Ólafur Ólafsson

Reprimanded by the Surgeon General

When running an inpatient surgical ward there is a constant struggle to get the patients home after operations. There is, of course, some reasonable length of stay needed for serious matters etc. However, from my point of view some of my patients could go home sooner than they themselves wanted. There were all kinds of ploys used to hasten their discharge, but the opposition had some tricks up its sleeve, too. For instance, when I would do the rounds on Monday, I expected that someone would be able to go home on Wednesday. So, I would suggest discharge on a Tuesday. Then when the patient began to balk I would suggest: „Well ok tomorrow then,” and everybody was happy. The hospital had a library and the patients used it in their convalescent period (Icelanders are a literate bunch). Then I had the following rule to lighten the atmosphere in the wards where there were a number of patients together. Of course, the patients preferred the romantic genre of books, for example, the Red Series (Fabian bare chested, etc.). The rule: Whenever a book like that was spotted on a patient’s nightstand, they would be unceremoniously discharged (or an attempt would be made on the basis of the evidence).  If you can read that stuff you are ready to go home,right. And It would happen that this did not go over too well.

Ólafur Ólafsson

Ólafur Ólafsson

At that time, we had a Surgeon General of Iceland Ólafur Ólafsson, who was and still is a crusty old guy. He sported bushy white hair, and his equally bushy eyebrows were in the Santa Claus class. He was at the tail end of his career at that time. His voice was deep and gravely, and had he been an American he would have been reading the voice overs in the Whiskey and Cigarette commercials. He probably would have put James Earl Jones out of the voice work. As Surgeon General he has a great sense of humor and the ability to see the absurd and funny in just about any setting. He was always a champion for the patients and their rights, and was never a tame tool for the politicians – he was a very unconventional civil servant. He gave me invaluable advice: “Jonas, just be yourself.”

Contrast him with the Suits and apparatchiki that we have met through our lives.

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=suit

Author‘s addition to the definitions: A Suit – a civil servent totally devoid of any charm, humor or even a face.

Ólafur could be a handful, especially when he called in the middle of the night (he is a night owl) to discuss some pressing issue. You are fast asleep in some happy dream and then “It is Ólafur” and you began thinking – it must be some damn volcanic eruption. When he was still working, his offices were next to the square where the homeless and unfortunate souls of Reykjavik congregated. To his credit, he always kept a protective eye on his neighbors and tended to their needs. When he retired he palmed them off to another humanist doctor. I just love this guy for lots of reasons.

Now, one of my patients got offended by my Red Series comment and made a formal complaint to the surgeon general. Such a matter needed to be resolved and resolved it was.

I got a formal reprimand letter from the Surgeon General’s Office stating (loosely translated):

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Reprimand

 

It has come to the Surgeons General’s notice that you have been joking around with your patients during the morning rounds.

It is decided by the Surgeon General that you are not to joke around with your patients.

 

Signed

Ólafur Ólafsson

 

P.S. Unless they have the same sense of humor that the Surgeon General has.

P.P.S. It is forbidden to divulge the content of this letter.

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I contacted Ólafur on my last visit to Iceland and he released me from the ban.

 

I am sure that gorvernments and especially the populations the world over are be better served by persons such as Ólafur as compared to their empty, talking Suits.

 

 

 

 

 

Ready to go

Casting course in Iceland

Icelandic Medical Association centennial – fly casting course

In the fall of 2017 I got an email from IMA’s president asking me to teach a fly casting course to Icelandic doctors. The IMA is celebrating its centennial this year, and the president thought it a good idea to introduce some play into the pomp. I was all for it and started to organize the course. Indoor or outdoor is the first dilemma. Outdoor is a better option generally if we could have some other weather than Icelandic, but it is the only one we have there in the subarctic.  There is a near constant area of low-pressure area at our latitudes called the Icelandic low.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_Low

We Icelanders never use that word or acknowledge the low’s existence because it is just too damn depressing. Denial is a robust defense mechanism. However, all phone calls between Icelanders start with “How is the weather?”

So, outdoors was not feasible. To get anything done in Iceland it must be before spring (if there will be one that year at all). When the days get longer, and temperatures get into double digits (Centigrade) the natives go nuts. It is impossible to plan anything because now everyone is so busy living and enjoying life – scheduling a course then would be utter folly. In the summers it is even worse to get together a group of people. So, March indoor it was. We secured a good size gym and announced the course, and all the spots we had available were promptly filled. Forty-five persons booked and 42 showed up. What I was most pleased with was that 15 ladies participated. Some of them were intermediate and some beginners at fly casting. Unfortunately, fly casting gatherings can get to look like a Trump rally at times. We need to attract young people and more females into the mix.

Stefán keeping an eye on Gunnar - Guðbjörg doing fine

Stefán keeping an eye on Gunnar – Guðbjörg doing fine

Gubjörg bringing the rod tip too far back i.e. wristing

Gubjörg bringing the rod tip too far back i.e. wristing

I have discovered that it is far easier to teach females to propel the fly than males. Females do not resort to brute strength and are much more limber. They also listen better than males and pay attention. There are some great female casters, and Joan Wulff was the best of both sexes for a spell – her accomplishments were not built on power (Ms. Wulff is still teaching, and her books are great). Usually it takes up to an hour to break down a male and get his attention.  Starting out they use far more power than they ever need, and the speed they use is excessive. So, the first hour goes like this: “Slow down – slow down – are you deaf – slow down. God dammit, slow down. Less power – less power – have you got a seizure?” I do not know for certain why males behave this way – I think it might be the testosterone marinade that we males live in. However, when they slow down and go gently a big smile is usually our reward. “Wow I could feel that.” – is the refrain – meaning they felt the rod unload in their hand (a bent rod straightens and counter flexes and then straightens again – you will feel a slight kick in your hand – called unloading). The term casting is perhaps inappropriate. There is no follow through of the hand as when we throw a stone, and we stop the rod tip high – it is the rod tip that propels the line forward – the caster only bends the rod tip with his motion.

Gunnar and Stefán

Gunnar and Stefán

Þorgerður doing the triangle exercise

Þorgerður doing the triangle exercise

Many ways to skin a cat

An old friend of mine Stefan B Hjaltested was a co-instructor, and we got along very well. He did teach differently than I do, but we both got the same results in the same amount of time. He did not use any technical terms – do this – no do not do that etc. – was his way. His approach is “teach them like they are children.” This only proves that there are many ways to skin a cat.

All in all, we taught for 30 hours and we hope that our students had as much fun as we had.

We also hope that all our students learned a lot and will diligently practice new tricks before their future fishing trips.

Pictures – Davíð Valdimarsson