uncle James was reading a medical book, while Toby was just finishing his breakfast, “About time you were up, slacker,” my brother said to me, “Shut up or I will feed you to the crocs,” I snapped back in return, and Uncle James looked up from his book, and I sighed, “Sorry Toby,” I said to my brother, and Uncle James smiled and returned to his reading.

“Where is everyone?” I asked, “Tim is up on the bridge, taking the first shift of skippering the yacht, while next door, Nurse Manager Charmaine is giving the mission team another briefing on what to expect over the next seven days,” Uncle James replied. “Sounds boring,” Toby commented, “Yes, maybe to you, but essential information for the team,” Uncle James answered.

Toby and I were on the sun deck when we were approaching the Tiwi Islands, and the community of Wurramiyanga, as Angela skilfully manoeuvred the yacht into place alongside the wharf, and the deckhands secured the yacht, allowing plenty of rope to allow for the huge tidal changes that happen twice a day.

It was 10.50 am when the ship was secured and the gangway was swung into position, with Charmaine and the medical team standing on the aft main deck, ready to commence work. Apart from members of the community gathering, there was also a doctor and a nurse standing nearby.

“Hello James, and team, welcome to Bathurst Island,” the Doctor called out, as Uncle James arrived on the main deck and led the team off the ship. “Quite some vessel that you have there, are you wanting to use the community health centre or do you have some facilities on the yacht?” the doctor asked Uncle James as they shook hands.

“We can do both if you like Tom, maybe we can do more of the difficult cases on the ship and the minor health issues at the Community Health centre. Do you know any of my team?” Uncle James replied, “Yes, I do, hello Pippa, good to see you again,” Dr Tom said.

“The rest of the team are Nurse Manager Charmaine Quinn, who is my right-hand women, Marcus Longmuir who is a GP and does Minor Surgeries, his son, Tristan who is one of the RN’s - registered nurses, Dr George Tuah, Dentist and his practice dental nurse, Abigail Grantley, plus we have RN Rebecca Jarvis,” Uncle said to the Doctor, “Nice to met you all, this is my nurse – Tammy Hunt, and nurses aid Julie Doolan,” Dr Tom said.

“Hi, I am Angela Gibson, yacht’s captain, and this is our chef Tracy Archer, galley hand Declan, stewards Marlina and Eliza, deck hands Lance and Dean, who are first cousins, and the two monkeys on the top deck are Reid and Toby Templeton, who are Dr Shaw’s nephews and wards,” Angela said finishing off the introductions, and Toby and I smiled as we waved hello.

“Quite a team you have here, James,” Dr Tom responded, “Yes, and there is one other who should be here shortly, that is my partner Tim, he is our chief engineer,” Uncle James replied, “Ok, so how are we going to split the team?” Dr Tom asked.

“I think we will have dentistry and minor procedure on the ship and the rest can be done at the centre,” Uncle James suggested,
“Sounds good, what is your schedule like? Will you be staying here long?” Dr Tom asked. “We have scheduled all of this afternoon and all tomorrow for here, and set off to Wurakuwu, early the next morning,” Uncle James replied.

“Well, lets get started then, my Ute is right here to help transport all your supplies to the clinic,” Dr Tom said, and they started the process of transferring everything needed at the clinic to the vehicle. With this community having the biggest population on the Tiwi Islands, the medical team was kept very busy for the whole afternoon, with the occasional stop for a short break, while Toby and I commenced our home schooling.

Uncle James had set up his own private office, midships in the senior crew lounge, where he can concentrate on planning and organising future missions, and when not working in one of the clinics, he would be found in his office.

On the first night on the Tiwi Islands, as we all sat down for dinner, Uncle James announced, “I have been working on two other missions, the first from Darwin to Gove, with six communities to visit, and with an extra overnight stop, which would take just under ten days to complete.

The other new mission is from Gove to Booroloola and return, with 11 communities to visit, and also includes an overnight stop on the return journey, which would take just under 11 days to complete, and after a few days rest, we would make the three-day journey back to Darwin.

Because it is still the Wet season, we would do one trip of each region, as a trial run, before reviewing how each of the missions went, and setting a more permanent mission timetable after that review, and in the mean time, tomorrow, Reid and Toby, you have been invited to spend a day at the main school on the islands, which is Tiwi College, on Melville Island.

First thing in the morning, Tim will take you both of you on one of the yachts boat’s, 27 kilometres to a beach on Melville Island, where a vehicle will be waiting to take you the 12 kilometres north to the college, with the journey taking 1 ½ hours, so you will have to be ready to leave here at 7 am. Tim will collect you at the beach at about 4 pm, for the return journey,” Uncle James announced to us.

The day spent attending Tiwi College was a real eye opener, with 99 % of the students being Aboriginal, and we spent the second half of the lunch break and the next lesson playing Australian Rules Football, and I found there to be a lot of very talented boys amongst the groups that played the game that afternoon.

When Tim collected us from the beach at 4 pm, he took one look at the condition of my clothes and laughed. “Looks like you have a great day, Reid, what did you do to end up in such a state?” he asked me, as we thanked the teacher, who drove us back to the beach, and followed Tim to the small boat.

