Wednesday, January 28, 2009

APPENDICITIS! but all ends well

Doug’s feeling a little indigestion, but he’s ready to leave Isla Mujeres. So we bobble our way downwind along the coast of Quintana Roo, staying so close to the reef we can mostly see it break, because that’s where the two-knot-against-us current isn’t. Offshore we can also see the sportfishers working the big drop out from 100-meters, so it doesn’t really matter that the charts are minimally detailed. We know where we aren’t and it’s a good day to be doing exactly what we’re doing.

But Doug finally says, I think we’d better stop at Puerto Moreles. Yes, sir! We anchor, he sleeps, all curled up, takes the occasional charcoal pill, one of the half dozen over-the-counter remedies that constitute our ‘medical kit’, takes a shower, sleeps, and moans, and sleeps. Next morning springs to life, immediately wilts.

Ashore I located El Centro de Salud, open and not busy. Bad sign (and good) Doug, in substantial pain, is ready to go there right away. I’ve been parsing symptoms from a yard sale medical dictionary and believe we’re steaming towards appendectomy. The clinic doctora concurred.

Within the hour we were in a taxi bouncing towards a private hospital, Hospital Americano, in Cancun, recommended by a man we met on the street who spoke English and thought the public hospital would be too busy and other private hospitals too expensive. Isn’t that how you make all your decisions too?

It’s a job site, busted concrete in buckets and rebar sticking out of the walls, but the Urgencia door is open and we’re ushered into a reception room by a concerned woman who, with little formality, listens to our broken Spanish, orders a blood test and an ultrasound. Forces are marshalling around us, including English-speakers and a gastrointestinal surgeon (in Dockers!).

Yes, they say, the appendix. Doug collapses into a wheelchair which goes up the elevator into room 309, clean, plain, simple, clean. There’s protocol, first this, then this, which I find reassuring. Doug gets an IV, the surgical team gets phone calls, and there’s business protocol too, a swipe of my Visa card and a Hail-Mary phone call to Maryland’s Carefirst international Blue Card division, who offers translation service and ‘medical guidance’ but who knows what else?

Well, I’m exceeding my allotted page per view, so I’ll cut to the chase. The organ had ruptured, but by about 6 PM it was gone forever and Doug had been fitted with a gasket and a drainage bag, plus a couple of small ‘puncture wounds’. I didn’t even know removal would be laparascopic until it already was! We both slept to the comforting sound of the IV pump.

Next day I shanghaied a cruiser off the street (good thing we’re all so easy to spot!) for help moving the boat to a mooring behind a seawall in a marina - one less thing to worry about. The cruising community is wonderful in that, and many other, respects.

And I must say, this hospital was just right for us – a small family-style place, not corporate, B&B rather than resort. Records were handwritten, or typed, not a computer in sight (except in accounting!), but so what? The ultrasound was there, the IV drip machine (that half the nurses were too short to hang bags onto), the laparascopic whatever in the operating room. Carefulness and good intent was in the air, plus the surgeon had done hundreds of appendectomies. We didn’t know any of this in the beginning, and maybe should have found out, but how?

Eventually it became almost fun. The nurses trained Doug to report pee-pee and poo-poo. Soup and jello came from the cafeteria downstairs. Doug shuffled around on ‘paseo’ with his skinny wheeled ‘novia’ firmly clinging to his arm, watched TV (whole ‘nother story there, and not pretty!) and slept all he wanted.

Dealing with medical emergency is not a situation you can ever really prepare for, or, if you felt satisfactorily armed, you’d have so little liberty left, why bother? So I’m sticking to my general world view, which is that the orbit of Galivant and her crew intersects with many other unseen orbits and cycles, Halley and Hale-Bopp, shipwreck and disease, but also benevolence and good fortune, all distributed despite us (my inner Calvinist is overriding the Buddhist here).

We had a near miss from a perilous encounter, but maybe now we’ve paid our current ’bad luck tax’ and we’ll get back to normal life ASAP. Doug said that if he had actually died, it would have been doing something he wanted to do, sailing in Mexico.

I just wish I could stop that sympathetic throbbing in my own iliac quadrant!

Normal programming resumes shortly.


Andy said...

Hi Ann and Doug,
Best wishes to you both. Give DOug my best. I am happy that you were not too far offshore to get Doug to Medical Care. All is well in Stevensville, you missed out on a small ice storm. Still have only had a couple inches of snow this winter. We had at one point 2-3 inches of ice on the creek, which may have supported Doug's weight, though not mine. Safe travels and I look forward to hearing about more exciting adventures.

Tim W said...

Greatly relieved that Doug is recovering,and that you were fortunate in the timing. Getting sick in a foreign place is no fun, but you seemed to have fetched up in a good place for a bad thing to happen.

Stay safe, stay warm!

bevbs said...

Hello Doug and Ann,
It's good to hear that Brother Doug is back on the Galivant minus one appendix. Remind him of the fact that Mother always wanted him to sail within site of land. Ofcourse this is around the same time that Doug threatened to have a fly tatooed on the end of his nose. Ann, I told you that he would do anything to get out of work.

TomP41 said...

Hi you guys

Glad to hear all turned out well, makes you think what would have happened if you had been further off shore!

Like when I had the heart attack in 1992, I was with Ethel at the Safeway on the island and not far from help or I would not be writing this.

Wish you both good health and fun travels in the future. Keep the Blog going!


di said...

Hi Ann and Doug,

I know I'm belated in my accolades for your wonderful blog. Very impressive and it will be such a nice way to keep in touch and hear about your travels. I hope you don't always have such drama to report! But you seem to be as good a navigator of the medical system as you are the high seas. Our best to both of you, and hope Doug is feeling much better.


bob and nancy said...

"It's not how you plan things, but how you react to things that happen along the way"

Sally said...

Hi Doug and Ann. What a shock to hear about this. I actually heard from Jennifer Seiler down in Antigua. Not sure how she found out. The old jungle drums. Doug, thank heavens you were not 3 days out on the ocean. Can you imagine! Also just think what you could have spent that $2,500 on for the boat and not having your hospital stay! Hopefully Blue Cross is reimbursing you.

Almost makes me want to have my appendix ripped out before our next voyage...... We are very relieved to hear you are now okay.

All well here. We are bored out of our minds at home. We went down to our boat this afternoon and just wandered around it longingly. It's been very cold here. Our last electric bill for our small house was $470! Tom has been running heat in the garage (his cave) making a lovely book shelf for our back room. So it is turning out to be an expensive piece of furniture!

All the best guys. Keep well and stay safe. Keep up the blog. Love Sally and Tom Schubert.