Greetings! And thank you for stopping by and sharing some moments with me in my little corner of the world. I’m truly in a “corner of the world”…..as my current location is described as “the edge of the world”, and I have no doubt after spending the past couple of weeks here, that this statement is absolutely true.
I have mentioned on my social media platforms (noted below if you’d care to follow – IG, FB and Twitter) that I had accepted a summer position up in Alaska. I have never been to Alaska, had been currently living in Tucson Arizona, after being “let go” from an assignment in Northern California at the end of March. I have been unemployed ever since…..go figure. An experienced Primary Care Provider being let go and not being able to find work. This was a part of the fallout from this Pandemic we have all been dealing with (yes – upcoming post or two on that for sure so stay tuned and make sure you subscribe to my blog to assure you don’t miss it) . For many weeks (and continues still) unless you are treating COVID related situations, work can be hard to find in medicine. Seriously……COVID isn’t the only health ailment. I fear the medical fallout from all of these past weeks will be catastrophic. Moving on……..
I was working with a new company, as I was forced to branch out a little since the company I have been with for the past six years was finding me no work at all. I was willing to go anywhere and soon as possible. Lo and behold I was called and asked if I would be willing to travel to rural Alaska for the summer at least with a possibility of extending my contract for six months which would be approximately the end of November. I accepted. The credentialing started (very long process and took some time including getting some certifications and a boatload of paperwork and documents)
Finally everything was in and accepted and travel arrangements were made. I was called on a Tuesday afternoon, and would be catching a flight at 0720 Thursday morning. Frenzied packing. All I knew about where I was going was what little I could find on an infamous google search. Basically going in blind – yes, a true adventure. Chignik Bay, Alaska. Population of less than 100. Weather looked to be in the 50’s, even though it is the summer. When I left, Tucson was 105 so it was difficult to wrap my head around bringing rain gear and jackets when I was sweating my eyeballs out. They hire a Primary Care Provider for the summer months during the salmon fishing season, combined with Halibut fishing which came in a close second.
I took off out of Tucson Az and landed in Dallas two hours later without problems. Dallas was a nightmare, delays including two plane changes. Not sure I have ever flown American Airlines and not had major problems. Originally I was to land in Anchorage at a decent hour, and was looking forward to exploring for a few hours, but after all of the changes, I landed really late, after 11pm. Still strong daylight, and flying the entire trip socially distancing and wearing a mask, it was all very strange.
Anchorage? Smaller than I thought, but welcoming, clean, and beautiful, The mountain range you fly over before you land is breathtaking.
Quick taxi ride to the hotel, it was late, but had to get out and explore a little! I had a 5am wake up but didn’t care. Elevator ride introduced me to breakfast.
Got outside. The air was fresh, smelled and felt clean. The sky was clear, the grounds were spotless. It was quiet. I could have walked for miles if it has not been midnight and it hadn’t already been a 20 hour day.
I tried to sleep, but after airplane coffee, adrenaline and a big day I think I slept for about two hours……..maybe. Maybe not.
Another quick early morning taxi ride to a small airfield called Lake Clark Air, checked in, got everything weighed, including myself, and waited with a cup of coffee for my flight. About a half hour later a lady called my name looking off of a clipboard and motioned me to follow her through the back of this small wooden building.
And she motioned me toward this.
And introduced me to “Tanner”……apparently my pilot. My maternal instinct kicked in but I kept my mouth shut and decided I would ask him how old he was AFTER we landed. I wasn’t even sure he was old enough to shave.
And then I was motioned to get in the front seat. The front seat of this plane that looked like it had been washed in hot water and shrunk.
I climbed into the small space that was described to me as the front passenger seat. I felt like I was sitting in the front seat of a VW bug. It was compact and tight fitting but relatively comfortable. “Fastened my seat belt” which was just s simple lap belt, nothing special. Tanner went over brief safety issues, but by that time my mind was numb and everything being said sounded like a dull hum…….
Tanner climbed in, put his headset on, checked his backpack, made sure his trail mix was easily accessible, and started up the engines. I was sitting there like WHAT THE F*&K…….
Engine started. Propeller started spinning around. Too late to turn back now……..
We took off. My heart was skipping every other beat I must be honest. It was pretty frightening. Before I could wrap my head around all of this, we had circled the runway and we lifted off. Anchorage started to disappear, and in a flash, the surroundings got very rugged.
The trip itself took a little over three hours. And when you are in a small, single prop, four seater airplane, you don’t fly very high, so you can see the ground pretty clearly. Three hours is a long time…….Being able to see the rugged landscape so closely was something I can honestly say I will never forget. To be so close to such beauty, to feel like you could actually reach out the window and touch it is something that will be etched upon my memory forever.
We landed in the town of Dillingham which I would be at for about five days to learn the system and to learn hospital admissions from the outlying clinics (and I am going to be REALLY outlying!!) I was housed in a barracks type housing. No phone service. No internet. And after hospital work is done, it is extremely quiet. Like silent quiet. Was having some difficulty keeping in touch with family. I was rapidly becoming aware of how primitive things were getting.
Basically taught myself the EMR. Got COVID tested. Was taken to a rugged Costco type place and bought a stockpile of things like oatmeal, rice, butter, cheese, coffee. A very kind Doctor who befriended me had me over for dinner with her and her husband and raided her pantry and packed boxes for me to take with on the plane out in the morning. Including caribou and moose meat……..I have never packed for a trip like this in my life!
Another small plane trip, a bit shorter this time, with again, beautiful scenery you could almost touch. Even flew over a volcano!
A quick stop at a lagoon, on a dirt runway that looked like a driveway, and took off again, to be honest, I was very ready to get out of these little planes!
And then? After a week of travel – learning – and getting more primitive by the hour….. here I was. Landing in Chignik Bay, Alaska.
In Chignik Bay, Alaska, population turns out to be around 60 people. Total. The population increases in the summer months due to the fishermen that come for the salmon. I am staying at the clinic. I sleep on bunk beds in a renovated exam room.
Lots of windows with beautiful scenery out of every window. Friendly crew and lots of free hearted sharing here. I have been given the town police car to drive around in, complete with sirens and lights………
The first night here I heard a commotion and didn’t think much of it I was so tired. Turns out to be a Grizzly bear, that was directly on the dirt road right outside of the clinic…….
Yes…….this is gonna be an adventure.
As always, I’m always good for a story! I will be posting about Alaska when stories arise, and will continue with my random topics until then and in-between. Feel free to leave a comment with your questions and I will be glad to do my best to answer them. I am truly learning as I go…….
Again, thank you for spending your moments with me, so appreciated!!
My social media handles are:
Facebook – Cathy Ulrickson
Instagram – Polley93
Twitter – @Polley93
Until next time……be kind…….always,