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Cracking up at the Chat and Chill the weekend before Chris left us.

 

Internet service in the Bahamas being what it is, sketchy at best, anyone who regularly reads this blog can readily see that the past two posts here have been rushed.  That has been to simply catch up the blog in a fairly brief manner.  We are now back in the US, Harbor Town Marina in Dania Beach/Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to be exact.  Below is why we are here.

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Our Bahamas courtesy flag upon being removed when Freedom left.  Not really indicative, but showing the wear of a season of winter blows in the Exumas.

On Wednesday, March 2nd, overnight as we slept, and sleeping as Chuck and I do, with our feet intertwined, I most assuredly noticed that Chuck’s left leg was cold.  It wasn’t cool, it was cold…so cold that during the night when I noticed it I asked him if he’d been sleeping with that leg from beneath the cover.  He mumbled something, and the both of us went back to sleep.  The next day I remarked how cold his leg had felt the night before and how in the almost ten years we’ve been sleeping together, always with our feet and lower legs together, I’d never, ever felt his leg cold like that.  As we breakfasted, I felt his leg with my hand and it was still ice cold.  He said he didn’t know why it was cold, it didn’t hurt, he said, and we essentially blew it off.

Chuck has somewhat of a history of blood clots in both of his legs, particularly his left one.  Something I’ve known about since we met.  Some sixteen or seventeen years ago he was actually hospitalized with them.  His doctors started him on blood thinners and the clotting issue resolved.  He takes blood thinning medication religiously and regularly has blood test to check that out.  However, on several occasions over the years he’s had flare ups with his legs requiring adjustments to his medication but nothing serious, the issues always resolving themselves within a day or so.

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Freedom at anchor in Leaf Cay, Northern Exumas…photo by Rod Casto.

The next day, Thursday, March 3rd, he indicated that his leg was a “little sore” but just a little and no big deal.  I once again remarked at how cold his leg felt.  Aside from his left leg feeling cold and a bit sore, he seemed, and said, he felt fine.  I asked him if he thought it might be a blood clot and he replied that he didn’t think so.

And, the next day, Friday, March 4th, at breakfast, he once again mentioned that his leg was sore – more painful than the day before – and said that I may be right, it might be a blood clot.  His leg, though a normal pink color, was still cold to the touch.  We did what we’ve done in the past and just monitored it…but the seriousness factor went up a notch or two.

Over the weekend, his leg became increasingly more painful, but he continued to minimize the situation…as my concern began to increase exponentially. 

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View of anchorage as seen from St. Francis Resort on Stocking Island.

A couple of weeks prior to all of this, our crew, Chris, left the boat; it was time and he was glad to get back to Texas.  In the meantime, Larry McCart, yet another friend we met on our Cuba trip, was invited (and accepted) our invitation to help us crew Freedom on down island to Puerto Rico.  He was set to fly in to Georgetown the following Monday, March 6th

On that Monday, I met Larry in Georgetown (while Chuck stayed on the boat) and we took the water taxi back across the channel to Stocking Island where the boat was anchored.  Once Larry was on the boat and squared away, all three of us took the dinghy to Chat and Chill for some grilled fish and a few beers.  We both liked Larry a whole lot and were looking forward to catching up with him.

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Chat and Chill, Stocking Island, Georgetown, Bahamas

As we beached the dink and got out, Chuck had to sit down at a table on the beach, unable to complete the thirty or forty yard walk on up to the bar…his leg hurt too much to continue.  It was at that moment my concern pegged in the red.  Chuck is a big, tall, strong-as-an-ox man who never complains about pain (or really anything) and if his leg hurt him too much to walk a hundred feet or so in the sand I knew something very unusual was developing.

That Monday night as we turned into bed, Chuck could not get in any position that was comfortable.  He read in the salon for most of the night, getting only three hours of sleep because his leg hurt so much.  I tried to get him to go to the local clinic but he felt the doctors would not be able to do anything…his leg remained cold.  Stubborn as a mule, I couldn’t get him to go…Tuesday dawned and for lack of a better term, he just gutted it out in obvious pain.  And, I became more worried by the second.  At this point, I’m not sure Larry fully appreciated the situation, through no fault of his own.  Again, Chuck doesn’t complain.

