Friday, March 2, 2018 – Old Man Winter…..


It’s March; so of course it’s that time again to be traveling halfway around the globe, back to the lush Ngorongoro Highlands and wonderful Tanzania. But first, the weather Gods, who weren’t quite satisfied to call it quits on winter, decided to play one last practical joke on the East Coast, and particularly Philadelphia. They had called for high winds today, so I knew it would be a bit of a struggle on my bike as I had planned to work the day and head home early to catch my 8:15pm flight out of Philadelphia International Airport to Doha. What I hadn’t planned on, though, were the particularly brutal hurricane force winds that swirled from every direction imaginable. Add to that the steady downfall of huge, wet snowflakes accumulating throughout the day and you have the perfect formula for a dreaded nor’easter pummeling the city, and of particular interest to me, the airport.

As I sat in our touch down space in the Perelman Center waiting for my patients to show and I looked out the huge picture windows at the incredible near white-out conditions with the snow blowing sideways at times only to give way to huge updrafts sending the flakes vertical as if trying aimlessly to reach back to the moisture laden clouds high above. The skyline of the city with its tall skyscrapers lost in a blanket of fluffy white sat in the distance.

Looking out from the Perelman Center towards CHOP

I had finished seeing patients in clinic and had also finished most of my charts (one or two still to go) along with patient calls by around 3pm. With the storm still blowing like mad and blanketing the sidewalks and bike lanes with snow, I decided to put on my rain gear that I had ridden in with in the morning, and brave the elements. At about the same time, the University had decided to close, releasing all their employees onto the already crowded streets of University City and downtown. Riding in the snow is always a challenge, but adding to that the 80-mile-per-hour wind gusts that were coming from all directions and the ride home became one that was more about survival than anything else. Trees had come down in all the neighborhoods nearby, damaging cars and homes, and I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get a ride to the airport as they wouldn’t be able to reach me. When my driver finally arrived, there was six inches of water at the curbside so he pulled around the corner. I opened the back door of his car and a sudden gust of wind ripped out the bottom hinge of the door so it wouldn’t close without some fancy finagling to line things up again, all the while with snow blowing in the car. Once closed, though, we were on our way and traffic was surprisingly light as anyone with an ounce of sense in their head was home safe watching the storm from the comfort of their sofa. Not me, of course.

My doorstep with six inches of water at the curb

The flight out of Philly that we had originally booked before the first of the year had been changed to now depart in the evening, 12 hours later, meaning that our layover in Doha, which had previously been a convenient several hours, was now an unwieldy 16 hours. Thankfully, Qatar Airways, in an attempt to increase tourism in their country, had offered to give us all hotels in the city for the night so we would have a free mini vacation in the city of Doha, albeit a very short one at that. Now, though, my flight will very likely be delayed by at least several hours cutting drastically into my time in the modern Kasbah of Qatar. So, much to the pleasure of my readers, if not to me, I have plenty of time to peck on my very first post of 2018, knowing that there will be plenty more to follow.

This will be the largest group of residents that have traveled to FAME with me alone. Though we did have a larger group from Penn in October 2015, when Danielle Becker had brought the EEG machine, along with a fellow and an EEG tech, they worked as a separate unit and were there for a shorter period of time. We have our usual schedule set up with our FAME Neurology Clinic for several days next week and then six days the following week when we will see the bulk of our patients. That will be followed by our Neurology Mobile Clinic where we travel to some of the local villages in the Karatu district where patients have a harder time getting to FAME or aren’t aware that they have something treatable. We’ll have our normal schedule of “Safari Sundays” so that everyone will have a chance to experience the diverse wildlife and topography of Northern Tanzania. And, of course, we’ll make sure to have a few scrumptious meals at Gibb’s Farm or one of the other local lodges where we are treated to five-star meals at some of the most spectacular locations imaginable for a reduced fare based on the work we are doing there. I can’t wait to share all of this with the new group accompanying me and always look forward to introducing them to the wonderful culture of Tanzania.

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