Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ice Bound Adventure

I love the idea of adventure.

Traveling to remote places. Meeting people with entirely different backgrounds, languages and customs.

I want to learn, and hear people’s stories. I want to discover new things about myself in the process. I want to go places – about everywhere, actually – and see how different places around the globe are alike and different, and help people. But definitely places non-polar.

So last week when I picked up Ice Bound off my small-town library’s shelf, I surprised myself when I put it at the top of the pile of three books I selected for check-out. The story of a doctor looking for something new, a challenge where she could contribute intrigued me – and still intrigues me. Ice Bound, published in 2001, relays Ohio native Dr. Jerri Nielsen’s experience practicing medicine under a dome on the South Pole.

The pages share much more than that, though. In it, the doctor paints a picture of the mental and sociological aspects of living in a closed community of 41. Poetry jam sessions, theme parties, terse e-mails, and the brutality, beauty and isolation of the South Pole and Antarctica.

Stories of snowmobile rides and an outing exploring the previous South Pole station with her friends showed me how what I read wasn’t a story. These weren’t characters. They are people.

Nielsen tells of her love for her little hospital and the hands-on community medicine she practiced, and I found I loved it, too. She made medicines. She trained others for backup, and for emergencies requiring more than one set of hands.

She revealed how she looked forward to, and experienced, the dark night that stretched for months. Nielsen somehow coaxed me into sharing her mixed feelings when the sun rose again, bringing days with no night at all. Another surprise, considering I am confident I would suffer from seasonal affect disorder if I lived in Seattle, let alone on the South Pole.

But she also expressed her fear and questions and explained her limited medical options when a lump she found in her breast turned out to be cancerous. The discovery came after the dome station was closed to outside flights for the winter. Her courage, her friends’ and co-workers’ ability to help her, and the way the Polies teamed up and took advantage of 1999 technology to help her impressed me, and touched my heart.

What a remarkable group of people. To get through such an experience, I’d have to be like King Hezekiah. Shoot, to get through day-to-day, I need to cling to my Maker.

Hezekiah put his whole trust in the God of Israel. There was no king quite like him, either before or after. He held fast to God—never loosened his grip—and obeyed to the letter everything God had commanded Moses. And God, for his part, held fast to him through all his adventures. 2 Kings 18:5, The Message

Even as summer invites us from around the corner, this true story set on the South Pole, promises to be a great beach read. The 90 degree F temperatures outside might not seem so oppressive, when you read about a setting of -90 degree F. Enjoy.

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