Tuesday night, March 7th, Chuck didn’t sleep even an hour.  He would come to bed, toss and turn for a few minutes, then go back and read in the salon for a few minutes, then back to bed, and then repeat…all night long.  I didn’t sleep either; it was decision time, and I was going to make the decision.  I’d never seen my husband in such shape.

Now, knowing Chuck as I do, I knew one of the primary reasons he was trying to put on his best face was that he didn’t want to disappoint either me or Larry, for you see on Thursday, just two days later, we were set to depart for Puerto Rico…along with two other sailboats.  Well over a year was to culminate in our departure for PR and the Caribbean.  I didn’t care!  Tuesday night I made the decision that we were going to seek medical help somewhere, and the next day.

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Another view of the anchorage as seen from the monument at Monument Beach, Stocking Island.

We were not going to be going to Puerto Rico until my husband was together.

Early Wednesday morning, March 8th, around 0530 Chuck and I discussed it.  I told him the trip to PR was offperiod.  I told him there was no way we were going to head out the next day on a 650 mile passage, much of it in open water with almost no good bail-out point, with his leg in the pain it was.  I said that we would either go to the local clinic, back to the states, or anywhere he liked but we were going to get medical attention now.  I told him that, like him, I hated to disappoint Larry (who had flown in at his expense to crew for us) but that I would square that away as best I could.  We were going to go somewhere and see a doctor and that was all it was to it.  Chuck put up little resistance to my stance…he knew I’d made up my mind and that was that.  He said to let him think about it for a few minutes.  I said he could, but just for a few minutes.  Larry woke up and in the cockpit over a cup of coffee I broke the news to him that the PR trip was simply out of the question.  Larry, being the gentleman and just stand-up guy he is, completely understood.

After the coffee, I went below decks and Chuck immediately indicated we needed to take him to the clinic as soon as possible.  His urgency to go to a doctor ASAP only increased my worry; in all the years I’d known him he’d never been that insistent.  We hailed the water taxi on VHF 16 and while we waited for its arrival I helped Chuck get his shoes on, his leg now in excruciating pain.  As I helped him get his shoes on both feet were pink and looked healthy.  It was late morning.

The water taxi took us across the channel to Georgetown, we hailed a taxi there to take us to the local medical clinic.  The check in at the clinic was fairly quick but seemed agonizingly slow.  Chuck’s blood pressure was sky high 195/95, his pulse was 75.  When we finally saw the doctor she examined his foot and immediately said she could do nothing for him; she diagnosed a blood clot but they had neither an ultrasound, nor a lab that could check his blood viscosity/clotting, an INR, it’s called.  His foot, still pink, was examined and she ordered an EKG.  He was moved to another room for the EKG and he was given an injection for pain.  His EKG was normal.

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Freedom, on left, at anchor, in Elizabeth Harbor, Stocking Island, Exumas.

Before he had the EKG he had to once again remove his shoes; he did so but his feet were quickly put under a blanket to keep him warm in the rather cool room.  The doctor came back into the room for a final consult just as he removed his feet from the blanket to put his shoes back on. 

I saw it first.  His foot from the ankle down, in the course of about an hour, had turned from a normal pink caste to the nastiest shade of black/blue one can imagine.  His foot looked dead, seriously.  I was shocked, totally shocked, speechless.  I’d never seen anything like that before.  Almost at the same time the doctor noticed his black/blue foot.  I didn’t know what was happening but did know that things were going from bad to the very worst with every minute.

When the doctor noticed his black foot her demeanor took a day to night turn.  Before his foot turned black her attitude was that the issue was serious, we needed to get to Nassau, she’d suggest we do so pretty quickly, etc.…in other words, it was serious, but not that serious, but it should be checked very soon.  After his foot turned black she shifted into urgent mode…he needed to get to Nassau right away, without delay…she actually called Sky Bahamas Airline from his room to arrange an immediate flight booking him on one of their five scheduled daily flights to Nassau.  As it turned out by this time it was 1330…there was a flight out at 1430.  We had to be on it she said.

