Monday, April 20, 2009


I had the opportunity to do a Humanitarian trip to Alaska with the Air Force this March. It was a great trip. We sent medical teams of 8-12 people to a lot of the eskimo villages on the coast of the Bering Sea. It was a huge change in weather from southern CA to say the least. It hit 50 below with the windchill at times. We flew in black hawk helicopters...a couple of times the pilots would fly about 20 feet off the ground so they could follow the snowmobile trails because it was so hard to see from the blowing snow. We rode from the gym to the hangar in this cool looking cat track mobile. It could go surprisingly fast in really deep snow. I wanted to take it out for a test drive but of course they wouldn't let me. The medical team I was on consisted of a Navy Medical Doctor, Navy Nurse, Army Dentist, Air Force Dental Tech, an Air Force Optometry Tech and myself. We had a good team. We were able to treat a lot of patients that really needed some care. Some common themes regarding their vision: glaucoma, excess sun exposure problems, and lots of uncorrected near-sightedness. Most of the patients hadn't worn glasses for 5-10 years and when I checked their vision they were 20/400 without glasses. (20/400 is Extremely blurry) The village I was in was Newtok, they are Yupik eskimos. Most of what they eat they hunt themselves and almost all the women wore really cool fur coats that they would make themselves. One of the pictures below is a fur coat made entirely from squirrels. The other coat below has a fur hood made from fox, wolverine, and raccoon. Eating MRE's on the trip got old in a hurry. Although, one day out of nowhere I got a package of cherry nibs in an MRE, I could have sold them for good money but I like them too much and ate them all myself. The principal of the village school took the kids out at recess and made them chase the golf ball (colored black with a marker) he hit with a 3 wood. He liked giving the kids exercise. In the picture where I'm golfing I'm standing on about 6 feet of snow. The golf ball just rolled right on top of it. Although the principal had never golfed on a real course he had a pretty good swing. It was Muskox season while we were there. I had an emergency patient come in with a bleeding/black eye. She had just shot a muskox and scoped the heck out of herself. I told her I would fix it for her only if she let me take a picture of her muskox.