Thursday, March 9, 2023

Pretty Pictures, Part 2: The Struggle Behind the Smiles

Those of you who followed my blog, The Reluctant Sailor, during our cruising years may appreciate the backstory of last week's sunny adventure in Belize. 
Amid the swimming, snorkeling, island-hopping, and dining, I was struggling. 

I briefly mentioned the reason in one of my otherwise-sunny Facebook posts.

I was on a 6-day cruise with Pope, three friends, and a hired boat captain. By Day 3, I was in agony from a shoulder injury. I don't know how I got hurt. Maybe hauling luggage, carrying heavy bags of boat provisions, or peering beyond my snorkel mask to avoid swimming into a prickly coral. 

The pain was debilitating. I was miserable, unable to get comfortable, rest, or sleep.

We were snorkeling at Glover's Reef, a coral-laced atoll 50 miles east of the mainland. By Day 5, my stoicism had collapsed. I asked our captain to help me arrange a medical evacuation by speedboat, to someplace where I could get a plane or bus to the hospital in Belize City. 

We were discussing it calmly and coolly (just kidding; actually, I was moaning and sobbing) when the whole group agreed to interrupt the cruise and take me to a doctor in our own boat--a huge, inefficient catamaran with diesel engine, four bunks, and four heads (bathrooms).

The nearest doctor (perhaps the only one outside of Belize City...) was in Placencia, where we had boarded the boat. This was a 6-hour round trip at the top speed of our boat (about 6 knots). This cost us less than $100 in extra diesel fuel -- much cheaper than using a medical evacuation company. But it eliminated a full day of swimming and snorkeling for everyone else. 

The other passengers said they wouldn't enjoy themselves knowing I was suffering. Actually, I think they were grateful it wasn't them. Another passenger had serious health concerns; it just as easily could have been him that needed emergency medical attention. In fact, he later went straight to the hospital on the way home from the airport, and is still there.

Our captain raced us to Placencia in our big boat, anchored, and sped me to shore in the dinghy. The doctor's office was outside of town in a primitive-looking, rustic shack with a tin roof that appeared abandoned, in the middle of a bleak field of dirt and weeds. No other buildings, homes, or even cars around. I wish I had a photo. 

To be honest, I was filled with dread, thinking: this can't be a real doctor. Surely I'm in the wrong place! A shot of cortisone in a place like this could be deadly!

However, inside, the office was clean and decent. The doctor is a Cuban who serves the expat community. Lots of Americans, Canadians, and Brits apparently live there or have winter homes. He did some manipulations, diagnosed a pinched nerve. His fee was $45, cash only. He called a taxi and sent me down the road to the pharmacist.

While I taxied to the pharmacy, the captain returned to the boat and motored to Placencia's city harbor.

I returned to the boat there, with $135 worth of painkillers and other medical products, and a case of beer for the captain and passengers. No poisons, though, despite the pharmacist's offerings.

This was all accomplished without any cell phone service! People along the way were happy to help me figure things out.

We spent the night on the boat in Placencia harbor, then motored back to the reef and another tiny isle.

I spent the remaining days laying around, moaning gently. The pills took the edge off but the discomfort continued.

After three flights, we got home by midnight Tuesday. I visited my chiropractor Wednesday and again Thursday, and on Friday got an ultrasound and more accurate diagnosis: torn tendon inside the rotator cuff. 

My trips seem to include a lot of adventures--sometimes unpleasant ones. In fact, that's what my blog was all about when we cruised up and down the coast in our own boat from 2013 to 2020.

I look at the photos of other people's "normal" trips -- a souk in Morocco, the Eiffel Tower, a tour guide with a striped umbrella -- with envy. My trips are rarely "normal." They're soaked in adrenaline! 

The shoulder incident is shaping up to be an extended struggle. However, it came with a big dose of sun and fun and magical isles. So, in between spasms, I'm smiling.

No comments:

Post a Comment