Things began to move swiftly.

She handed us a referral, the clinic called a cab, and we rushed to the airport.  I purchased a ticket, handed it to Chuck, kissed him goodbye, and they wheeled him in a wheel chair through security.  Torn, I could not go with him, having to stay with our boat/home…Larry was just not familiar enough with our big Tayana to leave him alone with her…I had to go back to the boat.  It killed me to do so.

Back at the boat, I used our Bahama cell phone to call John “Bahama John” Wells in Nassau.  Explained the situation and asked him if he could meet Chuck at the airport and get him to the private Doctors Hospital as soon as humanly possible…he said he would (and did).

In the cockpit, Larry, asked me if he could fix me a drink…I told him he could.  I held up well for the next several hours as my friend fed me Screwdrivers…while we waited for Chuck to call from the hospital with news.  Around 2030 he indeed called.

Chuck’s call from the hospital, and the fact that he was at least OK enough to call was great…it was good to hear his voice.  But then he gave me the news.  He said that they had given him more medication for pain.  But, most importantly, he was at that very moment waiting to go into surgery to remove the clots…he had massive arterial blockage in his left leg…and, shockingly, that the doctor told him there was a “high chance” they could save his foot.  To me, a “high chance” of being able to save his foot was another way of saying to me there was a decent chance they might have to amputate his left foot.  This was a way, way serious thing and I was stunned.  I told Chuck, honestly, that if they had to take his foot I didn’t care, I didn’t care about cruising, the trip we’d just missed to PR, anything.  Just have them do whatever they would have to do to get him healthy…the only thing that mattered to me was that Chuck would be OK down the road somewhere…him losing his foot was in some way distant second place behind him losing his life.  We talked, said our goodbyes, and then hung up.

I went topsides, told Larry about the conversation, and then, overwhelmed, finally broke down in tears, completely overwhelmed.  Larry did the best thing he could have, he just set there with me while I cried.

Eventually, I recovered.  Larry went to his cabin.  And, I called Sarah, our daughter, to fill her in.  During the phone call, our Bahamian cell phone used up all of our minutes.  Now there was no way for the hospital to call me or, worse, for me to call the hospital.  Then, shortly after, our cell phone internet “hot spot” also went out, having used up all its data.  I was in the dark, with no way to contact anyone about the status of my love.  It was a rough night, not hearing, not knowing…and being isolated from everyone.

The next morning, around 0630, Justin Smith, Captain of SV Jasaru, one of the boats we were to go to PR with, came over early to say goodbye.  He knew Chuck was going to have surgery, we’d radioed him the afternoon before to tell him we’d not be going to PR with them after all.  I knew he had a cell phone, asked him to use it and of course he immediately turned it over to me.  I called the hospital.

After a few transfers by the hospital I finally got the Charge Nurse in ICU where Chuck was.  Almost hating to hear her answer, I asked how he was doing and how the surgery had gone.  She said it had gone fine, the clots had been removed, and that he was doing OK and would I like to speak to him.  I did, but before I answered I asked her the dreaded question…did they have to amputate his foot.  She said “Nooooooooooooo…they just removed the clots, his foot is going to be just fine.”  Amusingly now, her answer to the question was almost as if she thought it was silly to even ask.  She then transferred me to his room.

Chuck sounded great.  The surgery had lasted just over five hours, finishing around 0300 that Thursday morning.  He’d only just awakened but felt good, no pain in leg from the clot.  But the surgery itself consisted of six separate incision, each 4”-6” long, starting at the femoral artery in his groin, two on branches of the femoral artery on the inside of his leg, one on the inside of his ankle, one on top of his foot, and one, a fasciotomy, of the outside of his left calf.  He sounded good but was still groggy from surgery.  We hung up; I would call him later after I recharged the minutes on our cell phone.

Over the weekend we talked a lot.  I tried to get flights out to Nassau but every single flight was booked on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday…Monday ended up being the earliest I could fly to Nassau to see him.  As it turned out and as the weekend progressed,  he was to be released that following Monday, March 13th.  So, I flew up that Monday and together we returned to Georgetown. 

