Postcards from the edge #7

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After two number 5’s and a break here comes the next postcard from Wilson Mitchell who is a medical student in the Rural Medical Immersion Programme (RMIP).


It was a year I had been eager to undertake ever since I had learnt of it in my second year of medicine. Like many, the Rural Medical Immersion Programme (RMIP) encapsulated different aspects of life that thoroughly appealed to me; integration into New Zealand’s rural communities, hospitals that are dominated by friendly faces (not endless corridors) with the freedom and independence to learn on my own terms, in my own time. My first four weeks had been some of the best I had experienced in medicine so far.

However, merely two days after returning to Blenheim we were all faced with the reality of a national lockdown and unprecedented, uncertain times ahead. This was a necessary decision that had undoubtedly saved lives and prevented widespread community transmission; with this in mind, it became a little easier to forget about the red stags roaring in the seaward Kaikoura range I had encountered on a tramp the week before.

During this time it has been a privilege working with my fellow students as they have used their differing backgrounds, knowledge and experience to ensure that others are not left behind in their learning. The friendly and uplifting atmosphere has been invaluable.

I was nonchalantly perusing Facebook the other morning when I stumbled across the following quote:

When asked if my cup is half-full or half-empty, my only response is that I am thankful I have a cup. ­– Unknown

Not normally someone to find meaning in white text overlaid on a stock image, this sentence seemed to weigh on me, given the current events. In the face of adversity and irreversible social change, I still had much to be thankful for.

That I, and those in my bubble were still in good health, alongside other family, friends and social networks.

That this lockdown had given me the time to work on myself and develop skills I’ve neglected for a time. A mission to see how many laps I could run around the block turned into a marathon. My homemade bread recipe has been tweaked, improved and reengineered. Kneading dough is a somewhat cathartic experience I have discovered.

Although seemingly successful, we have not had an optimal medical response in this pandemic, with concerns regarding resource allocation and management. However, I’m also thankful for the collaboration and initiatives in the rural health sector in recent weeks. In such trying times, to see such widespread cooperation, advocacy and adoption of new technological practice in the sector is encouraging and opens many new possibilities for the future of healthcare provision in rural New Zealand.

Being able to find positive lights in such a dauntingly uncertain era will certainly not lift the darkness, but might make it just a little bit easier to see the way out, and what the future can hold.

Sunrise from Mt Fyffe Hut (Seaward Kaikoura Range) a week before the lockdown announcement.

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