Billy Rubin

The adventures of a pre-clerkship medical student.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Long Way From Home

Anne was a long way from her home. She stood on the wharf, suitcase at her feet, and gaped at the three-story building that stood in the center of the small town. The clinic was no bigger than the house in England she grew up in. This couldn’t be all there was. Could it?

She turned back to the water to see if she could catch the boat before it had left. The small dory was already halfway out of the harbour, smoke rising from the fisherman’s pipe as he methodically rowed away. He had been hired to transport her to this town, given there was road access. His job done, he had left immediately. The journey back was a long one and would take the remainder of the day.

Anne picked up her bag and trudged toward the small cottage hospital. She had been trained as a nurse and midwife in London. With senior positions being filled and little room for advancement, Anne began looking for positions outside the United Kingdom. Health boards in Australia required three year contracts, a seeming eternity to a twenty-two year old. Newfoundland was offering 1 year positions. Anne could sign up, work one year, and, having experience, look for positions back home. And now she found herself her, at the God-forsaken end of the Earth. No road access. No amenities. No trees! Just a small group of houses huddling together against the barrenness.

“Hi. You must be Anne. I’m Gertrude.” A plump middle-aged lady stood before her, clad in a white nursing dress and cap. “Would you like a tour of the hospital?” Without waiting for an answer Gertrude turned and began up the steps. The third floor was one large open room housing three beds. The nurses slept there. The second floor contained a small ward. Their clinic was on the first floor. The nurses slept upstairs and worked downstairs. There would be little time for anything else.

Anne lay in her bed, head under the covers, crying silently. What had she gotten herself into? How was she going to get through this next year? This couldn’t be happening. It must be a dream!

Little did she know that this small Newfoundland community would be where she’d stay. She would treat everyone and everything without exception. She would eventually lose track of the number of babies she would deliver. Children would be named in her honour. She would pull teeth, set bones, treat animals, and prescribe medications. Along with Gertrude, she would become the town’s entire medical system. And this town would become her home. She would marry a local man and have two beautiful children. She would become a grandmother. She would retire here, but she would still stay. She had found her corner of the universe. She had found where she belonged. But that first night, lying under those blankets and crying silently, she just didn’t know it. Sometimes life takes you not where you want to go, but where you're meant to be.



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