Chuck was unable to get on and off of the boat so we rented a room at the Peace and Plenty Hotel in Georgetown.  When Chuck and I got back to Georgetown that Monday afternoon, we took a taxi to Peace and Plenty, having them let us off at their front entrance.  As we had not had lunch, we stopped in their restaurant and had dinner.  After, we had a very short walk to our room.  Chuck, walking with the aid of a cane given to him by the hospital, could barely make it there.  I was terrified he’d pass out on the way; once we did get inside of our room, he collapsed on the bed exhausted.

When we were given the post op instructions by the nurse at Doctors Hospital we were given the equivalent of huge band-aids and two boxes of 4’ X 4” gauze pads.  We were told that the six incisions would “weep” and that that was a good thing.  The weeping was caused by damage and swelling to Chuck’s leg muscles due to the cut off of blood supply by the clots.  The nurse said that such weeping would be quite easy to see on the band-aid like bandages. 

Already nervous as a cat over the entire ordeal, as soon as my husband caught his breath I insisted on looking at the bandages to see if such weeping was occurring.  Five of the band-aids looked fine, but the one on the outside of his calf was weeping to the extent that the entire bandage was wet to the touch.  Chuck asked me to change that bandage out…I was happy to do so.

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Fasciotomy incision with sutures that let go…outside of left calf.  Also shown is the incision on top of left ankle.  On the inside of the left ankle under the ankle bone is the site of the “money” incision.

Upon removing the huge band-aid and gauze from that incision site I was stunned to see that every single suture on the incision had popped loose.  We weren’t getting any breaks at all with this, and we needed one.  I replaced the bandage as instructed by the nurse and then immediately got on the phone to Nassau in an effort to gain some sort of guidance. 

First I tried to call the surgeon but was unable to get anyone on the line.  I then called Doctors Hospital and talked to the charge nurse in ICU…who seemed to be familiar with Chuck (he’d been on her floor for five days).  After explaining in detail the situation as I saw it, the charge nurse said that “if it (incision) hasn’t come open it should be OK.”  That wasn’t good enough for me, but was resigned that until I could talk to the surgeon’s office the next day there wasn’t much I could do. 

I didn’t sleep that night either.

The next day, Tuesday, March 14th, I called the surgeon’s office right as they opened.  Once again I explained the trip home, busted stitches, etc.  The surgeon’s nurse said the best thing to do was to take Chuck to the Georgetown Clinic and have them restitch the wound.  Within an hour we were at the clinic, but they very much took their time.  For reasons I don’t recall, I needed to get back to the boat and check on things.  I left Chuck, took a taxi back to Georgetown, got on a water taxi, and rode to the boat.  Took care of whatever the urgency was on the boat.  Took the water taxi back to Georgetown, and then a taxi back to the clinic.  All as fast as I could.

When I got back to the clinic, I found Chuck in one of the exam rooms in the process of having his entire leg bandaged. 

I asked him if they re-sutured his leg.  He said they had not.  He said there was quite the flurry of activity while I was gone.  It turns out that when the Georgetown physician saw his leg she was not particularly comfortable with what she saw.   She photographed the open wound and sent it to the surgeon in Nassau.  They then talked on the phone at which time it was decided to leave the wound open, the sutures apparently had let go due to moderate swelling due to the surgery in general.  They agreed between them that Chuck would need to go back to the clinic every other day (until his follow up appointment with the surgeon in Nassau), and have the nurses at the clinic clean and re-bandage his surgical wounds.  Chuck’s follow up appointment was for the following Monday, March 20th, so, on the following Thursday and Saturday, we went to the clinic to have his bandages changed.  The only incision that was actually weeping was the one in which the sutures had let go.

This story is not supposed to be all about me, but I must say that somewhere around this point I became overwhelmed.

