Friday, December 11, 2009

A quick trip to the ER 12.11.09

What would paradise be without a little bit of excitement thrown into the mix! After all….you can’t have only good happen or you wouldn’t appreciate it as much. And so it goes! After a wonderfully relaxing day after the long passage and a nice home-cooked dinner we were excited to go the next morning on the ‘jungle tour’ with our buddy boats. But things changed around 4:30am. I woke up with severe abdominal cramps, possibly the worst I have ever had, and immediate diarrhea. It was so bad that I didn’t bother crawling back over Michael to get to bed, I just laid down on the setee and waited until the next cramp. Michael was up & around by about 6am and I laid back in the back but knew I wasn’t going to be able to make the Jungle tour. Bummer!! If only I knew then that that was the worst of my problems! Haha…

I kept getting worse & worse. I was freezing while laying underneath two blankets (in the 80 degree temperature) and was sleeping fitfully, waking about every hour with intense cramps. Michael kept monitoring me, bringing me lots of liquids and taking my temperature which kept rising. After a while, I was no longer cold, I was burning up hot, my temperature topping off at 103.5, I was incredibly weak – enough that when I brought a water bottle up to my lips I would start shaking and come close to spilling, had a monstrous headache, and was just not well. What I know now was Michael was reporting all of my symptoms and updates to Deb on S/V Pacific Jade, a retired paramedic, and Mary Jane on S/V Grey Max who offered sage advice & assistance. At around 11:00, a tentative plan was formed to take the boat into the marina so, if needed, we could get to a doctor easier than jumping in the dinghy, landing the dinghy, walking to the bus stop, waiting for the bus, & finally finding a doctor in an unfamiliar town. I was oblivious to this plan as apparently they didn’t want me to worry, I was already scared. Deb radioed for ‘Jamma’, a local guy who monitors the radio and offers his assistance & information to cruisers and fishermen. Jamma was not available but Bob on S/V Crescendo answered the call. He was located in the marina and went up to the marina office to secure a slip for us & let them know of the situation. Once that was all settled he enlisted the help of Jennifer on S/V Ecotopia who had some medical knowledge to help with arranging a taxi to the hospital and help navigate the dealings at the hospital. Amazingly, the tentative plan became a grand plan…with lots of people helping.

Bill from S/V Grey Max brought Joe & Deb from S/V Pacific Jade over to the boat in his dinghy and dropped them off. They helped Michael move our boat from the anchorage in Mantanchen Bay into the marina in San Blas – it’s a two person job and I was worthless. Deb force fed (not really…it just felt like it! haha) lots of Gatorade during the hour or so ride into the marina because she said my pulse was very high. Once tied up at the dock, another cruiser, Jennifer from S/V Ecotopia came on board and explained that she had a taxi waiting at the top of the ramp and I was going to go to the hospital. I got up & dressed and was walked down the dock with assistance from Deb & Jennifer. We hadn’t checked into the marina, just tied up, & left everything. I was a bit self-conscience as there were people everywhere watching me! I wanted to get out of the limelight and even Jennifer said I may want to color my hair so no one knows it’s me as I get better! I was still lightheaded & weak but was doing pretty good. A local fisherman instructed the taxi to take us to his personal doctor in town first and if he couldn’t help we would go to the hospital. He then followed the taxi in his own truck to the Dr’s office, which was closed for siesta. So we hopped in the taxi who took us to the hospital. Once there, Jennifer went up & asked for a Doctor who spoke English. The local fisherman arrived a couple minutes later and went up to the desk to talk with the staff. Within minutes, we were ushered to the front of the building where he helped us figure out the system. It’s difficult for me already to understand & speak Spanish, it gets 100 times worse when I’m having trouble standing and am on the brink of blacking out! A nurse took my vitals, all while the doctor was standing ready for me. As soon as the vitals were done, I was taken to the exam room by the doctor who began his examination. He had a great sense of humor; ‘Does it feel like dogs fighting in your belly?’ and my personal favorite ‘You should go home & take a bath’. Turns out, it was a bacterial infection in the lower abdomen or as Michael says – bugs in my belly. The nurses gave me three injections while I was in the office & the Dr. prescribed an antibiotic, a pain medicine, & one for my fever. The Doctor stayed in the room and talked to me the entire time the nurses were injecting the meds, making sure I was OK. I sat in the waiting room as Michael went to pay the bill and Jennifer went to the pharmacy. Unfortunately the hospital pharmacy was closed so when we returned to the marina Jennifer enlisted help from the marina, who provided her both a pickup truck and a driver who drove her in town to another pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions. At the hospital, Jennifer tried hailing a taxi in front of the hospital in vain and, again, a stranger helped out & called one for us on his personal cell phone. We tried to give him a little something for his trouble but he wouldn’t accept anything but a Gracias. Back at the boat, I was exhausted but glad to be on the mend. The whole episode at the hospital took an hour, tops, and included no less than 10 cruisers, locals, & strangers coming together to get me the help I needed. What wonderful people I am surrounded by! I can’t tell you how blessed I am to be surrounded by such amazing friends & even people I don’t know, how grateful to be part of such an incredible community, & how humble I am to have been helped out so much.

Back at the docks while I was down sleeping, Jennifer appraised Jamma of the situation who jumped into action, making accommodations for me at the Naval Hospital, which is open 24/7 (the other one is not) just in case my situation did not improve. Again, wow.

OK…and the kicker? My ER visit was 50 pesos, or $4. If the pharmacy had been open, the medicines were included in that price. Since we went to another pharmacy they were 90 pesos, or $7.25. The total, including two taxi rides into town was a whopping $17.

Jennifer came over to the boat later in the evening to get an update on me. My temperature was down to just over 99 and I was feeling good enough to eat a bowl of plain rice. I slept the entire night.

Today I’m feeling a million times better than yesterday, although still not back to normal. I begin feeling normal and I do something energetic (like take a shower) and quickly realize just how weak and unsteady I still am. But what a difference 24 hours makes! I’m laying low though, not pushing it at all. I was just visited by a whole group of friends from the anchorage – Joe & Deb from S/V Pacific Jade, MJ & Bill from S/V Grey Max, Anne & Jeff from S/V Outrider, & Jay from S/V Location – who came by to check up on me & offer up some cheer, even bringing me flowers & a suncatcher to add some ‘sparkle’ until I get my spark back. We did not have the radio on in the morning but Jamma has a morning net and he told everyone of my situation and progress through the evening. But I'M FINE!! :-)

Laying low in San Blas…


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