“Football of course, and man was it a tough game,” I replied, “Yes I bet it was by the looks of your clothes, you better sneak on board and have a shower right away when we get back, before your uncle spots you,” Tim said to us, as we settled into our seats for the trip back to the yacht.

“It was quite good fun actually, and I had my own personal barracking team,” I said to Tim loudly, to be heard over the noise of the boat’s engine, and indicating over to my little brother. “What else did you learn today?” Tim asked us,

“We learnt about bush tucker, and what plants and fruits are eatable and what is poisonous, and some of the class performed a corroboree dance on the school oval, which was really interesting,” Toby said excitedly.

During dinner, we informed Uncle James of our adventures at Tiwi College, and I added that I hope that we can go back there next time we are on the Tiwi Islands. After dinner, I gave Uncle James a letter that the teacher asked to be passed on to him, when we get back to the yacht, and we waited with interest, as he read the letter.

“Well, it appears that your teachers are very happy with your school levels, Reid, your teacher says that you have a good grasp of mathematics and geography, while Toby your teacher said that you’re reading and writing is excellent. I am very proud of you both for doing as I asked and go to the college today, I think I will ask the college if you boys can spend more time at the college, when we are here on the island again,” Uncle James said to us smiling.

“Do we go to another community tomorrow?” Toby asked, “Yes, we do, and you will have to continue your school studies on board for the remainder of the trip, as the next community has a much smaller population than this one, while the last two communities are about half the size, and it is going to take us all morning to get to the beach just south of the next community, where they will have to travel the five kilometres South to us,” Uncle James replied.

Once again the sound of the engines starting woke me up the next morning, and seeing that it is almost 6 am, I went back to sleep, and when I woke again, with Toby jumping on my bed, the time was almost 8 am. “Come on sleepy head, we have to have breakfast and start on our schooling in half an hour,” Toby said to me, before leaving my cabin, closing the door behind him.

Once I had washed and dressed, I headed to the galley to get some breakfast, and Tracy allowed us to sit at the kitchen bench to have our breakfast, as we chatted with her and Declan about the trip so far. Toby and I spent the next three hours doing our school lessons, before we decided to take an early lunch break, as we are now close to our next destination, and we headed up to the bridge deck, where we found Tim at the helm.

“Permission to enter,” I said from the door, “Permission granted boys, have you finished your studies for today?” Tim responded, “No, we have about two more hours, we just wanted to finish up fort his morning so we can watch us approach the beach,” I replied.

“Ok, you can sit on the lounge and watch from there, as you see we have entered a large river mouth, and there is a resort of some kind on the starboard side, the rest is just mangroves,” Tim said to us. A few minutes later Uncle James entered the bridge, “Hey boys, how was your morning of schooling?” he said as he sat down beside us.

“Shh, not to loud, Tim is concentrating,” Toby said and Tim chuckled, “Thanks Toby, but a little bit of talking it fine,” he responded, and Uncle James just smiled. “To answer your question, it was good, I even had to help Toby a little bit with his maths,” I replied.

“That is good to hear that you are assisting, but make sure that he works out the problems himself, just give him some guidance on how to work them out,” Uncle James said, “That’s what I did Uncle,” I replied smiling, remembering back an hour to when Toby was getting frustrated and he was trying to bribe me to give him the answers.

As we approached the beach, right next to the mouth of a small creek, leading off the large creek that we had entered a little earlier, we saw a group of women and children gathered sheltering under the trees, and Tim skilfully spun the yacht around and backed towards the beach, stopping just as the bottom of the yacht touched sand.

Keeping the yacht in position, the two deckhands, jumped off the yacht with anchors and ropes in hand, and they soon had the yacht secured, so Tim could shut off the engines. As this was happening, Toby and I had moved to the helideck to watch the manoeuvres happening, and the lads swung the gangway into place just as Uncle James and the medical team appeared on the main deck.

“Hello, give us a few minutes to set up some gazebo’s so that you have some shade shelter, and we will get started on treatments,” Uncle James said to the group, “Thankyou Doctor, we are happy that you can come here to help us, instead of us travelling to Darwin,” a lady responded, as she approached the yacht, and Uncle James went down the gangway to meet her, and they talked a few moments.

Because it was so humid and there was another storm approaching, Toby and I retreated indoors, and we decided to hang out in the Boat Deck saloon, until it was time for lunch, which we had in the galley, as all the medical team would be eating sandwiches between patients, and the crew would be eating downstairs in the crew mess lounge on the lower deck.

After lunch, Toby and I returned to the class room, to complete another two hours of studies before ending the day at 2.30 pm, and after getting a snack from the galley, we headed up to the jacuzzi on the sky deck, above the bridge.

Copyright © March 2020 Preston Wigglesworth. All Rights Reserved.
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Another awesome chapter. The Medical Mission has made a great start and everything seems to be going smoothly.

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If I were the boys, I'd prefer to eat with the crew rather than with a bunch of doctors speaking medicalese:  The gossip is much better below deck! 😂

Nice to see that the kids enjoy their time at the aboriginal school.  If enjoyment can be measured in mud, then the trip is a smashing success!

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