Chuck and I were staying at a fairly expensive hotel in Georgetown…it was physically impossible to stay on our yacht/home in Elizabeth’s Harbor.  Our surgeon was in Nassau and only available by airplane, the doctors in Georgetown only capable of the most basic of medical necessities.  Our boat was in the hands of a good friend who in no way signed up for babysitting our yacht and cats when he agreed to crew for us to Puerto Rico, and not familiar with many of the boats systems.  For much of the week our friend had been contending with winds that should they have increased by another five knots or so would raise the possibility of our anchor slipping…putting him at the mercy of the anchorage’s help.  Our friend did not have unlimited time to spend on the boat.  Chuck’s surgery though a success had left a gaping wound on his left calf that occurred inside of twelve hours after he was discharged from the hospital.  I’m communicating with our friend on the boat via a handheld VHF radio, commuting back and forth to the boat either by dinghy, if calm, or water taxi, if rough.  Gathering take-out food for breakfast and dinner each night, back and forth to the clinic every other day.  It began to seem that I was struggling just to keep my head above water.

It was time for more decisions.

On the evening of the second day after Chuck and I returned to Georgetown, I went out to get dinner and, more so, just to get away from everything for a few minutes and think.  The issue was simple: things were too complicated.  The boat, our friend Larry needing to leave for home in a week or so, our two pet kittens, being isolated from our surgeon/medical care, transportation, communication…all of it was a major cluster fuck. 

Within minutes I’d decided what must be done: Chuck and I and the boat and the kittens had to get back to the United States as quickly as possible and into a marina.  It was time to downsize and simplify. 

Chuck, the open wound aside, was in good spirits and otherwise healthy and recovering but he couldn’t climb from either the dinghy or the water taxi into the boat, just not possible.  In a marina we could rent a car, Chuck and I could live on the boat, reactivate our cell phones, we could rent a car, I have a full galley on the boat and could cook for him, and the kittens would be safe.  We had to get the boat to either Ft. Lauderdale or Key West until he healed and recovered…preferably Ft. Lauderdale due to better medical care.  I picked up dinner and returned to sell Chuck on what I felt must be done.  After I explained my reasoning, there was no argument, he agreed completely…it was an easy sell.

Our crew, Larry, had a few days earlier indicated he’d love to help crew the boat back to Florida should we decide to return the boat to the states.  Keeping that in mind, that very night I contacted several people I knew regarding their availability to return the boat along with our friend.  They all could make the delivery with Larry, but not immediately…we needed immediately.  And, then we thought about our friend Chris, back in Texas…our friend who had crewed with us for almost three months the entire time we’d been in the Bahama…our friend who knows our boat almost as well as we do…our friend who had just left us a few short weeks before…the perfect delivery captain.  I crossed my fingers he wouldn’t be committed to anything and gave him a call.

He answered.  I quickly explained the emergency that had surfaced in the previous week.  I asked him if there was any way he could fly back down and, along with Larry, sail our yacht back to Florida.  I told him we needed him down here by the following Saturday or Sunday, March 19th.  He said he could, but it might not be on the Sunday but maybe the Monday before he could make it.  I told him that would be good enough and to book his flight, but if at all possible try to get in to Georgetown on Sunday at the latest so we could introduce him to Larry and get a few things squared away before we left for Chuck’s follow up appointment in Nassau early Monday morning, indicating to him we had ever intention, doctor’s permission and referral or not, of flying directly to Ft. Lauderdale that Monday afternoon after Chuck’s morning appointment.  Chris said he understood, would check the flights, and call us the next day.

The next morning, Chris called and said he’d be arriving the following Saturday afternoon.

Finally, we got a break.

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Sunrise over Stocking Island in Georgetown.

Saturday afternoon fairly early Larry dropped by Peace and Plenty to pick up Chris in the dink for their ride back to the boat.  He brought along a few beers, orange juice, and vodka.  We all set around talking, laughing, having a few drinks, and waiting on Chris.  Chris arrived a bit early, just as I went downstairs to tell the concierge we were expecting a visitor, I met him at the front desk.  He and I went back up to the room and all four of us continued to visit, discussing their trip back, departure (the next morning), reviewing the charts, Chris and Larry getting to know each other, etc.  As the sun started to set, the two of them headed back to the dink and on to the boat.  I felt so relieved knowing our boat and kittens were in the hands of those two guys who would be on board.

