Last October, I saw an older man in the Emergency Department who had collapsed while surfing due to cardiac arrest; essentially, his heart had stopped in the middle of a wave.  He was rescued by some teenagers who had witnessed his fall and had the wherewithal (and training) to paddle him in to the shore, start CPR, and call an ambulance. The paramedics were able to restart his heart. By the time I saw him at the hospital, he was awake, and although quite sandy and disorientated, very much alive.   It’s an amazing story, one that just doesn’t happen in medicine outside of Hollywood.  

I ran into him this week in the parking lot at one of our local breaks as he was getting his wetsuit on, getting ready for a surf.  He didn’t recognize me, but I certainly recognized him. We spoke at length about health and life in general. He has connected with the young local surfers who saved his life, who it turns out had learned the lifesaving skills at the surf and rescue club that supports our community here in Wainui (the same club that my kids attended all summer long).  He’s still coming to grips with what happened to him, and the long term implications of his heart condition. But for now, the overwhelming feeling of gratitude every time he drives by the club or sees the young guards training on the beach is his focus.  

Recently I’ve been trying in my head to put a bow on this year, and as with my inability to form a well reasoned explanation for why we came, I’m having a difficult time pulling it all together.  It’s hard to have perspective around milestones as they are happening, around decisions made, for better or worse. But something really cool happened this year. It is clear to me that the kids get it, and we’ve enjoyed watching them gain insight and perspective into this experience; even Julien in his own little way has expressed his appreciation for his school and community.  All three kids have been so brave this year.

And so I’m going to focus on the here and now, and recognize that for which I am so grateful this past year.  

  • I’m grateful for having a wife who pulled me along and allowed this crazy idea of ours to become a reality.   
  • I’m grateful for my colleagues at the hospital; the nurses, support staff, paramedics, fellow physicians, and patients who’ve made my year at the hospital so rewarding.   
  • I’m grateful for our community here in Gisborne, especially for the teachers, coaches, and fellow parents who have taken an active interest in the lives of our children and made them feel welcomed here.   
  • I’m grateful for our friends and family back home who have kept track of our mail, our pets, our house, and kept track of us!  

As our family closes this chapter of our lives, we are starting a new one back in Washington.  It honestly feels just as much a new beginning as it does the end of our time here, with a new job opportunity and new perspectives on our American life, for all of us.  

I’ve never been much for goodbyes, and this time is no different. As much as I’ll miss Gisborne, there is a real comfort in knowing that this place is here, that my family can thrive here, and believing that another New Zealand chapter could very well be part of our story if we so choose.   For now, there is much to look forward to in preparation for our return home!

Jesse Irwin

Jesse Irwin

It's Jesse. I'm an emergency physician and healthcare leader, a Navy veteran, a father of three children, and until recently a land-locked Washingtonian with dreams of living on the ocean. I'm also a Luddite and an unapologetic introvert. But I'm going to give you, my family and friends, and this blog my best attempt at sharing my experiences here in Gisborne.
Jesse Irwin

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