I just got finished with the Wilderness Medicine Society (WMS) summer conference. It was paid for by my program (sweet!) and took place in the mountain town of Breckenridge, Colorado. Which is both a blessing and a curse – the more fun the conference location, the harder it is to make yourself sit through the hours of daily lectures. But sit through the lectures I did, and I was happy that I was able to force myself to keep my behind indoors. There was an assembly of lecturers from all over the country, many of which were experts in their field, who talked about topics from the earthquake that shook Mount Everest to Ebola. I felt like I learned a lot, and also had a good bit of fun as well. This was also my first time giving a presentation at a national conference. Although it was only a very brief overview of the research I’ve been performing at some of the recent ultra racing events, it was still pride-incuding. Here’s me in action:
As alluded to previously, I also got out and enjoyed the fresh mountain air. There are a ton of beautiful trails in this area, and one of them started right out of the back door of the hotel. Although I don’t tend to get altitude sickness (the altitude at our hotel was 9,600 feet), I did find myself breathing especially hard when climbing very slowly up the Burro Trail. But I was rewarded with lush groves carpeted with wildflowers and a blazingly fast run back down.
The last day in Breckenridge was particuarly awesome. One of the lectures was about building a medical kit, and I learned an incredible amount of tips and tricks. As my regular readers know, I am always obsessing over gear – both general outdoor gear and medical. The speaker was also very helpful when I approached him after the talk regarding finding malpractie insurance, etc. once my company gets going (fingers crossed!). The afternoon found me on the tippy top of the ski resort. After a gondola ride and a high-speed quad chairlift, I was at 12,998 feet. I had a nice, easy jog all the way down to the base area. The views from the top were truly stunning, and I thoroughly enjoyed each step of the way down. I wish my little red man would have been bounding down in front of me, but he was there in spirit.
View from the top:
This is Jacks and I after taking his first gondola ride in Aspen. Circa 2004.
One of the highlights of the past few days was getting to meet Rich Levitan. For those of you not involved in the medical world, you will not get me getting star-struck in a dorky way about this man. He is a world expert on managing the airway in ER patients, and I am convinced will change the way we manage patients. He is also a heckuva nice guy. Turns out we also have a lot in common – he now lives about an hour north of where I used to live in New Hampshire, and we both have a love for the tiny remote Emergency Department where there is no help or back-up. Talking with him made me realize how much I miss working in a rural ED. My job before this fellowship involved 48 hours a month working in the 8-bed ER in the town that I grew up in. I miss my nurses (who I am convinced could probably take care of some patients better than I could). I miss my incredibly grateful and personable patients. I miss having people see my name written on the white board in their room and having them start a conversation with: “Does your Dad go to Holy Hill church?” or “Did your family used to live in Erin Meadows?”. Working alone for 24 hours at a time in an ER that saw it’s fair share of sick patients taught me to grow up real fast. Or as I like to say – it taught me how to put my big girl pants on before going to work. Don’t get me wrong, I love the adrenaline rush of a gunshot wound to the neck in the middle of the night at one of the big trauma centers. But there is something about taking care of someone who knew you when you were in kingegarten that it satisfying and career-affirming. Or having a family thank you for saving their son’s life at a Christmas pageant. That is why I wanted to practice medicine. Not for the glory or the appreciation, but for the tangible sense that I am actually helping people. It is nice to realize that the 14 years I spent getting to this point wasn’t a waste. So it was cool to meet Rich, but even cooler to remember that even on the worst day, my job matters.