The next day, Sunday, around 1030 hrs, Chuck and I watched from our balcony across the channel in Georgetown as Freedom weighed anchor and slowly motored North out of Elizabeth Harbor towards Black Point Settlement.

That night I arranged for a taxi for our flight out of Georgetown and packed.  I also checked the tracker of our friend Justin Smith, SV Jasaru…they were well down island, on course for Puerto Rico.

On Monday, March 20th, Chuck and I flew to Georgetown to visit his surgeon, Dr. Delton Farqueharson, for his follow-up appointment.  I was interested in talking with the doctor.  I knew that my husband was quite impressed with him and, coming from Chuck, that was quite a compliment.  After meeting him, I understood why my guy liked this surgeon so much.

Dr. Farqueharson was in his late 40s or early 50s and obviously at the very top of his game.  One could tell he enjoyed his work and cared for his patients.  He took an extraordinary amount of time answering even the most mundane of questions I had for him, going to great lengths to explain exactly what the surgery entailed and why he took the approach he pursued.

In the end, he said that Chuck was progressing right on course for a 100% recovery and for him to exercise as much as he comfortably felt like he could.  He threw in a caution as to how lucky Chuck had been, indicating that some are not so fortunate.  He gave us the statistic I’d already read on the internet:  one in four who suffer this type of arterial blockage require at least the foot amputated, often the entire leg.  He said us delaying even a few more hours might well have caused such an amputation. 

After giving us two referrals to vascular surgeons in the Ft. Lauderdale area and copies of Chuck’s records to give to them, we hurried to the airport and caught our afternoon flight on into Lauderdale.

For the next few days we tracked Freedom as Larry and Chris brought our home and kittens back to us.  Their route was essentially the same route Chuck, Chris, and I followed down to Georgetown but in reverse…from Georgetown to Black Point Settlement, to Staniel Cay and a refuel, to Highbourne Cay, straight to Chub Cay bypassing Nassau, and then an overnight sail from Chub Cay into Ft. Lauderdale.

On the following Thursday morning, ahead of a moderate blow in the Gulfstream, we were waiting on the docks of Harbor Towne Marina in Dania Beach/Ft. Lauderdale as Chris expertly guided Freedom into the slip we’d leased.  It was good to see them…and the kittens.  The delivery back was flawless.  We never had any doubt.

We all had lunch at Las Vegas Cuban Food, eating until we couldn’t eat anymore, and talked about the trip.  Early afternoon we went back to the boat.  Chris and Larry, both anxious to get home, made their airline reservations and it was agreed we’d pick them up in our rental car the next day for the quick jump over to the airport.  And, the next morning, after heartfelt thank you and hugs, by 1030 hrs they were inside their terminals.

That very afternoon, for the first time in two weeks (for Chuck), we moved back onto our yacht.

With husband and kittens settled, I slept wonderfully.

Chuck had a follow-up appointment with local physicians on March 30th.  The report was good.  They removed the stitches on three of the incisions, which have healed.  The fasciotomy incision on the outside of his left calf in which the stitches popped remains open and weeping, though is gradually healing.  The incision on the inside of his left ankle (referred to as the money incision by Dr. Farquharson) is still sutured but continues to weep.  Again, the weeping is a good thing as it allows the serum from the swollen tissue to drain.

On April 27th we return to Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Florida for an appointment with the hematologists there for them to check the blood flow in Chuck’s other leg, as well as a follow up with his local vascular surgeon.  Only after that appointment will we be able to finally look forward and make tentative plans for the future.

 

Postscript…

 

My blog posts don’t generally have postscripts but this requires one.

A sentence that anyone who reads my blog might recognize is this:

“One doesn’t know what one doesn’t know.” 

In this emergency, nothing could have been truer. 

Prior to us leaving the dock, some sixteen and a half months ago, we’d actually discussed what we would do in the event some unforeseen medical emergency would strike when we were in a foreign country.  In fact, we’d discussed such a situation countless times, literally.  We tried to imagine any and every possible emergency that could occur and did our best to be mentally prepared should one in fact occur, from compound fractures up to and including, yes, blood clots in Chuck’s legs. 

