Cyclones on Islands
Working on islands has opened my eyes to some unique aspects of medicine and surviving what are routinely idyllic days, but occasionally, wild and hostile landscapes. I arrived after cyclone Debbie decimated the lower end of the Whitsundays. My flight landed days after the cleaning effort had commenced and the ghostly forms of trees brought tears to my eyes. The beautiful tropical forest I was accustomed to, had been replaced by desolate terrain reminiscent of bushfires and drought.
The first thing I noticed were the inconveniences. I could no longer do my morning hike up to Passage Peak because the trails weren't clear. The shop wasn't stocked because the supplier, the Proserpine supermarket, had been similarly destroyed. Some of the buggies I drove to work had dents or flood damage. My clinic's resident owl was missing.
After seeing friends' videos and listening to enough stories, I began to feel the instability, anxiety and fatigue of those who'd experienced the cyclone. Gradually, there was a sense of loss, confusion and sadness. The adrenalin and excitement had passed.
Most of the medical presentations related to injuries or exposure as a consequence of the clean-up effort. People chipping in to do manual work that they weren't used to. Abrasions, sprained ankles and back pain were the most common presentations. Moulds and contaminated water sources were the priority public health concern and would become more apparent as the weeks after the cyclone extended.
Then the regrowth began. Denuded gumtrees were adorned with bright green, epicormic shoots.
The clinic's resident owl returned.
Life for some was returning to routine.