We discussed insurance that would cover us overseas, medical evacuation, trauma on board, etc.  Just about every scenario we could think of.  We have a virtual pharmacy on board…painkillers, broad spectrum antibiotics, tranquilizers, blood pressure medication, etc.  We both got medical check-ups before departing and dental exams.  We have two trackers on board, five or six GPS systems, AIS, a satphone and SSB.  Our on-board trauma kit is the size of a medium overnight bag. 

Our basic rationale regarding a medical emergency on board was that if something did happen we would make landfall as soon as possible and then travel back to the United States for treatment as soon as feasable. We thought we had the medical emergency thing nailed down.

In short, we didn’t.

We didn’t know what we didn’t know.

Oh, I suppose in the final analysis we in fact did follow the bailout plan we thought we had so carefully thought out.  But, then again…not quite.  The cost of the entire five days in the hospital and surgery came right out of our pocket.  Even in the Bahamas, however, those expenditures were not chump change, not by a long shot.  Fortunately, we could absorb that financial hit without much trouble.  And, looking at it from the stand point of outcome, we fared well indeed.  Though recovering, Chuck is once again in good health, he has his foot, long term prognosis is good and, well, life goes on.

But suppose…

Suppose everything that happened had occurred even 24 hours later and we had already departed for Puerto Rico, 650 miles away from Georgetown.  If that had happened we’d have been somewhere in the out islands of the Bahamas, either in the south of Long Island or possibly even on the water off of Semana…if it had happened a couple of days later we may have been even further away from medical attention.  Regardless, even if medevacked by the USCG we wouldn’t have been, by a long shot, within a few miles of a medical clinic like the one in Georgetown nor a couple of hours from the emergency room of Nassau.  And, that would have almost certainly led to my dear husband losing his foot and quite possibly his leg to amputation.  And, that…was a very real possibility.  A sobering thought, indeed.  We were very, very lucky.

But, on a lighter side, also suppose…

Had the blog clots not surfaced at all, we’d be at least in Puerto Rico at the moment, probably the Virgin Islands.  The two boats we were to go there with are safe and sound there as I type.  They had a fairly uneventful passage only having to wait for good weather a few days in Plana Cay and Grand Turk.  We would have continued our sailing trip on down the Eastern Caribbean, enjoying great food and drink until we’d had enough.  Admittedly the flip side of this supposition is the better alternative than the reality of what actually happened.

And, this begs the question of what are we going to do now.

Well, for the short term, we are going to pay close attention to Chuck’s health.  We are in a nice marina, have a rental car, and Chuck has a doctor’s appointments coming up.  Until he is completely recovered from this surgery we don’t feel compelled to make any decision on our long term plans.

I can tell you all, however, that Chuck and I both enjoy sailing and living on our yacht.  It’s a big boat, we don’t feel cramped at all on it.  It has everything one needs to live comfortably.  And, we can take it, sail it, anywhere we want to go.  I don’t think either one of us is quite ready to stop what we are doing just yet…unless we have to, due to some unforeseen medical event.

I can’t lie.  And I would be if I didn’t tell you all that the night I got the call from Chuck indicating he was about to go into surgery and might lose his foot the very last place on Earth I’d rather have been was where I was.  Honestly, sitting in the cockpit of our boat, at anchor, with no communication, and little transportation I kind of felt like I may as well have been on another planet.  At that time, I wished I’d never set foot on a boat before, and felt like if I ever got my husband back in one piece and healthy I’d never set foot on one again.

But, for both of us, those were the thoughts of stress in the moment.

One can’t live in fear.  At least we don’t believe one can.  One can be as prudent and responsible as humanly possible, yet, still…shit happens.  There are no guarantees in life.  At our age, that is an axiom we both know.

So, for now, we recuperate.  And, then we will decide how to proceed.  Will the near future see us on our boat? Yes.  Will it see us sailing long, multiday passages? Maybe.  Will it see us jumping from port to port on extended day sails up the east coast? Perhaps.  The truth is, we just don’t know.

In the short term, however, our tentative plans once Chuck is released is to sail back to Key West and take care of some minor boat issues.  We are comfortable with Key West, have friends there, and generally enjoy the wacky place.  But, it will only be temporary.

If we finish our boat projects in time, we just might head back towards the Caribbean.  We were so damn close to getting there before all of this happened.  If we do head back south this season we will not dilly dally but set out determined to get South to at least PR/USVI as quickly as safely possible.  The goal would still be to get to Grenada before the brunt of hurricane season arrives.

If our boat work drags too close to hurricane season then we will hang another summer in Key West.  Visiting Cuba again is not out of the question.  And, then head South into the Caribbean next season. 

Who knows?  We are in no hurry; Chuck’s health is the most important thing.

But, but, bu, bu…what about the dream?

What about what dream?

Chuck and I have been sailing since we were in our 20s.  We enjoy boating.  We like being on the water.  Until I graduated from high school, I lived on the water…born and raised on a huge lake in Louisiana. Combined, our current yacht is like our seventh boat we’ve owned.  But, unlike many apparently, buying a sailboat and sailing off into the sunset isn’t, nor ever was, some lifelong existential dream we’ve always had and now feel we are living.  The sailing we’ve done over all those years is not something we feel has changed us forever, as I’ve read on other’s blogs.

Sure, we’ve had a blast doing what we do.  It was great mingling with the Cuban people when we sailed there.  And, the Bahamas has some of the nicest people in the world, bar none.  Sailing in the crystal clear waters we’ve been in has been wonderful.  And, it’s hard to convey just how beautiful a sunrise or sunset can really be when viewed from the cockpit of one’s yacht.

Admittedly and undeniably, living on a sailboat and traveling all over the place is the bomb.  We love doing it, that’s why we do.  But, living the way we do was never this had-to-do dream that we’ve always desired.  It’s simply something we decided we would like to do in hopes of finding a place we might want to finally retire.  If something unforeseen surfaces an hour from now that causes us to have to move off the boat and go down another, perhaps quite different path, I don’t think either one of us would say our dream was shattered and didn’t come true.  I fully appreciate those who romanticize sailing – again, it’s a wonderful way to go – but it being a dream is just not how we perceive it.

IMG_0333

Sunset over Great Exuma.
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7 Comments

  1. Did you ever ask you MD, given the right equipment aboard, could you have been directed by SAT phone to handle the issue. I ask this as getting help in the middle of a sail to the Marquesas could have been more than losing a limb, but about losing a life? Happy you are both on the mend.

    • There was significant blockage of his femoral artery from his groin to his ankle, particularly at his ankle. Vascular surgery for the removal of blood clots is generally seen as the treatment of last resort, thus the procedure was performed to save his foot. There was nothing that could have been done on board, though we do have a SAT phone that could have been used had we been on the high seas. And, yes, you are right, should we not have been able to reach medical care in the manner that we did my husband losing his foot may well have been the least of our concerns.

      Thank you for your well wishes, Charlene.

  2. Omg! I’m so pleased he is ok and you handled it so well! I don’t think any amount of planning can prepare you for something like that.

    • I think you are right about planning for something like what happened. I did handle it, though I’m not sure how well. LOL At the time, one just does what needs to be done, it’s only afterwards that just how scary the whole thing was sets in.

      Thank you…

  3. I love your comments re: changed forever. Makes me laugh.

    • Yes, it amuses me as well, though I try not to be too judgemental. One has to wonder about the life of those who cruise for a year or so and then claim to be “changed forever” or “forever changed.” The thought I get is that their sailing experience was almost mystical to them. Sailing is a lot of fun, there is no doubt. But, to us at least, that’s all it is…just another type of fun. Good fun, but fun nonetheless. I don’t know if you cruise or not, Rich, but cruising is anything but rainbows and unicorns 100% of the time. And, in spite of the amount of it we’ve done, nothing about it comes close to being mystical.

        • Rich
        • Posted April 15, 2017 at 3:31 PM
        • Permalink

        I have never cruised. But have read alot. It seems as though it is hard work. Lits and never ending. I do enjoy your humor!


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